After my rave (possibly raving) review of Kimi ni Todoke, I was excited to pick up the second volume in the growing series. We venture on our way with our extremely shy heroine Sawako (who constantly gets teased and mistreated because she looks like the girl Sadako from The Ring) as she continues to clumsily maneuver through social situations she doesn’t fully comprehend. Her awkwardness causes more than a few problems for her in this volume, which focuses on two of the background characters from last edition – Yano and Yoshida, girls in Sawako’s class that become friends with her. Due to a misunderstanding, rumors start flying around the school about the pair of brash, confident friends, and Sawako is at the center of it all.She of course, in her simple way, has to make things right, which provides most of the drama of the volume.
In a wonderful way, Sawako’s appeal as a manga heroine stems partially from her social anxiety and awkwardness, which I feel is something that many people can relate to. I wasn’t necessarily socially inept in my formative years, but I do understand her plight, especially in unfamiliar situations with people who aren’t necessarily trying to be considerate or understanding. As she learns to cope with rumormongers, jerks, and, pardon my language, bitches, she also learns to express herself to her friends, and actually learns how to become friends with two people she admires.
Her issues and anxieties associated with expressing herself is half of the reason she finds a place in my heart as a manga reader – the other is her simple, beautiful kindness. This isn’t to say Sawako is a dolt, or a simple character. Far from it. She is a complicated girl with simple desires, but no simple way to bring them about. Instead of the self-centered, romantically driven shojo heroine, it’s cathartic to find a character that is almost kind to a fault, continuously thinking of others, continuously being kind, sometimes to her detriment. Sawako completely transforms the reading experience from a regular high school drama to something a bit brighter, a bit more wonderful.
We see a lot less of Kazehaya, the love interest, in this second volume, and it’s for an important reason – Kimi ni Todoke isn’t necessarily about romance as much as it is the story of a girl who finds an escape from her loneliness, and the development of a beautiful, shy, and awkward character into a beautiful, social, and aware character. This transformation can’t be completed through one relationship, and the author does a great job realizing this and putting it to pen. For those expecting Kazehaya and Sawako to progress a bit further in their slow courtship in this second volume, you’ll just have to wait until volume three hits shelves. Karuho Shiina also does a great job with the pacing of the chapters, and the storytelling techniques, while worn from use by every conceivable shojo manga, are used deftly and with skill. The illustration is top-notch, adding humor and tension.
With the release of the second volume of Kimi ni Todoke, the Shojo Beat price point has jumped to the now semi-universal $10 mark, while the book quality has largely stayed the same. This is a change that was penetrated the depths of the manga publishing world, but unfortunately, the quality of the printing is much lower than the $10 price-tag. Viz produces a lot of manga, and much of it (especially their Signature series) on high-quality papers, good inks, and dust-jacket covers. While the lower quality in their non-Sig series isn’t enough to turn me off of Viz’s product, it makes me more likely to purchase series from other publishers, like Yen Press, first. I know I might be in the minority, but I will gladly pay extra for better quality books.
Overall, Kimi ni Todoke has become one of my most enjoyed series in print in this short two-volume release, and I am highly anticipating volume three, which comes out at the beginning of February. For anyone who loves shojo manga, this is a must read.