It is to my great shock that I did not review the first season of Komi Can’t Communicate on this blog. Having now also seen the show’s second season, I think I’m way past due to give this show a review, so it’s time to review both of those seasons.
Komi Can’t Communicate is a sitcom-style comedy anime following Tadano Hitohito (literally meaning “ordinary person”), who has started at a new high school, where he’s looking to start over after a semi-chunnibyo phase in middle school, particularly after having cultivated the skill at reading the room in general and reading people in particular. This puts him in a very good place when he meets one of his new classmates – Komi Shouko. At first glance, Komi seems cool, collected, and aloof. In reality, Komi has very real issues with social anxiety. What’s perceived as “coolness” is in fact her demonstrating her anxiety. So, at the end of class, when most of the other students have left, Tadano reaches out, and they talk – or rather write on a chalkboard – on her terms, and at her pace, leading to Komi admitting that she wants to make 100 friends, and Tadano agreeing to help – and that he’d be her first.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Komi and Tadano reach out to her classmates, and slowly make friends with the rest of her classmates, with various comedic stories happening over the course of the season, and she, and the audience, also get to know of the various wild traits of her classmates. Often, those traits are hinted at by their names, with some being more blatant than others. For example, on the more obscure side, Nakanaka Omoharu, the class Chuuni, has the character used in “Chuuni” in her name. On the more overt side, there’s Shinobino Mono, who always dresses up like a ninja. Each of the characters get at least a little bit of time in the sun, and the humor with those characters is generally very well done.
There are some bits that don’t work well – the character of Yamai Ren is a yandere who is obsessive over Komi and some of her behavior gets rather gross, only getting worse in the second season of the show. On another hand, the character of everyone’s childhood friend, Osana Najimi, is well written and has some great jokes related to her various methods of pushing Komi into the deep end of social interaction. However, she’s also genderfluid (currently preferring female pronouns), but Tadano (and possibly only Tadano?) is not completely respectful of her pronouns. This isn’t a case of some potential localization issues here either – going from the context of the lines and how they are played for comedy.
That last is unfortunate, because otherwise, Komi Can’t Communicate is a show that is deeply respectful of neurodiversity. Each episode reiterates what is basically the show’s core theme:
“When a person has extreme social anxiety, they struggle to communicate with others. Bear in mind, they only struggle to form connections. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to.”Recurring quote – delivered by the narrator each episode.
The core recurring point of the series is that Komi is able to make friends with her classmates with the help of people who (generally) respect her boundaries and work at her pace, helping her first to crawl, and eventually to walk firmly, even if they can’t socially run.
This is all sort of underlined by the tremendously beautiful animation in the show. The character animations help to highlight the character’s quirks, and the gorgeous animation helps to highlight the idea that Komi, as with all of her classmates, as with all of us, is a person with a rich inner life. Even if Komi isn’t able to verbally express herself in the same way a person who doesn’t have extreme social anxiety does, that doesn’t mean that inner life is there. That we all have value, and being neurodivergent doesn’t take any of that away from us.
Komi Can’t Communicate is currently available for streaming on Netflix. There isn’t a physical release of the anime yet, but the manga is available through RightStuf, Amazon, and Alibris. Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.
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