The Dolls of Kimi ni Todoke

Kimi ni Todoke Sawako Kurumi scan

Recently, I’ve been watching (and loving) Kimi ni Todoke. A character-driven series, KimiTodo presents the growing relationships of Kuronuma Sawako. I instantly liked her honest, sincere, and awkward personality. As her character develops, we are introduced to Kurumizawa Ume, the antagonist. I loved the interactions between these two very interesting girls. Sawako and Kurumi’s contrast is an exemplar use of the opposite natures of protagonists and antagonists. Seemingly identical on first glance, the two actually differ in significant ways, not unlike two sides of a mirror.

Kimi ni Todoke Sawako doll

Consider the scene in which both Sawako and Kurumi thought each other look like dolls. Sawako compares Kurumi to a beautiful European bisque doll, while Kurumi probably associates Sawako with the traditional Japanese Ichimatsu doll.

Bisque Doll Kimi Todo

European bisque dolls are made of fragile, easily-broken unglazed porcelain. Popularized in 1800s in France and Germany, these fashion dolls quickly became collectibles and playthings of wealthy children. They command a high price and are rather exclusive to the affluent.

Ichimatsu doll Kimi Todo

On the other hand, Ichimatsu dolls are commonly made with wood (paulownia or buttonwood). Despite the recent creepy images brought by the Okiku-chan doll, Ichimatsu dolls are actually very benevolent entities. Originally made to take on any misfortune for the owner, they soon found themselves in families of all classes and in the hands of many Japanese children.

Kimi ni Todoke Kurumi Sawako scan

The difference in the doll associations for the two girls is clear. Like bisque dolls, Kurumi is beautiful, elite, and fashionable, but perhaps lacks the inner sturdy compassion Sawako shows. Sawako, on the contrary, is the loyal, humble, and sincere girl, as represented by the fortunate Ichimatsu doll. Moreover, stretching our imaginations further, this might even be a portrayal of the dichotomy between traditional idealism and western cultural imperialism (Thanks! Ningyo). Such a simple but subtle comparison adds a much deeper layer to these two personalities.

Kurumi Kimi ni Todoke

By the way, I am completely in love with Kurumi. Team Kurumi!

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48 Responses to The Dolls of Kimi ni Todoke

  1. Shinmaru says:

    Ooh, good points about the doll symbolism. Didn’t occur to me at the time to view it like this. Interesting.

    I like Sawako, but I’m firmly in Team Kurumi, as well, haha. She gets better as she develops more, too. Unfortunately, after this arc, her screen time plummets. =/

    • Yi says:

      @Shinmaru: I might have been over analyzing a bit but glad you thought it was interesting.

      “Unfortunately, after this arc, her screen time plummets. =/” 😦

      Anyways, thanks for visiting. ^ ^

  2. Ruby says:

    I lovee Kurumi!! she’s so pretty cute xD and is my fav character!! Kimi ni Todoke was very good, it’s just the ending that sucks, I hope there’s a season 2 ~.~
    Ichimatsu dolls are very creepy, I think I watched some show called ghost something?? and the doll in there was possessed and moved by itself so now I’m just really scared of them… well dolls in general creeps me out ever since I was young, it’s just so…evil looking.. xD

    • Yi says:

      @Ruby: Yep yep! Kurumi is so cute! I haven’t finished the series yet, but I’m really enjoying the series so far. Hopefully, I’ll like the ending as well even though I’m 99% sure Kurumi will not end up with Kazehaya. Ichimatsu dolls originated as a symbol of fortune and have a really beneficial purpose. That image sure has been twisted by horror movies. Agreed that they can be kind of creepy at times.

  3. shijima says:

    I’ve heard great things about Kimi ni Todoke but still haven’t had a chance to watch it. =(
    Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
    I must admit that I also find dolls a bit creepy at times,
    but I guess there are good dolls in the world too.
    The bisque doll sort of reminds me of the dolls from Rozen Maiden. =)

    • Yi says:

      @shijima: When you get the chance, I would highly recommend the series. It’s a nice little love story that details the intricacies of friendship, love, and school life drama.
      Definitely agree that doll can be creepy at times… Lifeless portrayals of humans. At other times though, I think they can be really cute. My mother actually has several bisque dolls and many other Japanese dolls. She buys the local doll whenever she travels. Growing up, I loved looking at them.
      Rozen Maiden is a perfect example of how cute dolls can be. ^ ^

  4. You really do have to feel sorry for Kurumi’s situation at times. At least, that’s how I saw it before I kinda neglected watching the series though I might pick it up again.

