Despite my Y chromosome, I have a thing for shoujo. Raised on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and The Cutting Edge, I love watching chemistry develop between two paramours from either furtive affection or outright antagonism into burning romance. Such a predilection stands behind my decision to watch Spring 2010's Kimi ni Todoke, a delicate flower of a high school love-story told through Production I.G.'s crisp visuals and astute sound direction. And, while the solid technical aspects and a fistful of fun characters keeps me interested in the anime, its shambling pacing takes much of the wind from its sails.
Kimi ni Todoke tells the straightforward story of the ghoulish Sawako Kuronuma as she tries to overcome her passing similarity to 'Sadako' of Ringu fame and make friends as she enters high school. As the year progresses, her circle grows, along with a budding friendship with class hottie, Shota Kazehaya. In lockstep with Sawako's growing social capability, the anime traces three and a half arcs concerning the tribulations and small victories that accompany the process of making new acquaintances into friends. After a enjoyable introductory vignette, the show launches feet first into conflict as the naive lead finds herself the victim of a smear campaign designed to split her group up before it can solidify. The arc's considerable drama and exciting climax of this portion serves--in the grand scheme of things--as herald to the series antagonist, Ume Kurumizawa. And when she arrives, everything improves. Despite the fact that Kurumi incites rage in any of Sawako's fans, the presence of a focused and able villain in a shoujo romance energizes the proceedings. Watching each of the girl's plots unfurl to impair or confuse the hapless protagonist elevates those episodes above the rest of the series by a considerable margin. Sadly, however, the series follows up this climactic battle of wits and wills with an important, but auxiliary examination of the love triangle surrounding Sawako's friend, Chizuru, and here the show stumbles.
Given the shuffling pace of the main plot, the choice to spend a majority of the season's remaining episodes on things not directly related to the interaction between Kazehaya and Sawako hamstrings the show's ending. The abbreviated tone of the last segment--which concerns the end of the calendar year and Sawako's birthday--feels less like an optimistic end and more like an abortive return to the story already in progress. Winding up when the anime should have been winding down delivers disappointment where viewers expect closure. Of course, the second season (announced at the time this review goes to... press?) should push aside these issues as it gets back into the saddle of the leads' growing affection, but as a standalone effort the state of Kimi ni Todoke in its final installment felt far short of its initial promise.
Production I.G. certainly did the source material justice with its visuals. Kimi ni Todoke's original manga looks like Wallflower on extra shoujo juice, making heavy use of chibi characters, fanciful spreads, and heaps of sparklies. The show's animation takes all this in and improves on it. Pin, Chizu, and Ryu look better in color by a mile, as it lends a depth and plasticity which suits these direct and solid characters better than their previously diaphanous character designs. Similarly, each and every one of Sawako's emotional swings gets a royal treatment: her joyous highs become brilliant bursts of pastel fauna, and her depression covers the screen in deep blues and purples. When this combines with the deformed characters, the anime emanates an overall impressionistic and emotive feel which complements the mercurial cast and high school romance.
Unfortunately, this purposeful corner-cutting wears a little thin on occasion. No matter how thematically or artistically consistent the simplified character designs may be, long stretches without any detail make some episodes seem more lazy than fanciful. And, when Kimi ni Todoke chooses to immediately switch into chibi mode during important scenes or use stills apparently lifted from the manga as substitute for subtly animated close-ups, something feels lost in the adaptation.
The show's mild, unobtrusive classical pieces complement the show's wafting plot and fits perfectly with the mood of every episode. The OP, named after the series, features a catchy chorus section which surfaces repeatedly as a deliberate piano number throughout the work. Its hopeful strains can transform in temperament with interpretation and tempo, allowing it to fit the mood of any scene. In contrast, the saccharinely stately ending theme, "Kataomoi", while a delightful enough song in its own right, overpowers the rest of the anime's score and takes a little getting used to, even though it adheres to the overall feel of the work.
