This is how anime should be.

Or arguably. Much of anime is sourced from manga or light novels, and often there’s a great deal of hype and anticipation of how the written medium will be adapted into an animated medium. And this show does it as well as I’ve ever seen. One of the biggest successes of this show, without a doubt, is how it so effectively adapts a popular manga into a beautiful anime.

And that’s just one of the many features of this anime that make it so good! Because even considering that fact, this show does a lot of the things an anime version of a manga should, and does them very well. This is one of the liveliest shows I’ve watched in recent memory, and will receive a perfect score from me today.

As of now (January 2022), S2 is scheduled for April 2022. As always I’ll keep this review on the shorter side to allow room for that extra material to come. While there’s always some chance that subsequent seasons can negatively impact a series, this one will be hard to mess up. I look forward to Spring 2022 anime’s season and the additional time we all will get to spend watching Komi make her 100 friends.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 10

This is a superb cast of characters. Everyone is unique, quirky, believable (believe it or not), and completely memorable. They’re extremely lively, tons of fun to watch and listen to.

Listen to? Hawk, my man, you’re worrying me. Did you even watch the show? It’s about a girl that “can’t communicate.” How could you enjoy how it sounds? Well….

There’s definitely a few moments in this show that will make your heart leap. And Komi squeezing out the few words she can manage to say definitely makes up several of those moments! The frame would focus on her as she’d squirm and breath heavily and fearfully, and I would zone out everything else, hearing my own heartbeat in my ears from how closely I listened. “Shizukani!” I said to everyone around me! Komi’s about to speak!

You really wouldn’t think this would have that much power. But it did. It almost brought tears to viewers’ eyes. She’d manage to say just a few words, super quietly, like air forced quietly through a tiny crack, and our hearts would melt. It was one of the best things about this show, and this character. 

People joked about Aoi Koga being cast as the VA for Komi-san. As in, the same VA for the loquacious Kaguya Shinomiya (Kaguya-sama: Love is War). But in case we didn’t already know it, voice acting isn’t all about talking. Koga-san is relatively new to voice acting, but her stock is rising fast now between Kaguya and this amazing display. It’s amazing when Komi speaks, but it’s all the other sounds she makes that help make her so fascinating. She makes all these soft little sounds of apprehension. It’s so pitiful and so sweet it’ll make you smile! And Aoi Koga makes this happen. Again, you wouldn’t think such a thing could have such an impact, but it’s great, almost beyond description.

This is one of the things that makes this anime such a great adaptation of the manga. Most of that has to do with its faithfulness to all parts of the manga (see the Artwork section below), but Komi’s sounds are another big part of this. You can’t portray this kind of a performance with written words. That takes vision and skill by the anime director and above all the voice actor. They took all the halting letters and symbols in the word bubbles from the manga and turned it into something that would absorb your attention and draw out your feelings and make your heart happy. That’s great. That’s art. That’s anime.

Truth from Tadano.

Great character design is another of the best things about this show, and Komi sits at the pinnacle of this great cast. But I will not argue with this point: this show could have been extraordinarily boring. One of the characters doesn’t talk, and that’s the whole point of the show. Sooo…what would happen? After the first episode, as sweet and nice as it was, I wondered this myself. 

Then we met Najimi.

Avoiding all the real-world noise about this kind of thing, gender-bending has been a thing in literature for as long literature has existed. However you feel about that, it really works here. My concerns about how this show would keep my attention and remain entertaining evaporated when Najimi was introduced. This is a masterful stroke by the author of this series. Because this show could have lost all its momentum after a very short time if it wasn’t for the huge dose of energy Najimi injects into it. So much energy, so much crazy behavior, so much nonsense! It made me laugh every time! It was like a character from Nichijou suddenly found its way into this series, if you remember how amazingly idiotic some of those clowns are. Najimi definitely had some of the best dialogue too. There was a lot of good dialogue in this show actually, even if it wasn’t a big focal point.

Najimi’s impact on this series is profound. It has but a single negative: it forced Tadano completely into the background. Hitohito you mean? The person person? The names are fun in this show. Anyway. Tadano is the definition of an enabler main character. He exists simply to trigger the set of events that occur in this series, from the beginning to the end. After appearing, he’s almost always present, but almost never does anything. He’s just there and participates in the conversation, almost like a foil for everyone else. It’s pretty clear Komi has some affection for him (maybe just as a friend? hopefully more), which is a little unexplained, apart from the fact that he’ll try to talk to her and is nice about it. But that doesn’t say too much for him. And what’s with that thing on his head? What is that? Why’s it there? That was another curiosity in this show, and his character particularly. But he became merely a participant after Najimi’s introduction. Sure he narrated a little, was often at the center of the action in every episode, but he definitely didn’t feel like a protagonist. He felt like an enabler.

She liked it just a bit. So sweet.

That sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. It works perfectly for this show because the focus is supposed to be on Komi. Tadano’s supposed to enable the situation around Komi to evolve and develop. Najimi has a certain role in that too, but different than Tadano. And Tadano, as the background main character, will probably take some flak for being what outwardly seems like an empty character with an asterisk on his head. But his presence is absolutely necessary and absolutely allows for everything else to happen. Imagine if just Najimi and Komi were at the forefront of every scene. The writers even make it apparent how much difficulty those two have communicating, on any level. Now recall how it really is, with Tadano in the mix, and whether you can describe his effect in words or not, you realize his importance.

This show wouldn’t be complete without a yuri yandere would it? Exactly: every show needs one of those! Wait, what….

Yamae Ren is hilarious. She’s definitely a supporting supporting character (yes I wrote it twice), but between her design and the magnificent intonation given to her by Rina Hidaka, she’s another amazing and memorable character that helps make this series extraordinarily entertaining. Hidaka-san is one of those sieyuus with a very large tone range, very similar to Ayane Sakura just without the resume at this point. You may recognize her as Milim from Reincarnated as a Slime and Filo from The Rising of the Shield Hero, both little voices there compared to her larger range employed here. I love how she takes Ren from gushing schoolgirl to murderous demon-monster in the span of two sentences. It’s great!

I’m not mentioning the dog. Oh wait, that’s not a dog, that’s Himiko Agari. Hawk, don’t forget about the chuunibyou girl Omoharu Nakanaka. She’s responsible for some of the sweetest moments in this show, as Komi is often there for her when no one else is, as Komi remembers that people have been there for her in the past. And of course, oh god, Kaede Otori. How can you talk that slowly?? As energetic as Najimi is, this character is so lethargic that she’d give the listless Tanaka a run for his money. She’s introduced very late, but injects another level of hilariousness into this series. 

That’s how it is with all the characters. They all contribute, they all contribute at the perfect moment, they’re all very different, and they’re all wildly entertaining. From design to voice acting, these guys and girls are a riot. This show ramps up and down between slow and heartfelt to racing, zany comedy every episode. That’s entirely due to these characters. There have been lots of great casts of characters in the history of anime. This is another set on that list of great ones.

Artwork

Rating: 9

Anime and manga are inextricably bound together. Anime adaptations of manga vary from unrecognizably different to near exact copies. Komi is somewhere close to the copy end of the spectrum, but it does it well, and for all the right reasons.

What are the right reasons Hawk? Primarily, this manga was hugely popular. Not because of its story, not even because of its characters (both of which are very good), but because of its artwork. Komi’s unique appearance and the curiosities and the excellent usage of the panel style presentation all combined to make a powerful manga experience. Then the anime took those best parts and made them better. It took the most popular scenes and followed them almost exactly from the manga. It took the nice paneling and turned it into great cinematography. But above all, it took Komi’s unique combination of features and made them its own.

Manga Komi and anime Komi look very similar, but the anime takes her interesting presentation and makes it great. Her normal look is to die for. Two things: eyes and hair. The hair goes without saying. The bangs overhanging her brow are unique and fantastic. It’s not just pretty bangs over the eyes to hide the face of a timid introvert. It’s this triangle shaped awning of a thing. It’s beautiful. Then there’s the eyes.

I adore this eye style. Long and nearly straight eyelashes that slope gently to the bridge of the nose and narrow openings that similarly parallel the shape of the eyelashes. I wish we saw more of this in anime. One of the reasons we don’t see it a lot in anime is because this look is usually used on more dangerous female characters. Yanderes, vengeful assassins (or student council presidents), or lascivious mature characters usually have this look. Komi-san?

That powerful gaze. It’ll make your heart skip a beat. No wonder Ren Yamae is crazy for her.

You may have noticed I said we don’t see it a lot “in anime.” Where else would we see it at all if not in anime? Oh, right…the thing that shall not be named. It’s somewhat prevalent there, in the same types of girls, who are also more prevalent there. If you know, you know. 

Why on earth did someone decide to put such a style on Komi? I don’t know, but I like it. I’m guessing the author was going for a slightly threatening look, which several of the characters actually note about Komi’s appearance in the dialogue. But you’d think it’d be too much. It’s not. It’s perfect.

This “threatening” look might provide some explanation as to why we so much of the bug-eyed Komi. I have mixed feelings about this aspect of her appearance. On one hand, I get it. Perhaps the author is consciously trying to not let the threatening eyes have too much effect. And for certain I know the author is trying to depict Komi’s extreme nervousness whenever she has to communicate. It plays both of those roles very well. My only problem with it is how much we see of it. Komi’s normal eyes are a big part of her character and are extraordinarily beautiful, yet we have to see the insect Komi for a lot of the series. Those eyes look like those glue-on eyes your can get at the craft store. I get the effect. I don’t get why we see it so much. 

But that’s my only problem with the artwork. Everything else, from characters to environment to coloring to lighting are all superb. Even the animation is great, given this is slice-of-life. Faithfulness to the manga was the big thing that fans of this series noticed and were overjoyed about from beginning to end, and that means a lot for popularity. This is a fantastic visual display that pairs extremely well with everything else in this series, adding interest and beauty the way anime artwork should when adapting from manga.

Oh, one last thing: what is it with the cat ears? It’s so confusing I don’t know how to react to it.

