Komi Can’t Communicate Volume 4

It’s time to check out Komi Can’t Communicate volume 4. And I’m closing in on where I stopped reading last year when I started buying this series. After the shopping and pool day chapters in volumes 2 and 3, I’m curious to see how writer/artist Tomohito Oda will find new ways to draw characters in eye-catching apparel this time.

We got an odd pairing to start off this volume, with Nakanaka (the girl stuck in a role-playing phase trying to create an identity, remember? With the “dragon force”?) inviting Komi to hang out at her house. Actually? You know what? I lied. We HAVE seen these two together before, maybe it’s not so unusual: when Komi befriended Nakanaka in gym class because no one wanted to partner up with the latter.

Anyway, they come together, but have nothing in common. Nakanaka wants to show off her video games, but Komi is kind of confused by them. Nakanaka saves the visit by inviting over Najimi and Tadano before things get too awkward! They all end up teaching Komi how to play Swamp Brothers–an homage to Super Smash Bros–and Nakanaka beats up Najimi while Tadano teaches Komi the basics.

Then we get an absolute nothing chapter about Komi being miserably hot in her house without any air conditioning. She can’t sleep and gets hyperactive. She may or may not actually speak to her brother–it’s weirdly ambiguous as to whether he imagines it or not–and ends by showing Komi is a great cook because OF COURSE SHE IS.

Last article, I noted that I was confused as to what summer vacation is in Japanese schools. I gather from the next chapter that it’s more like… an extended mid-session rest of sorts? But it doesn’t separate years, like, Year One, Year Two, etc. Does that make sense? See, I’m LEARNING. You’d think I’d have learned this from Azumanga Daioh, but… not so much!

The point is that the kids here all have summer homework to wrap up before heading back to class. Yamai and Komi finished theirs, but Najimi and Tadano have not. So they all gather at Tadano’s to help the other two finish theirs. Tadano has a sister–Hitomi! And… they share a bedroom? Even the others think that’s strange, so at least it’s not just me on this one.

After homework, it’s back to class… and time to meet a new classmate: Inaka! ANOTHER shy character–do we need at least a third here?–Inaka is a self-professed country bumpkin who is afraid of being social around others because she assumes they will throw rocks at her because of her accent. Has she considered that she talks like Rogue from the Claremont-era X-Men, and everyone loves Rogue?

There’s a Subway analog called Sabowey, and it’s considered… fancy? So fancy that Inaka is intimidated by it and imagines it is filled with sophisticated city folk. Man, Inaka, I can take you to some Subways that would destroy your illusion.

We get another case of Najimi forcing Komi to go attempt to order her food. Komi tries her best, but is incapable of doing so, so the order is all messed up. But this time Inaka is trailing her and trying to learn how to be an elite sandwich orderer. Like literally everyone else except Tadano, she confuses Komi’s utter terror when confronted with a social situation with cool disaffection and confidence.

It IS kind of funny how a complete lack of bravery is so easily confused with, you know, ACTUAL BRAVERY. I mean… I can KIND OF see it. I could stand to quit getting hit over the head with it every volume, though.

A few more one-shot chapters follow this up. Komi has a dream everyone has a spec on their faces. Then she wants Tadano to call her by her “first” name, Shoko. But he can’t do it. In fairness, it turns out the Komi can’t call him Hirohito, either, so she settles on family names being fine after all.

It’s time for the Sports Festival after this, and I can’t stress enough how fun Japanese High School seems. This was a thing in Azumanga, too, so I assume this is an actual going-on? The kids are out competing in weird ass games like tug of war and relay races? We never had anything like that in school here. Actually? That might have been for the best. I’m forgetting what I was like in high school.

Here we meet another potential friend, Netsuno, the athletic rival to Komi. MORE PARALLELS TO AZUMANGA DAIOH, as this is exactly how that series introduced Kagura into the group.

Anyway, Netsuno is tanned and keeps talking about how many “degrees” people are? I don’t get it. But hey… it’s another character with a shtick. You gotta make these folks memorable somehow!

The class relay brace, which will decide who wins the Sports Festival, comes down to Netsuno and Komi. Komi slips in the mud, but the spirit from her friends gets her back up, and she still makes a race of it. But as you can see from the image above, she falls short. Netsuno wins, but admires Komi’s fighting spirit!

This series is so damn much like Azumanga, damn it. No wonder I get a kick out of it.

In the wake of the sports festival, Yamai and Nakanaka become obsessed with Tadano’s ability to “read” Komi and typically know what she is thinking. So the three of them follow Komi around school all day, with Nakanaka and Yamai trying to guess what Komi is thinking in certain circumstances.They never get a handle on it.

And then we get the final chapters where we find out that Komi wants to go with friends to a photo booth, which even the comic makes fun of for not being popular anymore.

The series is actually doing a really good job of making sure we know Yamai and Najimi. There have been so many other characters introduced (Netsuno, Agari, Inaka, Yadano, Nakanaka, etc) that are more background/occasional characters. I’m thinking that Oda is pacing stuff so the characters don’t feel too overhwhelming to the reader. I assume in the next few volumes we’ll work one or two characters into the “core” group more often to ease them in.

Or who knows? We’ll just keep introducing more and more characters and then not using them. It’s not MY book.

Until next time… take care!

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