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Kimi ni Todoke - Review

Based on the original manga by Karuho Shiina, Kimi ni Todoke is a romantic drama anime surrounding the life of Sawako Kuronuma and her friends, as well as her feelings towards a special someone, and how such connection affects her personal life.

Sawako is a very timid and shy teenager who wants above everything else to fit in with her class and become well accepted among her school colleagues. Not everything runs smoothly for Sawako, as she apparently gives away a gloomy eminence, to a level where she quickly becomes known as Sadako, as a reference to Sadako Yamamura, from the movie Ringu (The Ring). Despite everything, Sawako does everything she can to convince people she doesn’t summon ghosts or have any spiritual talent, but it all seems in vain… Until, Kazehaya notices her, and the life of this young high school girl changes forever.

Beautiful Sawako is only how her friends see her. This concept serves as a stand-alone perspective of how our friends are beautiful for what they represent to us, either as an individual, or their personality and values. Feelings over looks, and friendship, is over everything and anything.

Sawako will never forget the first time she met Shouta Kazehaya, as he asked her what was the correct path leading to the school, and he did it with a smile on his face, right under the blossoming trees protecting them from the torrid sun. No one had smiled at Sawako before, not with such a warm smile, of genuine pleasure. Turns out Kazehaya is in the same class as Sawako, and she immediately figures this won’t be a typical year, not for her anyway.

It happens Kazehaya is just the most popular male student in the whole school. Better yet, he is not arrogant or pretentious, instead, he is friendly and tries to fit everyone in the most comfortable manner possible. Being popular and all, it’s obvious most girls have a crush for him, but even they agree that Kazehaya-kun is everyone’s asset, and they all share him equally through friendship and gossip among each other, while secretly daydreaming about him. To Sawako, it’s different, Kazehaya smiles and her whole world crumbles down, like there’s nothing else out there… Fortunately, there is!

As Kazehaya slowly tries to fit Sawako among the other students, her feelings of love grow, but with them, doubts are planted, and like weeds, they feed on her shyness. Step by step she becomes more and more accepted among the whole classroom, and immediately becomes best friends with Ayane Yano and Chizuru Yoshida, who have known each other for a long time. Both come to love Sawako for what she is, and further support her to become emotionally stronger, and she learns what it means to finally have friends, even if it all looks too good to be true!

As time goes, both Sawako and Kazehaya take every opportunity to share a small moment alone, even if it's just a blink of time, it’s enough to crack time itself and create yet, another sweet memory. But will their mutual love eventually be out for the taking? Will their friends be enough to counter fight all the jealousy surrounding them?

Kimi ni Todoke is a sweet story about feelings and how they are entwined with that special someone. The viewer follows Sawako more closely, but still keeping others under the radar, and how they sometimes feel regarding the events at hand. Mixing strong emotions with amazing well placed humour, it delivers the perfect balance for those who enjoy a giggle after a fallen tear.

Aired from 2009 till 2011, Kimi ni Todoke has two seasons; the first with 25 episodes, and the second with 13. The show has two recap episodes, being the first season episode 16, and the very first one of the second season, which is episode zero. The original manga was very well received, and well worth mentioned by Anime News Network, has “(...) One of the best new English-translated manga series of 2009”. The success of the anime series spawn a live action movie in 2010, who performed very well in box office and fan support.

Directed by Hiro Kaburagi, Kimi ni Todoke depicts a very interesting and atmospheric emotional view over events and actions of characters. There’s a duality present, one that easily gains all the attention of the show; The drama, and the humor. The drama is felt, as for the humor, it's seen by the amusing chibi art direction and facial expressions or reactions. Since it deals with such beautiful human emotions, it’s easily related to the viewers, plus since Sawako has a very likable personality, it becomes both funny and intense at the same time. Seeing her crying due to the most simple things is touching, but funny in a friendly way, which further connect us with the plot.

