Shojo and Tell Podcast: Kimi ni Todoke Part 1 (with Caitlin Moore)

This is a transcription of the Shojo and Tell podcast episode covering volumes 1–10 of Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina. You can listen to the original podcast and find the show notes here.

Ashley: Welcome to Shojo and Tell, where we discuss shojo manga, tell who’s hot and who’s not, talk about themes, and just generally geek out. Today, November 11th, 2018, we’ll be shojo and telling about the first ten volumes of Kimi ni Todoke, by Karuho Shiina.

Ashley: I’m your host Ashley McDonnell, and I’m joined by Caitlin Moore.

Caitlin: Hello.

Ashley: Caitlin, it’s been a hot second since you’ve been on this podcast.

Caitlin: It doesn’t feel like that long.

Ashley: It doesn’t? I’m glad it doesn’t to you. It kind of does to me. I don’t know, maybe time passes strangely for me.

Caitlin: Well, maybe I’m old and time feels faster.

Ashley: Great. Well, for everybody who may or may not have listened to Millennium Snow episode or the Fushigi Yugi one. Caitlin, what do you do? What’s up? What manga do you like?

Caitlin: I like a lot of manga. I grew up reading shojo manga. My favorites tend to be the action adventure shojo ones like Basara and Yona of the Dawn, but Kimi ni Todoke is definitely a favorite for awhile as well.

Ashley: Yes. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad we both love Kimi ni Todoke. I feel like it doesn’t get enough respect. I feel like not enough people are reading it and they’re wrong.

Caitlin: I mean, I always have a pretty good wait at the library whenever a new volume was coming out.

Ashley: Oh, really? Okay.

Caitlin: Yeah. It definitely has a following.

Ashley: Good.

Caitlin: I don’t know, maybe it’s in my little niche of people whose kinks are healthy relationships and communication.

Ashley: It definitely checks off those boxes. Do you want to describe what Kimi ni Todoke is about?

Caitlin: Sure. Kimi ni Todoke is about Sawako Kuronuma, a girl who has a reputation at her school as being gloomy and cursed, when really she’s just shy and awkward, but very sweet. And she looks up to a boy in her class named Shota Kazehaya who is outgoing and friendly and beloved by all. One day, she befriends Kazehaya and he has secretly liked her since the first day they met. And through getting to know him and through him helping her out, she is able to start befriending her classmates, but will she be able to enter a magic relationship?

Ashley: I don’t know. We have to have 30 volumes to find out, apparently.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Except, actually, that’s answered in the first ten. But that’s fine. We don’t know what the next 20 are about so, yeah. So this series is 30 volumes long, so it’s very long ’cause it’s so good. Got to be forever long. And you can get all 30 volumes from Viz Media in North America. There is also an anime that has two seasons. That’s very special, that’s what I’m saying.

Caitlin: Shojo doesn’t usually get two seasons.

Ashley: I know, it’s magical. And you can watch that on Crunchyroll. I’m pretty sure what the anime covers is what is covered in these first ten volumes. So if you have only watched the anime, you should be able to follow whatever we say in this podcast. If I’m wrong, you can tell me later. Okay? And I don’t know how you found out about the series, but I definitely actually watched the anime first, and then I was like, “Oh my god. This manga is forever long. I need to go read it.”

Caitlin: It was when it was first coming out in English, which was so long ago, I think I was in high school. Which was a very long time ago.

Ashley: Oh, boy.

Caitlin: And I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled on it, but at the time, most of the stuff that was coming out in English was all the abusive boyfriends sort of stuff. And my friend and I were complaining about it and then I found Kimi ni Todoke and I called her up. I’m like, “Oh my god, Scarlet! There’s a shojo manga where the boy is really nice and sweet! There’s no abuse in it!”

Ashley: It’s a miracle!

Caitlin: So that was what really got my attention with it.

Ashley: Yeah, I don’t know what got my … Okay, so when I watched the anime, it was in a period where I was still trying to watch a lot of shojo anime that I perhaps hadn’t seen before. So I think … I remember watching Skip Beat!, Kimi ni Todoke, Say I Love You, and My Little Monster. And Kimi ni Todoke was the only one where I was like, “I’ve gotta go read this manga.” In 2013. I just gotta. And now I have this stack of … I’m currently in the 30th volume, still. TBD. Coming out next month. But, yeah. I was like, “I’m just all about this. Why are they all so nice? They’re all such angelic children and I love them all.”

Caitlin: I know. They’re such just … I know this is an old meme at this point, but just beautiful cinnamon rolls.

Ashley: Yes. I don’t know, so I guess we should discuss what makes it, in particular, so good. For me, what I really like about it is the emphasis on very healthy female friendships between the main three characters. They are all seemingly very different on the surface. They get mad at each other, ’cause that’s what humans do. We’re silly animal creatures. But overall, they’re just so supporting of each other and so happy and they work so well together. They’re like, “Our differences are what make us special!” And I’m like, “Oh my god, I love you! I love you all.”

Caitlin: Yeah, they’re all very different. I think the common thread is that they all kind of stand out somehow and that makes them a little bit more … have trouble socially. ’Cause there’s never a sense that Chizu or Ayane have a lot of friends. They mostly have each other. And Kazehaya and Ryu … But when all the rumors were going around about them … You know, this is all stuff people would assume based on superficial assumptions.

Ashley: Just how they look and stuff, yeah.

Caitlin: So they’re all just really sweet and supportive of each other. And I just really enjoy them teasing Kazehaya and supporting each other. And they’re all really good foils to each other.

Ashley: Yeah, it’s fun when they tease Kazehaya and they’re like, “Everybody can see what’s going on. But we can’t super communicate it. We need to just nudge them in the correct directions.” Like, ohhhh yeah. We’re literally gonna stalk them on New Years as Kazehaya and Sawako go on a little date that we’ve all devised together. Like, “We were supposed to go. But JK, we’re just stalking them.” Like, okay. You crazy people.

