|Kuronuma Sawako is completely misunderstood by her classmates. Her timid and sweet demeanor is often mistaken for malicious behavior. This is due to her resemblance to the ghost girl from “The Ring”, which has led her peers to give her the nickname “Sadako”. Longing to make friends and live a normal life, she is naturally drawn to Kazehaya Shouta, the most popular guy in class, whose “100% refreshing” personality earns him great admiration from Sawako. So when Kazehaya starts talking to her, maybe there is hope for the friendships Sawako has always longed for. Maybe… there is even a little hope for some romance in her future.
(Because the second season was only 12 episodes long, I’m including it in this series review. And, as usual, this anime review contains spoilers.)
I watched Kimi ni Todoke during a “shoujo anime binge” (I’m now confused about which romantic shoujo anime to watch next, so feel free to recommend all the things), which is why this is a review of the entire series, both season one and season two. I actually stumbled on it by accident, browsing for a different anime before my sister noticed this one and assured me that she had heard only good things about it. It looked cute enough, so I gave it a shot… and it ended up being the most adorable, kind-of-frustrating thing I have ever seen. (Spoilers ahead.)
Story: Kimi ni Todoke is the story of a boy and a girl who secretly love each other, and really just want their feelings to “reach” the other (hence the title, “reaching you” or “from me to you” or some other variation). Season one of the anime is mostly told through the perspective of Kuronuma Sawako, a girl who acts a little strange and looks a bit creepy, so her peers spend their time spreading rumors about her and avoiding her like the plague.
The only person in her school who treats her with any kindness, who smiles at her and appears to be equally friendly with everyone, Sawako included, is Kazehaya Shouta, the most popular boy in the school. Because of the way he treats her, the fact that he aims to be genuine and gives everyone a chance and actually smiles at her when she says, “Good morning!” makes Sawako want to learn how to be as friendly and liked by everyone as he is. He helps her by including her in as many class activities as possible, allowing other people to get to know her as she actually is, as he himself has recently been discovering.
|“Without my even realizing it, I’d fallen in love…”
Somewhere along the way, both fall in love with each other, though Kazehaya recognizes it first. But because of Sawako’s innocent nature, he isn’t sure how to get his feelings across. When she realizes her feelings for him are deeper than respect, she holds back because she doesn’t know how to say the words, and she doesn’t think he, as such a popular and well-liked boy, could ever feel that way about her. Through a series of misunderstandings and misconstrued conversations, the two struggle to convey their feelings, afraid of the outcome and afraid to clearly expose their emotions, but (still) desperately wishing for their affection to (somehow) reach the other.
Characters: The highlight of Kimi ni Todoke, and why I fell head over heels for it, are the characters. During the first episode, I didn’t think I’d be able to get through this anime because the entire premise seemed really strange, Sawako’s voice was either too small or too creepy (it changed when she got into one of her internal monologues), and her character design was just… not what I was used to in shoujo anime. I was intrigued, however, because I had heard only fantastic things about Kimi ni Todoke, and I’m always curious why certain shoujo anime are so popular. But then, I watched the final scene in Episode 1, and one of the characters, Kazehaya Shouta, completely captured my heart with a single smile and a kind of awkward conversation, and I knew I was going to end up marathon-ing the rest of the anime as fast as I possibly could.
The main character is Kuronuma Sawako, the innocent, naive, kind and trusting (to a fault) heroine who is constantly misunderstood and misjudged. Though ultimately Kimi ni Todoke is a romance, most of the first season (and therefore most of the series) was about Sawako forging friendships, learning from her friends and unknowingly teaching them things about relationships, trust, and kindness in turn. I’ll admit that Sawako was a little extreme — I know people who are that shy (me, for example) and who trust too easily or are that gullible. But Sawako’s unwavering belief in everyone and everything sometimes seemed too exaggerated, to the point where I felt like no one could possibly be that oblivious. I found it adorable in this character (when it might have driven me mad in another). (It was, however, a little frustrating that Sawako would give people gifts simply for being even remotely considerate towards her. My sister wanted to shake her for her naivety. I was okay with it, for the most part, because I know people who are almost exactly like Sawako, so it didn’t seem as strange to me.
