Today's romance comic, Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me To You, features a simple but moving story about a group of young people getting to know and care for each other
Although set in high school, it would be reductive to call this title "a high school romance." While yes, there is a charming and delightful romance budding between two characters, it is also incredibly rewarding to watch a character like Sawako -- who has been alienated from her peers thanks to the perception that she is one weird little puppy -- evolve and learn how to engage the people around her.
Volume 3 takes a tried and tired theme in shojo manga -- the backstabbing "frenemy" (see Peach Girl for one of the most vicious examples) -- and makes it shine. The calculating rival in question is in reality just a girl who wants to get close to a handsome, popular boy who happens to be wild about our newly reformed heroine Sawako. The girl isn't evil incarnate, just a pretty normal example of a teenager who thinks she can work the insecurities of the people around her to get what she wants and by doing so only ends up revealing her own.
There are a few things that are absolutely refreshing about Karuho Shiina's version of adolescence. First, girls can be supportive of each other. Revolutionary concept, right? Well, sometimes it actually is in shojo manga. Second, Sawako is such an innocent she does not even know when she is being manipulated...which kind of makes her bullet-proof in shojo-manga-land. She relies on that little voice inside of her that tells her what is right, even if others try to convince her otherwise. In other words, Sawaka might be my emotional superhero!
If all of this sounds a little too perfect and free of conflict, I must stress how Sawako's slow but sure journey is so damn inspiring. You end up rooting for her all the way and while her obstacles may not be shojo-tastic, i.e. melodramatic and crazy-making, they are completely relatable.
Review copy provided by Viz.