Kimi ni Todoke
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Production I.G.
Brief Overview: The almost unbearable cuteness of the first season continues as Sawako switches seating arrangements and a new admirer appears in her class.
Episode Summary: It's Valentine's Day, and that of course means the exchange of chocolates. Though most people tend to go the store-bought route, Sawako makes her chocolates lovingly by hand. She even has some special ones made for Kazehaya; she tells herself that they're just a "thank you" for all the help he gave her last year, but she knows in her heart that they mean much more than that.
Sawako gives chocolates to all of her friends, including the strange girl who sits behind her in class now that the seating arrangement has changed. She gets nervous, though, when it comes time to deliver her homemade chocolates to Kazehaya. She waits for the perfect time throughout the day, but her last chance is spoiled by the untimely appearance of Kurumi, who thinks nothing of throwing Sawako off the trail of love.
Thoughts: Ah, youth. I had a short conversation with a friend recently about this show. She was dismayed that things didn't progress more rapidly in this series, noting how the main characters of Kare Kano, a great series in its own right, had the two main characters together and dating within the first few episodes and that the couple in Lovely Complex had an amusing dynamic with each-other. With all due respect, though, this type of slow-moving series has its own special appeal that draws me in much more than those other examples of shoujo ever did. To me, Kimi ni Todoke isn't just the story of a girl and a boy falling in love, it's also (and this is probably more important to me since it hits painfully close to home) the story of a girl overcoming a great deal of social anxiety in order to make friends. I think that keeping that in mind helps one to understand why the two main characters have only ever held hands, and why Sawako is so nervous about giving her chocolates to Kazehaya (with anxiety, if you don't do something the moment to have to do it, spending the entire day mulling it over isn't going to help you at all - it's a life full of missed opportunities, for sure).
That said, this first episode, along with the "Episode 0" that came out the previous week, directly continues the story that was unfolding in the first season, and from the looks of things manages to keep the tone relatively unchanged. For people like me who loved the first season, this is great news; the episode has the same charm, humor, and artfulness that made the entire first season something special. For people like my friend who tend to get impatient when there's no culmination, though, the best I can offer is that I've heard that this part of the manga goes at a bit of a faster clip and that "things should be happening soon." For me, more time to spend with characters who I fell in love with is a proposition that's almost worth a recommendation on concept alone; it certainly helps that the show is overall a very high quality production.
One think I like about this show is that it always puts its best face forward. There's very little reason to use top-notch animation or to put a whole lot of thought into the background artwork, because a lot of shoujo is just a string of still frames and airy, half-drawn backgrounds anyway. One thing that's nice here is that it's clear that there was a great deal of care put into the visual aspect of the show. The background artwork is just stunning, painted in a watercolor style that feels rich and gleams with the perpetual late-day sunlight that seems to bathe the show in its glow. The shadows are rarely pure black, more likely to be painted in a dark, muted blue or purple. This season the animation studio has leveled-up the visuals in a noticeable way - there are a couple of shots which combine the watercolor-style with 3D imagery, which subtly brings the world of the show to life even more. Also, shoujo bubbles!
If I were held at gunpoint and asked to name something negative about this episode, I'd probably have to say that I'm not really a Kurumi fan, and felt like her usefulness was over once her story arc in the first season had been completed. I actually got a bit of a knot in my stomach because I felt like having her come back was really inviting some really trite, contrived story elements to come crawling out of the woodwork; I prefer it when Sawako and her friends are doing things and having different experiences and I don't really need the Kurumi melodrama to round out my viewing experience. If hers is just a brief involvement, or if it's time for her to clean up her act, then I can tolerate a bit more. I'm more curious about the new male character who was briefly introduced near the end of the episode. I've heard talk of a love rival... perhaps his intervention in Sawako's life will give Kazehaya the bravery to share his feelings more (tee hee can't wait).
As a sequel, this isn't one of the easiest to get into cold; it does have the advantage of a recap episode between the two seasons, and if one were to watch that as well as the other recap about halfway through season 1, they could probably get the technical gist of what had happened so far. But the show is much more than who-said-what-to-whom, it's a very warm, bittersweet look into the high school life that so many of us experienced a part of, but it's so idealized that we could never have experienced in its entirety. Like I mentioned to a friend of mine, this show is "nostalgia for the high school life I never had," and Sawako is a girl who's so much like myself, but who has the advantage of a wonderful support network of friends and classmates who help her to overcome her anxiety. It's not realistic and it's not high-octane entertainment, but it's so sweet and genuine that it almost makes your heart ache. And for that alone I recommend it highly.
- Beautiful artwork, even more so than in season 1.
- Sweet characters who look out for each-other and want the best for their friends.
- Kurumi has just about worn out her welcome with me.
Recommended? Absolutely. This is anime comfort food for me and it also happens to be really good. And it's so pure and sweet; in an anime environment that seems to favor ecchi over respectability, that's a rare treat indeed.