“It’s just, I wish I could speak.” is a sometimes silly but achingly earnest offering for Netflix’s anime library.
This recap of Komi Can’t Communicate season 1, episode 1, “It’s just, I wish I could speak.”, contains spoilers.
Along with Blue Period, Komi Can’t Communicate is part of a new effort from Netflix to deliver high-quality weekly anime, and thus far it’s doing a pretty good job of it. We’ve only had one episode, of course, but “It’s just, I wish I could speak.” shows all the signs of a winning bit of work, from its basis in a successful manga to a well-received run in Japan and a truly winning sincerity that helps to offset some of the more cliché elements. It probably won’t change your life, but it might change someone’s who is checking it out at just the right time.
Komi Can’t Communicate season 1, episode 1 recap
There are some unusual elements, granted. Tadano (Gakuto Kajiwara) seems, initially, like our narrator, a standardly unremarkable kid at the Itan Private High School who just wants to keep his head down and not attract any undue attention. But there’s another voice that speaks over him sometimes, that lends a bit more cutting truth to his modest self-description. It’s a confounding gimmick, but it might eventually prove to be a novel one. Either way, as the title suggests, the show isn’t even about Tadano, really, but Komi (Aoi Koga), a tall, slightly angelic fellow student who arrives with a lot of fanfare but remains curiously mute.
This is all pretty standard stuff, and it feels standard for the most part all throughout the premiere until a crucial moment close to the end. In it, Tadano, after a failed attempt at speaking to Komi, accidentally confronts her about her silence with a bit more aggression than he was probably intending. That leads to the revelation that Komi has extreme, crippling social anxiety, and this, in turn, leads to a rather lovely scene in which the two students bond by frantically scrawling messages back and forth on the chalkboard. Their excitement at suddenly having formed a connection is palpable; their ability to express themselves freely for the first time has some surprising power to it. Komi reveals that her goal is to make 100 friends. Tadano offers to be her first.
With this, we obviously have an overarching premise, but one supposes the end goal doesn’t really matter all that much when the meat of the drama is in the surprising sincerity of what might otherwise just be melodramatic teenage angst. There’s a lot of exaggeration in those quintessential feelings of insecurity and hormonal imbalance that come with high school social politics, but there’s also an earnestness that rises above the formal quirks. The art does wonders. There are many clever touches that emphasize being on the cusp of adulthood, trapped between two worlds, taking the first tentative steps into a scary new world of independence. Whether or not Komi makes 100 friends is largely irrelevant, so long as she learns to love herself.
Not that it’s in my nature to be so sickeningly trite, but here we are. Komi Can’t Communicate is such an empathetic show that it brings that sappiness out of you, and its abundance of silliness somehow feels complementary to it, rather than at odds. It’s a bizarre effect for an admittedly bizarre show, but I see a lot of potential here depending on what direction it goes in, and it seems like a smartly chosen offering for Netflix’s new anime initiative.