Kimi ni Todoke Book 1

Sawako’s classmates are scared of her because she looks like a character from a horror movie, with her long black hair, heavy bangs, and pale skin. (Me, I thought she looked like a typical Japanese schoolgirl.) She copes by doing every good deed she can and volunteering for tasks at school, so that people will like her for being helpful. She’s making the best of her loneliness. If she can’t be liked, at least she can make herself useful.

Kimi ni Todoke Book 1 cover
Kimi ni Todoke Book 1
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She idolizes Kazehaya, the popular boy, because he’s nice to everyone and he has lots of friends. He uses her real name, Sawako, instead of Sadako, the girl from the horror movie. His attention means others in the class start talking to her, too. I don’t know if I’m supposed to find it funny when she goes overboard and stalker-ish praising how immensely nice he is just because he talks to her like a person. I find it heart-breaking, instead, that she’s so starved for friendship that she obsesses over those crumbs.

I’m not sure why this book is getting so much praise. They seem to applaud Sawako’s hard work and cheerful determination to keep trying, but I found her shading towards pathetic. I spent most of the first chapter wanting to inject some sense and self-assurance into her. It makes me cringe to watch her praising the boy so profusely and being so self-effacing. She’s fixated on Kazehaya (who’s drawn generically and hasn’t much distinct personality) just because he treats her normally.

I also didn’t see her as all that weird. If her looks are that much of a bother, why didn’t it ever occur to her to, I dunno, get a haircut? The makeover is a long-standing magic weapon of girls’ manga and magazines. Her look is classic, not particularly scary, at least to my eyes. (Heck, some people have built companies based on it.) Even when she’s supposed to be drawn in a menacing fashion, it doesn’t really come off that way. (Compare The Wallflower, where the artist is able to move from creepy-cute to disturbing with a similar design.)

Her classmates think she’s weird, and it’s based on her appearance, but really, it’s as much due to her behavior. When she tries to explain the truth to them, it just confirms their opinion that she tries too hard. She thinks they don’t understand her because they don’t know, but really, they don’t care — they’re teens, jumping to conclusions based on appearance and casually ignoring or taunting others because they can. Maybe I’ve lost my sympathy for the hurt outsider type as I’ve grown away from high school, and those closer in age or memory to it are finding more in this series than I am.

On the other hand, perhaps this story can provide practice empathizing with those who are stared at and whispered about for other reasons by showing what their life may be like day-to-day. And I suspect many quiet girls will enjoy reading this fantasy about a character they understand. By the end, I did begin admiring her helpfulness and how happy she was when she could tutor her classmates. I still want to know more about what motivates him, though. Is this a standard shojo interest of convenience — teaming the heroine up with the best boy in class because that’s the fantasy readers want — or has the author thought more about it and given him some plausible reason?

One last quibble: I miss translated titles for manga published in English. There is a subtitle, “From Me to You”, but I have a hard time pronouncing and remembering titles in the original Japanese.

9 Comments

  1. I started to comment on this at Twitter, but it is so much easier just to come here. :) I think you may have a very good point about perspective. I think I’m unusually connected to my teenaged self for my age, so I tend to put myself right back in that place when reading. I was an outsider too (with even less awareness of how on earth to connect with my peers) so I can related strongly to Sawako.

    I remember, too, that we had similarly different reactions to volume four of We Were There, for perhaps the same reason? I was easily carried back into my own painful memories and you (if I recall correctly) really did not want to be.

  2. [...] (Manga Maniac Cafe) Connie on vol. 2 of Gestalt (Slightly Biased Manga) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Kimi ni Todoke (Comics Worth Reading) Justin Colussy-Estes on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (light novel) [...]

  3. Eh hello, I guess I’m a random visitor. :)
    Sorry if it’s a bother, but I’m looking for more mangas like Kimi ni Todoke which can rival its emotional depth and uniqueness (by unique I mean not horribly fantastic like Fruits Basket or Love Hina.) Really, Kimi ni Todoke is one of the rare gems I’ve encountered so far that actually focus on the characters and their developments. The main male character is actually not ‘arrogant but protective, the most handsome guy ever, slant eyes, troubled childhood, lack of commitment issues’, something that is prominent in most shoujo male leads’ biography. Kazehaya is actually human, and I like that. What I meant by human is that he seems alive. Oh, how can I tell you.
    But please, can you help me? I’m a budding writer and I’m looking for inspiring materials. I need more mangas like Kimi ni Todoke. Do email me if you can help me.

  4. Welcome! You should read Nana. You may also want to look for books described as josei instead of shojo.

  5. Deanna Gauthier

    I would recommend Translucent by Kazuhiro Okamoto. Its sweet, accessible, and despite its out-there premise (the main character has a disease which causes her to literally become invisible) believable. The leads, Shizuka and Mamoru, are younger (middle school, if my memory serves me correctly) and wonderfully unaware and clueless about “falling in love” so the friendship they strike up and how important they become to one another is charming and realistic. Shizuka is a heroine you can root for – kind, brave, painfully shy, but with big dreams of becoming an actress. And Mamoru has got to be one of the best true-to-his-age male manga characters I have ever read. His love of scale models, his imagination, and sense of play are hilarious and excellent tension-breakers.

  6. i would recommend you to read ‘kimi no iru machi'(a town where you live in). it is a worthy manga to read and comparable to this manga.
    Eba Yuzuki has mysteriously decided to go to high school in the countryside. But despite Kirishima Haruto’s objections, she is living in his home. Now he has to put up with a freeloading city girl and even worse, make sure Kanzaki Nanami, the girl he likes, doesn’t get the wrong idea! Try read it. I’m sure that you’ll like it.

  7. If you’re finding Japanese titles difficult to pronounce, it’s actually easier than you think. You just have to know the sounds each vowel makes (and they always make the same sound, not like English).

    A (pronounced ‘ah’)
    E (pronounced ‘eh’)
    I (pronounced ‘ee’)
    O (pronounced ‘oh’ not ‘owe’)
    U (pronounced ‘oo’ not ‘you’ rhymes with ‘clue’)

    (eg) Kimi ni Todoke = Kee-mee nee Toh-doh-keh (the ‘h’s represent a brief, not elongated sound)

    PS. I wouldn’t say Kimi ni Todoke has *that* much emotional depth (to commenter audrey).

  8. [...] with that element, the whole story felt overly familiar, with elements of Kimi ni Todoke (the quiet girl brought to classmates’ notice through a popular boy’s attention), [...]

  9. Our opinions are always a reflection of ourselves and where we are, I guess. :) I personally love Kimi ni Todoke, and I wish the world had more Kazehayas. Hehe. :D I also prefer keeping the original Japanese manga titles; makes it feel more authentic. :)

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