Story & Art: Tomohito Oda
Translation: John Werry
What They Say
Socially anxious high school student Shoko Komi’s greatest dream is to make some friends, but everyone at school mistakes her crippling social anxiety for cool reserve. Luckily she meets Tadano, a timid wallflower who decides to step out of his comfort zone in order to help her achieve her goal of making 100 friends.
It’s time for the national health exam at Itan High, and the excitement of eye exams and height measurements have fanned the flames of competition for the unremarkable Makeru Yadano. She’s determined to beat the class idol Komi in the health test, and Komi’s total obliviousness to their impassioned duel just feeds Makeru’s determination. As the epic battle heats up, how will Komi handle her first rival when she’s barely made her first friends?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Komi Can’t Communicate is leaning towards a rogues gallery of weirdos to drive the series, but I’m a little surprised. Having an often silent protagonist, it’s clear that author Oda wishes to create a more visually striking series. So in that regard, it makes sense for them to go the easy route by introducing louder and weirder characters for Komi to interact with. And some of them work to great effect. Introducing Komi’s mother as the chatty type that’s overly eager when she finds out her daughter invited some friends over is cute and endearing. Likewise, finding that Komi is a regular at a hair salon to the point that her stylist is able to communicate with her with little to no words is equally charming.
But it’s with the new students Komi interacts with that things become hit or miss. From the overly competitive but ultimately incompetent Yadano to the illegally obsessive Yamai or even the cringey chuunibyou antics of Nakanaka, every new student feels like a simple shtick to add to the 100 total friends Komi is set to make. It’s clear Oda is at least partially married to the idea that Komi is to make as many new friends as possible, but when there’s little to their story outside of a simple gimmick or trope, then it comes off as more distracting and done simply for the sake of having a new character than to better flesh out the cast. The cast is already decently fleshed out as it stands, and more group-centric chapters like one of the final ones this volume would be far more appreciated. Seeing the ragtag group of friends-but-not-friends go clothes shopping specifically for Komi show the strengths of the dynamic at work. And while other chapters like Yamai kidnapping Tadano are funny in a slapstick way, they don’t jive as well with the better gags in the series that tie closer to Komi’s inability to speak with others.
Alternatively, seeing Oda better dig into preexisting characters is equally appreciated. The special focus we see on Tadano the handful of times this chapter are hilarious and work not only to better his own character, but how he interacts with the rest of the cast. Finding out that he was a try-hard cool-guy in middle school better explains why he’s become so taken with staying in his own lane in high school. Meanwhile, a later chapter where he’s forced to awkwardly share an umbrella with Komi is tropey, but works so well with the premise of the series– which contrary to what the author is trying to shoehorn, isn’t about making as many friends as possible, but being able to find the humor in your own weaknesses.
Komi Can’t Communicate can be oddly slapstick for a series with a lead whose shtick is that she can’t talk. There’s an odd focus on the weirdos encapsulating Komi’s school more than Komi herself. Regardless, when it’s able to focus less on this feasible headcount of friends and more on the humor that comes with a weakness like social anxiety, it’s able to come up with humor that’s a good mix of wholesome and a tad too real to handle.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: August 13th, 2019