The Secret Stars of Anime: Kimi ni Todoke

I haven’t talked too much about shoujo series in this column, so I think it’s time to bring up one of my favorites in Kimi ni Todoke. There are many reasons why I love this show: the main character is easy to empathize with, and the central romance is sweet and refreshing (and completely avoids the overdone “bad boy” romantic interest). In fact, there are plenty of posts on this blog already concerning the show’s overall solid romance, so I will talk about another reason why I love this show: how well it portrays friendships between girls.

The main character, Sawako Kuronama, has a gloomy look that, combined with her long black hair, makes her look like Sadako from The Ring, which causes most of her high school classmates to avoid her and see her as a cursed spirit. In truth, she’s just painfully shy and does not really know how to handle social situations. However, that changes when one of the most popular guys in the class, Shouta Kazehaya, reaches out to her. While Kazehaya is clearly the love interest here, his interactions with Sawako do lead to encouraging her to reach out to other girls in the class that she wants to befriend. This leads her to get to know two other girls, Chizuru Yoshida and Ayane Yano. Despite their wildly different personalities, the three of them soon hit it off, and for a while it seems like Sawako might make friends out of the two of them.

Not pictured: Kazehaya, the actual love interest. He's in pretty much all the other posts on this show on the blog, though, so click the "kimi ni todoke" tab for pictures.
From left to right: Ayane, Sawako, and Chizuru.

However, their burgeoning friendship is soon tested when some other girls who are jealous of how close Sawako is with Kazehaya start spreading malicious rumors about Chizuru and Ayane under the claim that Sawako started them. This causes problems as Chizuru and Ayane try to figure out the truth behind the rumors and how Sawako feels about them. Meanwhile, Sawako, unaware that others are spreading rumors under her name, senses some distance between her and Chizuru and Ayane, but her lack of ability at expressing her feelings in words only causes more problems.

Thankfully, a couple of things help the girls overcome this crisis. For all of Chizuru’s and Ayane’s doubts, they resolve to not assume anything regarding Sawako until they hear the full truth from her own mouth. They trust and care about Sawako too much to make any hasty conclusions, and they also know how hard it is for her to say what is really on her mind. On Sawako’s side, she continues to make an effort to speak her feelings out loud, and is ultimately able to do so, even in the face of the girls trying to spread the rumors.

There are a number of things Christians (and non-Christians) can take from the example of these girls. It is important to be aware of impressions and assumptions, especially those based on outward appearances, and not let those get in the way of reaching out to make potential friends. Sawako spent her high school days up until this point ostracized because of her ghost-like looks, and both Chizuru, with her punk-like appearance, and Ayane, who has a mature look to the point of almost appearing like a playgirl, both have far more complex and kinder personalities beneath their appearances. In a twist from the usual aesop here, I am not going to say that appearances do not matter at all; after all, Chizuru and Ayane first connected with Sawako because they thought she would make a great ghost for their test of courage event. Sometimes, appearances can be the initial bases of a relationship, with deeper connection developed afterwards. However, being aware of where impressions based on appearances can be false is important, especially if there are people who do not “look” like they would be a good friend, but might actually really need one.

Once a friendship is in progress, it is important to have a certain amount of initial trust and respect and be extra wary of assumptions and incomplete information about others. While full trust must be built over a long time, some trust is still required early on in a friendship to at least believe the words of the other party over rumors from strangers. Rumors can ruin friendships, especially early on, but if all parties involved speak their honest thoughts and avoid making assumptions, dangerous falsehoods can be quashed and actual issues can be worked through. (For more on the role of trust in relationships, see this post, which focuses more on romantic relationships but applies to friendships as well.)

As a final note regarding friendships, one question that weighs on Sawako’s mind is whether or not she is actually friends with Ayane and Chizuru, as she does not know how one exactly go from being “not friends” to “friends” aside from outright asking to become such. And while asking “can we become friends” and getting an affirmative response is one way to “officially” start a friendship, what Ayane and Chizuru find out is that, at a certain point, they were worrying so much over Sawako, and not over what she thinks of them or what she can do for them, but over her herself, that they knew that she had already become their friend. Friendship is something that is not always well-defined, but if you care deeply for someone else, that is probably a sign that you can call that person a friend. Though if you want to make sure the two of you are friends, you can always blast them with extremely powerful magic. That always works. Usually, the question to answer is not, “Are we friends?” but rather, “What can I do to show the other person that I care?” From there, a friendship can be built.

This is just one of the many strong aspects of Kimi ni Todoke, but it is a notable one as it can be all too easy for a shoujo romance to be so caught up in the romance aspect that the heroine appears to have no life outside of her love life, so shows like this one that explore things other than romance are always greatly appreciated. Otherwise, this is an overall very charming shoujo series with a very likable main couple and supporting cast, as well as no real objectionable content to speak of. Give it a try if you’re looking for a good shoujo show to watch.

Kimi ni Todoke can be streamed on Crunchyroll (only the first 6 episodes are available to non-Premium members) or Hulu. You can also buy the Blu-ray/DVD sets from NIS America at various online retailers.

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