So often manga captures a slice of life from Japanese culture that may seem foreign, but it’s also incredibly captivating. Case in point is Tomohito Oda’s Komi Can’t Communicate which features a girl who gets so anxious in social situations she can’t speak. In the latest volume out now from Viz Media Komi soon learns for the first time she wishes summer break wouldn’t end. That’s because she has friends now that somehow accept her weird behavior. They’re all weird themselves and that’s the main draw for this series as Oda does a great job fleshing out the various personalities.
This book is told via 10 chapters each of which is a vignette unconnected from any other chapter. It’s a slice of life story so expect random plots (Komi is hot at home thanks to no air conditioning) or plots that develop her relationship with her friends (Komi plays a Super Smash Brothers looking game and each friend interacts differently). Relationships between Komi and Kimo’s friend are key to understand the characters. Tadano is a boy Komi likes and it’s cute to see them connect more and more throughout the manga. By the end of the manga, they’re connecting in a much more real way. Meanwhile, Komi’s friends tend to be loud, very verbose, and steer the conversation. It makes sense given Komi is fine hanging back.
What’s so endearing about this manga is how Komi’s friends and family aren’t critical of her nature. Kids in high school or really any grade may gravitate to this character as she exhibits their fears of communicating and the anxiety surrounding social situations. We see Komi deal with getting a sandwich in one scene, and while she can’t really handle it, she does in her own way. It’s certainly a manga for a certain type of person. If you are a talkative person you might find this interesting since it explores a person who has something to offer but can’t.
Seeing other characters pull from her is an interesting experience. There is one chapter that features a new student named Inaka who is a “country bumpkin” and afraid to speak for fear other students will her accent. It’s an interesting way to explore Kami’s anxiety as this girl ends up looking up to Kami who has come a long way from where Inaka is, but it inspires her to observe Kami.
The art in this manga is sharp and very appealing. It’s fascinating to see how Kami or others lose their mouth entirely and become a blank face that is used to draw your eye or at times show different emotions. There are also clever ways to show Kami communicating through her notebook. Action via sports is also well conveyed and visual comedy tends to land quite well.
I ended up enjoying this manga and yet had no idea what I was in for. This is another great example of the manga format allowing us to peer into Japanese culture and doing so with an original story. I can’t help but think this manga may be helping many children cope with their anxiety in social situations. If you or someone you know has social anxiety gift them this manga!