Caitlin: Ayane’s great. Ayane knows exactly what’s going on the entire time and she’s just like, “If I just sit back and watch, nothing’s ever gonna happen. So I’m at least gonna make it interesting for myself.”

Ashley: Okay, Ayane is definitely the best character. Just like, hands down.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Everything she does, I’m like, “Why are you so good?” Like, oh my god. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing with her.

Caitlin: She’s definitely the smartest one.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: There’s a lot of foreshadowing that I don’t wanna mention, but I do just wanna say that it’s good. It’s been a hot second since I visited the beginning of this, just reading it as it’s coming out in English and everything. So I’m like, “Oh, everything that happens is really well seeded.” I’m like, “Oh, wow. Didn’t expect that. Okay.”

Caitlin: Yeah. It actually is. In retrospect, there’s a lot of stuff that does come up later. I don’t think it was planned to be a 30-volume series, but there was definitely laying the groundwork for a lot of long-running stuff.

Ashley: Yeah. I was like, “This definitely was not planned to go on this long.” And I think that shows a little in the middle volumes of this.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: But then I think it recovers. It’s gonna recover. So it’s like, all right, that’s fine. But generally, also, I had gone into this this time being like … Jeff, my … I guess I’ll just say ex-boyfriend now, yes.

Caitlin: Oh, I didn’t know about that.

Ashley: Oh, it’s tragic. Everybody knows now. When we went to Japan last time, we went to a Kimi ni Todoke exhibit at one of the anime places that frequently has exhibits, or whatever. ’Cause the end had just happened there. And he was like, “Well, I wanna have some basis in what this story is about before going to that.” So he’s trying to read it on the plane and he’s like, “This first volume is just so boring.” And then I read it this time and I’m like, “This first volume is executed almost to perfection.” Like, what are you talking about?

Caitlin: It’s amazing!

Ashley: Yeah. I was like, “This is a wrong opinion. This first volume is great.” It was supposed to be a short story at first. The first chapter sets up everything perfectly. I’m like, “No, no. No, bro.” And then the first four volumes are perfect, you know, of her becoming friends with people and the horrible rumors. I’m like, “This was all great. Perfect shojo manga.”

Caitlin: Yeah, it does. It’s all fantastic. The paneling, I think, works really well for displaying sort of the wordless tension and what Sawako would be thinking about and focusing about in each moment.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: It’s really just a great mix of visual and verbal storytelling.

Ashley: Yeah, I think it … ’Cause also, my lasting impression of reading Kimi ni Todoke very slowly, as you wait four months for each volume or whatever, is that it’s like, yeah, sometimes there’s a bunch of text ’cause they’re jawing at each other or whatever … and then other times, it’s just like, oh, Sawako’s face. Lots of Kazehaya and Sawako just staring at each other. Like slow, grab tension. I’m like, “Yes.” That’s all I want. I forgot about how much when they do their little final confession between the door thing, and this really left an impression the first time around. I was like, “Yes. That’s key.”

Ashley: Yeah, I guess the other great thing, that we only mildly mentioned on, is that … Okay, I think also boys think that this manga is something else that it’s not. I had another discussion with somebody else who … I won’t say that. But I had another discussion with somebody else about this, who is a guy, and I don’t think that he had read it or watched it. But he was like, “Isn’t Kimi ni Todoke one of those ones where the dude is actually really bad? He’s really possessive and stuff?”

Caitlin: Nooo!

Ashley: And I was like, “Kimi ni Todoke is the super, sweetest end of the spectrum of shojo manga. What are you talking about? I’m so confused.”

Caitlin: Yeah, Kazehaya is … my friend calls him “light bread.” Which I think is a little rude.

Ashley: It’s a little rude.

Caitlin: He has more personality than that. But he is just very, very sweet and he does have possessive moments, but nothing over the top. We’re still in the non-spoiler territory, so I don’t want to say too much.

Ashley: Yeah. That’s fine …

Caitlin: We haven’t done our spoiler. Our spoiler announcement.

Ashley: Okay, we’re gonna spoil stuff now. So … again, this is about the first ten volumes of 30, so you define your own definition of spoilers now, people. All right, let’s go.

Caitlin: But the part where Sawako is taking care of Pin when he has a cold. Kazehaya’s like, “I don’t want you getting that up close to his face. I’ll take care of him.” It’s a little silly, but it’s very much a high school boy sort of thing that you could see him growing out of. It’s not like a, “You cannot talk to these guys or be around these guys.” It’s like, he doesn’t get jealous and upset when she’s hanging out with Ryu. So, yeah, he’s fine. He’s a really good boy.

Ashley: I know. I think there were definitely certain moments in this where unlike in other shojo manga, the male protagonist would’ve so much harder and aggressively been like, “I like you. I’m gonna push you.” And Kazehaya’s like, “She’s not ready for this. I’m just gonna wait.” And I’m like, “Beautiful boy, what’s up?”

Caitlin: But he likes her from the beginning. That’s the thing, he likes her at the very start.

Ashley: Yeah, when they just say hi and everybody else thinks she’s off putting in appearance and he’s like, “No, it’s fine.”

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Oh, Kazehaya.

Caitlin: He’s a good, sweet boy. And I just want to … I don’t know, pat his head.

Ashley: You just wanna be like, “There, there. You’re a good boy.”

Caitlin: Read him a story.

Ashley: Yeah. So this is all to say that boys are wrong about this manga. And they should read it more thoroughly.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Okay, so we will get into more of Kimi ni Todoke’s … We’ll specifically go through characters and themes. Overarching theme is about miscommunication and how that is a plague of humans since forever. More ways to communicate than ever, still can’t say it right.

Caitlin: Yeah, I mean that’s the title. Reaching you. The reaching is communication, right?

Ashley: Yeah. But, yeah. So I would say that these ten volumes definitely break down into three little, mini arcs that happen here which is … first it’s like, make friends. All right. Then, Kurumi comes along and it’s like, make a rival, ooh! Scandalous. Then it’s like, get a boyfriend. Kazehaya, what’s up? He’s there.