The best voice work in the series comes from the three main females. Makimo Noto's Sawako has three distinct voices and the seiyuu transitions between them with admirable agility. Her pitching of the young, insecure high school student at somewhere between oujo-sama and bookworm strikes a fine balance for the naive girl, and the resulting voice is both easy on the ears and helps make her seem more sympathetic. Similarly, Miyuki Sawashiro and Yuko Sanpei execute their charges with verve. Yuko Sanpei all but sings her lines in order to capture Chizuru's upbeat attitude, and when the tears flow, bawls in a manner that's believable and comedic in equal measure. But the accolades go to Sawashiro-san, who manages the subtler role of Yano with a deft hand in order to bring the calculating social mover and the steadfast friend into one whole character.
Across the way, Dasiuke Namikawa applies a subdued vulnerability to Kazehaya, which adds a much-needed touch of believability to his cautious emotional development. Nevertheless, Yuuichi Nakamura's performance as Ryuu again shows the superiority of the secondary characters in this anime. The voice actor manages to turn the barely vocal athlete into a delightful combination of straight man and comic relief through a mastery of utterance and single-word delivery ("Amazake...").
As female leads go, Sawako sits on the cusp between compelling and repetitive: her naivete makes her easy to root for, but her crippling awkwardness and social ignorance wears thin as the episodes pile on. And, when she continues to walk on eggshells around her classmates deep into the season despite her increasing number of friends, even the most indulgent fans should find it stretches reason. That said, her enthusiasm and wry sense of humor make her entertaining and empathetic. As the object of her affection, Kazehaya suffers from a similarly flat set of character traits wrapped around a glaring inconsistency. Fans who engage their brains as he blushes should spend a good deal of time wondering how someone so friendly and frequently the center of attention can be petrified by the presence of meek and well-meaning Sawako. Of course, he's a charmer and fully capable of washing away any doubts with his winning smile and steadfast friendship. But this sincerity itself causes his paramore-to-be place him on a pedestal high above her own perceived position, and further attenuates the already awkward interactions between the two. In another title, the resulting lack of chemistry between the leads would stop the whole effort dead in its tracks, but here, it actually serves as focus for the narrative (hence the translated title, "Reaching You").
Luckily, both main characters get exceptional support from an effervescent secondary cast. Leading the charge out of Sawako's corner, Chizuru steals many scenes in the show. Her tough-as-nails and athletic exterior hides a delightful sensitivity, which frequently causes the girl to explode into tears at the slightest display of sincere emotion. However, unlike the also-frequently-wet Lag Seeing, Chizu's waterworks draw out another side of her character, and in so doing, provide depth and comic relief in equal measure. The lead's other new best friend, Ayane Yano (Yano-chin to her pals) hides a cynical and sadistic streak under a kind and beautiful exterior, which contrasts her heartfelt affection for those she cares about and paints her as that one bitch you love to have in your corner. Though she shines brightest when pitted against the similarly cunning Kurumi, her level-headed reactions complement Chizu's zesty outbursts the practiced rhythm of a straight man/funny man comedy act.
Of course, like a brilliant sun, Kazehaya himself pulls both the tall drink of water, Ryuu Saneda, and the amusingly brash Pin into his orbit to serve as counterpoint to the otherwise reserved male lead. The young baseball player adorns his laconic nature with a pinch of laziness and a blunt delivery that helps him sober the group despite the fact that he, too, can be a sentimental and emotional teenager. When paired with the vivacious Chizuru or skittish Sawako, his curt utterances pry giggles from the audience by some strange, subtle comedic alchemy. Conversely, the loud, dense, and egotistical Pin wanders through the plot like a force of nature, capable of dispensing humor, misfortune, or solutions on his students. His absurdity and power provide excellent contrast to the seemingly grave arcs that consume the show's middle while also offering some genuine belly-laughs.
For all its pacing missteps, Kimi ni Todoke only withers upon scrutiny. No matter how much you hate Kurumi's face or bemoan the glacial plot development, each episode will put a warm smile on your face, and find you rushing to forgive the show's faults. Much of the reason the it feels unfinished to me comes from the fact that I want to see more of Sawako and the gang, and viewers should agree with this assessment. Whether it's to hear Noto-san's dulcet tones, gasp at cute flowers blooming around an excited character, or get a dose of adorable doki-doki, this series is worth your time should have you eager for a second season.
