It’s taken 13 episodes for Sawako to realize that what she’s feeling is love. Why so long?
Shoujo romances are known for being drawn out, of course, and since Kimi ni Todoke is merely at the halfway point, the usual expectation is that Sawako and Kazehaya are not anywhere near calling themselves a couple yet. To some extent this expectation is fulfilled: Kurumi gets in the way, throwing the red herring of Ryuu in no small amount of desperation. (Kurumi getting 0wnz0r3d by Pin later on was classic, by the way.) Kazehaya himself is now dealing with the sudden shyness that comes upon him when he sees Sawako, a feeling which evidently is new to him, because he is a bit confused–though much less so than Sawako herself. She cannot even name the thumping in her chest and the excitement going through her, to a point where it sometimes began to seem unbelievable. Sawako is more sheltered than most, to be sure, but is it possible for a 15-year-old to actually not really recognize a crush?
Perhaps one reason for this long buildup is that Sawako, having been denied being loved in return for so long, can’t even imagine it would ever happen to her. That certainly helps explain her over-the-t0p reaction to Kazehaya’s proposal to start dating, which she labels as something so “mature” and completely out of the realm of her imagination. That scene, incidentally, was surprising in its resolution, in which the main pair now really do know where each other stands–but decides to actually hold off on starting a formal relationship. Normally this would be the climax of the cour or the show altogether, not the midpoint, and the rest of the episode seemed mainly dedicated to tying loose ends with Kurumi. It’s as if the show were cast adrift from the show’s main anchor and searching for a reason to keep going for another 10 minutes.
Kurumi is turning out to be the most complicated character in the series thus far. This is not saying a lot, however, because the characters in Kimi ni Todoke are not especially complex. The best developed parts are Sawako’s internal monologues, which ring emotionally true, and in Kurumi’s two-faced nature, which is not particularly nuanced. (Here, Karekano did one better by giving almost equal time to the interior thoughts of not only Yukino but also Arima. That his thought process was remarkably similar to Shinji from Evangelion can probably be chalked up to Anno being Anno.) Kimi ni Todoke, though, remains a character-driven show, and it still works as such, because its appeal derives less from realism than in perfectly calibrated wish-fulfillment. They’re real enough to believe in but, oddly, archetypal enough to feel like it’s universal–i.e., maybe there’s a Kazehaya out there for me too!*
At some point, Sawako’s wide-eyed wonder at the kindness of others has got to wear off. It’s already getting repetitive, in fact. The process may already be starting as of the end of episode 13, so perhaps the second cour might be devoted to either a deepening or perhaps even disillusioning process. It would be a neat place to begin a different focus, perhaps signaled by a different theme song (though my love for the OP is almost as great as my love for the first ED of Honey and Clover, “Waltz”). Who knows what will come of these painfully nice kids–and isn’t the cast of most anime romances so painfully nice? I, for one, will certainly not be stopping my viewing as it goes on into 2010.