Every new anime season has a clear choice for the most anticipated show and for the fall of 2021 that was Komi Can’t Communicate. Picked up by Netflix from OLM Digital, the studio that produced ODDTAXI and many more popular shows, Komi Can’t Communicate is a slice-of-life anime centered around Shoko Komi, an insanely beautiful high school girl who suffers from extreme social anxiety and a communication disorder.
When we first meet Komi, she is a bit of a mystery. She quickly garners the attention of her peers as everyone ogles over her beauty and cool demeanor. They even elect her as “god” of the class, a higher position than the class president. What they can’t see is that Komi struggles significantly when trying to talk to others. They all believe she doesn’t respond to their advances or questions because they aren’t worthy of her, instead of her anxiety getting the best of her. That is until her classmate Hitohito Tadano realizes she’s not comfortable socializing with others.
Rather than harassing her to speak, Tadano offers to communicate by writing on the chalkboard. They spend the heartwarming afternoon getting to know each other by writing questions and answers on the board until there’s no space left. What’s surprising is that Komi isn’t just awkward around others with no real growth throughout the anime. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, she actually wants to communicate.
With the personal goal of making 100 friends before graduating high school, Komi sets the bar high but takes on the challenge. Most of the time she can only get out one sound or turns into a trembling, wide-eyed ball of anxiety, but her efforts nonetheless are progress. Tadano plays a big role in her journey, as he helps push her towards her goal. Every episode is broken up into “missions”, with each being an activity or setting that everyday people can do with ease. But for Komi, they’re a big leap. Talking on the phone, eating at a restaurant, joining a study session, and participating in the school cultural festival. Komi tries her best in new social situations, and Tadano is there for her every step of the way. He’s a wonderful support for Komi and encourages her to participate in social activities, but it’s her own motivations that let her take those big leaps. It’s hinted their relationship is going beyond “just friends”, but the show is not in a rush to turn them into a couple, which fits well for the situation.
Being a comedy slice-of-life anime, Komi Can’t Communicate needs the fuel to create humor. While Komi’s social anxiety is clearly a part of the jokes, it never feels like it’s in bad taste. She’s not treated as an oddity as you would expect. Rather, it’s the interesting situations and eccentric oddballs around her that fan the flames of the comedic bits.
The anime’s portrayal of mental health is satisfying. Every episode opens with the narrator saying “when a person has extreme social anxiety they struggle to communicate with others. Bear in mind, they only struggle to form connections. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to.” As someone who has social anxiety and GAD (general anxiety disorder), it’s honestly nice to see a show that even talks about anxiety in a way that doesn’t poke fun at the struggles of those with anxiety.
Throughout the season I did find myself asking, why can’t Komi communicate? Other than showing signs of extreme social anxiety and a communication disorder, the reasons behind it are not explored in the first season. Based on a few flashbacks we know Komi has had trouble communicating with others since she was young, but we don’t know exactly why. We only see her family a handful of times and learn her mother is very talkative but like Komi, her father and brother seem to talk very little.
Komi’s symptoms are accurately displayed for someone dealing with anxiety. Things like overanalyzing social situations, having a hard time sleeping, and checking are added in for more context of Komi’s anxiety. She also isn’t the only one with anxiety, as we see some characters who are also nervous in social settings. Even Tadano gets flustered and anxious when he says something that can be misconstrued. This anime shows what can happen when we grow the courage to prove our anxious minds wrong. Komi may not be where she wants to be yet, but there’s plenty of room to see her and her friends develop in future seasons to come.
There are still questions that need to be answered, but with season two confirmed for this April, I know there’s so much more to be explored in Komi’s journey to make 100 friends. If you love wholesome protagonists trying their best to overcome the challenges that come their way, then Komi Can’t Communicate is for you.
Komi Can’t Communicate has even gone on to win the Best Comedy award from the 2022 Crunchyroll Anime Awards.
Title: Komi Can’t Communicate
Creator: Tomohito Oda
Studio: OLM Studio
Director: Kazuki Kawagoe
Aired: Netflix October 7, 2021 – December 22, 2021