It feels really nice to have a currently-reading manga where the moment it updates, a sizzling-hot feeling of anticipation erupts within the body like an explosion. For me, on this day, that title belongs to Komi-san Wa Komyushou Desu.
Komi is a girl who cannot speak; she is not mute, but has a certain disorder about herself where she cannot communicate with others well. Her goal is to conquer her disorder and make a vast amount of friends, so that she can establish a fulfilling and memorable high school experience. Alone, she struggles with this, until a completely normal classmate by the name of Tadano figures out her disorder and agrees to help her dream of achieving “100 friends.”
Sounds typical, I know. And by some measure, the story is fairly typical. The establishment of a couple who grows closer through helping one or the other with a certain problem. Through their efforts, many (strange) people come into their lives and make everyday some sort of adventure. While appreciative of those who continue to commit to her—while balancing the line between wanting to be her friend and licking her feet—her most fulfilling relationship is the one who understands her and provides for her without (outwardly) seeking anything in return. Of course it would be this way, because it’s a formula that works and sells. What the million-dollar question becomes is what Komi-san does with this set-up and if it can remain interesting despite the predictable premise.
Needless to say by this point, I think it does a wonderful job.
Before going any further, it should be noted that I’m not trying to get people to jump on a perfect manga. Komi-san has a pretty obvious problem of adding a million characters and not knowing what to do with them. At this time, there are probably twelve or so different characters that are important to some degree, all of which have incredibly one-dimensional personalities and are relegated to comic relief 99% of the time. On top of that, what is ironically another piece of this genre’s formula, the initial premise of Komi conquering her disorder and making friends becomes somewhat abandoned after a certain point, as potential friends almost literally fall out of the sky to make trouble(?) for Komi and Tadano, leaving them with basically nothing to work on. It would be really nice to try and delve into the mindset of Komi and what exactly makes her disorder such a stranglehold, as based on what I’ve analyzed of it thus far, it seems to be a psychological lack of confidence, and genetically-induced. At the same time, Komi-san is a pretty goofy manga that tries to focus on “out-there” comedy more than anything else, so that could break the atmosphere it tries so hard to establish.
What is also prevalent in Komi-san is something that seems to be missing from many in the genre: tenderness. When I read Komi-san, I have a good time. That’s the role it provides for me. Many times, I read manga and think two things: “What is this manga trying to convey?” and “This manga is trying to sell.” Either a story is too despondent with its core themes to be at all memorable or it uses a shtick/fan-service to fuel the pseudo-emotional weight of a final act or the spirit of having fun with friends on a day-to-day basis. Komi-san is different in that it doesn’t really have much of either of these; it is almost absurdist in its manner of interpretation of these themes. This may turn some people off, but for someone who appreciates differentiation from the norm, or a valid distinction within the norm, it makes all the difference in the world. Komi-san provides all sorts of tender, sweet, cute moments between Komi and Tadano as a developing romantic couple, Komi as a developing person, and (occasionally) actually funny moments between random characters. It has heart, and knows how to tickle those with one, as well.
While this is more of a personal taste, I think Komi is gorgeous. It’s so different, yet still close enough to the fashionable Japanese style of character design that it makes for a “best of both worlds” creation. Almost chic-looking, almost elegant in its capture of her more, ahem, “personal” physical assets, yet the eyes and facial structure are an almost too-true conformity that would make one feel right at home in this medium. Her design is fantastic, even with her giant, bulging cat-like eyes. Everyone else, however, does not come close to her level of gaudiness, which is very likely intentional. Still, the artistic merit of Komi-san is a testament to its mood and foundation as a goofy comedy, with little bits of soul sprinkled in. The funniest moments within the manga are when characters go off-the-wall and display “LOL XD” reaction faces… a surprising feat, but a feat, nonetheless.
I’ve wanted to write about this manga for some time, as I fell in love with it rather quickly. There are dull spots here and there, but the manga has a consistency of true emotional feedback that I think makes it worth its shortcomings. By no means a perfect manga, or story, yet it is the tenderness of basic human interaction and the absurdity of how it presents itself that makes it a horribly addicting read for me, and likely for many others. While a true ending doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight, this will very likely end up among my favorites by the end; in truth, it already has, but I don’t like adding things that aren’t finished. I simply have its seat reserved: “For Komi-san. ~”