So, Komi Can’t Communicate is one of those things that makes use of a lot of stereotypes and still mostly manages to be entertaining. It’s volume ten of the manga, and Komi actually gets to take the lead in some social interaction and making a new friend without Tadano or anyone else. There’s also a side story about her younger brother who’s apparently pretty similar to Komi in that he struggles to use words with other people, getting away with it on the basis of his appearance and reputation much like his sister, except that it’s not totally clear how aware he is compared to his sister. The parallel that really kind of cements this page or two as cute but not much more is that it’s another Tadano, this time the little sister, who appears to unsettle the younger brother’s world.
There are basically two big plot points in this volume: first, the end of the school year and beginning of the second, in which Komi et al wonder about who they will be in class with this time around, and there are some actual changes, although certain key characters remain in the same class, ie Komi and Tadano. New to the mix is Manbagi, who like the rest of the gang we already know is terrified of being in a new class without her crew of pals. Manbagi has a definite style to her that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the class, and it’s suggested she uses the outrageous makeup and flamboyancy to cover up some serious insecurities. Where things get interesting and really do work out is that it’s actually Komi who initiates a relationship with Manbagi and they become friends and start to try and understand each other’s quirks.
One thing I have to wonder is how common it is in Japan to go bowling while wearing animal themed onesies. The characters seem to think nothing of this, except Komi, although since she has apparently never been bowling before this may not be part of her uncertainty.
There is one brief thread that’s weird, and it’s the one where several characters suddenly get a craving to go out for steak. Again, this could be me not being very familiar with Japanese culture, but the almost fetishization of the whole thing comes across a little strange and creepy in a places.
The art alternates between normal style and what I’m going to describe as bug-eyed (in a cute way), and it still works. So too does the structuring everything as a series of vignettes, almost like Azumanga Daioh (sp?). The whole thing, while sometimes a little uneven with character and story, still manages to be mostly cutesy and light with the occasional moment of real feeling.