Kimi ni Todoke
Also known as: From Me To You
"The Ring" is known as one of the scariest movies of all time, and Sawako is cursed to look like the main terror of the film. It doesn't help that her name is nearly the same as well. She earns the nickname Sadako with many believing she causes and misfortune. Her quiet demeanor makes it difficult to make friends or even to talk to people. That changes after an encounter with a popular boy named Kazeheya. Sawako's timid but kind nature begins to shine though and she slowly emerges from her shell. She becomes good friends with two girls in the class. Sawako starts to take an interest in Kazeheya, and he in her. Even though school life won't be easy, it seems love is sure to blossom.
Shoujo titles often have some outlandish hook to get you interested, but Kimi ni Todoke is very mild in this regard. This series is absolutely shoujo with everything you could expect in such a series with rose pedal moments, and shoujo sparkles (sooo many sparkles). It's refreshing Kimi no Todoke is solid in its back to basics approach. That could however also be a bad point since it offers nothing new, nor are there any surprises. It's not exactly paint by numbers, but it's easy to see where developments are going far in advance.
There are three weaknesses to this title. That isn't a lot, but they never get resolved either. Sawako is a timid girl with a pure heart who rejoices at any hint of kindness, and radiates an aura of extreme thankfulness. Her desperation for human interaction is an endearing story, but can get old fast. I don't think it's a matter of "if" it will get annoying, it's a matter of how annoying it becomes. This can easily make the show intolerable if you don't empathize with her. The second problem is Kazeheya. He's an attractive, popular boy who likes Sawako for no reason. His unshaking dedication, and interest in her seems shallow. That's a minor nitpick I guess, but I really wish this part of the story had been developed better. Lastly the romance moves sloooowly. It's cute, but I think lagging with progress. Some characters delight in teasing the two about their fledgling relationship (Kazuichi amusingly refers to as that Tokimeki Memorial reenactment crap).
I loved the diversity in characters, with developed personalities. Even the minor characters are distinct and realistic. I think this show particularly shines with "the rival" Kurumi. While she has a kind heart, Kurumi hatches back stabbing schemes in her obsessive quest to capture Kazeheya, yet emanates charm like some sort of inhuman sweetness dispenser. This contrasts with Sawako's dark aura but pure heart. The interactions between these two is great. Naive Sawako can't see even the most obvious traps, yet somehow side steps them through her sincere and honest personality. Which makes it all the more infuriating for Kurumi. For me the icing on the cake is that Sawako and Kurumi are played by two of my favorite Japanese voice actresses. (No dub for this one).
Within 12 episodes I figured this would become one of the shoujo greats, then Kurumi went into the backdrop. The stories that follow are fair, but don't approach the chemistry between Sawako and a rival. This unfortunately became a series which got downgraded the more I saw. By the third set (of 12 episodes) the story begins to languish as the romance goes adrift. A new guy is introduced who seems promising, but he isn't able to salvage the situation. Things feel padded, and the source of drama doesn't make sense. It was frustrating to see such a vibrant anime half-ass plots via "misunderstandings" which I struggled to understand myself. The basic concept of Sawako coming out of her shell is good, but later on feels like she hasn't grown much at all. I often thought to myself: "didn't we get past this already?"
If you're a shoujo fan, it's a good watch. Nothing is drastically new, but it hits the expected points with some very attractive art. Tolerance for Sawako's eternal gratitude for EVERYTHING is certainly required, but I think this one requires too much patience later on. It's certainly a sweet show I'd consider looking into, but if it doesn't suit your tastes right away, I'd pass on this one.
Kazuichi: I know how you feel. If I were a woman, I'd fall in love with me too.
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