Sunday, June 23, 2019

REVIEW: Komi Can't Communicate (manga, vol. 1) by Tomohito Oda, translated by John Werry

Komi Can't Communicate is a high school comedy series.


Hitohito Tadano has somehow been accepted to Itan Private High School, an elite prep school, despite being average in every way. His primary goal is to blend in and not make any waves.

This becomes difficult after he meets Komi, the cool, distant, and elegant girl who sits next to him in class. Tadano gradually comes to the realization that Komi isn't actually cool and distant, but rather incredibly socially anxious and bad at talking to people. Forgetting his own goals, Tadano becomes determined to help her.

I'm not sure how I feel about this series yet.

Komi was cute and, as a socially anxious person myself (although not nearly as bad), I really felt for her. And Tadano was super sweet - I loved the chalkboard conversation he had with Komi, and the way he forced himself to do something he wasn't really wild about, talk to Najimi, to help Komi make friends and connect with others. I wasn't happy about the occasional sexual jokes involving Najimi, though, and I hope Najimi's ambiguous gender doesn't become some kind of ongoing joke.

The various attempts to help Komi gain new friends and do "normal" social things were hit-or-miss for me. I loved the storyline involving Komi, her new phone, and her efforts to create her first contacts list, but I was unmoved by the group games story. Najimi's "go buy me a Frappuccino or I won't be your friend anymore" quest was a bit painful to watch, but at least Najimi realized after it was over that they'd been cruel and rightfully apologized to Komi. And while Himiko Agari, another anxious student, should have been a great new friend for Komi, that entire storyline was ruined by her off-putting "I want to be your dog" moment.

I'm a little worried that, since this is a comedy series, its focus will be on "Komi's ridiculous new friend of the week" and "watch Komi somehow make friends despite being unable to speak" rather than on any sort of character growth or even deepening of Komi's friendships. I'm not a fan of Komi's "make 100 friends" goal, and I hope that, at some point, she realizes that deepening her relationships with the friends she currently has might be more worthwhile than making a few dozen new "friends" she barely knows.

The premise reminds me a little of Kimi Ni Todoke, only more focused on humor than on romance (so far, at least). At the moment, I prefer that series, because of its focus on the heroine's POV and her deepening friendships with those around her, to this one, which feels more focused on Tadano and his perception of Komi. I'll probably read the next volume of Komi Can't Communicate at some point, to get a better idea of where Oda might be taking the series, but it'll more than likely be via a library checkout rather than another purchase.


A couple pages of extra comics that basically boil down to "Najimi and Komi are complete opposites and likely incapable of ever understanding one another."

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