Anime | Review

Review: Heartwarming 'kimi ni todoke' is high-school drama for the ages

After seeing so many high-school shows focusing on fan service and sex lately, it was the proverbial breath of fresh air to pop NIS America’s “kimi ni todoke — From Me to You” in the player this weekend as I was recovering from a nasty flu bug that wiped me out last week.

No manic screaming, no panty shots, no giant breasts — just an honest, touching look at the real feelings teens go through as they enter that crazy world called high school.

In this case, we’re seeing it through the eyes of Sawako, a socially awkward girl who doesn’t have a lot of friends. As she enters a new school knowing few people, the childhood nickname Sadako (the character from the horror film “The Ring”) sticks, and rumors spread about her ability to see ghosts or bad things happening if you look her in the eye.

But when the popular, handsome young boy Kazehaya treats her like any other girl, it emboldens her to speak up for herself, and the late-bloomer starts to slowly blossom.

As someone who moved to a new school and faced a bunch of bizarre, out-of-nowhere rumors, I related instantly to Sawako, which would explain why I kept going through eight of the 12 episodes in this set. (I would have watched all 12, but other duties called.) Going beyond the rumor thing, there were just so many things about this story that rang true to the experience of youth.

Rumors may be a key theme, but there’s a lot more going on, from misunderstandings and miscommunication to forming new friendships to the familiar bewilderment of first love and the burning question of whether those feelings are returned — a feeling that isn’t unique to teenagers.

The show isn’t a roller-coaster of emotion, but it has plenty of bumps and hills and twists, bringing up moments of nostalgia for older viewers and what I would think would be instant relatability for younger ones.

It’s appropriate for all ages, and for some reason I even saw hints of “Fruits Basket” in it, though there’s nothing mystical about it. I think it was just the way some of the characters related to each other.  Take that as a compliment.

The show is nicely animated with a bright palette and sweet, water-colory backgrounds. It sets a nice tone that infuses the entire series.

If you’ve ever been to high school, or are headed there soon, “kimi ni todoke” is a heartwarming series to enrich the experience.

Like NIS America’s other deluxe boxes, the set includes DVD and Blu-ray discs and a nice hardcover art book with character notes and other goodies. Volume 2 is due April 10.

Eric Henrickson is a Detroit News copy editor who has also been writing about comic books, video games and anime for The News for more than 10 years. His favorite bit of geek cred so far: appearing in an online "Star Trek" fan series.