Let me start by telling you all a little story. I once thought I had social anxiety. The thought of talking to or being around people scared me. I was awful at it when I tried, and I just didn’t like the experience all around. It was crippling to me, you could say. It stopped me from doing things I wanted to do.
Fast forward to now, and that has mostly gone away. I learned that I wasn’t really bad at talking to people. I just needed some time to warm up. I don’t have the ability to be quick friends with anyone. I’m not friendly enough. I also can’t really bother with people that I don’t like or annoy me, but that’s more personal preference, isn’t it?
But even now, I sometimes struggle to properly convey the way I feel. Whether it’s because I forget to say something, or something doesn’t come out the way I meant, or the tone is wrong. It happens for various reasons. That’s why I like to write. It gave me a voice that I can say whatever I want with.
So why I am wasting your time with this boring story for the last three paragraphs? Because I think I found the female manga equivalent of my past self if I didn’t try to pull away from the socially anxious road I was on.
Komi Can’t Communicate is about as accurate of a title as you could ever get. Somehow even more than the light novel summaries disguised as titles.
It follows high school student Komi who can’t communicate with anyone to save her life. What, you thought there was more? That’s the story. I guess there’s also the fact that she wants to make 100 friends. But without the ability to talk to anyone, she just sits there intimidating all of her classmates who worship her as a queen and or god because they think she’s some cool beauty who won’t give them the time of day.
But she has hope when typical run-of-the-mill normal guy, Tadano, picks up on the fact that she isn’t scary or cool (still beautiful), just hopeless. After reading what Komi wrote on the class chalkboard about wanting friends (because the series isn’t called Komi Can’t Write), Tadano agrees to become her first friend and help her make 99 more.
If you can’t tell, this manga is beyond cute. I’ve seen a lot of cute stories in my life. Believe me, I’m on a constant lookout for the stuff, but Komi has got to be pretty high up there. However, that may just be because I relate to the story in a lot of ways.
This manga is another one that’s pretty interesting, but unlike the last series I talked about, most of you have probably heard of Komi. If not before, then just in the last few months, like me.
That’s because it’s getting an anime adaptation very soon. One that people have been waiting a long time for. It was due for an anime adaptation. And that’s the reason I got into the manga. I’m glad I did because I believe knowing the manga will make the adaptation that much more fascinating when it does release.
Because while Komi just comes off as a cute Rom-Com manga on the surface, the way its story is structured and the type of comedy that comes from that story, I think, has some unique challenges jumping to anime. Or it will be interesting to see how it’s handled, regardless. Let’s talk about why that is.
Comedy manga is structured a certain way. There will always be exceptions, but you pick up on similarities due to how the medium works. Much of their humor relies on visuals. Back when I talked about Takahashi-san, I mentioned how that series falls flat at times because it relies more on wordplay, which isn’t as universally appealing as visual comedy.
Beyond that, just the way manga is structured with your eyes darting back and forth to different panels helps lend itself better to visual humor. A little above me is an example of that in Komi. It uses this format quite a lot. Each panel is similar, just with slightly different dialogue. The subtle changes, Komi jumping, in this case, mixed with the reactions and the short pause you as the reader have as you switch panels is what makes it funny.
That page is almost entirely visual humor, but I could never see it working the same way in anime form. You could adapt that exact same scene, and without the short pause you mentally take in between, the scene would lose its appeal. An animated form just wouldn’t have the same punch that the manga has, making it lose a lot.
And this is a type of manga that has a lot of visual comedy. It’s pretty reliant on it. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to adapt this kind of visual humor well. You can, but not unless you alter it a little bit.
Komi’s character, for instance, is reliant solely on her reactions. She barely ever speaks a word at all unless it’s written. Even that is few and far between. That means she’s essentially a silent character. Think something along the lines of Joshi Kausei.
That’s a series where none of the characters speak a word. It’s nothing but visual humor. Komi has characters that can speak, and I feel Komi herself would be handled similarly. But I think having one of your leads be silent could lead to some weird situations.
Take this, for example. How would this exchanged be animated? For the manga, it’s simple. Tadano speaks to Komi, she makes no reaction as she fiddles on her new phone, and Tadano observes her. This continues for another page. Firstly, you would need to have some type of narrator to adapt the “Didn’t react at all” portion and the many other examples of this kind of humor. For certain jokes, you can’t cut that voice. It’s integral to some of the humor.
There’s also the problem of Komi. In manga, we expect silence. It has no audio. No sound effects, music, nor voices. So this exchange works. Dare I say, it’s funny! But in the anime, I fear that Komi’s complete silence would come off as odd.
When you have music and VAs, how many times can you yell into the void without any reaction before it starts to lose its effect? I think that would happen very quickly with Komi. It would get to the point where it isn’t charming or funny. It could get awkward.
I think you could remedy this by having Komi make some gargled sound or stutter, as she does at certain points, but it wouldn’t have the same effect if overused. In Joshi Kausei, every character is silent, so no awkward situations follow. In Komi, she’s the only silent one. She’s the odd one out. The characters will essentially be talking to a brick wall.
In the manga, with its pauses and already silent nature, it’s charming and funny. In an anime adaptation, I really don’t see how it will work the same. There are also other little things, like the fact that the manga relies on chibi versions of its characters a lot, but that’s not impossible for an adaptation to deal with. It could just be jarring when used too much. There are other meta jokes involving visuals more unique to manga, like Tadano poking fun at Komi’s background when her emotions go crazy. Anime of that might be odd.
To me, Komi is just an example of an extremely formulaic manga that works well as a manga, and that’s that. I’m not convinced the anime adaptation will be bad. I just think Komi Can’t Communicate has a certain manga sense of humor that won’t translate well to an anime without tweaking. But by tweaking the formula, you risk messing with what the series is. Regardless, I’m looking forward to October, where I will hopefully eat my words because Komi-san really is a cute story I absolutely adore.
Join me next manga post, where I will apparently explain comedy way too much yet again! I can’t help it. Manga is a really fascinating medium.
Thank you very much for reading
What are some unique challenges you think manga has translating into anime, and how do you think they can be overcome?