Have you ever craved fast food? Well, there's an anime-related analogue; sometimes, all I want to see is some cheesy shoujo. I don't always want a hip crossover title like Nana, or a "normal" male-oriented romcom ala Toradora. No no no, sometimes, all I want are episodes where the characters do nothing but talk about their feelings. Sometimes, all I want are too-perfect boys that sparkle when they smile. Sometimes, all I want is a story about a girl that overcomes hardship with the power of FRIENDSHIP. Sometimes, all I want is a goddamn shoujo.
Kimi ni Todoke will scratch that itch, if you let it. But can I whole-heartedly recommend this to everyone? God, no! This anime unapologetically caters to its target audience (15 year old Japanese girls... AND ME), to the point that it will most likely alienate anyone not accustomed to shoujo. If the prospect of seeing an anime with a title like Princess Tutu makes you gag, you are probably not ready for this show, either. Perhaps, just perhaps, you'll someday get bored of watching giant metal robots crashing into each other. You'll dabble in some of the some more accessible stuff in the genre, like Nana or Ouran Host Club. Maybe then, you will be ready, young padawan. Until then, get off my lawn, and go back to watching Goku power up.
For everyone left, the series is an uneven but ultimately worthwhile entry into the genre. The first half focuses on the loveable Sawako overcoming her social awkwardness to connect with the other students in her class. This part is wonderfully done, and is an excellent example of the genre done right. Unfortunately, the second part focuses primarily on a side character who is not strong enough to carry the show by herself. As such, her story feels like a filler subplot and bogs down the narrative. What's left is a show that's a great watch for fans of the genre, but not quite praise-worthy enough to be a must-see.
Only rarely does a series break the mold its genre has cast for it and even more uncommonly does it set itself apart from all others. Such is the case with Kimi ni Todake. It takes all the classic shoujo romance stereotypes and plot devices and flips them on its head leaving us with a thoroughly rewarding and groundbreaking romance.
At first, Kimi ni Todoke drew me in before I saw its first frame of film with its story concept. Our heroine is Sawako, a sweet and gentle girl with an awkward personality and an uncanny resemblance to Sadako from The Ring.Desperately wanting others to understand her she is instead shunned and feared by her classmates. This all changes when she meets a boy named Kazehaya who is the first to truly see her and slowly she begins to draw herself out of her shell. The remaining story is one of self discovery as Sawako experiences the first feelings of love and friendship she has ever felt. While her situation is a bit contrived and not overly realistic, the way it is presented is so wonderfully sweet and beautiful that it is impossible not to love.
I firmly believe that in order to really fully appreciate just how special Kimi ni Todake is, you have to already be a veteran of at least a dozen or more of its shoujo peers. There are none of the usual tired clichés. Sawako isn’t the plain and perky heroine determined to get a man to fall for her who ignores her or treats her horribly. She isn’t out for revenge nor is she being pursued by a harem of bishounens with a desperate struggle to choose between them. Kazehaya isn’t a dick, for lack of a better term. He’s a guy who will be loved by viewers not because he’s hot, but because he’s just a really nice guy any girl would want to fall in love with and guys would want as a friend.
The feelings and situations presented to us are real and powerful but not in an overly dramatic way. Nobody has torturous family lives or tragic pasts or other situations that always feel forced in a way to create drama that could be better achieved with fantastic characters and storytelling. The concepts are simple, the pacing slow, and full of the required blushes and aw shucks moments. Much like its soft artwork and color palette, Kimi ni Todake is the kind of show you will sit back and relax too, forgetting about all the problems of your day.
This is not to say that it doesn’t have its faults. While just about every aspect of the series was wonderful to behold, the series already slow pace comes to an even greater crawl over the last 8-10 episodes. While I still enjoyed them immensely, I suspect some viewers will likely begin to lose patience at the lack of progress or action in the story. And while perhaps we are also being setup for a continuation at some point, since the manga is still ongoing, the ending was also not particularly ideal.
