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Komi Can’t Communicate Vol. #10 Manga Review

6 min read
The addition of Manbagi stirs the pot!

Manbagi enters the fray!

Creative Staff:
Story/Art: Tomohito Oda
Translation/Adaption:
John Werry
Touch-up/Lettering:
Eve Grandt
Design:
Julian Robinson
Editor:
Pancha Diaz

What They Say:
What an eventful Freshman year for Shoko Komi. Her mission to make 100 friends has gone swimmingly, and now she enters her second year with plenty of pals at her side and many more she has yet to meet! Volume 10 flexes Komi’s improved sociability, adding Rumiko Manbagi to the party.

The Review
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the closing ceremony fast approaching, Shoko Komi’s first year of high school is coming to an end. She and Tadano reflect on the eventful year they’ve spent together and all the wonderful people she’s befriended along the way. Komi feels a bit sentimental just thinking about it – her journey to gain 100 friends has been so fruitful, she doesn’t want this moment to end. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

However, a new school year comes with tantalizing prospects. Namely, the chance to make new friends! The classrooms have been shuffled around, but some old buddies make a return as Komi’s classmates, including Najimi, Katai, and Tadano. The infinitely peppy Najimi leads the class in a carousel of embarrassing icebreakers, introducing us to a heap of fresh faces. Among them are a few wildcards, such as boob-enthusiast Shuko Ohai, and a Buddha-faced boy named Son Totoi. Extras aside, the rising star of Volume 10 is Rumiko Manbagi, a manba gyaru with some wild makeup and an even wilder, Zoomer-age vernacular. Despite her gregarious appearance, Manbagi is a bit of a loner. And with her main gal pals in the other class, Manbagi is all by herself. She has a nervous breakdown after convincing herself that she’ll be alone forever. Luckily, she’s seated between our main duo, Komi and Tadano. They take Manbagi to the nurse’s office, where she confides in Komi about her loneliness. Having been in that exact spot herself, Komi is now well-equipped to handle this situation, offering to be Manbagi’s new friend. Komi’s kind gesture shows just how far she’s come with her communication disorder.

With Manbagi officially aboard the S.S. Komi, Volume 10 changes course, setting sail for familiar waters. The sprawling cast of Komi Can’t Communicate deliver a grab-bag of activities, some more entertaining than others. As someone who grew up lamenting the changing of seasons due to sinus meltdowns, the “Allergies” chapter hit especially close to home. On the other hand, the “Suddenly Steak” and “Fitness Test” chapters are a bit well-done for my tastes. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t hit the funny bone as previous chapters have. These segments were about bringing Manbagi into the fold more than anything, which made the comedic aspects feel like more of an afterthought. Manbagi deviates from the people Komi has befriended thus far, taking on a more narrative-focused position rather than just being another comedic relief bit-role.

One of my favorite chapters of Volume 10 has nothing to do with Komi and co. Rather, it focuses on the incoming freshmen, namely Komi and Tadano’s younger siblings. While the dynamic between Shosuke and Hitomi shares a resemblance to their elder counterparts, ultimately, the two are quite different from Shoko and Hitohito. Both Komi children take after their father in being the silent type. Much like his older sister, Shosuke attracts the gaze of everyone around him. His dashing good looks + mysterious demeanor make for a deadly combo, piercing the hearts of girls and boys alike. But that’s where his similarities with Shoko end. Unlike Shoko, whose silence is the result of her communication anxiety, Shosuke simply chooses not to talk. Irradiating alpha-male energy from a young age, Shosuke carried himself in a manner that made communication unnecessary. At this point, it was too much of a nuisance. That is until he met a classmate that was unfazed by his chad-like charms – Hitomi Tadano. Hitomi is astonishingly different from her brother. Where Hitohito is more of an average, blend in with the crowd type, Hitomi is an outgoing social butterfly, eclipsed only by Najimi in terms of chattiness. The one thing Hitomi and her brother share is a magnetism to the Komi family. Shosuke’s high school experience is going to get a whole lot livelier with Hitomi around. I love the interplay between these two, so hopefully, they make more regular appearances.

As much as I enjoyed the Shosuke side-dish, we gotta get back to the Manbagi main course. Volume 10 gives Komi the opportunity to befriend Manbagi on an even more intimate level. Rumiko’s assimilation into the Komi crew was smooth as butter, and now the shoe was on the other foot. Komi meets Manbagi’s gyaru friends for an evening at the bowling alley. This eccentric trio immediately hit it off with Komi, integrating her into the group with an adorable onesie. Manbagi steps away for a moment, giving her pals a chance to express their gratitude for Komi befriending Manbagi.  Komi knows what it’s like to be shy and lonely, so this budding friendship is truly a blessing for the both of them.

Despite a strong start to their friendship, girls can’t reach that best friend status until they’ve initiated a rite of passage – the sleepover. For most gal pals it’s no big deal, but seeing as Komi has never done this before, sleepovers are foreign territory for her. Aside from an awkward preface, the two of them eventually get comfortable. Both have social anxieties stemming from their introverted personalities, but the sleepover gives them room to acknowledge and even compliment each other on their quirks, posturing them as unique traits rather than faults. With their fears extinguished, Komi and Manbagi have taken their budding friendship to the next level. But as Volume 10 is about to end, there’s a hint of drama on the horizon. As is customary for sleepovers, Manbagi shifts the conversation in a spicy new direction.

“So, you crushing on anyone?” she asks Komi.

Both as flustered as can be, they give each other non-answers. But it’s easy to devise who they’re talking about, and in both cases, it’s Hitohito Tadano. As we saw sprinkled throughout Volume 10, Tadano’s acts of kindness did not go unnoticed by Manbagi. From calling her pretty, to swatting a bug out of her hair, those small gestures began to take shape as something more. Just as it seemed like Komi and Manbagi were on the precipice of a wonderful friendship, that status may eventually come under fire, turning fated friends into rivals in romance.

In Summary:
10 volumes in, Komi Can’t Communicate has been coasting along fine, if not feeling a bit formulaic at times. But the addition of Manbagi stirs the pot. The manga has been relatively lighthearted up to this point, so the incoming drama has the potential to challenge Komi in new, exhilarating ways.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade:
B-
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade:
A-

Age Rating: Teen
Released By:
VIZ Media
Release Date:
December 8th, 2020
MSRP:
$9.99 (paperback) / $6.99 (digital)

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