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February 17, 2012

Bento Bako Bonus: Kimi ni Todoke volumes 10-12

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Kimi ni Todoke
Author: Karuho Shiina
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volumes 10-12 (ongoing), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2010 by Shueisha in Japan, September and November 2011 and January 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy

A whirlwind of the most adorable, awkward, and shoujo-perfect love confessions kicks off volume 10 of Kimi ni Todoke. A very nervous Sawako finally gathers the nerve to tell Kazehaya that she likes him…from the other side of a classroom door. Unfortunately, because Kazehaya tells her that no matter what she says his “feelings won’t change,” she thinks that he must not like her in the same way. Kazehaya pulls her silently into his arms, but before he can confess in turn, they’re interrupted by a classmate, and Sawako takes the opportunity to make a break for it. With the school festival just around the corner, Sawako doesn’t know how she’ll ever be able to face Kazehaya, but she gets some surprisingly good advice from her teacher, Pin. As the parade gets ready to begin, Kazehaya manages to track Sawako down, but again before he can speak he’s interrupted, only this time by Sawako, who announces that she wants to begin a relationship with him…then runs off to get in place for the parade. He manages to yell out an “I like you” as she’s scurrying off, and tracks her down again after the parade to assure her that their feelings are mutual. This confession, however, occurs in a crowd of schoolmates, and the next day at the after-festival party it’s all anyone can talk about. At the after-after-party, Kazehaya is cornered by Miura, and then again by Pin, who asks Kazehaya if he’s sure Sawako understands that they’re going out. Realizing this crucial designation could be missing, Kazehaya very clearly asks Sawako to be his girlfriend, and of course she says yes. Rumors are swirling when school begins again, and Chizu and Yano are concerned that the other girls might retaliate. To their surprise, Sawako seems to be in the clear, but that doesn’t stop everyone from speculating whether the rumors are true. To quell them at least in their own classroom, Kazehaya announces to the class that they’re officially going out. Before Sawako can really be happy, however, she has to face Kurumi.

Sawako comes across Kurumi surrounded by a Kazehaya fan club, and surprisingly finds her rival defending her relationship with Kazehaya against them. The girls only get angrier, so Sawako steps in to protect Kurumi. Chizu and Yano show up to calm everyone down, and give the girls a firm talking to. Sawako follows Kurumi and tells her that she has confess to Kazehaya and they are now dating. Kurumi’s response is a bit harsh, but it’s clear she respects Sawako and her feelings. She also recognizes that Kazehaya becomes a different person around Sawako, and has always treated her differently than other girls. They don’t like each other (well, at least Kurumi doesn’t), but both girls hold a mutual respect and understanding for each other. After this tense chapter comes a flashback depicting the meeting of Sawako and Kazehaya through the eyes of Kazehaya. Kazehaya is immediately drawn to her, but because of her extremely awkward reactions, he thinks Sawako hates him. Even so, he continues to watch her, and notices how hard she works, even though no one really pays attention to her. He keeps trying for a connection, and at last manages one. Rather than listen to the rumors swirling around her, he endeavors to discover her himself, and is completely taken over by what he finds. The story jumps back to the present, as summer break is about to begin. Sawako realizes that she doesn’t know Kazehaya’s birthday, but she finds out from Chizu that it’s in May, which means it’s already passed. Sawako, wanting to make up for all the events she has missed, arranges a surprise for Kazehaya for their first real date. She starts with a picnic, then surprises him with gift after gift, including a handmade knit cap she was too nervous to give to him the previous Christmas, and some chocolates she was too afraid to give him the previous Valentine’s Day.

