Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Aug 9th 2012
kimi ni todoke -From Me to You- Volume 3 Premium Edition
Sub.Blu-Ray + DVD
Though they still haven't told each other how they feel, Sawako and Kazehaya have grown very close. As they've learned more about each other and themselves their feelings have only gotten stronger. Their young love has survived romantic rivals, gossiping harpies, and friends' romantic travails. But can it survive their own insecurities?
It's the end of the road for Kimi ni Todoke. The world's nicest guy and nicest girl can court each other like blushing Victorian kids and get away with it—they're the nicest couple in the world; their courtship couldn't be anything but gentle—but eventually they must get together. But how to get them together? Apparently with a heaping helping of angst. After nimbly dodging the angst trap for twenty some odd episodes, there's no denying that it's a bit disappointing to see Sawako and Kazehaya fall into it now. Emotional torture doesn't befit them; they're at their best when sunny and optimistic, as they were meant to be. But there's also no denying that end result is hugely satisfying, and that there's a method to the series' angst madness.
This isn't the most graceful period in the show's run. In getting Kazehaya and Sawako wound up enough to confess their feelings to each other, the series relies on some pretty bald contrivances. The first eight episodes of this twelve-episode season (not counting the recap that kicks things off) are essentially a layer-cake of misunderstandings that build one on the next until they bring the pair's relationship to a crisis. It begins when Sawako's thoroughgoing honesty keeps her from giving Kazehaya “just friends” chocolates on Valentine's Day, which Kazehaya misinterprets as disinterest. Guilt and the power of her own feelings make Sawako nervous around Kazehaya. She stutters and avoids eye contact, which Kazehaya interprets as a sign of increasing distance. This forces Kazehaya to let his feelings show, but he again misunderstands Sawako's reaction and retracts his statement. Which Sawako takes as…well, you get the idea.
And so it goes. Other characters bring their own misunderstandings to the relationship, exacerbating the situation further. Chizuru, clueless to Kazehaya's true feelings, tells him that, yes, he isn't that close to Sawako. Kento, a flashy American player, takes a shine to Sawako but does gory emotional damage with his disastrously wrong-headed meddling. Eventually the misunderstandings compound each other to such an extent that even when the pair finally fess up to their feelings, both are convinced that the other actually rejected them. In another series—School Rumble, say—the whole mess would be funny, but Kazehaya and Sawako feel every vagary of their misguided feelings so deeply that here it's only painful. And frustrating. The set-up requires them to act awfully dumb for a pair of bright kids. All they need to do is sit down and talk things out, but instead they guess and assume and agonize, failing to communicate all along. It's the first time in the show that you really want to slap them upside the head.
Which is exactly the point. The name of the game is anticipation, and that we want so badly to slap them just goes to show how well the series has played it. By the time their relationship has reached its crisis, the agony of watching them flay themselves and muck up their courtship has reached such exquisite heights that when they do work things out—as they inevitably must—the satisfaction is equally exquisite. When the clouds of uncertainty and pain part, leaving the pair to bask in the glory of their feelings for each other, the fulfillment we feel is so powerful as to be downright embarrassing. The moments when those clouds part are just beautiful: Sawako hiding behind a door, speaking her feelings in words so sweetly heartfelt that they're darned near poetic; Kazehaya replying with breezy joy at school's cultural festival. It's nearly impossible not to be moved. What follows, as the two make their relationship clear to each other and everyone else, is pure, sunny bliss. As the show was meant to be.
This is not to say that the first eight episodes are a necessary evil. They are necessary, but hardly evil. We care so strongly for these characters that no matter how petty the problems in retrospect, their trials and tribulations affect us just as powerfully as they affect them. It helps too that the episodes never entirely lose their perspective. Pillar of reason Yano is always on hand with a trenchant insight or sharp remark to put Sawako's problems in perspective, and the series often pauses to appreciate Sawako's steadily growing circle of friends, as if to let her know that romance isn't everything. It doesn't hurt either that the show's sense of humor stays strong, serving up plenty of easy character humor and even having a little fun with the tortures it puts its couple through. Kento is amusingly pathetic in the face of the havoc he wreaks, which goes a long way towards not only lightening the mood but also saving him from total douchehood, and Chizuru's reaction when she discovers what she's done to Kazehaya is downright hilarious. For all their obvious machinations and wholehearted embrace of romantic self-flagellation, these are surprisingly layered episodes.
And it isn't just the humor and meaty roles for supporting players like Yano and Chizuru and Kurumi. An awful lot of what appear to be plot devices actually make a surprising amount of sense upon further reflection. Sawako and Kazehaya aren't idiots so much as desperately inexperienced lovers fumbling through strange new territory. Kento's convenient meddling is firmly rooted in his personality, in his deep-seated need to be the “nice guy.” Kurumi's actions, be they harmful or helpful to her rival, are all psychologically sound, and Yano and Chizuru have very good reasons for standing aside as Sawako self-destructs. They see what we eventually see as well: that Sawako's lack of self-worth, her one fatal flaw, is hurting Kazehaya and sabotaging her love life and that the only person who can fix that is Sawako. In their own way, these episodes are as much about Sawako learning to love herself as they are about her loving Kazehaya. Which makes them nearly as important as the gloriously sweet episodes that follow.
Going over to the dark side doesn't change NISA's approach to the series. There's no dub, the box is covered in bright and beautiful character art, and the hardcover book inside offers a panoply of the series' evocative background art. There're also two very funny, Kurumi-based fairy tale parodies and the usual trailers and clean EPs and OPs.
Nor does it change Hiro Kaburaki's stylistic approach. Everything that holds true for the previous box sets holds true for this one. Maybe there's more of an emphasis on moody interiors and less on sun-dappled exteriors and elegant winter landscapes, but it is as gorgeously and flawlessly put together as it ever was. And that's nearly as true for Tomoko Konparu's script and the rest of the series as it is for the visual and audio design. Kimi ni Todoke started out as one of the finest of recent romances, and it finishes that way too.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : B
+ An emotionally charged, thoroughly gratifying conclusion to a lovely romance; withstands extended scrutiny surprisingly well.
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