(Chigusa Takahashi tickles Sawako, while Chizuru holds her, and Yano wonders what they are doing! *Tickle Tickle*)

Among Sawako’s closest friends, there’s also Ryuu Sanada (voiced by Yuichi Nakamura) the strong silent type who by some incredible reason seems to have a bad time remembering names but is exceptionally good at baseball, Kazuichi "Pin" Arai (voiced by Yuuki Ono) an intense and extroverted homeroom teacher who knows Kazehaya since he was just a little kid, and Uma Kurumizawa (voiced by Aya Hirano) the high school sweetheart that went to middle school with Kazehaya and has secretly loved him ever since. These are just some of her school friends, and also slightly important characters that later influence a part of her life.

Visually, the anime is a perfect example of its narrative, the subliminal side of feelings, almost like if a steady pencil had drawn the delicate traces of Sawako’s hair, while on the other hand, we have the most fun and hilarious facial expressions one can come up with when enjoying some of the hilarious moments. Jumping from details to amazing and humorous extravagant gestures requires quite the talented direction and production, and although it’s somehow common among other animes, it's still nonetheless interesting to watch.

Kimi ni Todoke is above all an atmospheric experience, of colors and feelings. In some instances characters are seen with their mood flourishing like flowers, or stars falling over their actions as if fantasy itself works within them, yet, the whole show is far from fantasy related themes but manages to portray the magical touch of feelings and emotions in such a special way. It becomes instantly engraved into the audience. Details such as the wind moving characters hair or clothes while their silence serves as background for thoughts. Or tears who act like kisses falling across the cheek, like snow in the cold winter night. Perhaps even a shadow slowly moving as the sun commands it… Visual details like these portray a very special care and attention to the surroundings, always matching the current feelings in an atmospheric and ambient artistic approach.

(Sawako with her friends, being spoiled through intensive hugs by Yano and Chizuru, while her friends watch with amusement. This is a good example of a design showing a more relax expression for characters.)

If you like A+ voice acting, this one's for you. Actors manage to put their feelings in the act, and deliver a fantastic experience, lip sync is almost perfect, and Kimi ni Todoke proves once again some anime productions can even surpass many TV Shows when comes to emotional acting. Actors like Mamiko Noto (Sawako), Yūko Sanpei (Chizuru Yoshida) and Miyuki Sawashiro (Ayane Yano) put their heart and soul into it, leaving a trail of reality behind every word and every thought.

Musically it’s also a major step for any anime, and apparently both season openings and endings were well received and it’s no surprise, considering they are of extreme quality.

First season opening entitled “Kimi ni Todoke” is performed by Tanizawa Tomofumi, and the ending is called “Kataomoi” by Chara. For the second season, the melodic upbeat tunes are kept, in a opening by Tomofumi Tanizawa, with the theme "Sawakaze”. As for the ending, "Kimi ni Todoke..." by MAY'S.

(This is the opening theme “Sawakaze” by Tomofumi Tanizawa, for the second season. A special friend of mine really does prefer this version, and I came to enjoy it furthermore in time. Animations portray the season in an almost abstract way, with colorful friendship, and a sweet melody with all the cast in the background, mimicking the fun moments in the show, and the inner blooming of Sawako in particular.)

(“Kataomoi” by Chara, is between both endings, my personal favorite. The theme is extremely smooth and melodic with high pitches in a low, yet intense voice, in what I particularly feel it suits the dedicated visuals really well. The art shows a unique style, approaching a much more traditional hand-drawing trace, with colors that describe Sawako’s feelings the best; colorful, and innocent.)

Considered to be a Shōjo (Anime or manga aimed at a teenage female target-demographic), don’t be fooled by such acronyms. It’s part of the human nature to have feelings and to act upon such, and one thing Kimi ni Todoke does exceptionally well, is to depict those feelings as an overall audience. Surely, Sawako is one of the main focus of this anime, but does it really work like that? We all know when comes to anime, it doesn’t. Other characters are also in the spotlight, with their problems, and their conflicted youth, including male ones, such as Kazehaya (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa), who, although feels towards Sawako something he never quite did before, he is willing to do everything to make her happy.

Kimi ni Tokode is a memorable series that follows a slice of life of a group of friends during high school, and how they cope with their feelings, in an elegant design, colorful friendships, and plenty of laughing to hide those teary eyes of yours!

To finish in style, here's a fan-made trailer, with some important moments, and spoiler-free, so your future experience might remain original;

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