Summer break begins with some dating advice from Chizu and Yano. This time the previous year, Sawako walked to summer school alone, and didn’t have any friends to chat with or ask advice, so she’s on cloud nine being able to hang out with her two best friends. Overwhelmed by her feelings, Sawako is unsure how to act on them, but Chizu assures her that her desire to be near Kazehaya is normal, but she’s still embarrassed about her feelings, thinking, of course, that she’s the only one feeling that way. Her desire to be close to him finally overcomes her reason, and she nervously reaches out for his hand one afternoon. Kazehaya is taken off guard, causing Sawako to think she’s gone too far, but a sweetly blushing Kazehaya takes her hand…just as Sawako’s mother rounds the corner. Sawako doesn’t know what to do, but fortunately Kazehaya steps in and awkwardly blurts out that he’s dating her. Encouraged, Sawako blurts out nearly all of her feelings about Kazehaya to her mother, who promptly invites him to dinner. The drama starts with Sawako’s father, who has a bit of a complex about his precious daughter, arrives home to find his daughter’s boyfriend in the house. This begins a hilarious segment as her father attempts to figure out what kind of man Kazehaya is, and becomes increasingly frustrated as he finds out that he’s a good boy. If he was a gangster or a thug, he’d be justified in hating him and forbidding the relationship, but he can’t help but like a guy as nice as Kazehaya. Both mother and father quickly realize the positive influence Kazehaya has had no their daughter’s life, and are also able to see how much Kazehaya understands and cares for Sawako. Although he doesn’t want to admit it, Sawako’s father can’t help but approve of his daughter’s boyfriend. Volume 12 wraps up with a flashback featuring Chizu and Yano, a story of their first meeting and their odd friendship. They started out hating each other, but somehow ended up respecting each other and becoming the good friends we know them as now.

Now, this series is ridiculously adorable, and it’s a lot of fun to read. But it does have some minor flaws. It’s incredibly slow paced. Reading these three volumes together was a good move, because it felt like the story was actually moving. Not that it doesn’t move in a single volume, but it’s like molasses. Volume 10 is pretty much filled with Sawako and Kazehaya going back and forth trying to get their feelings across. They’re both pretty dense, Sawako more so, so the confessions have to be spelled out explicitly, which means they have to happen multiple times before they really get it right. For the reader it’s obvious, so it can be a little exasperating. Or well, it would, if it wasn’t so gosh darn adorable. Because watching the two of them get flustered and blurt out their feelings is so freakin’ adorable, no matter how many times it happens. If you’ve stuck through the previous nine volumes of the two of them struggling to reveal their mutual feelings, but being far too shy and embarrassed to ever do so, volume 10 will be both a great relief and a series of face palms. After so long, you’ll want them to just spit it out already, but once they do, you’re bound to let out a “Finally!” and then cheerfully move on to exploring their new relationship. Though like their confession stage, their relationship stage also moves quite slowly. Remarkably, even Kazehaya is very innocent, nervous, and embarrassed, which even for a shoujo is surprising. Though the lead female almost always has those traits, the lead male is at least usually thinking about getting close to or kissing the girl. Kazehaya thinks Sawako is the cutest and most beautiful girl ever, but he’s so innocent that even taking Sawako’s hand is a major event for him. “Naughtier” thoughts appear to be quite far from his mind. Not that I’m complaining. It’s refreshing, really, and it’s nice to see a guy who is just as shy and nervous about everything as the girl. Also, IT’S SO FREAKIN’ CUTE. I don’t think I can say that enough. IT’S CUTE. Unbelievably, ridiculously, adorably, fantastically, completely, cute cute CUTE. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to have a toothache from how cute and sweet it is. But you know what? I love it. It’s so innocent, lighthearted, and sweet; and it’s well written and drawn. It’s an absolute delight. Like a slice of warm pumpkin pie with a side of ice cream, or a piece of rich cheese cake smothered in strawberry sauce, or some hot cocoa with cinnamon and marshmallows. Now that I’ve exhausted that line of thought…. The series is also enjoyable for the strength of its characters and their relationships. The trio of Chizu, Yano, and Sawako doesn’t get much time in these volumes, since the story is so focused on Sawako/Kazehaya, but despite the entrance of “the boyfriend,” their friendship shows no signs of faltering. In fact, the flashback with Chizu and Yano shows just how precious their friendship is, because it was so close to never happening; that friendship, and again with Sawako, was sort of a freak accident. And without Chizu and Yano, Sawako would likely still be a wallflower. These girls are tight. They have each other’s back, and they’ll be together through thick and thin. I just hope they get a chance to be as happy as Sawako is one day. Not that having a boyfriend equates happiness, but in shoujo-land, it’s the inevitable course, especially since it’s already set up in the story. And now that Sawako and Kazehaya are together, and the series is still running, it seems like a logical course, as well. Karuho Shiina’s art is shoujo-riffic, as usual, filled with sparkles, blushing, and flowers. So much blushing. Someone’s blushing on nearly every single page of all three of these volumes. But that sugary sweetness is why the fans love this series.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

Review copies provided by Viz Media.

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