Sawako Kuronuma doesn’t mean to terrify her classmates. In fact, she wants nothing more than to befriend them, but her resemblance to a character from a horror movie combined with her reserved demeanor keeps them at bay. Everyone, that is, except for a cheerful boy named Kazehaya, who is friendly to all and known to look out for those who don’t quite fit in. When Sawako accidentally says something about him that might be construed as insulting, Kazehaya gives her the opportunity to explain her true feelings. Learning from this experience, she henceforth attempts to clear up misunderstandings about her temperament and rumored psychic powers by revealing her true feelings all over the place, earning her a few additional friends who are moved by her earnest efforts. Kazehaya continues to encourage her to open up, though the attention he pays Sawako causes rumors to fly, including one that might put her new friendships in jeopardy.
I could tell before I even confirmed it that Kimi ni Todoke was serialized in Margaret or one of its offshoots. There’s a similar (but not identical) kind of warmth to series like High School Debut and Crimson Hero that really I really like, and Kimi ni Todoke possesses it as well. Part of the appeal is the importance of friendship as the basis for a relationship, as in each of the series mentioned, the romantic leads have many reasons to like and respect each other, with their feelings developing as a result of one another’s good qualities rather than reasons more shallow. Friendships between female characters are also important, something which is sometimes lacking in shojo manga.
Another point in Kimi ni Todoke’s favor is that the main cast is genuinely likable. True, Sawako is somewhat clueless at times, but her inability to realize that Kazehaya has feelings for her is not due to ditziness; she just’s so very happy and grateful to have him as a friend that it simply doesn’t occur to her that he could possibly want something more. I’m also quite fond of Sawako’s first new friends, Yano and Yoshida, who look kind of tough but end up rallying around her at crucial moments. Sawako, with her long dark hair and spooky vibe and Yoshida, who is brash and rumored to be an ex-gang member, also remind me of Hanajima and Uotani from Fruits Basket, which is definitely a compliment.
Karuho Shiina’s panel layouts and sparse backgrounds pretty much adhere to the shojo standard, but she does possess a unique style where faces are concerned. They’re drawn simply yet expressively, perfectly suited to all of the sincere feeling on display. Sawako is depicted in a variety of ways—creepy-looking, super-deformed—and only manages an unselfconscious smile once, eliciting surprise from all around and prompting Yano to remark later that it actually made her seem “pretty normal.” It does take a little while to tell Sawako’s new friends apart, but they’re distinct enough that it’s not a major problem.
The bottom line: Kimi ni Todoke is feel-good shojo at its best.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.