    Anyways that’s an interesting comparison to make and being to understand the deeper meaning behind the symbolism is always a nice touch.

    • Yi says:

      @zzeroparticle: I’m still not too far into the Kurumi arc. I’ve seen enough to really like her a lot though, and it sounds like I’m going to feel really bad later. 😦
      “Anyways that’s an interesting comparison to make and being to understand the deeper meaning behind the symbolism is always a nice touch”
      Thanks! I’ve always really liked dolls… And Wikipedia is awesome in getting facts.

  5. hisui19 says:

    are the manga of this, already translated?

  6. Ningyo says:

    Whoaho, sharp singling on this symbolism! KimiTodo had something going with this analogy.

    Though, unless Kurumi is remarkably affluent herself, I think the analogy touches less on tradition vs. commercialism and more on that Western cultural imperialism in the East. The foreign is seen as more romantic, thus augmenting Kurumi’s elite, exotically beautiful image.

    Of course, I’m just flapping my mouth here, since I haven’t even read/watched KimiTodo >.>

    • Yi says:

      @Ningyo: “Though, unless Kurumi is remarkably affluent herself, I think the analogy touches less on tradition vs. commercialism and more on that Western cultural imperialism in the East.”
      That’s exactly what I wanted to try to say. I was blanking on the word I was looking for and my mind was also on commercialism for something else…
      Thanks so much for explaining it!

      “The foreign is seen as more romantic, thus augmenting Kurumi’s elite, exotically beautiful image.”
      Interestingly, in a follow up scene, this was explored more directly when Sawako wanted to emulate Kurumi by looking more “westernized.”

      Again, thanks for that snippet. It really helped in putting what I was thinking into words. I’ve edited the post to link to your comment.

      “since I haven’t even read/watched KimiTodo >.>”
      I highly recommend it. It’s a nice shoujo title with a lot of subtleties.

  7. Fabrice says:

    Kurumi was alright, anyway hope you enjoy the rest of the series =)
    loved that part with the doll XD and also when she acts like a ghost, well from some people perspective ^^

    • Yi says:

      @Fabrice: I liked Kurumi a lot but I also like Sawako too. I love it when she acts like a ghost too, even if she does not mean to.

  8. Yumeka says:

    Wow, great comparison with the dolls there. They actually really look like them.

    I think Kurumi should have been more of a prominent character. After she had her story, she just kinda disappeared for the rest of the series.

    • Yi says:

      @Yumeka: It seems that Kurumi loses a lot of screen time later… 😦
      That’s kind of sad. Anyways, the doll comparison is certainly surprisingly uncanny, especially Sawako.

  9. Reltair says:

    When I was younger, I would have been freaked out if I had those dolls in my room. Movies and such has certainly twisted my impression of them.

    I dropped the Kimi ni Todoke anime and I’m hesitant to pick it back up after hearing that it has a bad ending.

    • Yi says:

      @Reltair: I remember watching a doll ghost story once that kept me up for nights when I was a kid. Not a good experience… I hope the ending isn’t that bad, because it’s been a fun ride so far.

  10. softz says:

    Never watch the Anime before but I do gain a more in depth understanding about Ichimatsu dolls. Cheers!

  11. 2DT says:

    You have lovely timing again– Recently I’ve been trying to track down a copy of a book called “Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll,” by Alan Scott Pate. From what I gather, the gist of it is that doll culture in Japan is vast and complex, completely separate from western traditions. This is the first I’ve heard of these Ichimatsu dolls, though.

    I find myself a bit bothered by the fact that “she looks like a doll” is so common a compliment in anime. But when you put this sort of spin on it, I have to admit it’s rather interesting. 😉 Cheers.

    • Yi says:

      @2DT: That actually sounds like a great read. Will definitely try to find it.
      While doing background research for this post, I realized how intertwined doll culture is with Japanese culture. It’s really very interesting.

      Anyways, ichimatsu dolls seem to be among the more recognizable ones among the different types of Japanese dolls.

      “I find myself a bit bothered by the fact that “she looks like a doll” is so common a compliment in anime.”
      Hehe. Don’t we do that here too, calling people “doll-face” and such?

  12. lovelyduckie says:

    I’ve caught up to the manga, now while I wait around for more chapters I’ll probably slowly start watching the anime. Although I have to admit, in the most recent chapters of the manga I’m getting a bit frustrated with everyones’ complete inability to communicate! I thought it was darling at first, but man, enough is enough! I still really like this series but RAWR!

    • Yi says:

      @lovelyduckie: Haha, doesn’t miscommunication define shoujo manga? Though I can definitely understand the frustration. For example, by the end of the friendship rumor arc, I got a bit frustrated with Sawako. Still, love this series.

