Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (manga, vol. 2) by Karuho Shiina

I think I managed to keep the spoilers to a minimum.

Synopsis:

Persistent rumors are flying around. Supposedly Yano went out with a hundred guys in middle school, supposedly Yoshida was a major delinquent in middle school, and supposedly Sawako is the one who started and spread all these rumors. Yano and Yoshida refuse to believe this at first, but then Sawako's behavior causes them to doubt her.

Sawako is, at first, unaware that anything is going on. Then she starts to notice that Yano and Yoshida are unhappy. When she finally learns about the rumors, she blames herself for their unhappiness and worries that, even if she can clear up the misunderstanding that she believed caused the rumors, her presence will only continue to bring them more unhappiness. She also worries that she will cause Kazehaya to become unpopular.

Miserable, Sawako is unsure of what to do. She was alone prior to meeting Kazehaya, Yano, and Yoshida, so she thought she could just go back to being alone, but she misses them too badly. At the same time, being with them seems selfish, since she thinks her presence will only cause them problems.

Meanwhile, Kazehaya has noticed the change in Sawako's behavior and is worried about her. Yano and Yoshida are miserable, too. Deep down, they feel that Sawako can't possibly be the one who started the rumors, but they haven't even been able to solidly confirm that Sawako really does like them.

Review:

Whereas Kiyo Fujiwara's Wild Ones continues to get a "so so" response from me, this series is solidly in the "absolutely love this" end of the scale for me.

This volume made me cry. I don't mean "It made me tear up." I don't mean "It put a lump in my throat" (although it did do that, too). No, I mean I had to actually wipe the tears away so I could keep reading. A while back, there was a blog I read called The Otaku Librarian (which sadly has not had any new posts in ages). It had a post on female friendships in anime and manga, which in turn linked to an Anime News Network post on female friendships in anime and manga. This manga, or at the very least this volume, would have been perfect for those discussions.

This entire volume is about the friendship between Sawako, Yano, and Yoshida. Shiina could have chosen to just spend a chapter on their friendship and then gone back to the romance slowly developing between Kazehaya and Sawako, but she didn't. Which I think is just awesome, and something you're still more likely to see in shounen manga than shoujo. Kazehaya is there, but (proving how great he is and how worthy he is of eventually ending up with someone as sweet as Sawako), although he frets a little about not getting to spend more time with Sawako, he purposefully stands aside so that Yano and Yoshida can be the ones to come to Sawako's rescue and so that Sawako can have more girl time with her new friends. Kazehaya was there for Sawako, but he was more there as the only person her age who was willing to talk to her, listen to her, and give her advice, rather than as her love interest (although there was that bit early on where she was fascinated by his forehead).

I cheered when Yano and Yoshida at first refused to believe that Sawako could possibly be responsible for the rumors, but I also didn't blame them when they started to doubt her. The big issue was lack of communication. Yano and Yoshida are normal girls who have known each other for years, so they have no problems talking to each other. It's what they do throughout the whole volume - because they're comfortable with each other, they talk to each other in an effort to puzzle through the truth of who's behind the rumors.

Sawako can't communicate with anyone as easily as Yano and Yoshida do with each other. Even talking to Kazehaya usually requires that Kazehaya make the first move. The few times that Yano and Yoshida try to get the truth from Sawako herself, the circumstances or Sawako's own awkwardness get in the way. Sawako's tremendous shyness was tough to watch in the first volume, and it was at least as tough to watch in this one. Yano and Yoshida got to try to work through their feelings by talking to each other. There was no such outlet for Sawako's sadness and feelings of helplessness, at least until Kazehaya encouraged her to talk to him. Hence, the crying on my part.

I love how Shiina resolved things in this volume. I love that Sawako was the one who stood her ground first, defending Yano and Yoshida even though it would have been easier for her to lapse into silence and fade back into the background. I love that Yano and Yoshida came and backed her up and then listened to what she had to say after it was all over. And, again, I love that Kazehaya made himself stand back and let the three of them work everything out on their own, even though he had to have been worried about what the girls where doing and saying to Sawako.

I already have the next volume, but I told myself I wouldn't touch it until I wrote this post. I'm going to guess that the next volume will have something to do with that too-cute girl from the end of this volume, the one who seems to have her own ideas about how to get Kazehaya for herself. I can't wait to see what happens.