Ashley: First of all, I forgot how much I hate Kurumi, especially in the beginning. I’m like, “Ugh! Kurumi. All right, fine. You grew on me.” But definitely making friends is like … again, I really think those first three to four volumes are pretty perfectly executed. So …

Caitlin: Right. The emphasis is not on changing, it’s not on finding a boyfriend or being a girlfriend. It’s on learning how to show the world your good parts and letting people … How do I put this? It’s not that Sawako was locking people out, but she was just not naturally someone who can easily attract people. So helping other people find the parts of you that make you someone you want to know, I think is really important. Because Sawako doesn’t change change. She is who she is, but she’s able to become more social and understand how to socialize better while retaining the core of who she is as a person.

Ashley: Yeah. And I think the key is making people … Kazehaya helps other people in the class be like … even simply her name. ’Cause they call her Sadako ’cause that’s a name from The Ring and she looks scary or whatever. So they have all these ghost stories about her, whatever. And him just being like, “No. You see this weird, other person that is not a real person, is a fictional character that you have made up, based on some movie franchise, or whatever.” He’s like, “Her name is Sawako, let’s be clear here.” And it’s kind of just like, she’s not saying anything different from what she normally says. Which can bring tension because people still don’t always understand her. But once it’s like, oh, now we’re actually listening … It’s like, oh, we thought she was saying one thing, but she’s totally saying another thing.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: But, yeah. So that’s the whole tension of the first arc is that, you know … everybody keeps asking her questions like, “Do you like us?” And she’ll be like, “I don’t like you …” And she wants to say, ’cause she’s like, “Because I super duper adore you and love you to death.” Sort of like escalation scale that they always cut her off from. And they’re like, “Oh, you don’t like us? That’s hurtful. I’m so hurt by this.” And then once it’s like, “Oh. Different, different. Sawako just communicates differently. We should maybe just let her finish, you know?”

Caitlin: Right, or she doesn’t understand that when people ask, “Are you friends?” And she says, “Oh, no. We’re not friends,” because she doesn’t think that she is worthy of calling their relationship thas at that point yet. Since she’s never really had these things, she takes them too seriously. She’s built up the idea of friendship in her head as this … something … I don’t even know. Some sort of bond that is just so much more intimate than hanging out with these people at school and talking and enjoying their company. And, no. That’s what friendship is.

Ashley: That’s all it is. It’s very low-key.

Caitlin: She doesn’t think that they would call her friends, ’cause she hasn’t known them as long as they’ve known each other. She’s not as close to them as they are to each other. And it’s like, “No, Sawako. You’re friends.” Or when it’s like, “Oh, do you like Kazehaya?” It’s like, “Oh, I respect him.” It’s like, no, Sawako!

Ashley: Sawako, you sweet, sweet child. Can I just hug you? There, there.

Caitlin: She’s a really good girl. She doesn’t understand human relationships.

Ashley: Yeah, well the best is when, it’s also like, everybody has these built up things about her. And it’s kind of interesting to think about it from the perspective of somebody who would be a black sheep, right? But in more terrible … I guess about Ayane and Chizu, it’s like, Ayane and Chizu have these different, these outwardly stereotypical looks. Ayane kind of looks like … she has a lot of piercings, she’s a pretty hot girl. So everybody’s like, “Oh, she’s slutty,” and things. And Chizu is like, rough around the edges and a tomboy. And they’re like, “Oh, she’s beat up a bunch people,” and like, whatever, she’s like in a gang. Where was I going with this? I was going somewhere.

Ashley: But, yeah. So they’ve all built up these personalities … Now, where was I going with this? Brain, why are you not working?

Caitlin: They all stick out and they are all people who others make assumptions about. And they’re all so much more than that, whether or not some of those assumptions are correct. Yes, Chizu has gotten into fights and Ayane is dating a college student. But they’re so much more than those stereotypes. Chizu is also a huge softy who just bursts into tears at someone’s sad story and is just so moved by Sawako wanting to pretend to be a ghost for the test of courage. Ayane is really, really smart.

Ashley: Yeah, okay. That’s where I was going. Right, okay. So Sawako, then, with the black sheep thing it’s kind of like, oh, so … most of the time, when people have those expectations for you, you do kind of give into them. You’re kind of like, “Well, people expect me to be this way. So I’m gonna go be this way in anger because it hurts me that they think I’m like this, but I’m actually not. But then I gave into that expectation,” or whatever. And Sawako’s doing that, but in a really funny sort of tragic way with being like, “Yes, everybody thinks I’m scary, but I’m actually not. So that’s disappointing to them.” Right?

Caitlin: She leans in.

Ashley: Yeah. She’s like, “Oh, so I should embrace when I can scare them like they think I can.” And Ayane and Chizu are just like, “No … Okay.” They’re like, “We’re glad that you want that but also you should just explain to them that you’re not a crazy person who can summon spirits and whatever. You should just explain that to people.”

Caitlin: Yeah. Sawako’s really sweet and she really does try to meet people more than halfway.

Ashley: She does. She’s like, “I will just come to you, it’s fine.” I do have to also say that while Ayane is clearly the best character because she knows all and fights very hard for other people and is pretty and all these things, I’m definitely Chizu in this relationship.

Caitlin: Yeah, I’m definitely more of a Chizu than an Ayane.

Ashley: Yeah. I’m just like, yep, brash. A little bit slow and beat up some people. Definitely did the punching people as a sign of affection and then they always say ow.

Caitlin: Oh, yeah.

Ashley: I probably shouldn’t do that anymore, that’s probably bad.

Caitlin: Yeah. I had to grow out of that. I’ve never been in a fight fight but I like to hit things and … When I was living in Japan and the foreigner community in my city was just pretty much all based around drinking together, I would definitely drink and start punching my six foot four Australian friend.

Ashley: As one does!

Caitlin: And they encouraged me! I think they all thought it was cute because I’m five foot four and not super strong, although I can throw a punch. But, yeah, hitting things is fun.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: And that’s why I’m Chizu.

