Update, part 2 (10/31/2021: First impressions: Komi Can’t Communicate)

Happy Halloween, I guess. I’m not all that into it, but I’m happy that some people are. It’s also nice to give people some excuse to dress up as their favorite characters. But nothing spooky from me because I don’t really care about that sort of thing. I know I’m a killjoy, yes.

Today I’m continuing my breakneck-speed posting marathon with a continuation of that update post I started last week (hence the weird post title, sorry about that) this time shifting my focus to anime. I’ve picked up three new series that I’m now watching in addition to Aquatope and Jahy, which I’ll address next when they’re done at the end of the season. These next couple of posts won’t be anything even close to a full look at the fall season — as usual, I’m only watching a very small slice of currently airing anime, targeted to what I think I’d like, but it’s still a roll of the dice.

At first, I was going to just lump all three of these series together into one big post, but one of the series I’m watching consists of five-minute shorts (yeah, it’s Ganbare Douki-chan, of course; not much more to say about it now other than it’s nice, and I’ll most likely also cover it at the end of the season) and the other also deserves its own dedicated post. So for now, here’s my first impression of Komi Can’t Communicate.

Komi Can’t Communicate (or Komi-san wa, komyushou desu if you know that title better) is still another high school comedy, this time about a girl with extreme social anxiety and a guy who’s doing his utmost to help her resolve it. Our protagonist, Hitohito Tadano (left) is according to his own description an average guy who just wants to blend in, all the more so since he’s starting at a prestigious prep school where sticking out might cause him some trouble. However, he immediately gets a target painted on his back when he’s seated next to Shouko Komi, a knockout beauty who’s also mysteriously silent.

Tadano’s class obsesses over and idolizes this girl, which might sound nice for her at first — even Komi’s stony silence comes off as a kind of aloofness that just seems to make her classmates even more slobbery over her. But as Tadano soon discovers, this is a real problem for Komi, because she’s really not aloof at all: she just suffers from such terrible social anxiety that she literally can’t speak to other people. Tadano, almost by chance, manages to break through to Komi, and while having a long conversation with her by writing on the chalkboard in their classroom he learns that her dream is to make 100 friends.

This scene is a little sappy, but the sap is appropriate here and it’s not too much.

In a seemingly sort-of-joking way, Tadano writes that he’ll be her first friend and help her find the other 99, but Komi takes him at his word and emotionally accepts his offer. To his credit, despite really not wanting to stick out any more than he already is, Tadano takes his task seriously, and in the second episode we get to see his first attempt at fixing her up with Najimi, an old friend of his who’s an extreme compulsive liar but so talkative and friendly that Tadano figures Komi can’t fail at this first shot. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten by now, because even though the fifth episode of Komi is supposed to air in a few days, Netflix (where this series is being streamed exclusively at least officially) is only up to the second so far.

More on Netflix later, because the streaming service itself has become a subject of some mild controversy over its treatment of Komi. First, my first impression of Komi itself, which is pretty mixed. I thought I’d really like this series — the premise immediately grabbed me when I first heard about it, especially having been someone who for the longest time couldn’t cope in social situations myself. Sure, I was never quite as pretty as Komi is, so I didn’t get the weird, creepy, fawning idolization she gets from the rest of her class, but otherwise I can kind of relate. It’s also nice to see another series that takes this issue on; the last anime I remember seeing that addressed not being able to function socially was Welcome to the NHK!, which did a great job but took on a very different aspect of the problem.

I also like the two leads so far. Tadano might come off as a bit of a coward at first, but he seems like the type to really hold his ground when he has to, and though he doesn’t seem to consciously know it, his observation skills are pretty sharp. It is brought up in the first episode that every student at this elite academy has something special about them, so despite Tadano’s insistence that he’s average, it seems he’s really not. And then there’s Komi, of course: the focus of the show. She’s very sympathetic so far, and it’s nice to see her determination to greatly improve her social skills, at least to the point where she can talk to other people. The series also does a nice job of having Komi express her emotions without talking (as above — when she’s happy she sprouts cat ears? Sure, it’s cute so it works, that’s the rule.)

But then there’s every other character in the show so far. Granted, I haven’t gotten nearly far enough yet into it to really judge properly, but it seems like Tadano and Komi’s classmates are mostly a pack of raging assholes. Creepy assholes, too, because for as much as they weirdly obsess over Komi, they seem to hate Tadano to the point of wanting to actually murder him simply because he had the good fortune (?) to get randomly seated next to her.

It’s not just the guys either

This might all just be a comment on how shitty high school is in general, and if so I can relate to that as well. But then it doesn’t endear me all that much to the rest of the class either, and considering Komi and Tadano’s goal of rounding up 99 more friends for her, that might be an actual problem, since most of these people don’t seem like they’re really worth befriending. I get that a lot of them are meant to be weird and quirky (the narrator says this straight out at the end of episode 1, in fact) but there’s a line where over-the-top quirkiness and wackiness turns into me smashing my face against a wall at how god damn insufferable so-and-so is being, so for me plain quirkiness without anything else doesn’t excuse obnoxious behavior even in a comedy like this. Thankfully, Najimi in episode 2 seems to be actually pretty cool despite their penchant for compulsively lying, but I hope that trend can be kept up.

I know Komi is a very long-running manga (up to chapter 324 as of this writing! Damn.) And I haven’t read any of it, so I’m sure the manga-readers will have a lot more insight to give about this adaptation than I do. These are simply my own dumb thoughts about the first two episodes. I’ll continue watching and hope the parts that are rough for me get a bit smoothed out, because there seems to be plenty here to like as well. I’ve also heard Komi referred to as a romantic comedy, so I guess that means there’s something between Komi and Tadano at some point, but if the manga has run this long this romance must be an extremely slow burn.

I did laugh at this bit, even if it’s an obvious joke to make

Finally, there’s the matter of Netflix itself. I know people have been griping over the lousy subtitles, and I’ve heard the fansubs do a far better job (including translating some of the text-based jokes these official subs miss, which Komi seems to have a lot of.) I can’t address the quality of the Netflix subs in a meaningful way since my Japanese still isn’t good enough to judge, but I know for a fact I’m missing out on a lot of those text-based jokes, and I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be translated. Unless the thought was that fans wouldn’t care, and if that’s the thought, it’s definitely an incorrect one. Fuck, maybe I just need to try harder to learn Japanese.

Then there’s the matter of the airing schedule. I watch almost all my anime on Crunchyroll through the VRV service. It’s kind of shitty as well, but at least those guys do a far better job of getting episodes to the rest of the world shortly after their original air date. The other anime I’ve started through Crunchyroll isn’t two weeks behind like Netflix is with Komi, anyway. Maybe if they really were taking the time to translate all those text gags that would be an excuse, but they’re not.

So I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a big deal and I’m just being impatient, but in these days of instantly being spoiled on shit on Twitter it seems like at least a kind of big deal to be as current as possible with the airing schedule. But please tell me if you think I’m being unreasonable here. Hell, maybe there’s some kind of contractual reason for the delay.

But that’s all I have on Komi for the moment. I’ll keep being a good boy and watching it on Netflix, but I wouldn’t blame you for going for the fansubs instead. I certainly won’t sit here pretending I never watched a fansub. We all have. At the same time, I officially won’t endorse that action, because I’m sworn to uphold the law and all that stuff. If Komi turns out to be good, anyway, I’ll be forgiving enough, and a lot of people seem to love it, so I’ll stick with it and hope for the best.