Sawako herself goes down as one of my all-time favorite characters. She is so completely earnest and innocent that she is impossible not to love. While her character concept is initially not all that unique she becomes so much more than just a socially awkward, shy, and moe girl. Everyone can find something to relate with her over and from a character development standpoint, the person she becomes by the end of the series is so remarkably different from her beginning that it’s truly amazing. Yet despite this enormous change she never deep down changes from what she really is at her core. Her closing monologue at the end of the show is a prime example of just how much she has grown.
Kazehaya is a rare breed for a romance series. First he is the one and only love interest. No reverse harems of bishies here to waste story time or antagonize the heroine. He is also unique in that outside series such as Kanon orClannad, he is one of the only leads that looks and feels like a real person. He is never made out to be a caricature of the fantasies and dreams of young girls. He is not super wealthy, nor is he a famous athlete, or come from a notorious family. Sure he is really good looking, popular with the girls and the guys, and good at baseball but you never feel like these are things that he didn’t earn with his own merits. Unlike most of his anime contemporaries who have abrasive or aloof personalities but are still enormously popular because well they are supposed to be. They’re perfect men after all! His personality is the kind that draws people to him and his popularity is not just because he’s handsome. People like him because he's nice to them. What a novel idea!
While on the surface, Kazehaya and Sawako seem to be completely different people, deep down they both share the same confusing emotions and fears about the feelings each has for the other. The interaction between the two is truly special and lovely. Amazingly I never really lost my patience with them either or yell at the screen, “Oh come on just kiss her already!”
Kimi’s supporting cast is also quite remarkable. This is nowhere more evident than with Sawako’s new best friends, Ayane and Chizu. From the start of the story you never would have though these girls would have become her friends. They had almost written on their faces “villainess” and it was such a pleasant surprise to see these two develop into perhaps the best shoujo best friends I have seen yet. They are so completely different from one another that it is a bit surprising they are friends. Ayane is the beautiful, fashionable temptress, while Chizu is the butch and athletic type. Their reactions to Sawako kind of mirror the way the audience will perceive her. There bonds grow stronger as they experience things together, and overcome some adversity. They were truly a joy to watch.
Other characters come and go but are no less impactful to the story. The only real rival, Kurumi, who appears in the middle portions of the story never, outstays her welcome and while she would technically serve as the series villainess, she never really feels to me like a villain. Shockingly Sawako’s family life is also quite normal, she neither has a tragic home situation or a perverted father, and they are both loving and normal parents (both to her and to each other).
Artistically Kimi really shines. Its soft colors and artwork just match the beauty and sweetness in the story perfectly. It does a good job of mixing in comedic art along with its beautiful scenery to make every episode visually appealing and smile inducing. This is even more brought out with the spectacular musical score and cast. Mamiko Noto seems to have been born to play this role. It’s a typical character type for her, one that we have heard from her many times, but this will be one that fans will remember for years and years to come. I can’t say enough about the OP theme, I was instantly in love with from the first chorus and its animation is tremendous. I also found the ED to be equally perfect, though I suspect Chara’s gravelly voice to be unappealing to some.
Overall, Kimi ni Todake is easily a top 5 series for me and one of the best shows of the decade. It was immediately appealing to me from the first episode and I am extremely sad to see it end. This is how more romance shows should be done and is not to be missed by anyone who likes the genre in even the slightest bit. It really doesn’t get much better than this one.
Story: I'd been meaning to watch Kimi Ni Todoke for aaaaaages, I knew it was pretty popular as far as romance animes go, and I thought I would enjoy it, maybe I would find similarities to some of my favourite animes like Hana Yori Dango...But I think I put my hopes up too high. I was fairly dissapointed.
To put it plainly, Kimi Ni Todoke is one of them girly animes like Clannad or the like, where little happens in each episode. Overall the focus is on character development, but in terms of the physical storyline and people doing things, not much ever happens. Entire episodes would consist just of a class choosing their seats for a new semester of high school, or planning the school play- and although a lot of people seem to like these, they were just full of so little action I would struggle to stop myself from zoning out each episode. The sweet parts where Mr Popular Guy looked shyly yet longingly at Sawako were the only interesting parts, for me anyway.
