Komi Can't Communicate
Shoko Komi, despite being the idol of her class, has extreme social anxiety and is unable to speak to anybody. Her classmate Hitohito Tadano vows to help her get "100 friends".
In Himouto! Umaru-chan there was a character named Kirie Motoba, who was very like Komi. People would mistake her deer-in-the-headlights look (because she had trouble saying what was on her mind) as a hostile glare; one time, she had to sit in Umaru's apartment all afternoon before she could work up the courage to tell Umaru's brother what she'd actually come to say.
For Komi in the present show, the deer-in-the-headlights look is depicted as giant saucer eyes, and it's Komi's default expression. The only time we see anything like a "normal" expression from her is when she's relaxed- either by herself, or with her dad (who's from the same mold as she is, it seems), or, eventually, in private with Tadano.
Now, it's not really true that she "can't communicate"- she can write just fine, and there's an honestly touching scene early in the series, where she and Tadano have a complete "conversation" on the classroom blackboard. (She eventually carries around a writing pad to carry on short "conversations".) There's a certain magic in this scene, which the show never really completely recaptures, though the moments when Komi and Tadano are alone together remain, by far, the best part of the series.
But the bulk of the show is rather different. We're told that the school's students are "weirdos", and- remember the synopsis?- it's mostly Komi becoming "friends" with these weirdos. The 24 episodes of the show cover her first year of high school, and (slight spoiler here) she only gets about a quarter of her target number, so she's going to have to proceed much more aggressively in the remaining two years.
So the show has to come up with 100 distinct characters, using mixes of physical and behavioral characteristics- and we start with some familiar arche/stereo types, not all of them pleasant. The Wiki article on the show has a list of the ones introduced in the manga so far. If you want all the details- in fact, more about this than you'll ever care to know- you can find them there. (The Wiki editors themselves suggest that their article is a little too verbose. Still, there is the interesting fact that, in true Dickensian fashion, the names of the characters are tied to/reflect their physical characteristics and/or their personalities.) Some characters who are introduced early, and seem likely to be central to the story, include:
Najimi Osana: I didn't mind Najimi that much. Tadano has known Najimi for a long time, but was under the impression that Najimi was a boy; but now Najimi is coming to class dressed as a girl. From a later scene we know that Tadano still thinks Najimi is a biological male, though even later in the show, when the inevitable class trip occurs, Najimi rooms with the girls without any apparent issues. Najimi is extremely gregarious and eventually agrees to help Komi, despite having had some frustrating early experience of their own with her. (Najimi's efforts to "help" Komi are often at least partly self-serving though, having Komi "fetch" things for Najimi.) The main issue I had with Najimi was that I thought they sometimes intruded on Tadano and Komi's valuable "alone time with each other."
Ren Yamai: I was MUCH less kindly disposed to this yandere character. The problem is not her yuri obsession with Komi; it's the fact that she's as over-the-top and perverted about it as a particularly lecherous male. (At one point she gets hold of a pair of Komi's freshly-worn tights, and... I won't go there.) While everyone in the class worships Komi (curiously, despite her inability to speak; they just overlook that somehow), on the other hand they treat poor Tadano like crap- or, in Yamai's case, worse, since she sees Tadano as a rival.
Himiko Agari: This girl's a masochist ("Can I be your dog?"), and also fulfils the requirement for having at least one female with big boobs that can be used for jiggle jokes.
Omoharu Nakanaka: This show's chunibyo/goth otaku. Frankly, I prefer Oreimo's Kuroneko; she combined charm and droll humor, criteria that Nakanaka scores poorly on. (Kuroneko was one of those characters who was too good for the show she was in, but that's another issue.)
Makeru Yadano: This one wants to "compete" with Komi. You'll recognize this archetype as Sylphyn's, again from Umaru-chan. Did I mention that Sylphyn was my least favorite character in that show?
Kaede Otori: A drawling, airhead character with a tendency to get lost. Paging Mutsumi from Love Hina.
Shisuto Naruse: Fukuyama Kazuhara in Girls Bravo; "Toru Mugami" in Saiki K.; Kentaro Sakata in Love Hina; Hijiri Koganei in Romantic Killer. These are all good answers to the question, "Who are some narcissistic male characters in anime BESIDES Shisuto Naruse?"
Not all the characters here are unwelcome. I liked Nene Onemine. Our over-explaining Wiki writer says her name is derived from "big sister", so her personality is just that- a quietly supportive sort of girl, who recognizes the Tadano-Komi attraction, and tries to help them out. Since she IS quietly supportive, of course the show minimizes her appearances. It would rather spend its time on those quirky classmates, some of whom are actively obstructing the slowly growing relationship of our main couple. (Remember, everyone loves Komi, and many of those classmates feel that Tadano does not deserve her.) It's hard to advance a romance with so many standing in the way- either actively in opposition, or simply consuming screen time- and there seemed to be less and less time for Tadano/Komi as the show went on; in other words, the story that I was REALLY here for got slowed down almost to a halt by an incessant string of characters whose value-added was either zero or negative.
I also didn't care that much for the simplistic character art, and even Komi's "goggle eyes" got annoying after a while.
For Tadano and Komi's sake, I won't go less than three stars- but ONLY for their sake. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: MAL goes PG-13 on this. There's mild violence, and mild fanservice.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Komi Can't Communicate © 2022 Tomohito Oda/Shogakukan/Netflix
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