One of the most crucial characteristics of a childhood friend is that they are confident enough in themselves to embrace you no matter what. Osana Najimi not only serves as the perfect foil to Komi Can't Communicate's usually quiet heroine Komi Shoko, but she is also a bold depiction of self-love and independence from gender conventions.
Najimi tosses hegemonic conventions out the window the moment they appear on-screen. They incorporate qualities from both genders to create a character that is about much more than the labels they use to define themselves.
Osana Najimi: A Girl or a Boy?
When co-protagonist Tadano Hitohito first brings his childhood friend Najimi to the inhibited Komi, he initially introduces them as a "girl" before confusedly remembering that they wore a male uniform throughout middle school. This kicks off the question of what Tadano calls their "ambiguous gender." While the audience is never provided with a clear answer regarding what descriptor they identify as, the series uses pronoun obfuscation, clothing choices and jokes about attraction and romance to provide a nuanced depiction of what could be described as Najimi's presentation of gender fluidity.
Najimi utilizes the Japanese pronoun "boku," which, while most commonly used by guys, can also be used by girls, particularly those who are less forthright with stereotypically feminine features or who exhibit tomboyishness. Characters in the anime, on the other hand, utilize both "kare" and "kanojo," the Japanese counterparts of he/him and she/her, to varied degrees while speaking about them. Najimi never corrects other characters on the nuances of pronoun usage, indicating that they are fine with any and all pronouns.
Najimi's Non-Binary Gender Is Confirmed by Her Fashion Choices
Similarly, they appear equally comfortable labeling themself as a "boy" or a "girl" depending on the circumstances. When Tadano initially questions why Najimi is wearing a skirt, they respond that it is perfectly natural to don one as a girl. However, when Najimi's former classmate confesses his attraction to them, they reject his advances on the grounds of being a boy. Although a simplistic reading of these claims would dismiss these instances as gags or deceit, a more sophisticated understanding allows viewers to see Najimi as someone who is at ease with multiple gender roles in a flexible or hybridized manner.
Perhaps the most visually apparent expression of Najimi's non-binary gender defiance is their fashion sense, which often utilizes both traditionally male and female items. While attending Itan Private High School, Najimi chooses to wear the boys' blazer and tie combo along with the girls' plaid skirt. Likewise, when attending the summer festival with Komi, Tadano and the others, they choose to wear a jinbei -- a piece of summer clothing conventionally worn by men and children, but which have recently seen a rise in popularity with women as well. This choice stands in contrast with the more iconic summer yukata, which tends to have distinctly unique designs for men and women respectively.
Najimi draws attention at the waterpark by dressing in a women's swim top and jean shorts. The attire somehow conceals any distinct physical characteristics while still displaying just enough for the boys in the group to find them admirable. They chose to change in the public restroom after Tadano forbids them from entering the women's restroom, demonstrating their security in their open identity even during the process of putting on the swimsuit. As significant as the moment is for Najimi, Tadano's struggle to understand their gender mobility is also amply revealed.
Despite having known them for many years, Tadano is the sole figure who expresses dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity about Najimi's gender. He frequently shuts people down when they attempt flirty jokes and reacts angrily when they appear to favor one end of the gender spectrum over the other. Nonetheless, Tadano progresses significantly during the series, not just accepting Najimi's various shades of expression but even experimenting with gender play himself. By the season finale, he has even agreed to wear a maid uniform throughout the cultural festival at the request of Najimi and Komi.
Osana Najjimi Is Proof That Gender Is Not a Personality Trait
Regardless of what words Najimi may use to describe themself, it is refreshing to see the series' treatment of them as a character. While their gender non-conformity is certainly a crucial part of their identity, they prove time and time again that it's not their most essential aspect. Rather, it is their ability and history as a loyal companion to seemingly everybody around them that defines them as a person, to the point where even their name means "childhood playmate."
Osana Najimi is defined by their easygoing, fun-loving, and sturdy personality, regardless of whether they are a guy or a girl, neither or both, all of the above, or something in between. It's possible that no word or phrase adequately describes their gender. Rather than trying to pin them down with a label, perhaps the best way to describe them is in a single word: buddy.