Kimi ni Todoke – 14
This week’s episode of Kimi ni Todoke is totally overblown, melodramatic and borderline manipulative . . . and I loved it.
It’s the first time where while I watched the episode, I thought the drama and style had intersected and synced to really achieve that “shoujo aesthetic” in both style and story that this show’s fans have been harping about from day one. Before now, it always seemed affected to me, at least when it came time for the series to be dramatic. I totally bought into the slice-of-life elements; but the drama always seemed clunky and forced, like when an American actor has to do a British accent for a character, and he sort of has it, but the whole time you hear the voice it comes off more like he is imitating a British man instead of actually being a British character himself.
That’s what Kimi ni Todoke‘s drama felt like to me — it could have all the bubbles and bright colors and characters obsessing over love and friendship and “refreshing qualities” in the world, but it just comes off as totally affected because the drama is so clunky and super serious without any real feeling other than the anime is trying really hard to be this big, dramatic shoujo series.
Take a real shoujo series, Rose of Versailles: Its beginning is just as petty as anything in Kimi ni Todoke — hell, it might be more petty, because the first third or so is basically one big catfight once Marie Antoinette makes her debut. But it doesn’t feel affected because the style mixes with the story so well. It’s over the top madness not because it looks cool and that’s what shoujo is (although it does look cool), but because these men and women and their petty jealousies and plans are bugfuck nuts. And as the series progresses, these rivalries take on a completely different meaning, too, as the disconnect between the inner court of Versailles and the rest of France is made clearer, and it’s obvious that focusing on such petty conflicts in the beginning is a thematic choice as much as anything.
Now, I’m not saying I take Kimi ni Todoke as seriously as I take Rose of Versailles, nor did I ever expect to take it that seriously. But all the praise Kimi ni Todoke received up until now seriously had me scratching my head. It works when it focuses on developing friendships and getting Sawako out of her shell, sure, but the romantic and rumors drama just does not work because it just comes off as trying way too hard without being stylish enough to truly pull it off. It’s not as if a love rivalry between two women is something new to anime. The twists have been easy calls, too. But those types of things can be overcome with solid storytelling . . . which, I think, Kimi ni Todoke lacks a lot of the time.
Despite these thoughts, though, the drama in this episode worked for me. It sounds weird to say about story development as overblown and melodramatic as this, but I think it’s because this episode feels more natural to me. Kurumi’s out in the open, airing her (petty) frustrations, Yano and Yoshida make a stand that is totally in line with their characters (I particularly enjoyed Yano’s flirtation with darkness for a moment after her threat to tell Kazehaya about everything Kurumi has done) and Sawako not giving up on Kurumi and finding sympathy with someone who is going through the same thing she is, and is likewise having a difficult time with it. I didn’t cry, but I actually felt for Sawako and Kurumi’s dilemma, which is more than I can say about prior episodes.
I do hope that everything to come after this will make me eat my words — believe me, nothing would make me happier. I sure as hell don’t like watching a show that looks this good (even if I think the style comes up a bit short at times) and has as many fun, likable characters as this series fail to live up to its solid potential.
Speaking of series with solid potential, wouldn’t you watch a series with Sawako as a bancho, and Yano and Yoshida as her cronies? I would definitely watch the hell out of that.