On with the shojo parade, this week with the intensely wonderful first volume of Kimi ni Todoke. There, I’ve said it. If you were looking for a diss, go ahead and pass on my review. You won’t find anything of the sort here.
The main character, Sawako, is a girl who, despite her gentle, friendly demeanor, looks a bit like Sadako, the evil ghost from Ringu (or The Ring as we know it here in the States) and is the victim of some pretty mean rumors. If you believe her classmates, she can summon ghosts to haunt you, and if you look into her eyes for longer than three seconds, you’ll be cursed. Or at least, that’s what the kids say.
It isn’t until Kazehaya, the nice-guy heart-throb of the school starts talking to Sawako that things turn around for her, and she starts airing out her inverted personality to new people. It’s a story of positive change that surrounds a misunderstood, painfully shy girl who not only finds friends, but also a bit of romance.
If I’m gushing, slap me. Well, not too hard.
Kimi ni Todoke is one of the best manga I’ve read all year, and I think that’s largely to do with the fact that it is, in all shapes and forms, a very “feel good” type of story. Who doesn’t love reading about a person who tries to enact positive change in their life and is rewarded for doing it? Alternatively, for those more critical people out there, the execution of the storyline, which could be a bit hum-drum at times, is perfect, which is what makes the book move smoothly when such delicate characters could easily fall apart.
The flow is also something to behold – author/illustrator Karuho Shiina uses paneling and exaggerated illustrated running inner dialogue of Sawako to add humor to the series, and does so with flair. The art is serviceable and clean, but isn’t astounding, and that’s fine. It feels like a common story, and it looks like one too.
Part of your ability to enjoy the manga is being able to sympathize or feel for the main character, whose social ineptitude makes her a character you’ll either immediately identify with, or want to shake. For being such an intelligent character, she sure does act daft most of the time. She even begins to believe some of the rumors that are about her! For me, this was endearing, but for others, might be a turn off. A prominent example is Johanna Carlson, from Comics Worth Reading, who found her to be a bit wish-washy.
Viz Media has done a good job with the cover art for this series, and has put together a book that, while isn’t the highest quality, is at least durable enough for quite a few readings (as of this review, I’ve read the book five times). The price point has escalated from where it was a year ago, but this is to be expected. Lucky buyers can grab the book for its original $8.99. Extra fun comes in the back of the book, where there are Kimi ni Todoke stickers. While I personally haven’t used them, I’m sure some readers out there appreciate them much more thoroughly than myself.
Kimi ni Todoke is one of the best shojo releases of 2009, and I’m looking forward to what 2010 brings. It was an absolute joy to read, and with the second volume up next on my reading list, it’s going to be a great new year.