Ashley: Yeah, we understand Chizu. Chizu is good.

Caitlin: I’m also a total softy. I always kind of had a …

Ashley: Clearly, you like shojo manga, come on!

Caitlin: Yeah! And I’ve had a pension for befriending the people who kind of stick out.

Ashley: Oh, yeah. All my friends. I’m like, “We’re all the weirdos. Yay! Weirdos together. Yay, yay, yay.”

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Oh goodie. But, yeah. The end of that arc with them declaring their friendship and Sawako getting wrapped up in being like, “I’m tanking their reputations. I must clear up their reputations so that people do not misunderstand that they are not typical. They are not just the stereotypes that they have built up around these people.” And they have their moment in the bathroom. I love that Sawako’s like, “Don’t hug me. I am dirty.” And I agree with that but you’re also very cute. It’s very, very cute.

Ashley: And them being like, “We were friends this whole time, Dummy. We like you.” I love all their proclamations. Kazehaya also has many proclamations about this, being like, “Sawako, you don’t get to decide about my reputation. I decide about my reputation. And I wanna hang out with you. And unless you don’t wanna hang out with me, then we should hang out.”

Caitlin: This is definitely the kind of series where people make a lot of speeches.

Ashley: Yeah. They’re pretty good, low-key speeches. I love when Pin … Pin’s are always just like, “Hey, I’m a silly person.” And then he just drops something super serious and heavy and then is like, “Bye, morons.”

Caitlin: Right!

Ashley: But, whatever. Oh, Pin.

Caitlin: I love Pin so much.

Ashley: Oh, yeah?

Caitlin: He’s such an idiot.

Ashley: I go back and forth and I’m like, is this teacher good? Is he bad? I don’t know.

Caitlin: It’s hard to be sure. He’s young.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: He’s definitely very young and brash, but we don’t see him actually teaching very much. We see him offering guidance and the guidance is definitely mixed. But he’s just a complete idiot.

Ashley: He has no worries.

Caitlin: He’s also huge, by the way. One of the character information things in the series was like, “He’s six foot four.”

Ashley: Oh, I missed that part. He’s that tall?

Caitlin: Yeah. And he has his hair pointing up, which probably gives him a couple of inches.

Ashley: Oh, yeah. He’s doing that on purpose. He’s like, “I am always the tallest person here. What’s up?”

Caitlin: Six foot four in Japan will make you the tallest person in the room.

Ashley: Just by default, yeah.

Caitlin: That vast majority of the time.

Ashley: Yeah. Most of what we see is him betting on sports festivals, or whatever general festivals that they have at school, and being by himself outside of work, actually, but bothering them all the time because he has this personal relationship with Kazehaya that’s … He’s always blackmailing Kazehaya. That’s basically what he’s doing. He’s like, “Kazehaya, do you want me to broadcast all these embarrassing stories about how you peed in my bed that one time?” And he’s like, “No! Don’t do it.”

Caitlin: Yeah, I think his greatest motivation is just trolling Kazehaya. The bit where she offers to … or he tells her to hold the back of Kazehaya’s shirt and close her eyes.

Ashley: Oh yeah! So good! Oh my goodness. But Kazehaya, also being good, does not kiss her. I’m like, “Yes, Kazehaya’s a good boy. That’s why.” Oh, also in the friendship arc, I just love the scene where they have to change seats or whatever. They’re supposed to do it by a number system, but everybody … you know, just trades numbers. And everybody’s like, “No, we can’t sit next to Sadako. We can’t sit next to Sadako.” And Kazehaya, of course, is like, “No, give it to me. I will sit next to her.” And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sitting next to Kuronuma.”

Caitlin: Oh, yeah. No, that’s one of my favorite parts because I have been that person who’s looking for someone to sit next to and is just like … No one is necessarily being like, “Oh, I don’t wanna sit next to Caitlin,” but …

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: But I don’t really have anyone who’s eager or excited to be like, “Hey, come sit with me!” So, yeah. That part was really heartwarming and very sweet and I like how Ryu just ruined it.

Ashley: Yeah, Chizu was like, “I’m gonna have a moment, too!” And he’s like, “No. I’m sitting here.”

Caitlin: Chizu’s just pouting.

Ashley: Yeah Chizu’s like, “Fine. I guess I’ll sit in front of all of you, I don’t know.” Cool. But, yeah. I think Kazehaya’s just so good and not only … He just knows when to be like, “Okay, not only have I sat next to her, but I have proclaimed, ‘Yay, I am sitting next to Kuronuma.’” And also knows when to push back on his classmates. ’Cause he doesn’t always push back on them when they’re being mean to her. But then he has breaking points where he’s like, “No. You took it too far, now. I have to correct you.”

Caitlin: Yeah. It’s like, oh, the punishment game is a date with Sawako. It’s like, that’s too mean.

Ashley: Yeah, he’s like, “No, no, no.”

Caitlin: That’s to the point where you’re not treating her like a person anymore.

Ashley: Yeah, he’s like, “She has feelings. She’s a human. She does not want this. I don’t want this because I’m a nice boy.” God. I was also very affected because, you know, Ayane is the best character so in the seat scene where she gets a number and she’s just like, “Nah, I’m also just gonna follow Kazehaya.” And of course, Chizu being a little slow is like, “Oh, I wanna do it, too!” And Ryu is sitting in a seat already and is like, “This is my seat. Just go away.” And that’s how …

Caitlin: Ryu is very good, too.

Ashley: Yeah and that’s how they become friends. Ryu’s introduction is that, I’m pretty sure.

Caitlin: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s the first time we meet Ryu.

Ashley: Yeah. And he’s a good boy.

Caitlin: He is, they’re all good boys and girls. Except for Kurumi.

