Anime Review: Komi Can’t Communicate (2021)

TL;DR – Komi enters high school and immediately is the admiration and envy of every school student and teacher. She exudes an aura that causes everyone to be put in awe simply by walking into a room. The only problem is she suffers from severe social anxiety disorder.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Hitohito Tadano is average in every way. All he wants to do is get through high school without causing waves. But when he discovers in class, he is sitting next to Komi Shouko, a female student that has everyone enraptured, he becomes the lightning rod for jealousy as everyone vies for Komi’s attention.

However, Komi has her own inner struggle. She freezes and is unable to speak whenever anyone tries to talk to her or gives her attention. People interpret her social anxiety in different ways. All of them wrong.

Some interpret her silence as an ice queen views her subjects, they adore her stoic beauty and serve her willingly. Others view her silence as they are not even worthy to be in her presence and suitably scamper away after attempts at conversation with her. In virtually all circumstances, she is viewed as a goddess beyond the reach of mere mortals, and this is humorously reinforced in one episode where initially she is nominated for class president, but then everyone in her class interprets her silence that the title of class president being beneath her and instead coin her as ‘god’.

The only person that is able to get to the heart of the matter is Tadano. In the first episode, after class has finished, Tadano and Komi find themselves as the last to leave, and what starts off as an awkward exchange by writing messages on the blackboard with chalk, ends up being a confession by Komi explaining her extreme social anxiety, and how deeply she actually wants to make friends and be able to communicate.

Tadano vows to help her make one hundred friends.

As a comedy, the series reaches the point of ludicrous due to the exaggerated reactions from Komi and her classmates. Each character has extreme traits, which downplays Komi’s social anxiety disorder. A sample of the outlandish cast includes:

  • Ren Yamai whose obsession with Komi borders on the pathological, and at one point, she kidnaps Tadano who she believes is getting to close to Komi and looks like she is going to kill him and bury him in the woods.
  • Himiko Agari who is also an anxious girl like Komi but has a masochistic side to her and wants to be Komi’s pet ‘dog’. She also has a didactic (almost religious level) of knowledge when it comes to ramen (i.e. the best places to eat it, the rules and etiquette to ramen etc.)
  • Makeru Yadano who sees Komi as her rival and wants to best her in all things. This includes an eye sight test where Yadano believes Komi is cheating because she is not answering out loud (Yadano doesn’t realise that Komi is using hand gestures and can’t see them because she is standing behind Komi).
  • Najimi Osana who actually attempted to be Komi’s friend during childhood but interpreted her silence as standoffish. Najimi has a tendency to switch genders. Flashbacks show Najimi wearing boy clothing but in high school wears a girls uniform.

The only ‘normal’ person is Tadano in that he is average in every way. But we learn that this is intentional because in junior high he pretended to be a ‘cool kid’ but realised that everyone thought it was cringey.

All in all, Komi Can’t Communicate has some touching moments but does not go as deep as some of the more magical slice-of-life animes that I have seen such as Usagi Drop, Non Non Biyori, and Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.

It seeks to insert more humour at the expense of depth, which I found watchable if silly. The end result is that this anime could have explored social anxiety disorders with much more emotional punch but instead takes a safe route to be more comic.

6.5 out of 10

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