Rant ~ Kimi ni Todoke

In my extensive blog about the state of the anime industry, I gave several suggestions on how to use fansubs properly while still supporting official releases. I was delighted when my good friend Jon of JanaiBlog took my ideas to heart and started holding seasonal anime samplers. He lists whats coming out this season, everyone that will be attending votes for which shows they would like to sample, and we go over to his place and watch an episode or two each of the shows that garnered the most interest. It’s fun and exposes everyone to anime they would not have normally tried.

At the last sampler Jon hosted, one of the shows we watched was Kimi ni Todoke. We only watched one episode, but by the end of it, my friend Alicia and I were (embarrassingly) squeeing like fangirls, and while Jon was changing over to the next anime, we talked excitedly about going home, checking out the rest of the show, and hoping that it somehow would get licensed in America. We were instantly hooked.

A few weeks later, I finally had enough down time to try and scour for some more episodes. I found them, and fell more and more in love with the series as I watched. I finally was all caught up at episode six, but by then, my perspective had changed.

You see, Alicia and I had been the only people at the sampler who had enjoyed Kimi ni Todoke. Even after the sampler, I got a lot of flack from Jon and my other friends for loving the show so much. Everyone thought it was a generic shoujo show, and I believed (and still do) that it was unique in many ways. I couldn’t understand everyone’s hatred of it. However, the show absolutely sabotaged itself in those six episodes. How, you ask? With the one thing that everyone that hates this show hates it for: Sawako.

Now, I am known for my hatred of main characters in anime. I can love a show to death but absolutely dispise the main character. Seiya from Saint Seiya makes me want to tear my hair out. Usagi from Sailor Moon is downright irritating. I wanted to pimpsmack Mirai from Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 more times than I could count. I generally avoid main characters at all costs and instead delve into the other characters in the show, and it’s very rare that I find myself even being able to stand a main character let alone actually like them.

Now, let’s talk about Sawako.

I adored Sawako at first. She is extremely relatable. Everybody can remember what it felt like to be excluded as a teenager. Each and every one of us has had at least one moment in our younger years where we were teased, bullied, or laughed at. We’ve all had our points in life where we felt lonely and just wished for someone to talk to. Sawako embodies all of the pain, happiness, confusion, and frustration of being a teenager and trying to find your own inner-strength. She was an excellent main character for the show.

Then, she opened her mouth.

At first, the stuttering, crying, and unsure re-asking of questions (“You really like me? Really? REALLY?”) were fine, and very indicitive of what Sawako was meant to portray. The problem is that they made her do it every time she appeared on screen. The stuttering turned into what could be misconstrued as some kind of mental disorder, her crying turned to whining, and the funny, coincidental miscommunications between her and her newfound friends were happening several times per episode. In fact, I almost dislike Sawako’s two female friends (who are so memorable that I forgot their names!) as much as I do her just because they are so thick-headed that I almost started screaming at my computer screen.

I was still fine with all of this because after a few episodes, it began to die down and Sawako started acting slightly more sure of herself, which is normal, good characterization! However, once the above-mentioned misunderstanding occured and made Sawako’s friends think she hated them and was spreading rumors about them, she regressed so hard that it made my head spin. Mostly because I was slamming it against my desk. Seriously Sawako, didn’t you just realize that speaking your mind was the best way to go, like, in the previous episode? Did you forget already?

As shown by my initial acceptance of Sawako’s behavior, I think that these annoying traits can be very tolerable when used in moderation. For instance, Tohru from Fruits Basket is one of the few main characters that I do love, but her constant self-doubt can get annoying at times. In fact, I thought that Sawako was very much like Tohru at first, and I think she still would be if she wouldn’t display these behaviors so often.

Now that I think about it, the problem here may not be so much with Sawako as it is how the creators used her. They seemed to be going in the right direction at first, but they lost their way somewhere within those first six episodes. I would love to have a discussion with these creators about how they handled this poor girl. In fact, if I wrote them a letter, it might look something like this:

Dear Creators of Kimi ni Todoke,

I understand that Sawako is unsure of herself. I understand that she is scared, and frustrated, and in love, and is trying to deal with these new emotions that she is feeling. I understand that she wants to be friends with everyone very badly, and that making those first steps towards that is something that fills Sawako with fear. I understand that she is lonely. I understand the she is awkward. I understand that she is emotional. I understand that the kids in her school talk about her behind her back. I understand that her name sounds like Sadako and that she looks like the character from “The Ring” with the same name. I understand that her classmates also drew this correlation and like to make fun of her by calling her Sadako. You did an excellent job of showing us these things through actions and back story.

Now, stop telling us all of this over and over again. We get it already. Really. I promise.

Seriously. Stop it. Right now.

Love, Gina

In the world of writing, there is something called exposition. Exposition is the process of telling a viewer or reader something about the story through actions, or relevant dialogue, or a flashback scene. When done correctly, it is executed in a way that doesn’t feel forced, awkward, or out-of-place. Kimi ni Todoke accomplished this, yet didn’t seem to realize it and felt the need to try over and over and over and over again to tell us about how severe Sawako’s problems really are.

It was as if the creators baked us a batch of chocolate chip cookies and said ‘here viewers, try this. They’re chewy and sweet and delicious!’ So, we took a bite or two and said ‘wow, these really are chewy and sweet and delicious!’ The creators then took the entire batch of cookies and shoved them down our throats, saying ‘NO REALLY. TRY IT, YOU’LL SEE HOW CHEWY AND SWEET AND DELICIOUS THEY ARE!!!!’ We got that from the first few bites. There’s no reason to overload us with more cookies to prove your point.

Now, I can’t stomach another bite. I have ceased watching Kimi ni Todoke. Will I ever watch it again? Maybe. It’s entirely possible that I may pick it up again sometime in the future. I still want to see how everything will end, but I can’t imagine watching this show in doses of more than two episodes at a time. I think I’d go crazy.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    kyonkun said,

    How can you judge a show a quarter way through it’s run?

    You jumping on Jon’s bandwagon just because of peer pressure or what?

    Toradora! didn’t really find itself until the middle of it’s run, so I suppose you ditched it at episode 6 too?

    • 2

      I only watched one episode of Toradora! I loved it, but haven’t had a chance to watch the rest.

      I’m not jumping on anyone’s bandwagon. I changed my opinion. I’m entitled to that, am I not?

    • 3

      janai said,

      Six episodes is more than enough to judge it by. I can understand you saying that if she had only seen 1 or 2 episodes, but if a show does not get things rolling within 6 episodes, that’s some serious pacing issues right there.

      I doubt she’s “jumping on my bandwagon.” I don’t think I even have a “bandwagon.” KnT is still widely regarded as being a great show, even though I personally don’t see the appeal.

      Toradora! is a dramatic COMEDY show, so even though it takes a while to fully take off, there’s still tons of great humor in the opening episodes. KnT’s humor was severely limited to the overuse of the “Sawako = Sadako” joke.

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