Ashley: Yes, which takes us into the next arc of Kurumi, the rival character, who is always lurking in the shadows ’cause she’s the one who spread the rumors, but you know.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Kurumi. I actually think it’s a little a shame to talk about Kurumi now, because I think Kurumi … she’s still around, she will get better in the future. But Kurumi’s set up is pretty good. Her set up is, she’s been in love with Kazehaya, she does a lot of manipulations. Like, damn girl. How are you gonna keep all that straight? I don’t even know, ’cause she’s like, “All right, I like Kazehaya. But clearly, I’m a bad girl so he doesn’t like me.” So then she gets the whole class to buy into … which I think is a typical shojo manga thing of …

Caitlin: Yeah, I’ve seen that in a lot of series.

Ashley: Yeah. Kazehaya is everybody’s so we all love and admire him.

Caitlin: It’s a very Japanese group thing. Like … We all want him, so he doesn’t belong to one of us. He belongs to the group.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: Yeah, we’re each gonna suppress our own individual desires for Kazehaya so that the group can have him and no individual takes him.

Ashley: For the sake of society, the betterment of our community. Yeah.

Caitlin: So we’re not all just pulling out each other’s hair and fighting over him.

Ashley: Yeah. So Kurumi manages to do that, but since Sawako is not part of the community group, she has a thorn in her side where she’s like, “I didn’t take this one into account. I didn’t think Kazehaya would love such a little wierdo over here.” So then she’s like, “All right, well, now I have to directly attack Sawako, I guess.” But not directly, ’cause that would be too easy. This is an evil manipulation scheme.

Caitlin: Yeah. Kurumi is like a dark mirror of Ayane, almost, I feel like. They’re both very, very smart and capable of manipulating a situation. And that’s why Ayane has Kurumi’s number right away.

Ashley: Exactly. I was like, oh wait, that actually is set up that they are also rivals because Ayane’s the one who’s like, “Okay, I see what’s happening. What’s up Kurumi?” But then she’s like, “But we can’t do anything until we have hard evidence which we don’t right now. We just instinctively know from various little things.”

Caitlin: “We’re not so different, you and I.”

Ashley: Yeah. Oh, Kurumi. And that’s what’s beautiful about Sawako’s reaction, eventually, to Kurumi, too, is that Sawako’s like, “I don’t understand, Kurumi, why you hate me when we are the same. We both think Kazehaya’s special.” Kurumi was nice to Sawako initially, and called her by her correct name, and all these things. And she’s like, “Why can’t we share this thing and be friends?” And Kurumi’s like, “You don’t understand anything about humans. We’re rivals, come on.”

Caitlin: Yeah, she just wants to have a friend in Kazehaya.

Ashley: Yeah. Sawako’s like, “Why can’t we be friends about liking Kazehaya and talk about it and share all these things?” ’Cause they do that for a hot second and Kurumi’s like, “No! This isn’t how this works. What are you talking about?”

Ashley: It does work really effectively that in the beginning of Kurumi’s arc here, Kurumi is the root of all evil. And by the end you’re like, “Kurumi’s not so bad. Kurumi’s alright.” She just wants to be loved, she’s just looking for acceptance.

Caitlin: She is definitely … The way she operates, it’s hard to really, totally hate a character for operating that way, ’cause it’s sort of how girls are taught to deal with conflict, is subterfuge and manipulation and as non-confrontational as possible.

Ashley: Yeah. In that way, I’m like, Kurumi is the nod to all other terrible shojo manga, maybe. Being like, “Look at this typical character that you’ve seen before. Isn’t that fun? Now we’re gonna make her a good person. Now how do you feel about that?” You know?

Caitlin: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think that’s too unusual, having them sort of work it out and be, at least, in a place of not trying to mess each other’s stuff up too much.

Ashley: Too, too much.

Caitlin: Yeah, so I don’t think Kurumi is like a particularly unusual or interesting character, but she’s not bad. She’s not terrible.

Ashley: She … yeah. She does better things for Sawako, so that’s fun. Obviously we should acknowledge that the best part of the Kurumi arc is when Pin gets it in his head that she is in love with him. And that becomes …

Caitlin: Yes! That’s why Pin is the best.

Ashley: Yes. And that, apparently, gets around school. So, sorry Kurumi. Oh, boy.

Caitlin: Well, and his reaction is just like, “I’m not interested in children.”

Ashley: Yes.

Caitlin: Like, good job, Pin. Good job.

Ashley: That’s why I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Things that happen later, they were always seeded. He never waivers. He knows what he’s about, he knows what’s up.” Aww. So good. I don’t know how that could be so good. But, yes. So Kurumi’s always been there … little manipulations. But then we get into the crux of the thing … the real … I think these are the roughest bits of it, admittedly. There were certainly panels and stuff where I was like, “I’m not following the logic of this conversation that they’re having anymore …”

Caitlin: Right, well she had to take a … I wonder if it was around when she [Shiina] had to take a break ’cause she was having a baby.

Ashley: Oh, yeah. That’s true. They become really, really short chapters where I’m like, “This was good.” ’Cause there were only like ten pages and I know what happened in them.

Caitlin: I like how she dropped it, just in the chat column, “So, I had a baby and that’s what was going on for awhile there.”

Ashley: Just super casual, just brought a human life into the world, it’s fine.

Caitlin: And she just has a little picture of hairy baby.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: I’ve seen a lot of Asian babies who just have their hair stick straight up.

Ashley: Oh, yeah.

Caitlin: It’s really … yeah. It’s really cute.

Ashley: Is that why Pin does it? He’s trying to be a baby.

Caitlin: Yep! Pin is into adult baby — nope. Don’t like that.

Ashley: Nope.

Caitlin: Stop. Erase that from the universe.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: Do not like what I just put out into the universe, but now I’ve just built it into existence.

Ashley: That’s gonna be there forever now, so … yeah. I love when manga artists talk about their lives and they’re like, “I actually have children and stuff.” I’m like, “Whoa! Amazing.”

Caitlin: Yeah, I mean, the best one for that is Akiko Higashimura.

Ashley: Oh, well yes. Obviously.

Caitlin: I want to be her best friend.