      • lovelyduckie says:

        As soon as both characters realize what they want…the whole bad communication bit needs to stop for me. That’s where I start to get frustrated. Skip Beat! is 23+ volumes and still has TONS of miscommunication situations that I love. But I love it because all the characters haven’t consciously decided that they want to date someone yet.

        • Yi says:

          @lovelyduckie: I see. I agree though that once character has been cleared, it’d be nice to reap the rewards and finally see some loving sweet scenes.

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  14. Janette says:

    I had no idea. This was a very interesting read. Thanks!

  15. Canne says:

    That was a nice comparison indeed.
    Ishimatsu doll is simpler and plainer. Thus, like Sawako, it can be easily overlooked.
    (BTW, I prefer animal dolls =_=)

  16. I love both these characters. Cute post.

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  18. Ah yes… I completely forgot about those doll comparisons that they made of each other. Good comparison, though I don’t know much about these dolls before this. I thought Ayane might be close to somewhat of a doll too.

    I think I started to like Kurumi more after her plan fell apart… Probably also when I realized that it was Aya Hirano doing her voice. I was wondering why she sounded familiar… I personally liked Sawako more and Chizuru comes in real close. I just have to mentioned her because she’s such a great open emotional book, especially when paired with Ayane.

    • Yi says:

      @lightningsabre: I definitely agree about the other characters as well. Yoshida’s frank personality is awesome, and Sawako is as usual super cute. Ayane is a load of fun too!
      Anyways, I recently just found out that Kurumi is voiced by Aya Hirano, which is actually pretty cool.

  19. 10sigh_baka says:

    Haha nice analysis! I liked Kurumi, to me, her character was more “real” than Sawako’s perpetual benevolence (or maybe it’s just me being cynical)

    It was funny when they called each other doll! When calling Kurumi a western doll was a compliment, calling Sawako a Japanese doll was… not quite!
    It all goes back to what you said about bisque dolls being beautiful, fashionable and elite =] Idk, western aesthetics just tend to be perceived as automatically good…

    • Yi says:

      @10sigh_baka: I agree. Sawako almost seems too nice to be believable.
      What is even more interesting is that Kurumi intended to insult Sawako by calling her a doll, yet she might not have realized the underlying fortunate benevolent meaning that doll holds. On the other hand, Sawako complimenting Kurumi is all just about appearances.

  20. Ryan A says:

    Dolls. Kurumi is lovely, and despite being so lightly undermining, her frustration was still cute; not the right pairing for Shota, but much less harmless than she could have been.

    I completely forgot about the comparison of Sawako to a doll, XD Like other readers, I find the contrast between doll cultures interesting, and there’s a number of implications one could explore on that basis.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Yi says:

      @Ryan A: The doll thing was only a brief moment, but I thought it was a really cute scene. Anyways, Kurumi is indeed lovely, especially in her frustrated mood. In fact, it made her so much more real as a character. I really do like her a lot.
      Doll culture is indeed very interesting. It’s something I would definitely love to read more about.

  21. Fuller says:

    I just realize you used the french cover of the manga. 😀

    I’m watching the anime right now. I started yesterday night and watched 9 episodes. I think I can say I’m actually loving it. It seems that we have the same taste about anime !

    Sooo, thanks a lot and keep on the good work (that the first thing that came to my mind…)

    • Yi says:

      @Fuller: Yep yep, I did. It was the cleanest scan I found.

      The series is really nice. I’m loving it a lot too.

      “Sooo, thanks a lot and keep on the good work”
      Thanks for the encouraging words. I’ll work hard on continuing to watch good anime! ^ ^

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  23. I actually wanted to write about Kurumi because she was the perfect rival for Sawako. Her inner conflict was interesting to read about and is typical among girls who try really hard to become popular. I wonder what did you think of the other characters in the series.

    I want to share an entry I wrote on Chizuru and her love story. You can take a look at:

    If you get a chance, read the manga. It’s gotten very interesting!

    • Yi says:

      @Manga Therapy: I haven’t gotten that far in the series, so Kurumi is the only rival I’ve seen in depth. I love her inner conflicts too.

      Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on Chizuru. I especially love that part about pretend siblings. Very fascinating.

      I’ll definitely check out the manga. ^ ^

      • Thanks! If the series expands more on Kurumi later on, then I might write something about her. I think something significant is going to happen with her.

        Oh, are you excited about the live-action Kimi ni Todoke movie coming out later this year?

        • Yi says:

          @Manga Therapy: I didn’t know that there would be a KimiTodo movie. I’m excited for that for sure. ^ ^

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