kimi ni todoke – From Me to You: Volume 1 Premium Edition
Studio: Production I.G
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Release Date: 01/10/2011
kimi ni todoke (yes, there’s no capitalization) is the latest anime release from Nippon Ichi. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of romantic dramas, animated OR live-action. Anime-wise the closest I come to this sort of thing is Toradora!, Love Hina, and School Rumble. I like for there to be a good deal of comedy – preferably with over the top weirdness to boot, if I’m going to watch a show primarily about two characters trying to get together. So I wasn’t expecting to like kimi ni todoke. After watching the first volume, which contains twelve of the twenty-five episode run, I can’t say the series is going to make my all time favorite list, but I did manage to enjoy the series for what it was and even found myself caring about the characters more than I thought I would. Since I’m decidedly outside the target market for this series and I still found it interesting, I can safely say that if you’re into “slice of life” or realistic romantic dramas, kimi ni todoke is going to become a big hit with you.
The main character is Sawako Kuronuma is a very shy, reserved girl who keeps to herself a lot. She’s not a hikikomori – she’s just not very adept in the social skills department. This, coupled with the fact she looks a lot like Sadako from Ringu has not only earned her the nickname of her horror movie counterpart, but also has made Sawako into a figure who is both teased and slightly feared. The good news is that Sawako is a bit blind to all this. She’s not able to understand sarcasm, ribbing, or even jokes very well, so she takes this as people actually thinking she has the ability to communicate with spirits, so instead of having hurt feelings, she’s continually trying to correct their “misunderstanding.”
Sawako’s passive shell begins to crack when she befriends Shota Kazehaya, the most popular boy in school. The two become fast friends and both quickly develop romantic feelings for each other, but are unable to express their emotions outwardly. This develops really early on in the series and so a lot of the series can feel like padding as it builds to the inevitable conclusion. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen in this volume so I wasn’t honestly thinking, “GET ON WITH IT” at points. The good news is that the inevitable relationship may be the central focus of the series, but it is not the SOLE focus. Otherwise you’d have an extremely dull series.
Although Sawako and Shota are the main characters, it’s the supporting cast I actually came to really enjoy. You have Chizuru and Ayane, who become Sawako’s closest friends because of her innocent and kind nature. Chizuru is a tomgirl with a perchance for easily bursting into tears when she is moved. Ayane is a practical joker and seems to be the natural leader amongst the class as everyone genuflects to her, She reminds me, at least physically, or a non-tan Momo Adachi from Peach Girl for some reason. Both of these girls are the highlight of the series and they consistently steal the show with their dialogue and actions. The other main male character is Ryu Sanada, who is a close friend of both Chizuru and Ayane. He’s very quiet, but plays a very pivotal role in the first volume, especially in thew last two episodes. The principal antagonist is Ume Kurumizawa who plays the typical “cute sweet innocent girl on the outside, but mean scheming jerk on the inside.” This type of character is done regularly, but I really didn’t like Ume (who prefers to be called Kurumi) AT ALL. The character doesn’t do anything especially horrible, like push a baby in front of a semi or anything, but I really disliked her and it snowballed from there. In this first volume she doesn’t display any positive character traits at all and I keep hoping that something terrible happens to her at the culmination of this. Like getting eating by a tiger. That would do it.
There series is a very slow burn. You should go into that knowing that right away. Don’t expect certain plot thread to be resolved in this volume…or even the next. This will probably be what makes or breaks the series for a viewer. This first volume focuses mainly on developing characters, potential couples and dramatic tension. You’ll see Chizuru and Ayane’s friendship with Sawako tested after horrible rumours are spread about them with the source appearing to be Sawako herself. You’ll see a LOT of verbal misunderstandings, nefarious doings by Ume, Sawako breaking her shell enough that she plays sports and ultimately becomes an active member in her class instead of being relegated to the background. The series can make you grimace a bit as the main character is so socially awkward that an entire episoe is devoted to her eating at a ramen bar with her friends for the first time, but the same things that make you go, “This is a bit sad that Sawako is this old and just learning to socialize” is also what makes the series charming. It’s a strange mashup, but it really works and helps to make the series stand out. All in all, I liked what I saw and I know I’ll happily watch Volume Two when it is released. Of course there’s a second season over in Japan, but I believe Nippon Ichi has only licensed the first. Hopefully they’ll get that as you’ll need that season for any sort of resolution. Kind of like how the School Rumble anime ended without reaching the actual conclusion the manga did.
The premium edition of kimi ni todoke (The only version currently available) comes with the standard oversized casing complete with artwork on both sides. One side features Sawako and Shota, while the other has Sawako, Ayane and Chizuru. The case is twice the length of a normal DVD case as well as twice as wide, so it might be a bit hard to find room for it on a shelf. The cover is quite pretty though and it’s exceptionally durable, although this is the first out of all the Nippon Ichi releases to fail my “rabbit test.” As in, it’s the first Nippon Ichi collector’s edition my pet rabbits have been able to successfully gnaw on.
Inside the case are two slimpak DVD cases and the hardcover art book. Each DVD case contains both a DVD and a Blu-Ray disc, allowing you to watch kimi ni todoke in either format. Each case contains even more character art. The only bonus features are clean versions of the opening and ending. This is fine for me, as I rarely watch bonus material unless it’s something exceptionally out there, but some consumers may be a bit disappointed here. Also note that like all Nippon Ichi releases, the audio is Japanese ONLY. There are English subtitles, but for those of you that only like your anime dubbed…this probably isn’t the best purchase for you. The Japanese cast does a great job however, so fans of reading subtitles or those that know Japanese will be happy with the audio quality here.
The hardcover art book has become a trademark of Nippon Ichi anime releases, but honestly, this is one of the few I’ve been disappointed with. It’s well made and it features twenty-eight full color glossy pages. The theme is “My Memories” and it is meant to be Sawako’s diary and photo album. There’s also a character guide (with spoilers) and a vague rundown of each issue. It’s nicely done, so why am I disappointed? Well honestly, it’s because the other Nippon Ichi art books have spoiled me. Those are filled with art of the characters from various other sources, interviews, creator diaries and more. The kimi ni todoke book is almost all stills from the anime. I was hoping from some art from say, the Karuho Shiina manga, the light novel covers or any of the other official art from the franchise. Alas, it’s not here. Again, what’s here is nice and fans of the anime will be happy with it. It’s just not AS GOOD as other Nippon Ichi art books and so if you’re like me and you’ve been picking up all their releases, you’ll be cold to this one.
Overall, this first volume of kimi ni todoke should delight fans of the manga, light novels or the franchise in general. I’m pretty far from being a shojo fan and even I was able to get into this series and care about the characters. For fifty six dollars, you’re getting two DVDs, two Blu-Ray discs, a hard cover oversize coffee table style covering, and a hardcover art book. That’s a pretty good price for all that. If it turns out you like the series and you can’t wait for Volume Two (coming April 10th, 2012), a lot of the manga volumes have been translated into English and can be purchased on Amazon.com or similar sites. Again if you like your romantic dramas, kimi ni todoke is probably a safe bet to pick up. For everyone else, you might want to consider if you can handle a series where the core plot line moves slower than a season of Dragon Ball Z.
You can learn more about kimi ni todoke by visiting the official English website for the anime . You can also order copies of the anime directly from Nippon Ichi. We’ll be back in April to review the second volume of the set. See you then.