Understating Kimi ni Todoke would be to say that it is saccharine: one cannot help but grin moronically at the continuing quest of Sawako Kuronuma to ingratiate herself with her school mates. Afflicted with the curse of rumour, she starts the series alone and subject to spurious tales of bringing curses upon those that slight her and it is only through the attention of the affable Shota Kazehaya that she is able to propel herself from quiet and alone to quiet with friends. It's deftly done, especially in three episodes, and with at least two thirds of the series remaining the story is sure to evolve well.
Beginning at the start of the summer holiday, the set up is perfect for a "Grease" style tale of warm-weather romance and inevitable school alienation. But the story defies expectations and skips ahead to the following term, awkward greetings and new teachers in tow. From there Sawako succeeds in making friends and, if the fourth episode preview is anything to go by, at least one enemy: gaining the affections of a popular figure was always going to raise someone's ire. It is a simple story well told and it is the pace and legitimacy of the characters, especially the painfully adorable Sawako, that shoot this otherwise slow burner well-above it's more sedate contemporaries.
If there is a flaw to Kimi ni Todoke, it's that it goes to too great a length to cast Sawako as a flawless victim of circumstance. Her motives always impeccable and never does a gesture backfire or her words not reach the right people: it is a rosy and graceful picture of humanity, especially turbulent adolescents who are anything but. Nitpicking at the lack of realism however is missing the point of the show, too often passion of this veracity gets watered down or contorted into melodrama so it's wholly refreshing to have such a genuine and misanthropy-melting story. Of course this floating world is set to be destroyed by the machinations of a Kazehaya fan who is seen skulking conspiratorially in episodes prior. It's not an unexpected way for the plot to travel but it feels at odds with the "kids are basically okay" mantra paraded through the first three episodes.
The greatest problem that the series could face is becoming mired in petty backbiting that tends to dog young female interactions. While not appealing across the board, the first three episodes introduce enough characters one can relate to and strike a good rhythm that doesn't alienate either gender; claws-out squabbling would certainly poison what has gone before. Despite the relatively fresh director, the series does little wrong in the opening episodes and it seems odd to doubt that it won't continue that trend, especially with a seasoned script writer on board and backed by the Production I.G. powerhouse. Whether Sawako's distinctive voice and continually deformed poses will stand the test of time is another matter.
The first three episodes of Kimi ni Todoke are expertly presented: over seemingly far too quickly and at times breathlessly beautiful. It takes the staid school romance premise and presents an alternative approach, one where the male is bashfully obtuse rather than a hormone-fuelled, sex-starved crime in waiting and the female is charmingly oblivious and continuously growing rather than an obnoxious, high-maintenance stick figure. A joyful, emotionally edifying watch.