Because Sawako is such an innocent, cute, quiet character, the moments I found truly enjoyable were when she finally speaks her mind, not only about her feelings for people, but her opinions and personal beliefs. I could also really relate to her whenever she’d encounter social situations that she didn’t know what to do with because I’ve been there — not to the same extent, but I understood her. I really felt for her when people ostracize her for ridiculous rumors, even people who somewhat got to know her, and I was surprised that, while she didn’t fight them, she held herself together when faced with a huge peer group that mostly was spreading lies about her. The gossip and the rumor mill in her school was the worst, and Sawako rarely reacted to it with tears. (Though she did, when asked cruelly or curiously if she could summon ghosts, start to apologize for not having that power, which I thought was kind of strange… But also a little adorable? But strange.)
Kazehaya Shouta is nothing like my past usual taste in anime boys, but everything like my current taste (if that makes any sense). I usually fall hard for the tortured characters, either the jerks with the heart of gold or the heroes with some complicated back story (read: Tsuruga Ren (in the Skip Beat! manga)). But lately, I’ve been falling in love with some perfectly nice, perfectly sweet, I COULD DATE YOU IN REAL LIFE anime boys, like Mashima Taichi of Chihayafuru, and now Kimi ni Todoke‘s Kazehaya Shouta. He’s this friendly, lively, kind boy, only popular because of his athletic skills and probably his looks, but he really attempts to go out of his way to make everyone feel included, especially when he’s a class leader. Because we saw him mostly from Sawako’s perspective until the second season, Kazehaya didn’t seem particularly three-dimensional (he might have been a little TOO perfect), but there was something about his easy-going nature and his bright smile that pulled me in anyway.
|“No matter what others say or what they think, they don’t matter to me. There might be only a few people whom I can speak my mind to. That might be why I have always kept a distance from those around me. But keeping a distance from you. I can’t do it. There’s nothing about you that doesn’t matter to me.”
He would awkwardly, adorably (despite the fact that this boy is the king of the social scene in his school), innocently muck up most of his interactions with Sawako, even in the final episode when the two finally started dating, and it would be so cute that he’d capture your heart anyway. He’s also so honest and sincere that it’s quite refreshing.
The second season allowed us a peek inside his head, into his own insecurities (he’s still not a tortured character in any way though, which I found refreshing), making him seem a little less “perfect shoujo pretty boy”, but the character was still so kind to Sawako and so cute and flustered that even if you wanted to dislike him on principle alone (or because his fanclub really sucks, though I couldn’t even hate Yuki of Fruits Basket for the ridiculousness of his fanclub), it was difficult. If you can’t tell, he was my favorite (or… one of my favorites, since all the characters in this anime are brilliant).
Yano and Chizuru become two of Sawako’s closest friends. What I love about this group is how dynamic it is. Yano’s maturity, not only in relationships, but also in the levelheaded way she handles certain situations, complements Sawako’s extreme sincerity and Chizuru’s headstrong attitude. I also love the fact that once Yano and Chizuru realize that Sawako is not at all like the person people say she is, they automatically want to remedy their initial reaction (caution) to her. They specifically try to know her, fall in love with the way she is actually so kind and enthusiastic, and become Sawako’s unofficial guardians, standing up for her whenever anyone treats her wrongly. I love the way their friendship evolves, blossoming from a kindness into something stronger gradually, to the point where Yano would tease Sawako about her crush on Kazehaya and she and Chizu would spend their time shopping and hanging out at ramen shops with Sawako. I loved whenever they played with her hair and make up, especially because Sawako never had any close girlfriends and it would still surprise her that two people would want to hang out with her, that doing this kind of thing would fill them up with joy.
