Kimi ni Todoke 2 Episode 1 – Bittersweet
I’ve written—raved, actually—about the first season of Kimi ni Todoke, so it’s only natural that antiotaku would pick up the second season. My expectation was that the same team would take up the material as if they had never stopped, providing the same wistfulness and emotional honesty that made the original show such a great watch. And that’s exactly what I got.
In fact, the problem with this premiere might be that it hews too closely to the formula of the first season. In the month and a half after their fateful New Year’s Eve date (which neither of the two can quite acknowledge as a date), Sawako and Kazehaya are still dancing around each other. Both are desperately in love with the other, but neither quite knows how to express it.
Sawako, of course, still has trouble imagining that anyone could actually like her. She’s only recently come to accept that Kazehaya, Ayane, Chizuru, and Sanada are her friends; a multi-episode conflict in the first season revolved around Sawako slowly coming to accept that their relationship was real. Sawako can only imagine giving love, not receiving it.
Kazehaya, for his part, has the awkward fumbling quality one would expect with a guy trying to confess his love. He interprets Sawako’s acts of affection as just stemming from her caring personality, which is doubly ironic because Sawako has the same assumptions about him. And Sawako’s own inability to express herself has left him hopelessly confused about where he stands.
This episode, devoted almost completely to Valentine’s Day, brings out all of these challenges at once. Sawako, conscientious girl that she is, makes sure to make chocolates for all her friends—Kazehaya included. But she can’t bring herself to admit that the chocolates for Kazehaya have a special meaning, more than just what she would give to any friend.
Of course, she doesn’t have the same problems giving chocolates to Ayane or Chizuru, or even the girl who sits behind her in after the new seating arrangement, that she does with Kazehaya. She’s not hesitant with giving chocolates to them in public, or following up on another girl’s offering. When confronted by her old rival Kurumi on the issue, she finally admits to herself that her intended offering to Kazehaya has much stronger feelings attached to it.
One of the ironies of last season is that all of Kurumi’s actions to try to tear Kazehaya and Sawako apart only brought them closer together; here her (semi-)friendly advice drives a wedge between the would-be couple. Sawako, realizing what she would really mean by her gift to Kazehaya, decides not to give it at all. She doesn’t want to give him the chocolates under false pretenses, and she’s convinced he wouldn’t accept them from her if her deeper feelings were known.
It’s one of those ways in which Sawako’s honesty—when combined with her shyness and lack of self-confidence—actually discourages honest communication. That only serves to throw mixed messages at Kazehaya, who is left wondering why he’s the only friend of Sawako who didn’t receive chocolates.
While Kazehaya is in many ways the stereotypical romantic lead for such shows, he lacks one key feature that nearly all the rest of them have. Most male romantic leads in shoujo romances are not only better than the women they pursue, but also know it; they have overwhelming self-confidence which leads to an overtly aggressive courtship. That is, they play the role of a “bad boy”—even when they are good in most every other respect.
Kazehaya couldn’t play a bad boy to save his life. Contrary to what most of his peers would think about the subject, he doesn’t think he’s better than Sawako; while noble, this also deprives him of the confidence that would make expressing his own feelings a breeze. A normal male lead in these stories would (correctly) assume the heroine is in love with him and pursue her in as aggressive and domineering a fashion as possible until she admits it to herself. Kazehaya has no intention of being domineering to Sawako—but he can’t express himself openly either.
It doesn’t look like much will work them out of their perpetual dancing around each other, and neither Sawako’s friends or her enemy look to be helpful in that regard. The pair, once again, needs some form of outward push to come closer together. Otherwise what has been a wistful narrative of longing will turn into a never-ending punishment.
Fortunately for them, and the story, it looks like we’re getting new outside involvement, in the form of a previously unintroduced male student. While pretty and apparently popular, he notices Sawako, possibly for the first time, as she tries and fails one final time to approach Kazehaya with her gift. He realizes that even the “scary” Sawako is capable of having a crush on someone, and he seems intrigued by that discovery.
How that plays out over the new season is the question of the hour, but Kimi ni Todoke specializes in goodwill, not heartbreak; ultimately things will turn out for the best. Where the show excels in is making the path along the way as poignant as possible, and this season seems confirmed to continue that trend.
Contrary to previous statements, I, and not bear, will be blogging this series this season.