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With 2011 nearing its end, it’s usually a good time to see what manga series sold well and had people talking this year. One of these titles happens to be the number-one selling shoujo manga title at the moment, Karuho Shiina’s “Kimi ni Todoke”. The title has done very well on the Oricon best-selling manga charts in Japan in the past and 2011 was no exception. It was ranked #9, having sold 4+ million copies. Volumes 13 and 14 of the series were ranked #6 and #7 on the Oricon 2011 best-selling manga volumes chart. If you’ve heard of Kimi ni Todoke and have not read it, you’re probably wondering what makes this title different from all the other shoujo manga titles out there. While the plot is typical of a normal shoujo manga, Kimi ni Todoke goes beyond the cliches that plague shoujo manga and portrays a realistic look at how high school life is really like.
To start off, I want to let everyone know that I normally do not read shoujo manga. However, I read Kimi ni Todoke and love it. Sawako Kuronoma was a character that I grew to enjoy following. You see girls like her in real life. Her character development throughout the story is something to behold. While her romance with Shota Kazehaya is an important part of the story, Sawako’s attempts to change her shy nature reflects the struggle that certain teens may have to go through to gain acceptance. It’s hard to hate a character like Sawako, as she has a heart of gold underneath her awkwardness.
Speaking of the romance between Sawako/Kazehaya, it’s a slow and gradual build that pays off in the end. The story just doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s only beginning as you get to see the two of them getting used to being around each other more often than before. Most stories end with the girl getting the boy. In this case, the girl has the boy and the story continues to highlight the adventures of the girl as she continues to live life. This gets even more readers to follow the series (which is apparently the case with Volumes 13 and 14 selling well) as this is something that isn’t usually seen in most shoujo manga. While the build-up was going on, you get to see the growth of Sawako as a person (which makes readers appreciate her even more) and more insight on her friends.
What’s interesting is that the series also appeals to male readers as well. It could be said that Kazehaya is the reason why males seem to enjoy the series. While he is the token popular guy in school, Kazehaya is pure-hearted and was actually interested in Sawako from the start. He has struggled at times to figure out Sawako’s romantic intentions and even admitted to having faults of his own. Kazehaya is definitely one guy that readers can hang out and have a real conversation with. Young Japanese males do have trouble dealing with feelings of love at times. Sometimes, men prefer not to speak about their feelings in words and let their actions tell the story.
Another thing that Kimi ni Todoke focuses on very well is the love between friends, not just the love between couples. The friendship between Sawako, Chizuru Yoshida, and Ayane Yano is a friendship that many of us desire. All three girls are very different, but they are very accepting of each other. If you ask me, the bond between Sawako, Chizu, and Ayane reminds me so much of the bonds that the Straw Hat Pirates of One Piece have with each other.
Kimi ni Todoke seems to encourage hope to others that no matter how different you are to people, you will always be accepted and loved by people who will want to know you. High school life can be harsh, since being different can lead to being looked down upon. How do unique individuals find others who will appreciate them for who they are? The answer is to just continue to be themselves and things will slowly fall into place. Relationships don’t get built overnight, so you have to be patient and resilient. When Kazehaya saw Sawako’s inner beauty and began to inspire her, things got better gradually for our heroine.
High school is definitely a moment in life that many people treasure. It is perhaps the one time where people begin to grow physically and emotionally. Kimi ni Todoke is a manga that focuses on that precious time and how it affects teenagers. We can all relate to the scenarios that the characters in the story face.
Speaking of the characters, Kimi ni Todoke is a clear reminder that great characterization can make or break a manga series. Even a simple story can turn out to be great with the right amount of characterization.
Let’s continue to give our blessings to Sawako and Kazehaya, shall we?