Ashley: Yeah, I mean, everyone should want to be her best friend. I think that’s just key. Yeah, I feel like it’s rare. Normally they’re just like, “I play a lot of video games and like this music.” And I’m like, oh, these people over here are like, “I have children.” I’m like, that’s nice. That seems real to me. I don’t know, yeah. So I definitely think it was around the time where she was like, “I have life things going on. Maybe I’m not all about this manga. Maybe this manga isn’t my life.” And I’m like, that’s fair. You know?

Caitlin: “I have some bigger issues going on here.”

Ashley: Yeah. Oh, ’cause there was one point where she was like, the kid was in the hospital. I’m like, that’s fair. That seems more important than me trying to figure out what exactly Kazehaya and Sawako are fighting about right now.

Caitlin: Yeah. I’m glad that she has her priorities straight because sometimes I just think about that part of Bakuman where it’s like, “Hey, you could literally die if you keep drawing manga at this pace.” And he’s like, “No, I’m gonna do it!”

Ashley: Yeah, I mean, manga industry … not the greatest at the work life balance.

Caitlin: Yeah, don’t romanticize working until you are so sick you can barely function. Don’t do it.

Ashley: Don’t do it. Yeah. So Sawako and Kazehaya’s feelings finally coming to a head where it’s like, “Whoa, we can’t keep it inside anymore but we also can’t express it clearly to each other.” So they have a series of misunderstandings and I’m like, this is a little tedious at this point.

Caitlin: Yeah, when I was reading that part live, it felt a lot faster when I was just reading these volumes, boom, boom, boom, one after another. But when I was reading it as it was going or when I was watching the anime, this part felt so long. And it’s just like, stop! Just stop! “I don’t think your like and my like is the same.” It’s like, no! Goddamn idiots! Like, shut up! Stop! Just kiss already!

Ashley: Yeah, they actually have said the opposite of that and been like, “Actually, our likes are the same,” and blown her mind and then been done with that. Like, whoa. But, no. Yeah, I think it’s definitely because they have to go through the same thing three times. And it’s kind of like, nope. Twice, maybe. All right, that would’ve been fine. But like … meh. Definitely one too many things. But mostly what I appreciate about that arc is definitely, again, more of the friendship aspects of it where Ayane and Chizu get annoyed, ’cause they’re like, “Well, what this really is about is that Sawako feels inferior to Kazehaya, but we want her to be in this relationship as equals.” Which is like, thank you shojo manga! For saying that, just so blatantly! I love it.

Caitlin: But then Kento …

Ashley: Yeah, oh goodness. We haven’t mentioned Kento.

Caitlin: I’m not sure if he was just thrown in there to be an obstacle. He sticks around. He plays a better role in the narrative later, but here he’s just, “I’m just gonna come crashing in and misunderstand the situation and just totally ruin everyone’s vibe and make everyone confused. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Ashley: Yeah. He’s like, “That seems like a good plan.” Yeah, no. I think that’s also part of the problem with this arc is that … So they’ve gone through the first year of school, and then they switch classes and … of course, the core group of characters get to stay in the same class still, so Ayane, Chizu, Sawako, Ryu, and Kazehaya are all still in the same class. And partially, possibly because Ayane bribed Pin … unclear. He spins it as he was a nice guy who’s like, “I know you all are friends.”

Caitlin: Yeah. He’s like, “Oh, I just wanna keep the friends together.”

Ashley: Yeah, but then Kento is a new classmate who kind of comes out of nowhere, and then all of a sudden is just like, “Let me talk to Sawako a lot and give her all these funny ideas about her inferiority.” He’s like, “You are inferior to Kazehaya. He doesn’t like you.” And Kazehaya’s like, “What, dude? I totally like her. What’s wrong with you?”

Caitlin: “He’s just being nice. You don’t wanna have to rely on him, right?” And Sawako’s like, “I guess.”

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: And Kazehaya’s like, “No!” And Ayane’s like, “What are you doing? You’re ruining everything!”

Ashley: She’s like, “I had it all figured out and then you ruined it, Kento, you ruined it.” God.

Caitlin: Ugh. I couldn’t figure out … I thought, maybe he was being actively malicious or … he likes Sawako. Also he gets way into space, like, boundaries! Boundaries.

Ashley: Yeah, Kento is, like, the less good boy here. Much less good boy.

Caitlin: He’s not bad, he’s not mean, he’s not malicious. I thought he might be at first, but he’s just an idiot. And not in a good way like Pin.

Ashley: Yeah, no.

Caitlin: But he just … He comes along and immediately he gets right into Sawako’s face and is just like, “You should smile more!” I’m like, oh my god …

Ashley: Right here, just slap.

Caitlin: I’m going to hurt you. I’m gonna reach into that manga page and throttle you.

Ashley: Don’t say that! Never say that.

Caitlin: And he just totally misreads Kazehaya. It’s like, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Ugh.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: He’s really annoying.

Ashley: I mean, in that way he’s kind of the … He is the foil to Kazehaya in that they’re both popular. And it’s not that I think he’s threatened by Kazehaya’s popularity. I think they’re both like, “We can exist in this sphere and we have different friends and stuff. Whatever.” But in the way that he tries to be like, “Oh, Sawako’s weird. I’m gonna go help out the weird girl, too.” But he just does it totally incorrectly. He’s like, “Look, I’ll touch her and I’ll tell her that her brows are too furrowed,” and all these things. “And have her call me master. And just clearly put her into an inferior position and stuff.” And it’s like, no, Kento, you did everything wrong. How? I don’t know. It’s amazing.

Caitlin: Yeah, I buy that he had good intentions but he really does just come in and mess everything up. And he does it in such a way that Ayane can’t stop him. But, yeah. You’re right. I kind of forgot about that. He doesn’t just give her the wrong idea but he does make her feel inferior. After everything that Kazehaya has done, and Ayane and Chizu have done building her up, making her feel like part of the class, like she is fine the way she is, she just needs to learn how to open herself up more. And then he comes along and he’s like, “Oh, yeah. No. You’re weird. You are weird and he’s just being nice to you.”

