Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Aug 16, 2009

Manga of the Month: Kimi ni Todoke vol. 1 - Karuho Shiina

Kimi ni Todoke is currently serialized in Bessatsu Margaret since 2006. In 2008 it won the Kodansha Manga Award for best shojo manga. With such an accolade, it's no surprise that this series has been highly anticipated here in the states. After reading the first chapter preview before the end of Shojo Beat, I know myself and others were eagerly awaiting volume 1. That's why this book was voted "Manga of the Month" for August 2009.

Synopsis: Sawako Kuronuma is a shy, socially inept girl who since elementary school has been called "Sadako" after the character from the Japanese movie Ringu (The Ring in English). With long black hair and a quiet nature, she has been stigmatized as being able to see ghosts and cause curses, making her peers wary of her. Only one classmate seems immune to the rumors. Shota Kazehaya remembers meeting Sawako the first day of high school. Lost on his way to school, Sawako points him in the right direction and leaves a lasting impression upon Kazehaya. Kazehaya is part of the popular crowd, well liked by his classmates. When he extends his friendship to Sawako despite the fears of their classmates, it encourages Sawako's efforts to overcome the class's misconceptions of her and form other friendships. Though Sawako admires Kazehaya's kindness and expresses her deepest respect for him, he on the other hand has a genuine romantic interest in Sawako. As Sawako acclimates to her new social world, a sweet affection has blossomed between Kazehaya and Sawako that hints at a deeper love to come.

Review: Honestly, I haven't enjoyed a high school manga this much since I first read High School Debut over a year ago. That makes this difficult to review, seeing as I am so partial to it. I'll do my best to be objective, but no promises.

The strength of this story lies within the character development. The amount of growth in Sawako's character in just the first volume speaks of a story enriched by the characters themselves, in addition to the events of the plot. Sawako's struggles are not too far from what many teens actually experience in regards to peers' perceptions and rumors. That makes her character easy to relate to and empathize with, since most have endured the role of social outcast in some form at one point or another. Kazehaya's character seems too good to be true. The popular boy falling for the social outcast? A female teen fantasy come to life if I've ever seen one. Yet Shiina reveals his faults to the audience, making him less of a fantasy and more realistic, if not very believable. Still, his actions are endearing the way he stands up for Sawako, and it's hard as a girl to not like him. A gentlemanly protector - heck yes, we all want him to exist! - even if it's not the norm. As well as the personalities, it's the shared moments between the two characters of Sawako and Kazehaya that show Shiina's talent as a writer and artist. From chosen panels to portraying the character expressions, the art reinforces the wealth of development in both plot and characters. The contrast in styles from Sawako's chibi form, to the standard character designs, to the detailed feathery textures in the more emotional scenes, provides a sense of balance and really gives more depth to the story. I'm really looking forward to reading this series as a whole. From what I've read it only gets better, and it will be a delight to see where the journey of these two characters takes them.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - Sweet affection and friendship start off this relationship.

Media Status: Kimi ni Todoke is available in English in one volume from Viz Media. Volume 2 will be in stores October 6, 2009. As of November 2008, there are 8 volumes in Japanese. An anime adaptation is currently underway by Production I.G. and is announced to be out this fall 2009 in Japan.


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