Animation: I enjoyed looking at the animation in Kimi Ni Todoke, as it was very unique and easily distinguishable from other animes- the soft pastel colours and smaller shoujo eyes were pretty cute. However the lack of detail in the characters I could sometimes find ruined the effect of the anime. I knew this was simply the style of the actual manga artist who created this manga before it was adapted into an anime, but the use of line I sometimes found a litle too tacky... The secondary characters especially could sometimes look rather messy. But the colours were good!
Sound: I remember very little of the music in Kimi No Todoke- it was mainly subtle classical music, which fitted very well with the subjects of the anime, it was complimenting and fitting. But often hard to even notice was playing.
Characters: The characters in Kimi Ni Todoke were actually rather good. Sawako's friends were rather loud and boisterous, a trait I found very appealing in contrast to her quiet persona- but a problem I had was how her AND her love interest were BOTH almost equally silent. Now I am sure as the anime goes on they both probably become more confident and open, but both of them being so shy and silent meant I felt I couldn't relate to them as much as I would most anime characters- I couldn't see very much appeal the popular guy had from Sawako. He was...quiet. Likewise, I was struggling to understand his attraction to her. Yes, she was different from all the other girls, but I couldn't help but feel neither got out of their shell enough for me to grow to like them more than just slightly. But despite this, I haven't watched the entire anime, so I cannot give the most accurate opinion on this.
Overall: If you like animes with calm, gentle storylines focussing more on characters' emotions and feelings instead of bold, action packed events, then I am pretty sure you will like this. But even as a romance anime the romance is pretty darn subtle, if you like things what grab your attention through bolder statements, you might find this anime a little on the boring side. Its worth a look at though :)
The shy and timid Sawako has lived most of her school-years as a social outcast - this all changes once she meets the Kazehaya, the friendly and outgoing star of the class, which inspires her to change and open up. As time goes by she gains friends, confidence, and - ultimately - discovers the meaning of love.
While the core of it's story seems a fairytale romance, it shines in it's subtle nuances and way of storytelling. Kimi ni Todoke never rushes, it's slow pacing focuses on details of human interaction, always trying to portray Sawako's innocent, pure-hearted outlook on life and how she values the most common aspects of friendship. However on the downside looking at the story as a whole, there could have been more happening in 25 episodes.
Shoujo-anime often suffer from lower budget animation which luckily don't always show through, since there isn't much action happening. Kimi ni Todoke however belongs to the select few that have a polished, refined look that even tended to become more detailed and vivid throughout the series - a nice way of visualizing the blossoming character development. On the contrary, the Chibi-Moments had a style so dominant, that I found it more distracting as funny at times.
I had mixed feelings with sound - while both opening and ending songs were very pleasant to listen and seemed to fit, I felt the background music was lacking. Some themes were largely overused and compared to other shoujo and romance titles, I was missing more unique themes and some dramatic impact. One thing I'll remember: I never heard that much usage of Synth-"Aah" voices in a reoccurring theme.
Now this is where the series really shines - the characters are the heart and soul of Kimi ni Todoke. Sawako may be hit or miss - being the purest, most innocent character in anime history can leave a taste of annoyance if you're the type to dislike angelic characters. After I while I felt Sawako is inspiring in her sense of treasuring values that seem lost in our time. Then there's the strong supporting cast - two rather unique girlfriends that truly value her friendship or Kazehaya who is well balanced between shy and outgoing and just an all-around good guy I enjoyed to identify with, even if his perfection was sometimes too surreal.
I'd say Kimi ni Todoke is a fine shoujo story somewhere on the verge betwen fairytale romance and realistic storytelling. Even if just a year passes in the plot, it also has a coming-of-age feel, eventually proving how much just one year can change your life and also the importance of creating bonds with other people and how it makes our life so much more.. well.. lively! With a little more story, less cheese and the two main characters a little less flawless, this would be my top classic shoujo romance - this way it's an enjoyable, relaxing anime that may leave a subtle positive impression in your heart, more than you'd notice.