Ashley: Yeah. He straight up goes back to confirming her worst fears that she has in herself. She’s like, “I want to be special to Kazehaya but I know that he’s probably just being nice to me.” ’Cause she knows enough about humans to be like, “Ah, yes. I’ve clearly done this wrong for so long so how could they ever like me?” And all these things. And Kento’s just like, “That is correct.” I’m like, no, Kento, who are you?

Caitlin: Ugh.

Ashley: Why did you get put in this class?

Caitlin: What a dumbass. What an absolute dumbass. By the way, I want you to appreciate I’m trying very hard not to curse.

Ashley: Yes, I appreciate it. But you’re like, “Kento is so angering.”

Caitlin: I’m just trying very hard not to just yell. Yell swearwords about him.

Ashley: Kentooooooo!

Caitlin: Nooo! Shaking my fists.

Ashley: Yeah. Kento does come back and in the same way that Kurumi is like … later things that happen with them are better than what is currently happening with them. It’s like, he’ll be okay, I guess.

Caitlin: Like I said, he’s not a bad dude.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: He was just doing the extremely wrong thing.

Ashley: Extremely bad things, yeah. And Ayane can’t do anything about it ’cause I think she just doesn’t realize what’s happening until way too late to do anything. Oh, such a tragedy. Yeah, so I guess we should talk about, blatantly, when they actually do confess their feelings to each other. ’Cause that was a little weird to me. Like, when Kazehaya and Sawako confess their feelings. This might be the worst Pin incident ’cause it gets weird. Right?

Caitlin: My memory is a little foggy, so …

Ashley: Okay.

Caitlin: Can you recap?

Ashley: So it’s that they finally, after several mistries of miscommunicating with each other and then getting interrupted by another idiot in their class, Joe. When they were finally gonna actually talk it out in a classroom, Joe comes along and he’s like, “Hey Kazehaya, for this festival, should we get 80 percent sweet treats and 30 percent salty treats?” And he’s like, “I don’t care!”

Caitlin: Oh, Joe.

Ashley: Freakin’ Joe. So then they have to break up for a little bit there. They talk a little bit, but then it seems like they’ve made it clear, right? Kazehaya has proclaimed at the festival. He’s like, “I like Kuronuma, she likes me, we showed up at this karaoke party together.” Everybody gets it, right? And then Pin eventually is like, “You should make it extra clear to her. ’Cause you know that she doesn’t interpret things the same way that everybody else picks up on signals and stuff.” And Kazehaya’s like, “You are correct, Pin. Let me go correct this and ask her blatantly to be my girlfriend.”

Ashley: And in that scene, Pin is also there. So he pretends to be Kazehaya, I guess, and says … I assume a Kazehaya impression, being like, “Hey, will you marry me?” And then, like …

Caitlin: Oh, yeah. That whole thing was weird. And that’s the thing, I think Kimi ni Todoke is very good at the build. It’s good at the little moments where you can feel that they like each other. And building on the chemistry between them. Moments like at the Christmas party when he waited for her with his cell phone strap gift. Or when they were hanging out in Ryu’s room and they called Kazehaya up and Ayane and Chizu were teasing him by getting all snuggly up with him. Or at the temple. And maybe I’m just listing scenes ’cause we haven’t mentioned them and they were really good.

Ashley: They’re very good.

Caitlin: But the buildup, that feeling of that tension, that dramatic tension of … “I like him and there are these signals that he likes me, too. But I’m not sure if I’m reading him right. Or if I’m just too scared to pull the trigger.” That part is really good. And that’s good because it’s a really exciting part of sort of starting in a relationship. But then when it’s time to actually pull the trigger and actually be in the relationship, it’s hard to sort of maintain that tension. ’Cause that’s the release of tension. And I think a lot of shojo manga stumble here. It’s not something that’s unique to Kimi ni Todoke. Not at all unique to Kimi ni Todoke, but it’s still just frustrating.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: ’Cause it’s like, you have to release that tension or it’s gonna be like you’re edging us with pure romance.

Ashley: Yeah. Well, I think also, the problem with it might be that it tries to escalate the tension again far too quickly. ’Cause then what happens is, Pin says, “Will you marry me?” And then Kuronuma’s like … When Kazehaya eventually catches up with her after she’s gone away to be like, “I must go talk to my dad first,” or whatever. And she calls her dad and is like, “Never mind!” And Kazehaya comes and catches up with her and is like, “Oh, Kuronuma, no. This is a misunderstanding.” ’Cause that’s their standard line in all these situations. And he’s just like, “You know, Pin said that. I just wanted you to be my girlfriend.” She’s like, “I knew that Pin said that. But I still wanted to think about it.” But then he realizes that when she said, “Think about it,” she meant imagine them being married.

Ashley: And it’s just like, whoa! Can y’all be boyfriend and girlfriend for the next 20 volumes? We need to get through that first, before … So it was trying to be like … And this escalation of like, now … ’cause Kazehaya also says, “I will protect you forever,” or something. And I’m like, okay, this is too far for me.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: Too high.

Caitlin: Guys, you’re 16.

Ashley: Yeah. So, yeah. I think it’s also simultaneously the release of the buildup of tension, but then also trying to be like, “And now you must find more tension to go to.” And I’m like, no, you didn’t need to immediately go there. We could’ve taken a second just to revel in their pure start of the relationship, thank you. But I guess not. Kimi ni Todoke can’t be perfect, you know. Nothing’s perfect, so …

Caitlin: No. Yeah. The presentation is as awkward and stumbling as the characters themselves are.

Ashley: Yeah. Sometimes you really, really feel it and you’re just like, “Ahh.” But that might be one of the moments where Pin is like, come on Pin, you did this, you’re bad. You’re a bad boy.

Caitlin: Yes. It’s like, goddammit, Pin.

Ashley: Goddammit, Pin. I want to like you but you make it so hard. Just so hard sometimes. Yeah, I mean, those are the big things and I think overarching themes of this are definitely just … you know … trying to, beyond the miscommunication things, it’s trying to find this balance between what is real amongst rumors and ghost stories and all these weird things that they’re conjuring up.

