Komi Can’t Communicate Explores Differences Between City Life & Rural Japan

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 9 of Komi Can't Communicate, "It's just a Country Kid," now streaming on Netflix.

Komi Can’t Communicate is a manga series that’s been adapted into both an anime and a live-action drama in Japan. While the premise of the series primarily focuses on the experiences of one girl with extreme social anxiety -- Shoko Komi -- it also explores other forms of social anxiety with other characters. One such character is Nokoko Inaka, who is introduced in Episode 9 of the anime.

As narrated in the first chapter of Episode 9, Nokoko is from the countryside (something her last name of "Inaka" alludes to), which she’s very self-conscious of. As such, she keeps this detail of her life a secret from her classmates at the elite Itan Private High School to avoid being made fun of. Despite this effort, however, some of her behaviors and stereotypes of city life still give away the fact she did not grow up in the city.

One way Nokoko gives away the fact she's a country girl is the fact she's the only female student who wears a knee-length skirt with her school uniform. While the Japanese countryside isn't known to have a conservative culture in the same way as its Western counterparts, countryside residents in Japan are still typically older and tend to have more traditional values. As such, they tend to lean more strongly toward simpler lifestyles.

Applied to Japanese women who reside in the countryside, they tend to wear more practical clothing since many typically marry and become mothers after graduating high school. Since the roles of women in the countryside are often limited to the household, women who decide to pursue a university degree or a career tend to move to a city where they have more job opportunities.

In the case of Nokoko, the Japanese country lifestyle is what she's used to, and she experiences a bit of culture shock when she starts commuting to the city for school. One of the things she notices right away is that city girls tend to wear shorter skirts with their school uniform, as well as more trendy street clothes outside of school. She also notices that city girls tend to be glued to their mobile phones and appear to be addicted to coffee. These experiences inform the stereotypes Nokoko forms of city girls.

Since Nokoko doesn't want to stand out, she observes the behaviors of her classmates and tries to model them without completely discarding her country upbringing. One way that she does this is by changing her skirt so that it's not knee-length but is also not so short that it shows more of her thighs. Another way Nokoko attempts to learn more about city life is by picking a classmate to learn from -- in this case, Shoko Komi, whom she recognizes as the most popular girl at her school.

During her shadowing of Komi, the latter's extreme social anxiety and communication disorder don't seem to get noticed by Nokoko. Instead, she tends to focus more on Komi's body language and how she carries herself around others. When she follows Komi into a Sabowey deli to observe how she orders a sub for her friend Najimi, Nokoko finds some of Komi's behavior confusing. Nevertheless, Komi's awkward experience at the deli gives Nokoko the confidence she needs to enter a fast-food place on her own and order lunch without a problem. From there, it's implied that Nokoko starts easing into city life a little better.

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