Stew’s [Series] Reviews: Komi Can’t Communicate Volume 1

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about Komi Can’t Communicate here at SWO Productions, but along the way, I just fell off reading the series. I’ve continued BUYING the books, but I haven’t been reading them. I’ve been letting them accrue space on my manga shelves as I waited for… the right time, I guess?

Most of 2022 was NOT the right time. I was working towards 300 movies watched in the year, and I was focusing on the podcast and other aspects of the site. But going into 2023, I was determined to do more at-length reviews. Wrestling reviews. Classic TV show reviews. Comics reviews. And you know what else I could review? This little manga series I found wonderfully adorable, but then fell off of reading regularly.

So welcome to Part 1 of my journey through this series; here I’ll be starting all of the way back at the beginning so I can refresh myself on all of the characters’ names and shticks. And you know, get you caught up, as well.

Komi Can’t Communicate is a series written and drawn by Tomohito Oda, which debuted in (I think) 2016 (based on what the manga tells me anyway). It has since been translated to English (though as of this writing, the English adaptation is unfinished and still being released regularly) and turned into a somewhat popular anime series.

It’s… possible the anime is on Netflix? The Internet tells me so, but I have a new TV and no earthly idea what my Netflix password is. Oh wait; I’ll go check on my wife’s TV; she watches Netflix all the time!

Oh hey, it IS on Netflix! Neat.

But this review isn’t about the anime.

(But… it could be, now that I know that…)

No! I have to read these manga I bought!

(But now I know what I can make my wife watch later)

The series mostly takes place in and around Itan Private High School, where new student Hitohito Tadano has enrolled and quickly encounters the titular Komi, a seemingly cold girl who does not talk to others. But where everyone else sees a disaffected young woman who is too cool for them, it is Tadano who first figures out that Komi actually has such a severe social anxiety disorder that she has immense trouble talking to others. And by immense trouble, I mean… she literally CAN’T at the start here. At all.

When Tadano confronts her, Komi is able to explain herself at length on the chalkboard where she doesn’t have to use her voice. After a brief bit of back and forth, we get one of my favorite moments I remembered from my first reading: a splash page of the two having had a massive conversation all over the chalkboard!

Their conversation ends with Komi admitting her life dream is to have 100 friends, and Tadano vowing to make that come true. So that’s it: that’s the premise for Komi Can’t Communicate: Can Tadano help her make 100 friends? Or, at least, enough to make her happy and able to talk to people. Whichever! I don’t want to have to keep track of 100 characters, book.


Komi: Hey, her name is in the title! She can’t communicate due to extreme social anxiety.

Tadano: Boy, here is where the series hopefully doesn’t fuck up too much as it goes: Tadano is “ordinary”, and we are told that over and over. And he wants to be Komi’s friend, but he also is basically in love with her and, in the early going, entranced by how beautiful she is. Obviously the story can end up building drama however it needs to, but… I really don’t want Komi and Tadano to end up together. They are FRIENDS. That’s the point! Let’s not trick more young men into thinking a girl being your friend means she secretly wants you. But… we’ll see.

Najimi Osana: This is an interesting one because Najimi seems to be a trans girl who was a boy when Tadano knew her in junior high, but is a girl at the start of this series. And after some light humor in this chapter… it ends up played respectfully, at least as far as I remember reading. Tadano is sometimes confused by how to refer to her, but her identity does not seem to be the butt of any jokes. She is the first friend Tadano helps Komi make!

Himiko Agari: Also very nervous around others, though not on the level of Komi. Their initial interaction is told from Agari’s POV first, then later, from the rest of the group’s. Agari thinks Komi is stalking her, but really, Komi just can’t work up the courage to say “hi”. Because manga is for fucking weirdos sometimes, Agari initially refuses to be Komi’s friend, but does volunteer to be her “dog”. Whatever, okay. It gets better.

Even though I’ve been reading manga on-and-off for twenty years, when I’ve gone a while without reading one and then get back in, I forget how… strange it can all be. Like… why does Komi occasionally grow cat ears? Just for effect! Why does Agari want to be Komi’s dog? Because… Okay, I don’t really know this one. What are the weird desk games the popular kids are playing at the end of this volume? I assume it’s a cultural thing? But it seems juvenile for high schoolers. Also, I don’t understand the rules, but maybe I’m not supposed to.

Mainly this series reminds me a lot of Azumanga Daioh, another slice-of-life comedy book about high schoolers navigating their friendships and dynamics as the characters grow and find themselves. And as you can tell by the aforementioned link, I absolutely love that title. And like Azumanga, Komi has a bit of an entrance fee to get in. The first volume of both isn’t the BEST, but it gives you a basic feel for how things will go. And there’s only growth from there!

The humor of KCC doesn’t always land, but you know what does? The heart. This is a book most easily described as “cute”, as frustrating as that is. You really start to care about everyone involved early on thanks to scenes like this:

So yeah, this is a short article to get into the series, because… not much happens here in volume one! We basically just meet the primary characters and set the plot in motion. But as of right now, I have 21 volumes of this book so…presumably this gets more story-oriented later.

And I’ll be there to cover those developments as they go!

So until next time… take care!

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