Kimi ni Todoke Season One (Blu-ray/DVD) Review
Kimi ni Todoke is an anime adaption of Karuh Shiina's romance shoujo manga serialized in Bessatsu Margaret. The manga won the Best Shoujo award in the 32nd annual Kodonsha Manga award, and was nominated for the first Manga Taisho award. The show aired in Japan from October 6, 2009 to March 30, 2010, totaling 25 episodes. A second season was released a year later in January 11 and ran until March 30. A live action film was also released in August 25, 2010.
Sawako Kuronuma is a high-schooler fresh and ready to experience her upcoming adolescent life. Unfortunately, she enters high school with the false reputation of being the scariest girl around because of her long hair, quiet personality, and name; all of these things resemble Sadako from The Ring, a cursed girl who lives inside a video and kills people in one week (even their names are one consonant apart). Despite all of these things, Sawako is actually a timid and kind teenage girl. She is unaware of the rumors around her school, and only seeks to make friends with everyone. Her efforts usually turn out for the worse as everyone usually mistakes her kindness to be related to curses or the unnatural.
When Shota Kazehaya, the most popular and friendly classmate, begins to talk to her, Sawako's life starts changing for the better. Kazehaya has always been her role model. He is always the center of attention, kind, cheerful, and lively around everyone, even a quiet girl like Sawako. He decides to get Sawako to speak her mind when talking to people, and she finds herself in a new world when trying to make friends and talk to different people.
To be frank, I usually do not pick up shoujo manga or anime. I usually find it difficult to pay attention to romantic drama because it over-exaggerates adolescent love. However, Kimi ni Todoke was easier to follow because its core story develops human relationships and delivers a single message: take the initiative to make friends. Most people have experienced a time when people avoided them because they were seen as weird. For Sawako, it was difficult for her to even get to know her classmates because of her resemblance to a horror movie character (if you think that would be easy, try sitting next to someone who looks like Leatherface during woodshop).
Sawako's resemblance to Sadako also made the series more humorous because of the large gap between her appearance and her personality. Sawako looks like the cursed black haired undead girl from the deepest part of the well from The Ring, but she has a personality so pure and sweet, it's as though it came from the heavens. It is unbearably funny to see everyone misinterpret her actions with the occult when she is actually doing something with good intentions. This misunderstanding made me want to cheer for her, hoping things would change positively during her daily school life.
Another thing I enjoyed was the male role in this story, Kazehaya. Shoujo manga usually illustrate the main male role as someone with a remarkable appearance and perfect soul (being rich and mysterious may be included); in other words, the perfect male figure. I usually frown on this because it gives me a bad vibe, that the story is going to be about an insecure girl complaining about her high school life rather than changing it. In these kinds of stories, the perfect shoujo male will practically do everything and anything for the protagonist. From her classroom dispute to her makeup management, the heroine will have every obstacle cleared by that male character. The female protagonist will end up not taking any initiative, and leave the male protagonist to take care everything around her. (You can also say the same thing for harem shounen anime too.) However, in Kimi ni Todoke, Sawako tries to change herself to become like that perfect model to gain friendship and trust from her fellow classmates. This role model turned out to be Kazehaya.
Kazehaya is a kind and generous person who is admired by everyone. Despite that everyone else in the class fears Sawako, he is the only one to openly confront their misconceptions of her. He is humble about his reputation and admits that everyone is giving him more credit than he deserves. The audience can see what he means as his human faults are shown further in the story. As a male viewer, I see Kazehaya as more human compared to most male protagonist in other shoujo manga. He has faults and insecurities, and he kind of represents how we men think sometimes. Although he has some perfection in his background, Kazehaya is the type of character that we can learn to respect.
Getting back to the anime, I believe that the animation was done nicely. The production studio, Production I.G., never fails to satisfy the viewers' expectation of well-done animation. They've done work on Higashi no Eden, Ghost in the Shell, and Sengoku Basara, which are great works with fantastic animation quality. Kimi ni Todoke has met the expectation of I.G.'s reputation. This is a big accomplishment because this anime has great animation despite the lack of a single scene of physical action or violence. When there is a lot of action and movement in a scene, viewers can really tell animators have spent some time on it. However, the quality comes through in Kimi ni Todoke despite it being a school life romance.
To actually impress the audience with animation, animation staff needs to focus on the mangaka's art and challenge their artistic talent. Production I.G. is able to reproduce Shiina sensei's style consistently, retaining her rich creativity throughout the series. From her cute adorable chibi drawings to her expressive color pages, animators were able to translate her work onto the TV screen. In addition, the staff also created some impressive backgrounds to fit the characters. Looking at the time setting of the story, the seasons are colorfully imprinted into your eyes. When the story takes place during spring, you see the cherry blossoms pink color popping up while autumn has orange leaves gloriously blowing down the streets. The background is art on canvas. If you really enjoy Kimi ni Todoke as a manga because of the art, you should have no fear of disappointment by this anime as Production I.G. covers that very well. Also, keep an eye on the ending because the animation and song are just perfect.
In terms of voice acting, the staff chose the right voice actors. Mamiko Noto voices Sawako. Noto is quite famous for playing gentle, calm and feminine characters that match Sawako's personality. In addition, her quiet voice really merges with Sawako's timidity. In addition to the matching voice, Noto's Sadako imitation is pretty funny to hear as it tickles the humorously scary part of the series. We also have Daisuke Mamikawa acting for Kazehaya. I believe that Mamikawa is a very talented voice actor, giving life to a variety of characters with different personalities: the calm Fai from Tsubasa Chronicles, the unemotional Ulquiorra from Bleach, and the cheery North Italy from Hetalia Axis Powers. He recently has been accepted to replace the voice of, Ishigawa Goemon from Lupin III, one of Japan's iconic characters, which has been running since the 1970's. As Kazehaya, Namikawa added a slight young and naïve twist to him which fits the character but feels slightly forced. Other characters in the series are voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (Maria from Arakawa Under the Bridge), Yuuichi Nakamura (Mr. Bushido from Gundam 00), Yuko Sanpei (Ryo Akizuki from The iDOLM@STER: Dearly Stars), and Aya Hirano (Haruhi Suzumiya from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu). It is rich in terms of seiyuu, and the voice actors play their strong points in each role. I say there were no mistakes in casting for this series.
I would recommend anyone who is interested in some good school life relaxing comedy and genuine romance to watch Kimi ni Todoke. I am usually fussy about shoujo manga, but I believe Kimi ni Todoke is one that both male and female audiences can enjoy. The animation was perfect, the voice cast was appealing, and overall, the story is interesting. The only complaint I would make is that they should hurry up with the release of the second season