Welcome To Itan Private High School
Episode 1 of Komi Can’t Communicate opens as Shouko Komi makes her way to school. Other students stare in awe, but we aren’t given a full shot of her face.
She’s heading to Itan Private High School, which holds both fame and elite status, where fellow new student, Hitohito Tadano, resolves to blend in and avoid conflict. His motivation for this is obvious as he cringes in front of his shoe locker while remembering his embarrassingly edgy middle school phase.
Tadano is interrupted mid-crisis by Komi, whose locker is above his. Halfway through greeting her, Tadano looks up and we get our first proper look at Komi’s face. She’s pretty enough to send Tadano into panic-mode. Komi is so startled by Tadano that she turns jerkily in his direction with wide eyes before levelling him with a stare cold enough to solve global warming. Tadano is trying to figure out whether he did something wrong when Komi flees the lockers altogether.
Tadano heads to class, content to brush the whole incident aside. That is, until he sits down and realises Komi is occupying the neighbouring desk. Their classmates are already fawning over her beauty, and she’s been crowned Class Princess. Unfortunately for Tadano, this means that he’s drawing the ire of jealous classmates rather than fitting in.
During class introductions Komi stands for her turn and says…nothing. She begins to slowly advance towards the chalkboard before rushing up to write down her name with the energy of a swordsman slicing at his target. The class erupts into applause while Tadano is the picture of confusion.
At the sound of the lunch bell, so many students stampede to Komi’s desk that Tadano is knocked out cold in the process. As Tadano starts coming to, we can hear Komi whispering questions about why she finds it so hard to speak. He finally regains full consciousness in the otherwise empty classroom right as Komi meows to the cat plushie she’s been whispering to. Tadano and Komi stare at each other in shock until Tadano declares that he didn’t hear her, and she starts to run away.
Tadano is worried that he has potentially scarred Komi for life and tries to rectify the situation by asking if she’s bad at talking to people. She only manages to stutter out a single syllable in reply. Tadano eventually suggests using the chalkboard to write down what she wants to say, and she wastes no time doing so.
Komi asks Tadano how he knew she has trouble speaking, and he simply tells her it was an inference. Having no idea how to carry the conversation further, Tadano attempts to escape but Komi grabs his blazer to stop him. Komi opens up to him via the chalkboard about the many anxieties that choke her voice, and Tadano realises that she hasn’t been staring at him with annoyance or anger, but rather, insecurity. Komi also writes about her middle school experiences with being left out during lunch time because of her inability to talk.
Komi almost leaves, apologising for over-sharing, and giving Tadano an easy out. As she reaches the doorway Tadano begins a new conversation on the chalkboard, and they fall into an easy conversation.
Tadano eventually asks Komi if she has a dream, to which she replies that she wants to make 100 friends. Tadano declares that he’ll be her first friend and will help her make the other 99.
The next day, Tadano suggests they practice speaking out loud. Komi turns statue-like during her first attempt, but signals that she wants to try again. We almost end here, as the music builds triumphantly, when the narrator interrupts with some dire news. Itan Private High School admits students based on their personality, and the colourful array of individuals that walk the halls will definitely throw some curveballs at our protagonists. Even so, we see Komi bracing herself one more time before opening her mouth to speak.
The Episode Review
Komi Can’t Communicate has begun its run on very strong legs. The animation is a visual treat, with care obvious in details like the cherry blossoms or the flecks of chalk as Komi and Tadano converse.
A big worry going in was the blaring potential in the premise for Komi’s character to be reduced to an overly sexualised damsel in distress for Tadano to save. So far, this is subverted by the fact that Komi instigates her own journey to overcome her communication disorder. While she doesn’t speak, well, at all, she’s easily able to articulate her feelings and even offer up insightful introspection when writing. Viewers are also never asked to watch Komi through the beautiful ice-queen lens for too long at a time, with the animators favouring comical representations of her nerves.
On that note, Episode 1 delivers on the humour front, giving us a deadpan narrator and a healthy dose of on-screen text effects. A lot of said humour is derived from the characters’ internal freak-outs, reminiscent (in a great way) of the popular Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
But it’s not all laughs, and Komi’s communication disorder is treated with an appropriate amount of solemnity, which made watching the development of her fledgling friendship with Tadano a genuinely heart-warming experience.
If the show manages to keep this up, then we might have ourselves one of the better offerings of the Autumn 2021 anime season.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!