Over the course of Komi Can’t Communicate, Shoko Komi has grown closer to her friend Hitohito Tadano. In Episode 9, she takes it to a higher level.
Shoko Komi is a first-year student at Ikan Private High School who also suffers from extreme social anxiety. As a result of her paralyzing anxiety, Komi also has a communication disorder that prevents her from verbalizing her thoughts; she opts to use written communication when interacting with others. Despite her struggles in social situations, Komi is greatly admired for her beauty at her school and has managed to befriend some of her classmates. Her closest friends are Hitohito Tadano and Najimi Osana.
Between her two best friends, Komi has grown particularly fond of Tadano, as evidenced by her various interactions with him. When she went shopping for clothes with her friends one day, of all the clothes her friends had her try out, she bought the dress Tadano picked out for her. She later wore that same dress when she visited her paternal grandmother, who asked her at one point if there was a boy she liked from school, which made her shake. Later on, at a summer festival, Shoko complimented Tadano on looking good in a yukata and later wrote a message in the dirt that read, “When I’m with you, I enjoy our time alone as well.”
Episode 9 of Komi Can’t Communicate continues the momentum established at the summer festival when Komi and her friends return to school from summer break. While Najimi and Tadano are conversing during a class break, Komi notices that Tadano always refers to Najimi by their first name rather than their last name as is customary in Japan. This indicates to Komi that Tadano and Najimi are close friends, which makes sense given that they’ve known each other since childhood.
Feeling that she too has grown close to Tadano in the few months that she’s known him, Komi makes a bold request of him: she writes in her notebook, “Watashi mo namae de yonde kudasai,” meaning “Please call me by my first name too.” Tadano is a bit surprised by her request, and at the same time, he’s not sure if he can break out of his habit of calling her “Komi-san.” He’s especially nervous about the implications that come with him calling a young woman by her first name, as this could imply a more intimate relationship than friendship.
Regardless of Tadano’s reservations, she once again insists that he call her “Shoko,” but he is unable to comply. In order to ease him into it, Najimi takes initiative in acquiescing to Komi’s request by calling her “Shoko,” but without attaching a friendly honorific to her name like “Shoko-chan.” While Komi writes in her notebook that hearing her name spoken aloud “feels a bit wonderful,” she also notes in her mind that hearing it come from Najimi makes her a little uncomfortable. This makes it clear that Komi only wants to be called “Shoko” by the person she loves most.
Interestingly, Najimi presents a challenge of their own to Komi: in the same way she wants Tadano to call her by her first name, she too should try calling him by his first name of Hitohito. Komi physically shakes at the thought of calling Tadano by his first name and opts to write “Hitohito-kun” in her notebook. Najimi, however, states that she needs to say it aloud, not write it. This causes her to shake even more, and she manages to stammer “Hi” but is unable to finish saying his name. This makes Najimi complain about them both being utterly hopeless.
Despite the fact Komi’s own shyness prevents her from calling Tadano by his first name (even when she adds “kun” at the end of it), her request does confirm that she loves him in a romantic capacity and that she wants to pursue something more. The fact that she wants him to call her “Shoko” without honorifics is strongly indicative of the level of emotional intimacy she’s really after.