Ashley: But what I still really appreciate this manga for is whenever Kazehaya does have proclamations … like, I wrote down the line, “Who cares about some stupid rumor? The Kuronuma I see is the real Kuronuma.” And it’s kind of like, Kazehaya, that’s kind of, on one had, a rude thing to say because you’re like, “I am making the real Kuronuma in my eyes,” sort of thing. But on the other hand it’s like, yeah, you are partially made up of other people and you can see through rumors and lies and all these things. And Kazehaya never does push … whenever he makes proclamations like, “I wanna hang out with you and you shouldn’t let other people tell you otherwise,” it’s always with an understanding that it’s like, “Well, I wanna hang out with you if you also want to hang out with me.” You know? There is a boundary there that he has that is very good.

Caitlin: Yeah. He never tries to force her into anything.

Ashley: Yeah. And I think that all these characters also struggle with whether their motives are selfish or not in trying to find that balance of … Pin is like, “You always need ulterior motives to do anything.”

Caitlin: Yeah, the use of ulterior motives … I feel like that’s one of those things that’s kind of awkward and clumsy to translate.

Ashley: Yeah. Definitely. Reading it, I was like, this doesn’t seem natural in English, but okay.

Caitlin: Right. I don’t know, maybe an “agenda” would be a more natural translation. ’Cause the idea of ulterior motives as they’re talking about it seems to be the idea that you’re talking to someone or interacting with someone with the idea that you want more or you want something that they can give you, but even if that something is companionship … it’s like, oh, I have an ulterior motive hanging out with this person because my ulterior motive is that I want them to spend more time with me.

Ashley: Yeah.

Caitlin: Or my ulterior motive is that I am physically attracted to them, you know? These are not things that we would consider ulterior motives. No one is totally … Socialization is always a sort of back and forth, right? You’re friends with someone because you get something out of being with them, as well as you are giving something. It’s not like you are just gifting your presence upon them. So when they talk about ulterior motives and … this is probably just a cultural thing but it’s like, oh, he has an ulterior motive when he likes her ’cause he wants to kiss her? Whatever. That’s just being a human, you know?

Ashley: Yeah, also that’s just what being in a relationship kind of is. It’s just a default state. But yeah, agenda is actually a pretty good word to use for what they’re talking about, probably. But, yeah. It’s like, yeah, you can never be truly selfish, but … I mean, I understand that Kazehaya’s just reacting negatively to it because Kuronuma has built up this godly image of him in her mind of how good he is and kind and perfect and everything that he is. And he’s like, “No, I’m not perfect.” He doesn’t wanna be perfect. He’s like, “Please don’t put me on the pedestal. I’m just a dude who likes you. Can we be that, please?”

Caitlin: Yeah, and that’s fair.

Ashley: Yeah. He has good boundaries for himself, too. That’s nice.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ashley: But yeah, I don’t know. Just generally, he is so good, you guys. Everybody should read it. Read it along with this podcast.

Caitlin: It is, it’s very good.

Ashley: Get it from a library. Libraries totally have it ’cause it’s so long and they’re like, “It must be popular.” From my understanding of how libraries work.

Caitlin: Yep. Or if your library doesn’t have it, see if you can get it through inter library loan, or request it. 99 percent of manga I read is through the library.

Ashley: Yeah, no. I love libraries. The only reason I own this one is ’cause I loved it so much. Normally, I definitely would not read a 30-volume manga from my own collection for this podcast, no.

Caitlin: I saw a thing and it was like, yeah, most generations stop going to the library unless they have kids to take to the library but millennials go to the library for themselves as adults, regularly.

Ashley: Oh, yay! We’re doing something right. Yay!

Caitlin: Yay, we are not killing libraries.

Ashley: Not killing libraries!

Caitlin: Because we’re poor.

Ashley: Exactly. Oh, no. But that’s okay because libraries are good.

Caitlin: Yep.

Ashley: It is a very good series, again. I cannot stress this enough. Every time I read it, I just go like, “This series is better than I remember it,” and at this point I’ve read it, like, three times. Watched the anime so, I don’t know. Again, it was literally the … I’m pretty sure I watched a handful of shojo series, maybe more than that, and it was the only one that I was like, “I need to read this manga. I cannot get enough of this stuff.” And it delivers because it’s 30 volumes, so let’s go.

Ashley: It’s very exciting ’cause we don’t actually know … I mean, we can assume how it ends, but we currently do not know how it definitively ends, so … cool. But we’ll find out in a future podcast. So … thanks again for listening to Shojo and Tell. If you have any comments or questions or whatever you wanna say about this episode or things in general, you can email us at shojoandtell@gmail.com or leave a comment on this episode’s page which will be shojoandtell.com/kiminitodoke1. And we’re at Shojo and Tell on the social media things like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram …

Ashley: Caitlin, where can people find you and your work on the internet?

Caitlin: Oh, you know. Various places. So I have my Twitter, @alltsun_nodere. I am also in an editor and writer for anime feminist, animefeminist.com. I have my own website that I have not updated for a very long time because I am very busy with life, heroineproblem.com. Heroine has an E. And I also review anime for the Daily Dot.

Ashley: Yeah, life needs to stop interfering so you can go back to writing more about shojo manga.

Caitlin: I know. Yeah, getting married takes a lot of free time, is the problem.

Ashley: I can imagine. See, that’s when you have to stop writing the mangas, right? That’s what happens. The work life balance. But, yeah. So if you’re excited any time you see a new episode from us, please consider leaving a rating in iTunes or Stitcher because that would be very helpful to spread the word to other people. Yay!

Ashley: And thanks again for listening to this episode. We’ll be back next time for volumes 11 through 20 of Kimi ni Todoke. And, yeah. We’re ending the year, I guess, on two trilogies of podcasts with Fruits Basket and this so, sorry if you don’t read those series, I don’t know. But until then, you should read both of them because they’re both great. So, do that and get back to me in part two. ‘Till then, bye.