Tadano is a regular guy who just wants to make it through school without being noticed. Komi is the school beauty, beloved both by her male and female classmates. They seem an unlikely pair, but are brought together by Komi’s problem—namely that she wants to make one-hundred friends, but is too afraid to even begin a conversation. In fact, she can barely utter a word, but Tadano is on the case to help the school’s goddess learn to overcome her fear and communicate with others!
While it’s nothing new to take a character who appears to have it all together and give her a major shortcoming, that theme is especially strong in manga lately (Senryu Girl, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu). Komi is the latest in this line of heroines, a beautiful girl who others see as perfect (demonstrated in side-by-side panels reflecting what Komi sees and what others do), but who on the inside is completely stunted in her communication skills. Tadano, our “completely average” voice in this tale, befriends Komi and helps her on the path to growth.
The mundanity of the story is at first a setback. There doesn’t seem to be much to it, and in fact, the opening to volume one is a little annoying. There’s a strong wish fulfillment feel to the tale, with Tadano attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in school who completely relies on him. The constant recaps at the beginning of each short chapter are also grating.
Thankfully, the story is saved by some sharp writing. There are laugh-out-loud moments, and even some portions where the mangaka write a lot, for after all, writing is one of the ways through which Komi can communicate. Tomohito avoids the temptation to be lazy, going into quite some detail via chalkboard writing and in other places. The art also communicates to us some really funny moments through situation (ex. Komi pretending to make a phone call) and by representing Komi in her “cute” form, which is drawn often and quite adorably, though your mileage will vary when it comes to the general style and character designs.
It’s those bright spots that make me wonder if this will become a special series3otherwise, it may end up being like the aforementioned shows, likeable but otherwise immemorable.
Volume one of Komi Can’t Communicate is available for purchase on Amazon.