Story

Rating: 7

This is not a story-driven anime, but it is fundamental to the series. Komi and Tadano’s relationship is occasioned by their proximity to each other in class, and from there they bond and open up to each other and we learn that Komi wants to make 100 friends. For main storyline, that’s about it. The only problem I have with that is that Komi’s only made, what is it, five, six friends through the first 12 episodes? Time for some math! Five friends for 12 episodes, so to get to 100 friends we’ll need to do that 20 times…Komi Can’t Communicate is ultimately going to have 240 episodes? 20 seasons? No way in hell. 

That aside, it’s not much of a storyline. Nor does it particularly play a role. Komi’s just basically making friends, with a lot help from Tadano and Najimi, and they have fun together like friends do all meanwhile. But that’s also kind of the thing. The declaration of her desire to make 100 friends comes in episode 1. What on earth was going to happen after that? A bunch of episodes of Komi making friends? For the next couple of episodes, that’s basically the direction the show went. I was really worried. How could this remain interesting? 

I explained how the characters and their antics and personalities took care of a lot of that. But the rest of it was taken care of by the fun situations these characters find themselves in. All of this is new to Komi. She’s never had any friends! It’s so sad! And here she is with these clowns around her, and she’s seeing the world in new ways and pushing her limits, and she’s loving every minute of it. It’s a beautiful way to manage a show like this. After setting up the primary storyline, it basically just takes a backseat and lets the characters and episodic vignettes take over. It’s simple and very effective.

Utsukishi.

The vignette format has its moments in anime. Some anime don’t do well with this despite lending themselves easily to that format. As in, Teasing Master Takagi-san. I can’t stand those little short scenes in each episode. Tsuredure Children doesn’t do this very well either as another example, though it’s better than Takagi. Then there’s Kaguya-sama: Love is War and Nichijou, which exemplify this format. Komi Can’t Communicate doesn’t quite attain that level of greatness in managing the vignette format, but it does it really well, enough to make me think about those legendary titles.

Sometimes I think little story threads were completely lost. Like in episode 1 everyone hates Tadano because he’s sitting next to Komi (although there should be at least two other spots for people to sit next to her, or one more to her other side?), and he’s worried that his desire to have a quiet high school experience will be thwarted. This continues to worsen as he becomes more involved with Komi completely outside his control. Then suddenly this plot device disappears and we never hear about it again. I forgot about it until I went through my notes and such for this review. I don’t remember any other instances where plot threads disappeared like this, but I have a feeling it happened somewhere. It was curious to see this happen in hindsight. A thing like that doesn’t feel like an episodic or even an arc-length kind of problem, yet it disappeared after one or two episodes.

But that’s a small problem. As I said, I even forgot about it while the show was ongoing. The other aspects of this show that were so good completely outshined and overshadowed any little deficiencies like that. The story isn’t complicated, but it’s well managed and serves to show off the characters very well.

Overall: 10

Perfection your name is Cinderella. No not the fairy tale: I’m talking about the S1 OP for Komi Can’t Communicate. It’s perfect because it’s perfect for this show. And because of Komi’s little leap at the end, as the school desks leap with her. I smiled and laughed and smacked the furniture around me in sheer joy. Like everything in this show, it’s pretty, happy, joyful, hopeful, and so very lively.

Sometimes the line between manga and anime is clear. Sometimes the anime production world makes that separation a little clearer, sometimes it draws it closer. Maybe one day this relationship will part the two beyond return, as anime creates more and more originals and adapts written media less and less. If that ever happens. It’s not a bad thing as it is, but sometimes people view anime as inferior because it does so much copying. But for now, we have the two situations where there are some originals and a lot of adaptations, and as long as we have adaptations, a certain standard has to be met. That standard can vary. And it’s the adaptations themselves that cause that standard to vary. Komi Can’t Communicate definitely has an impact on that standard. It takes a popular manga and while mostly adhering strictly to the manga in story, characters, and especially artwork, it also does more than make this written original into a moving manga. It’s clearly drawn from the manga, but it turned that into an amazing anime. That is exactly what anime adaptations should do.

Now, as well as all these things work together in this show, Komi not communicating might get old after a while if this series continues too long. Everyone sympathizes with her, but at some point the inability to overcome her fears might start to wear on audiences. Not to take anything away from the severity of such a difficulty, simply that it will tire audiences watching her struggle with the same issues over and over. And we can’t endlessly add characters to liven up the series, as effective as that is for these first 12 episodes. Komi will have to begin to open up. We already saw this happening in S1, as Komi was able to talk a little over the phone and probably put four or five words together in a late episode. But if that’s the direction this show must take, then it digs its own grave at that rate. Because once she can communicate, we not longer have a “Komi can’t communicate” situation. So the series would have to end or alter beyond its original premise.

Then again, this might not be such a bad thing. Imagine this series ending with Tadano and Komi getting married and we see her finally conversing in a fairly normal manner with people in the course of her life. Or easily saying “I do” at the wedding. That would be the sweetest ending! So maybe there’s hope that, eventually, and even though it would end the series, Komi can communicate.

I would happily watch that. Because shows like this are why we watch.

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