Story/Art: Karuho Shiina
Translation/Adaptation: Ari Yasuda, HC Language Solutions, Inc.
What They Say
A new school year begins happily when Sawako and her friends Chizu and Ayane–as well as her crush, Kazehaya–are all in the same homeroom. But when another popular guy in the class shows an interest in Sawako, will it push Kazehaya and Sawako apart?
Content: (please note that the content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The second year of high school has started, and Sawako, Kazehaya, and all of their friends are in the same homeroom, with overly involved Pin as their teacher. While everyone’s glad to be together, the lack of a clear understanding between Sawako and Kazehaya makes their relationship awkward. It doesn’t help when other students start wanting to befriend Sawako, including a cute boy who takes a particular interest in the shy, “stiff” girl. While this new guy works on getting closer to Sawako, it’s unclear if this will finally spur Kazehaya to say what he feels, or if he’ll now just leave her alone.
After the tortuous Valentine’s Day chapter from the last volume, Sawako and Kazehaya seem permanently stuck in an awkward place. As Kazehaya pines over having been the only one to not receive chocolate from her, they both seem to be getting pushed apart by new classmates. Ayane and Chizu express some easily understood frustration at this situation, but knowing how badly things could turn out if they get too involved, they vow to stay out. We’ve now reached the point in the relationship where the only ones who can change anything are Sawako and Kazehaya – exciting, and a good show of Shiina’s strength with characters, but also an exercise in patience as we wait for the two to finally understand.
New classmate Kento, another popular pretty boy, puts his own focus on Sawako, convincing people to come to her study group and trying to make her loosen up. While he seems more interested in making Sawako a part of the group than in going out with her, he repeatedly tries to convince Kazehaya to leave her alone. Kento’s reasoning is that he doesn’t want Sawako to “expect more” from Kazehaya – namely, a relationship with a boy she doesn’t have a chance with. Because his character isn’t as deeply developed as others, it’s hard to see the reasoning behind Kento being kind to, and even potentially having a crush on, Sawako, but even if his character isn’t as clear as we might like, Shiina does seem to be using him effectively as the final push towards Sawako and Kazehaya’s ultimate relationship.
With the manga getting so close to the ultimate relationship, other characters have fallen to the background. We do see a surprisingly kind side of Pin as he admits that he put all the friends together because it would be cruel to do otherwise, and Ayane, Chizu, and Ryu are there throughout. But their problems seem to be solely focused on this relationship. While it would be nice to see more parts of these characters’ lives like we did before, this actually allows Shiina to streamline the story so that we can get on with the slow-but-absorbing romantic plot.
Rather than rely on the usual silly and contrived misinterpretations that plague the characters of shojo manga, the misunderstandings between characters in Kimi ni Todoke feel real and human. Sawako is too shy and under-confident to say how she feels so Kazehaya thinks she may dislike him; Kazehaya worries that in his selfishness he’ll start rushing things, leaving Sawako completely overwhelmed. This gives us a natural relationship that really seems like it could occur between a pair of awkward high school kids. It may make me anxious when I’m reading it, but this story is by far turning out to be the most satisfying romantic relationship I’ve ever encountered in shojo manga. It’s exciting to know just how close we are to the end, and I truly cannot wait to pickup the rest
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Age Rating: 13+
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: May 3rd, 2011