Komi Can’t Communicate Revisits Komi’s Lonely Childhood

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 11 of Komi Can't Communicate, "It's Just a Performance for the Culture Festival," now streaming on Netflix.

Culture festivals in Japan are annual open-day events in which schools and universities display the academic and artistic achievements of their students. Food is often served and performances held by the schools' clubs. With culture festivals being a major aspect of Japanese school life, many anime, manga and light novels tend to devote at least one episode to this event. Episode 11 of Komi Can't Communicate adapts a few chapters from the manga that depict Itan Private High School's culture festival.

At Itan, Komi’s class is undecided on what they want to do for the annual culture festival, with many ideas being equally popular among the students. It takes Komi unwittingly voting on the maid café idea to break the tie, as all the students change their votes to support her choice. During the preparations phase, Komi very clearly wants to help out with something, but her classmates decide to have her sit on a throne labeled “Kami” (God) instead. It’s not until her classmate, Kaede Otori, invites Komi to join both herself and Nene Onemine to shop for supplies that she starts to feel useful.

Komi, Kaede and Onemine arrive at the local Home Center to get the supplies they need for their class, with Onemine assuming the leadership role. Out of the three, Onemine is the only one who can stay on task and keep the other two girls in check. Between Komi and Kaede, Komi can at least stay on task and keep an eye on Kaede, who has a tendency to wander and get into dangerous situations.

Unfortunately for Komi, her communication disorder makes it difficult for her to interact with staff, while Kaede's penchant for danger likewise flares up Komi's anxiety. This inevitably causes Onemine to do all of the shopping while Komi ends up functioning as Kaede's babysitter. While Onemine gets the supplies they need, Komi uses the opportunity to ask Kaede why she asked her specifically for help. Kaede doesn't know how to answer her question but chalks it up to seeing Komi interact with their classmate, Hitohito Tadano, who is also their class president. In a way, her friendship with Tadano inspired her to want to become friends as well.

Feeling inspired by Kaede's words, Komi confesses that in junior high school, she felt useless because her extreme social anxiety and communication disorder prevented her from being helpful to her classmates. As such, being invited by Kaede to help out with the supply shopping made her feel happy. This confession calls back to Komi's original confession to Tadano in Episode 1.

In Episode 1, back when Tadano first discovered Komi's communication disorder, she also asked him how he knew she had trouble talking to people. When he told her that it was the vibe he got from her, this was when Komi described her experiences in junior high school in detail. Specifically, she talked about how she had trouble initiating simple conversations and how that manifested into a fear of rejection. Her limited experiences due to an inability to connect with peers and form meaningful friendships also informed her belief that she would come off as boring to her classmates.

While Kaede doesn't fully understand Komi's struggles, at the same time, it's not an issue for her because it doesn't impact her interest in being friends. While Onemine is fully aware of Komi's anxiety and communication disorders, she gives her the same amount of respect she affords to her other classmates and never treats her like a child. These new relationships not only help Komi continue to build her self-esteem but also brings her closer to her goal of making 100 friends.

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