The Gist: Kuronuma Sawako (Tabe Makako) has the bad luck of bearing a resemblance to Sadako, a character in the horror movie, the Ring. This earned her the nickname Sadako so unanimously, that almost no one knows her real name. Despite the fact that Sawako is friendly and kind, her quiet demeanor and reputation makes it impossible for her to make friends. That is, until popular boy Kazehaya Shota (Miura Haruma), asks her for directions to their high school and shows her some actual kindness. Sawako is inspired by Kazehaya and wants to be bolder like him. Pretty soon she picks up some new friends, tomboy Chizuru (Renbutsu Misako) and Ayane (Watanabe Natsuna) who realize her true nature and help her grow into a more confident person. After spending more time with him, Sawako starts to wonder if her feelings towards Kazehaya are purely admiration and if he’s just being nice.
Having just finished Gokusen 3, I am stunned that Kazama Ren and Kazehaya are both played by Miura! His look and general feeling are just so different in each project that I doubt without doing these reviews that I would have put that together. As always, I am impressed when exaggerated cartoon characters translate well into live action. Sawako is a bizarre part to play, equal parts nice and scary. Makako does a fabulous job bringing a creepy vibe with all the right notes of sincerity. Same of Chizuru and Ayane, who are both just off of reality, especially physically, that I’m surprised how naturally the chemistry felt. The casting was done smartly, that you get the same feeling from the anime, without so much surrealism.
I would definitely categorize KNT as a summer movie in that laid back, slow moving but comforting sort of sense. There’s no great sense of action or urgency, but the plot is wonderful in its simplicity and is just generally very adorable. Sawako is the perfect protagonist as someone you can really get behind and root for. Her growth isn’t super expansive over the course of the movie, but she’s obviously jumped over a big hurdle by the time we hit the end.
The crux of the issues that come up in KNT is that Sawako cannot express herself clearly. That means that most of the problems are things that could have been cleared up easily, if Sawako was just determined to make people understand. Obviously this is intentional, but it does get a little annoying when the problems are so fixable. Still, that makes it that much better when she has friends who trust her despite the misunderstandings.
Kazehaya and Sawako are obviously destined to be together and while I wouldn’t say this movie is strictly speaking all romance, it’s definitely a central feature. The anime is just as slow moving, but since it gets a few seasons and the manga gets a whole mess of chapters, it doesn’t matter because you get what you want in the end. KNT seems to end just before you get what you actually want… which to me, is at least one damn kiss. The end leaves you with a good possibility, but I would have really liked for them to realize their feelings more fully and actually get somewhere. In this regards, I think the anime is far more successful.
Played by Arata, Pin is our little buddies’ homeroom teacher. I wouldn’t say this is so much a casting mistake as much as Pin just doesn’t translate as well to live action. He’s ridiculous in the anime, but he’s just not really that likeable as a teacher. Not to mention with Kurumizawa (Kiritani Mirei) as a central antagonist, we don’t really need him to stir the pot and with Chizu and Ayane, we don’t really need him to push Sawako and Kazehaya. If I was doing this, I would have just written him out.
So … Kimi Ni Todoke is a pleasant movie. It’s enjoyable to watch Sawako make some improvements in her life and get some real friends. The romance stopping short is a major hindrance though and sort of leaves you dumbfounded at the end of it. I’d say fans of the anime won’t be disappointed, it’s a good adaptation, but the anime has a lusher storyline.
Final Grade: B-