Title: Komi Can’t Communicate Vol. 1 Author: Tomohito Oda Publisher: Viz Media Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 192 Genre: Slice of Life Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Komi Can’t Communicate is a manga about a girl named Komi who can’t communicate. The super obvious opening sentence there was done on purpose to say that this manga’s title sums up the entire premise of the story told inside… well… almost. Hitihito Tadano starts his life in this elite, posh high school and Komi just so happens to be in his class. Komi is regarded as a princess of the highest order by all of her classmates but the simple fact is that while she may be the prettiest girl in class, she can’t say a thing to anyone because of her social anxiety. Hitohito notices this and offers to be her friend. Once they hit it off, he agrees to help her make 100 friends in the school.
Komi only ends up making two additional friends by the end of the first volume. Those being a boy who dresses and acts like a girl named Najimi Osana and a girl who gets stressed out when people look at her, Himiko Agari.
Despite her progress with Hitohito’s help, the volume is simply comprised of extremely short chapters that take Komi through day-to-day scenarios. One of which involves her being elected to class president but Najimi interrupts and suggests that a higher title be bestowed upon her. They decide to name her class God and that makes Hitohito the class president by default, citing that it’s okay for him to hold the position only because a higher one was created for Komi (ouch!).
The volume ends with a little bit of character development as it appears that Komi is becoming more and more appreciative of Hitohito’s efforts in helping her. It was already teased throughout the volume of whether or not a relationship would form between the two (which was sternly denied by Hitohito but come on… we’ve seen this angle how many times now?). The ending suggests that maybe, just maybe, we’ll see something develop down the line.
First up is Hitohito Tadano. He’s our main character and just wants to blend in during his time in high school. He tired his best to stand out in junior high but it didn’t end up so well for him. After paying attention to Komi and coming to understand her, you can tell he has a good heart as he legitimately wants to help her out. Even though he sticks his neck out for her, he’s still a bit timid and nervous about the things he does. He’s not a typical passive main character, otherwise, he wouldn’t do any of this for her, though. He just seems like he’s flat and ordinary. There’s really nothing that stands out about Hitohito other than the fact that he gets the short end of the stick most of the time.
Komi is as you would expect. This is my major gripe here because it seems that manga likes to over satirize social anxiety. They always like to put characters in hilarious situations and turn the condition into a joke. We’ve seen it before countless times and I think the only series to have nailed it correctly (that I’ve seen) was Welcome to the NHK. That’s why when I read the premise for this manga, I was interested in it but it just turned out like any other social anxiety story. Whether it’s stories like Watamote or Hitoribochi, the turn anxiety into satire and I simply think it’s overdone and not realistic at all. That’s why I can’t buy Komi’s character one bit. You want to feel sorry for her but you can’t because this is being treated as a comedy series. Then you want to laugh but feel bad for doing so because Koki’s condition is one she can’t really help. How am I supposed to feel about this character? In the end, I found myself not even caring at all.
Now we have the other friend who ends up being more comic relief in Agari. After they calm her down, they want to know if Agari would like to be Komi’s friend but Komi’s intimidation factor kicks in and Agari denies the request… only to come immediately back and say she’s only worthy of being Komi’s dog. So, now we’re subjected to master/pet humor between the two of them.
Lastly, we have Najimi who was a boy in middle school and now a girl in high school. At first, I thought they were going to stick to the whole “don’t know what gender it is” story until Najimi himself comes out and admits he’s a boy. He’s also super popular and has made “friends” with just about everyone he’s ever come in contact with. Most of them are all infatuated with him to the point where it seems has this massive legion of minions that he has to keep in check so he spends most of his time going around and eating lunch with them, making promises, etc. etc. Sadly, Najmi is the only interesting character in this series so far but it’s not enough, in my opinion.
This series is rated at an 8.47 / 10 on MyAnimeList and I’m wondering why? Does this series actually get better as time goes on? Should I stick with it and give it a chance? Right now, the first volume didn’t do a thing to make a good first impression on me.
Right from the start, we get the generic social anxiety turned comedy trope that we’ve seen far too many times. The characters are not all that interesting at all, and it seems like it’s trying way too hard to make you laugh. Add in the fact that I’m not even sure if I should be laughing at Komi or feeling sorry for her and you’ve got a recipe for a manga that has turned me off in almost every way possible, yet, others feel the need to sing its praises.
Maybe there is some good in this series that I’m not seeing but for me, this was just a hot mess from start to finish and, sadly, I cannot recommend this series to anyone.