Sawako has been isolated for most of her school life. Mistakenly called Sadako (like the character in the Ring), rumours of her being able to see ghosts and generally be weird have forever circulated, not aided by her strong introverted nature and fairly creepy demeaner when in social situations. Noticed by the class’ Mr Popular, Kazehaya, Sawako slowly begins to integrate with her classmates and is very thankful to Kazehaya. But are her feelings those of appreciation or something more?
Review (Don’t read if you’re worried about spoilers):
Okay, if you’ve watched this you know that it takes 37 episodes for a girl and guy, who both like each other and have the means and opportunity, to actually end up dating (for real dating with both of them aware that it is happening rather than just meeting up and talking which is of course totally different). This is the absolute frustration of this show in that our leads deserve the prize for absolute densest human beings to ever appear in a romance anime. And yet, it is so worth watching all of those episodes to see these two really sweet people end up together.
A while ago I did a Top 5 Romantic Anime and Kimi ni Todoke topped the list. It did this for good reason. Sawako is an incredibly stilted character at the start of the series after years of social isolation. While Kazehaya likes her he wants her to be able to stand on her own so instead of taking her by the hand early in the series and guiding her through all her troubles, he generally takes the role of the quiet support and mentor but that means his romantic intentions are frequently derailed. From a romance point of view it means they only take very slow steps forward, but in terms of getting the audience to respect both of the characters in the relationship this is actually really affective.
In addition to the romance itself, the story also examines the friendships Sawako develops through the series. This is also really sweet (though at times cliché) and we end up with a fantastic core cast involving Kazehaya’s friend, Ryuu, Ryuu’s friend, Chizuru, and Chizuru’s friend Ayane. Throughout the series Ayane drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend (always older) and this gives her a fairly skeptical view of love but also makes her the more observant when it comes to Sawako and Kazehaya’s relationship. Ryuu has had a long term crush on Chizuru but for most of the series she’s hung up on Ryuu’s older brother. All three of these support characters feel genuine and have something to offer to the main plot while having their own lives and goals unfolding. While the end of the series definitely takes on a cheer on Sawako tone, throughout the series these characters are treated fairly respectfully.
But just before you think this show is all sweet and no drama (outside of the does-he-like-me kind), we also have Kurumi and a whole bunch of Kazehaya fan girls. The fan girls get dealt with early on (thank-goodness because that was irritating) but Kurumi has held a torch for Kazehaya for a very long time. As a character, she is golden and we even get a recap of the first season from her point of view which is actually really refreshing and a nice way to recap events without making it feel too repetitive. Kurumi has a lot of personality. She schemes and manipulates and does everything she can to win her guy. And when things finally fail she actually confesses outright and openly. What follows after that is one of the best character developments that can be found in romance anime. While Kurumi still declares that she is a rival of Sawako, it is quite clear that for the most part Kurumi has accepted defeat and she’s finding a new way to deal with things. That doesn’t mean she loses any of her edge as a character though and her interjections in the second season are some of the more entertaining moments as they break up the otherwise mostly serious drama.
From a visual point of view it’s okay. It isn’t overly detailed and there isn’t a lot of action to be animated, and the colours are a little washed out looking, but it works. The chibi version of Sawako that shows up from time to time is a little off as are some of the moments where the characters are basking in something sweet and all of the setting just vanishes in a pastel background. However, this show is carried by the characters so the visuals work well enough and aren’t intrusive into their story.
I really love both opening songs, though the first one gets stuck in my head and drives me a little crazy. It can have me humming it days after watching the show. The visuals during the openings are also really good at setting the tone and themes of the show.
Mostly, if you like a good romance and you aren’t opposed to a slow story (different from no story), Kimi ni Todoke is definitely for you. I’ve never come across an English dub of it, even the DVD only came with subs, but I really like the voice actors and actually couldn’t imagine Sawako speaking English as I think a lot of her misunderstandings wouldn’t work and you’d just think she’s a bit slow.
What did you think of Kimi ni Todoke? Did the slow pace drive you crazy or did it work to tell a romance that felt a bit more thought out? Let me know in the comments below.