Extras:

A few character pages, which include nicknames, height, weight, blood type, birth date, astrological sign, their motto, and what TV show they like to watch; one-page behind-the-scenes type comics (I didn't find these to be all that interesting); at least one author sidebar; and a page of cultural notes (which refer to page numbers, even though the volume doesn't have any - I really hate that).

These read-alikes/watch-alikes are nearly the same as for the previous volume, but I added Skip Beat! to the end.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • The Wallflower (manga) by Tomoko Hayakawa - This manga has also been adapted into an anime, but I haven't seen it and don't know how similar it is to the manga. The main character of this series, Sunako, is similar to Sawako in that she looks like Sadako and has a tendency to frighten people just by existing. Four handsome guys are told they can live in Sunako's aunt's mansion for free, the only catch being that they have to turn Sunako into a "lady." Gradually, the guys learn that, when she's not crippled by her fear of beauty or wallowing in her love for horror movies and all things creepy, she's actually beautiful and really awesome. Although this series has some romantic elements, do not read this if you'd primarily like another romantic series - you'll only end up disappointed, as Hayakawa goes so far with the romance and no further for volume after volume after volume. What this series is best at is humor.
  • Big Windup! (anime TV series) - Every time someone treated Sawako like another human being and she chose to view that as evidence that the person was incredibly nice, I was reminded of Mihashi, one of the main characters in this series. Mihashi loves baseball, particularly pitching, but his terrible experiences in middle school destroyed his self-confidence. Although he was determined to quit baseball once he entered high school, to his joy and horror he found himself added to the team instead. Now, for the team to excel, everyone, particularly Mihashi and Abe, his catcher, must learn to work together. If you'd like another series with an incredibly sweet, shy main character whose self-confidence could use a boost, you might want to try this.
  • High School Debut (manga) by Kazune Kawahara - Haruna, a cheerful tomboy, has never had a boyfriend. Now that she's in high school, she's determined to change things. Unfortunately, she has absolutely no idea how to become more feminine and attract a boy's interest. When she meets handsome and popular Yoh, she gets him to agree to teach her about dating and what boys like. The only condition: Haruna must not fall in love with Yoh - and of course she and Yoh both fail miserably at this condition. This is another sweet romantic school story featuring a likable heroine who tries way too hard. One of the things I love about this series is that Haruna doesn't end up with Yoh because she changes herself, but rather because Yoh gets to know her and likes her for who she is.
  • Azumanga Daioh (manga) by Kiyohiko Azuma; Azumanga Daioh (anime TV series) - This humorous slice-of-life series focuses on a bunch of quirky high school girls and their eccentric teachers. I added it to this list primarily because of one of the characters, a cool-looking girl who secretly loves cute animals, even though almost all animals hate her. Also, if you liked the girl friendships in this volume of Kimi ni Todoke, you may enjoy the interactions between the mostly female characters in this series.
  • Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya; Fruits Basket (anime TV series) - After Tohru Honda's mother died, she went to live with her grandfather, but, rather than get in anyone's way while his house was being remodeled, she opted to live in a tent in the woods. When Yuki Sohma, the most popular boy at school, and Shigure Sohma find out about her, they offer to let her stay at their place. Tohru soon learns that the Sohma family has been hiding a big secret: when certain members of the family become weak or are hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they turn into one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. Those who'd like another series featuring an incredibly nice heroine might want to try this. Those who loved the girl friendship focus of this volume will probably enjoy the times in this series when Tohru and her friends are together.
  • Skip Beat! (manga) by Yoshiki Nakamura; Skip Beat! (anime TV series) - The main character of this series is a girl who has spent her whole life trying to please others. She leaves her hometown with her boyfriend, to help him follow his dream of becoming a big-time star, only to be crushed when he dumps her after he no longer needs her. She decides to get revenge by becoming even more famous than him. I've only read the first volume of the manga, but I saw all of the anime on Crunchyroll. This is a shoujo series, but it has a shounen feel - similar to shounen heroes, the main character of this series is always striving to get better. One thing it has in common with this volume of Kimi ni Todoke is a strong female friendship. The heroine of Skip Beat! has better overall social skills than Sawako, but she shares Sawako's lack of experience with female friendships, so she, too, has to figure out how to make things work when the going gets tough.

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