Sawako is a quiet girl who doesn't want to be a bother to anybody else, always overthinking things and in dire need of friends who get her to loosen up a bit. She has long, black hair and her bumbling demeanor gives her a creepy feel like the ghosts in those Japanese 'hair horror' movies. Her nickname is 'Sadako' (after the ghost in The Ring), and there are all sorts of creepy rumours about her. (If you want to know how Japanese highschool girls react to The Ring, then this video will give you an impression. Imagine what happens when people associate your appearance with that...)
However, she has a secret admirer in Kazehaya, the most popular boy in the class. Almost every girl wants to date him, every guy wants to be his friend. But during their first day of school, he saw Sawako smile naturally and thought she looked very cute... For her part, Sawako really admires Kazehaya and wishes she could be more like him. One day Kazehaya overhears Sawako calling him 'refreshing', and they start to talk, which changes Sawako's life dramatically.
With most romance anime, a lot of the plot could be short-circuited if both partners would simply talk about their feelings, suspicions or other obligations. In those anime, we get a whole story-arc with doubts, near-breakups and all, just because they don't talk about things like their past. Not so with Kimi ni Todoke: there are some plots that hinge on a lack of communication, but those are resolved refreshingly quick. The result is a 'slowmance' that maintains its narrative thrust all through the series. And even though the series is 25 episodes long, it only follows Sawako and Kazehaya from early summer to New Year's Eve -- so there's a lot of stuff happening.
Basically, the series describes two story arcs. The first is about the rumours and machinations of a romantic rival of Sawako, who seems to be one of only two people who see that Kazehaya is in love with Sawako. This is handled in a rather satisfactory way.
The second arc focuses more on the development of Sawako and Kazehaya's slowmance. There is some room for the romantic entanglements of Sawako's two best friends, but those don't take away the focus from Sawako and Kazehaya. Instead, it offers Sawako an opportunity to learn about what it means to be in love. (With Sawako being your typical over-thinker, she doesn't seem to be able to follow her heart fully and thinks she has to 'study' first.)
The characters are fun. While I sometimes felt slightly exasperated with Sawako's social ineptness, the rest of the cast is well-rounded and full of personality. That makes the series fun to watch, because you feel you're watching characters instead of cardboard cutouts. The voice acting sounds quite natural too, that always helps.
Visually, the series is very deeply shoujo. Lots of pastel tints, twinkling stars at romantic moments and stuff like that. Very competently executed. If I had to mention one thing that was not up to par, I would say that Sawako is shown too often in Super Deformed mode. I know, it's done for comedic effect, but it's an overused schtick that I could do without.
- Refreshing break away from the usual slowmance plots;
- Great cast of characters;
- Looks good.
- Too short.
The popularity of this series is wholly deserved. If you're at all interested in romantic anime, put this on your list. I'll give it an 8.5.