Other characters — Kazehaya’s best friend Ryuu, their student teacher (who constantly teased and picked on Kazehaya) Pin, and Sawako’s “love rival” Kurumi — also added personality to the ensemble cast. I loved how Ryuu, for the most part, could be calmly eating in any tense scene. His love for Chizu was adorable, and Chizu’s love for his (engaged and soon to be married) older brother was both cute and heartbreaking. Pin was both annoying and entertaining, so I never really knew how to feel about him. I had mixed feelings about Kurumi as well. She eventually became a complex villain, instead of just a manipulative girl who wanted Kazehaya for herself, but some of the things she did created so many misunderstandings and so much drama that I’d really dislike her. I did like her by the end of the second season, but not enough to forgive some of the ridiculous things she had said to Sawako since she’d first met her.
Romance: What I adore about Kimi ni Todoke is that, for the most part, the things that happen are incredibly realistic. Though the pace of the show drove me insane for a while (especially in the second season), I loved that Sawako and Kazehaya had legitimate moments that made them fall in love with each other. We watch these two people, especially Kazehaya (since he knows he likes her first) fall for each other, “slowly and then all at once”*. Kazehaya fell for her smile and her cheerfulness, seeing a side to her no one else ever did because they didn’t look past her resemblance to Sadako or the rumors about her. The way she put 200% into everything she did, even if it were something she was awful at, really amazed him.
|“Everyone was affected by you trying your best. You didn’t notice it? You affect me as well.”
Sawako loved how fair and kind he was. Her feelings grew from respect and admiration, sneaking up on her because she hadn’t even imagined anything beyond friendship. (She was too innocent for that.) Their awkwardness, the way they danced around each other, the way their confessions went wrong and Kazehaya stumbled over his words when he even asked her to be his girlfriend — everything about this ship is endearing.
I also loved that the first season didn’t rely on huge misunderstandings that create unnecessary drama and prolong the tension, so the couple never gets together until the last possible second.
[*If you can't recognize it, that quote is from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.]
The second season, on the other hand, relies upon such cliché situations to the point of ridiculousness, just to create drama that did not need to be there. I can understand why Sawako and Kazehaya can misunderstand each other’s feelings, but with Kurumi and Kento’s involvement, and the repetition of such misconstrued conversations, I was beyond frustrated, especially when a simple honest discussion could have quickly cleared up all the unneeded angst. This made me sad, since I really adored how the first season shied away from this. It was slow in a cute adorkable way, but the pacing and the trail of misunderstandings made several episodes of the second season almost unbearable. I think it that twelve episode season had been shorter and everything had happened a little more naturally, this anime would have been one of my favorite romantic shoujo ever.
Theme Songs: I loved the opening theme, “Kimi ni Todoke” by Tomofumi Tanizawa. It’s both upbeat and peaceful, reflected in the pastel colors and gorgeous images that accompany the music. Considering it shares a title with the anime, it also fits the series quite well. I actually really love the vocalist. His voice fits the same quiet, tranquil, yet energetic atmosphere, which is exactly how the show basically is in season one, and it reminds me a lot of Kazehaya himself. And I am a little too fascinated with the way he says “chime” (I don’t really understand why, though listen to the song and you might know what I mean). Bottom line? This theme is my favorite. I still listen to it all the time. (I really love the cast version because you can tell which cast is singing, and it’s adorable when Sawako and Kazehaya’s seiyuu sing the pretty, romantic parts of the song together. And Kazehaya nails that mesmerizing “chime” part of the song too.)
The art that accompanies the ending theme is gorgeous. Light, calming, warm pastel colors, and adorable chibi characters set the mood for the song. And in this setting, nothing fits better than the equally gorgeous ending theme, “Kataomoi” by Chara. It’s such a melodic song, but it starts off with this one slightly high-pitched beautiful line that really echoes the emotions in Kimi ni Todoke, especially the intensity of the emotions at the end of certain episodes (though actually, there’s always some intensity, even when things are ending well enough for the characters, because there are these immensely sweet moments that break your heart because of all the unrequited love and complex feelings these characters hold).
