On first glance, Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke looks like the kind of female character I usually am either indifferent to or actively dislike. She’s shy and nervous, doesn’t speak up for herself, accepts it when others avoid her, and the early set up seems to be about the guy swooping in and saving the gloomy girl. Fortunately there is so much more to her character than meets the eyes and while the meeting with the guy might be a catalyst, it is Sawako’s own strength and endurance that sees her through situation after situation.
Though, I do like Kazehaya as a character and I’ll have to look at him at some point individually. Not to mention Kazehaya and Sawako ended up taking out the top spot for my top 5 list of romantic anime even beating Zen and Shirayuki.
So how does Sawako manage to go from being the template example of a character I would normally dislike to a girl I was actively cheering for as she approached a soccer match, performed in a festival, and ultimately finally got to her confession scene (and did that take forever to get there)?
Well, Sawako won me over the same way she wins the characters in the anime over. Sawako is always true to herself. She’s always earnest and hard-working. She doesn’t blame anyone for the situation she is in but resolves to work hard to overcome it. And while not every situation can be beaten with a positive attitude and effort, Sawako’s determination and her willingness to help others slowly draws people to her once they look past her somewhat scary exterior and the rumours that have been swirling around her about her being able to see ghosts.
One of the earliest challenges we see Sawako take on is dealing with rumours spreading about her new friends. Sawako is used to being avoided and used to rumours spreading about her but it deeply hurt her when her friends seemed to be targeted. While Kazehaya gave Sawako some encouraging words, Sawako was the one who took action and confronted those spreading the rumours. In one scene Sawako maanged to set the record straight about the rumours and solidify her friendship with Chizuru and Ayane.
That isn’t to say it is all smooth sailing. Sawako is an unusually dense protagonist unable to pick up on a lot of social cues and the maddeningly slow pace of her beginning to interact with others and accept their feelings can be quite the put-off for those who just want the story to get moving. But still, Sawako’s journey is one of quiet inspiration. She shows people that just being willing to change things isn’t enough and just trying hard won’t always immediately yield results, but trying again and again without giving up might just get you where you need to be.
While Sawako isn’t going to top any lists for being my favourite character ever any time soon, she’s definitely a character I learned to love while watching her story and I know that whenever I’m feeling a little defeatist, watching a couple of episodes of Sawako will pick me up and get me ready to act again.
Thank you Sawako for being you.
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Kimi ni Todoke : From Me to You, Vol. 1