As soon as the intro song rolled in for Japanese series “I Can’t Reach You”/”Kimi ni wa Todokanai” in its first episode, I exclaimed to myself “Oh no, I guess he is just going to pine for his crush for the whole show until the last episode!”. After watching so many Japanese shows, it seemed pretty plausible that a high-school romance would just be an achingly long story, filled with misunderstandings, about how the protagonist struggles to express their feelings until some major conflict finally forces them to come clean. But I was proven partially wrong.
Adapted from a manga series of the same name by Mika, “I Can’t Reach You”/”Kimi ni wa Todokanai” (君には届かない。) has been directed by Tanazawa Takayoshi, Izumi Masahide, Hayashi Masataka, the same trio behind the 2020 hit series “Cherry Magic.” Maeda Kentaro plays protagonist, Ohara Yamato, who grapples with his deep affection for his childhood best friend, Ashiya Kakeru (Kashiwagi Haru), and the internal conflict of whether he should confess his feelings. Yamato is tall, handsome, asocial, and a top student in his class, with several girls swooning over him. In contrast, Ashiya Kakeru, who sits right behind him, is clumsy, dorky, and struggles with very low grades. Can these two very different people date, or will Yamato have to move on? This question forms the crux of the story.
This is a standard “friends to lovers” romance, with funny, awkward and cute moments blended in through eight episodes. In a huge surprise, Ashiya becomes aware of Yamato’s crush in the very first episode, after overhearing Yamato tell a few girls that he likes his childhood best-friend, when asked about his “type”. From that point onward, their friendship becomes rocky as Ashiya becomes perplexed about Yamato’s intentions, meanwhile Yamato grows increasingly insecure and jealous as his classmates try to set up Ashiya with someone else.
The cinematography was bright and simple; however, the creators unnecessarily added a sparkly filter in many scenes, perhaps in an attempt to evoke a sense of ‘magical’ or ‘innocence of first love,’ but it ended up being rather distracting. Most episodes either unfold at the school premises or at the protagonists’ home, however, the class goes on a small trip in episodes 4-5, which offered an interesting visual break from the usual classroom set-up. The series opening song “U & I” by Hi-Fi Un!corn(하이파이유니콘) is very cheery, upbeat and complements the series well whenever played behind a particular scene.
Kashiwagi Haru is hilariously adorable as the goofy Ashiya Kakeru. The actor employs physical comedy, utilizing exaggerated body movements to enhance the comedic effect in their performance, instantly reminding me of Mishieda Shunsuke’s portrayal of Aoki in ‘Kieta Hatsukoi’. Both characters are also zany, cute and confused about their romantic feelings for a classmate. Maeda Kentaro on the other hand is earnestly charming as the blindingly good-looking Ohara Yamato, who is very considerate about those around him. Even though Yamato struggles to express his romantic emotions, he is also pretty straightforward and immediately turns down all the girls who ask him out. While the romantic chemistry between Maeda Kentaro and Kashiwagi Haru wasn’t magnetic, their interactions are entertaining. Furthermore, Maeda Kentaro brilliantly captures the agony of unrequited love in his role as Yamato. His longing gaze at Ashiya is reminiscent of Hira’s obsession with Kiyoi in ‘Utsukushii Kare’, a Japanese series about an asocial teen’s excessive adoration for his handsome classmate.
The pacing of the series is pretty steady, with each episode spanning 20 minutes and the focus remaining on the leads. While ‘I Can’t Reach You’ (‘Kimi ni wa Todokanai’) introduced some interesting supporting characters, some of them could have benefited from more development. For instance, Matsumoto Leo’s portrayal of the nosy yet perceptive Hosaka would have been enhanced with more screen time. His character appears somewhat random when encouraging Yamato to be more honest about his feelings. Although Hosaka is a close friend of Ashiya, there are very few scenes featuring the two together, making his overly friendly ‘advice’ to Yamato seem somewhat disconnected, leaving a sense that something was missing from the dynamics. Yamato shares a very warm bond with his younger sister Mikoto (Konno Ayaka), who was a little like Charlie’s sister Tori from the teen romance “Heartstopper”. Konno Ayaka is very poker-faced as Mikoto, but the character is crucial, as she encourages both Yamato and Ashiya to confront each other. “I would cry if I get rejected,” Yamato says in one scene to Mikoto and she kindly responds by saying “I will stay with you all night if that happens” . That one scene succinctly sums up their sibling bond.
“Overall, ‘I Can’t Reach You’ (‘Kimi ni wa Todokanai’) is a charming high-school romance for those who enjoy ‘friends to lovers’ stories, with the exception of a rather ridiculous plot twist in episode six where Yamato forgets a crucial conversation he has with Ashiya. The story typically flows smoothly, without excessive drama and has a satisfactory climactic episode.
Rating: 7 on 10. You can stream it on Netflix.
Also Read: ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus – Book Review (Audio Version Below)