While I loved the style and colors for the opening theme for the second season, “Swakaze” by Tomofumi Tanizawa, it didn’t get stuck in my head in the same way that the first season’s opening theme did. I did, however, love the chorus and immediately following an episode, I had to hum it. (However, I watched Kimi ni Todoke months ago, and I was unable to remember this song, whereas I still know the melody and half the words to the first one, so it wasn’t a particularly memorable theme.)
Like the first ending theme, the art in the second, “Kimi ni Todoke” by MAY’S, included airy, pastel colors. I thought this theme was really pretty, but like the second season’s opening, I barely remembered it an hour or so after finishing an episode.
Art: For the most part, Kimi ni Todoke is filled with vivid, pastel colors from the scenery around them to the bright blue of their high school uniforms. Though all the environmental scenery was gorgeous (I especially loved anything with the sky — it made me want to paint landscapes), what stood out to me in this anime’s art is how realistic the character design was. Nearly all the anime I watch (and probably most anime in general) have characters with colored hair, sometimes unnatural, and eyes that take up more space on the face than they should (as any good portrait artist will tell you). The eyes were still larger than normal in Kimi ni Todoke, but they were much smaller than normal anime eyes, and they were actually almond-shaped, like a real eye. The characters’ hair was brown or black, realistically designed, once again making it seem like this story could happen in real life. I also loved the detail in this anime. Some of the frames included close ups of characters in emotional scenes and the emotion would be expressed in the art so perfectly. Sometimes pastel-colored bubbles and geometric shapes appeared during incredibly happy scenes, adding to the dream-like emotions the characters would be feeling in those scenes. Basically, I was incredibly impressed with the art, and I’d recommend Kimi ni Todoke on that basis alone.
Ending: I’m a fan of both the season one and the season two ending for this series. I liked that season one focused more on Sawako’s growth as a character and her friendships. Her birthday episode was adorable, and I love that her friends attempted to match-make her with Kazehaya (who, again, clearly had feelings for her). It was a cute episode, and though it didn’t “resolve” much, it also didn’t have to (the series got a second season after all). Sawako and Kazehaya made enormous strides in their relationship regardless, and the cuteness at the end made me super excited for the next season.
I like that season two ended with Sawako and Kazehaya finally becoming a couple. We only get to see one of their dates (it was the cutest thing I had ever had the pleasure of seeing), but before that, we were able to witness Kazehaya and Sawako think thoroughly about their feelings, the risks any confession would bring, and why they even liked (what they even liked about) the other. I applauded when Sawako ended up being the one to state her feelings clearly, essentially being the reason why they were both able to rise above the misunderstandings and become a couple anyway. Her finding her voice and the courage to do such a thing when everything — in her head — made the situation seem hopeless was one of my favorite things about Kimi ni Todoke.
|“I don’t know the first thing about being a good girlfriend, but—”
“—Kuronuma, it’s not a job! It’s not a job. Just be yourself.”
I loved the way Kazehaya awkwardly, adorkably asked her out, and I’ll never forget how he threw caution to the wind and shouted his feelings to her from across the courtyard (“KURONUMA, SUKI DAYO!”). Even though the second season drove me mad, the last few episodes were so perfect that I forgive it. It was exactly what I was waiting for since the first episode, and like Lovely Complex, it’s a perfect resolution to a very cute shoujo romance anime.
|“It’s like a dream… I’ve finally reached you.”
(Kimi ni Todoke is currently an ongoing manga, and does not stop once Kazehaya and Sawako become a couple (which is a good thing because at that point, the story’s just begun in a manga!), but the anime is still very conclusive, and fans of Kimi ni Todoke will be pleased by the way it ends.)