And so we begin the first ever Manga Talk!…focusing on a character that can barely talk.
Well, this was a manga that I was interested in getting for a while, and I finally had the opportunity to do so.
First things first, this will have MAJOR SPOILERS for Komi Can’t Communicate Volume 1, so if you haven’t read it, please do so if you don’t want to be spoiled.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Komi Can’t Communicate
This manga follows a young man by the name of Tadano Hitohito, who is trying to make amends (to himself) for going through an “edgy” phase in junior high by being completely normal in high school. He doesn’t want to stand out, be noticed, or otherwise make himself a bother.
Naturally, this being a comedy manga he stands out in a major way by interacting with the school’s “princess” Komi Shouko. Tadano tries to make conversation with Komi, but she seemingly brushes him off.
Things go from bad to worse when Tadano finds himself seated next to Komi, which draws the ire of many of his classmates, especially when he picks up an eraser that fell from Komi’s desk.
During a rush to get to the gym for the next class, Tadano gets knocked out because everyone wanted to talk with Komi.
As Tadano is stirring awake, he hears a voice right next to him. It turns out to be Komi talking to a cat charm. Komi notices Tadano is awake and in a panic starts running out of the room. Tadano, putting clues together from how little Komi has spoken, even during her introduction to the class, asks if Komi has trouble talking to people.
Komi doesn’t respond at first until Tadano suggests using the blackboard to write messages, which Komi can do.
Through the conversation, Komi explains that she’s always had trouble talking to people and would like to talk to people, but gets anxious when doing so. She makes it very clear that she has a hard time talking because she’s worried about being boring or about doing the wrong thing or saying something weird.
Komi then apologizes for how everyone has been acting to Tadano because of her and goes to leave, but Tadano writes on the blackboard to encourage Komi to come back.
The two communicate through the blackboard about a variety of things, ending on Tadano asking what Komi’s dream is. Komi dreams that she could have a hundred friends, and Tadano volunteers to be her first friend, which she accepts.
Tadano then makes it his goal to help Komi make one hundred friends, which will be difficult since their high school purposefully picks students that are quirky or eccentric, meaning that there is a wide range of personalities for the main characters to interact with.
Tadano realizes he is at the bottom of the social ladder and that he needs help, which has him call upon his friend, Osana Najimi. Najimi is very social, so much so that they are friends with basically everyone in the school, in some form or another, meaning that having Najimi as a friend can make it easier for Komi to make friends.
After an eventful walk after school dealing with some thuggish students, Najimi becomes Komi’s second friend.
The rest of the volume covers some smaller stories and plot points such as Komi going to a coffee shop, making friends with a nervous wreck named Agari Himiko, Komi getting a cell phone and getting her friends numbers, reading aloud, Komi being elected God of the class while Tadano is elected class president, and Komi playing a bunch of games with a group of people.
However the most interesting of the smaller stories, in my opinion, was when Komi was playing with her cell phone in her room. She places it up to her ear, mimicking making a call, and accidentally calling Tadano. She hangs up, but Tadano calls again to make sure everything was ok.
Komi then actually speaks to Tadano, mostly awkwardly explaining that she called by accident, which shows that she is making some progress as while the conversation was short, Komi actually spoke in full sentences.
On the Upside
This manga has quite a few things going for it.
For one, I find the characters incredibly fascinating. I know following someone who is nervous trying to overcome anxiety to make friends is nothing new, its interesting to me because I find the characters so enjoyable.
Komi being silent and communicating through writing, short stuttering, facial expressions, and silence to be interesting and provides a lot of set up for comedic situations. The interaction that she had during her walk with Najimi was a funny scenario, and it was all due to Komi’s actions and how those actions were perceived by others.
Tadano as a character is well done in my opinion. While it does seem that a romance is being set up for the future of the manga, Tadano’s goal at the forefront is to help Komi make one hundred friends. He is fairly patient and while he does make mistakes, he admits when he’s screwed up and tries to make it better.
Najimi is an interesting character because the fact that they are incredibly social makes them the exact opposite to Komi, which may seem like a boon, has turned out to provide some less than ideal circumstances for Komi. The chapter involving Komi going to get a coffee for Najimi is a perfect example of how Najimi can make things difficult for Komi despite trying to help.
The chapters are short, with the manga having 19 “communications” as they are labelled and a bonus despite being 189 pages, which may have been due to how the manga was originally printed.
Despite the short length of some chapters, I will say that it flowed well going from one chapter to the next, which made it a quick and enjoyable read. This comes from having the benefit of being primarily a slice of life/comedy manga which doesn’t always need major plot arcs.
It also helps that being a slice of life/comedy manga that it has great art. The art goes from incredibly detailed when trying to convey emotions that the characters are feeling, to chibi styled art when trying to play up the more comedic aspects.
The art, whether detailed or chibi, the art is very expressive, which again helps sell the comedic and serious moments.
On the Downside
While I did enjoy most of this manga, I wouldn’t say that it is perfect.
My biggest issue comes from the school that the story is set in. While I have seen and read many a story that is set in a high school, deliberately making the high school full of weird characters seems forced.
Yes it is interesting that there is a ninja character and a girl wearing knight armor, but overall what do they add to the story? I’m positive I could be totally wrong about this in the future and they play integral roles, but at the moment they seem more like set dressing than actual characters.
I understand that there was a need to make it difficult for Komi to make friends by having characters have quirky personalities, but pointing out the fact that the school deliberately has picked quirky students to hand wave future oddball characters instead of them just coincidentally being at the same regular school doesn’t sit well with me.
Some of the comedy as well doesn’t work well for me either, but that is the unfortunate truth of comedic stories. Not all comedy will work all the time for everybody, with the interactions with Agari Himiko being some of my least favorite parts.
I would definitely recommend this manga to people who want a breezy read, enjoy plenty of cute and funny moments, and just enjoy slice of life stories.
I personally will be continuing on with the series, and will be purchasing the second volume eventually.
However, the second volume of Komi Can’t Communicate is not what I will be talking about on Wednesday.
Instead we’ll get a bit of action into the mix.
Rev up those chainsaws and get ready to kill some devils, we are talking about Chainsaw Man!
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!