WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 12 of Komi Can't Communicate, "It's Just the Culture Festival," now streaming on Netflix.
Komi Can't Communicate Season 1 opened with a thesis on extreme social anxiety and the role it plays in communication disorders. Throughout the series, the narration has defined "communication disorder" as a person having difficulty interacting with others, not because they are standoffish, but because they experience extreme anxiety in social situations. Despite their seemingly standoffish behavior, people with communication disorders actually desire to form relationships with others but don't know how to do so.
Much of Shoko Komi's character development throughout Season 1 is built on the premise of her being limited by her anxiety and communication disorders. She also states her desire in Episode 1 to make 100 friends, with Hitohito Tadano and Najimi Osana becoming the first two that she makes. While Tadano is able to read her body language and communicate with her in a way that's comforting, Najimi is the character who challenges Komi to try things outside of her comfort zone.
Through Najimi, Komi got to make a couple of friends at Itan Private High School. She also got to experience bringing friends home to meet her family for the first time, with Najimi taking a picture of them together. This got Komi to ask her mother for a picture frame for the photo. She later summoned the courage to ask her friends out to eat ramen together. She also got to visit a theme park, play video games and attend a summer festival with friends for the first time. With all the progress Komi has made, it only made sense that the season would end with Komi being pushed to her highest limits yet.
In many ways, the culture festival that takes up Episodes 11 and 12 is about Komi gaining skills she will need in her adult life, which means pushing her further outside her comfort zone. In Episode 11, she's tasked with helping Nene Onemine and Kaede Otori purchase supplies for the culture festival using the school budget. She's also tasked with providing customer service at her class's maid café, which naturally exacerbates her social anxiety. It's only through Najimi's guidance that Komi eventually gets the hang of providing quality service, which helps her keep her anxiety under control.
While Najimi eventually gets overconfident and starts employing profiteering tactics to bring more money into their class's maid café, Komi still gets opportunities to overcome some of her social anxiety. Some of these include checking out the other classes' shops like the haunted house and participating in other festival events like the "rooftop confessions" (albeit with pressure from Najimi), as well as some of the sporting events, which she is naturally good at.
During the winding down hours, Komi experiences her first school dance after Tadano sheepishly invites her to the dance floor, recognizing her desire to participate. Since neither one is able to take initiative on the dance floor, Najimi joins in, with the three of them essentially participating in a three-people dance. When Najimi later invites them to sing karaoke with their group of friends, this proves to be the difficult hurdle Komi can't overcome.
The interesting thing about the karaoke scene is that Komi has gone to a karaoke bar with her family before, but as expected, only her mother sang. With karaoke being Najimi's idea, Komi is made to sing since everyone else is doing it. While Komi does end up choosing the song "Hikare Inochi" by Kitri (which is also the anime's ending theme), she panics internally at the thought of singing in front of others. When it's finally her turn, Komi summons the courage to give it her all, but misses her cue to start singing and starts panicking again. Although this mishap brings Komi to the verge of tears, Najimi invites her to sing with both Tadano and themself to make her feel a little more comfortable.
By the time she makes it back home, Komi spends the rest of her evening reflecting on both the culture festival and the progress she's made in her first year at Itan Private High School. She still has a long way to go in overcoming her extreme social anxiety and communication disorder, but the culture festival proved to be an exciting experience for her. Being able to participate in a school event made Komi feel like she was finally part of a group, which is a major step up from her isolation in junior high school. The fact that she now has friends has also brought her self-esteem up considerably from where it was in Episode 1.
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