There are some spoliers for Kimi ni Todoke, so proceed with caution if you haven’t read volume 10 of the manga!
I just read Kimi ni Todoke volumes nine and ten and I’m elated. While I’m sure some of my excitement is because Kazehaya and Sawako have finally confessed their feelings for one another, these volumes also portray some of the little things I feel are missing from most shojo. One of the most common elements of teen-romance shojo manga is that they usually pair an average girl with a popular guy. When the leading love interest makes his feelings known to the female protagonist, or even when the couple gets together, often she will question why he chose her when he could have anyone he wants. In High School Debut, Haruna begins to be bullied after she and Yoh start dating (at least until she scares her jealous attackers away), while in Marmalade Boy Miki becomes paranoid that Yuu will become attracted to someone else. But rarely will shojo manga address the fact that the ‘popular-boy/average-girl’ dynamic essentially causes the heroine to suffer from an inferiority complex. And this is where Kimi ni Todoke stands out.
Even though Yano and Chizu realize that Kazehaya and Sawako both have feelings for each other, they choose not to tell Sawako. This is because they believe Sawako sees Kazehaya’s kindness towards her as a favor, so even if they started dating she wouldn’t see herself as his equal. In order for them to develop a healthy relationship, Sawako must first learn how to become more confident in herself. So many shojo series skip this step in order to rush to the ‘lovey-dovey’ stuff, so I really appreciate Kimi ni Todoke for taking the time out to show the little things. Sawako realizes that by seeing herself as an outcast, she has not only built up a wall between herself and Kazehaya, but has also caused her to become unconfident in her friendships with her classmates. Eventually Sawako faces her feelings with overflowing courage and is able to reach Kazehaya. Sawako will likely continue to struggle with seeing her self-worth, but I was so glad watching her start towards the right path. What I love most about Kimi ni Todoke is that it shows that in order to love others, you must first love yourself.
Of course, there were other wonderful moments that stood out to me about these volumes as well. I really enjoyed the scenes of Sawako and Kazehaya’s classmates reenacing the couple’s dramatic love confession at the school festival. Chizu and Yano’s reaction to the scene made me laugh – first they comment about how weird things are getting, but then they say it’s okay as long as Kazehaya and Sawako are happy. Pin’s teasing of Kazehaya is also funny – he pretends to be Kazehaya and asks Sawako to marry him, which Sawako takes a bit too seriously, and he continuously calls Kazehaya by strange names like ‘Mr. Lovebird McDreamy’ (I wonder what he called him in the Japanese version…?). There’s also a sweet scene when Kazehaya tells their entire class that he and Sawako are going out. While normally Sawako would overreact or feel as though she’s drawing unwanted attention to Kazehaya, for the first time she realizes that she’s not causing trouble for him because he’s telling everyone out of his own free will. At this point, Sawako is finally able to see herself as Kazehaya’s equal, and all I can do is smile.