Whether the conditions are meet or not, it’s time for another review. I don’t know if I should call them bimonthly reviews instead but to give you a small peek behind the scenes of this blog, I prepare these reviews with months in advance because I really want to express all my thoughts about a show and I don’t want it to be rushed or maybe missed something interesting to discuss after I published the review. With this show in particular, I have a double feature with another Anime (review soon (tm)) and really want them to discuss both similarities and where they stand in time. But let’s go back in time to a purer era, 2013, and talk about the adaptation of Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dō Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!
About the Show
Watashi ga motenai no wa dō Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! (私がモテないのはどう考えてもお前らが悪い!) is a manga series that began serialization on Square Enix’s Gangan Online service from August 4, 2011. First volume was published just six months later. The anime was announced on December 2012 and began airing during the 2013 Summer season. It consists of twelve episodes and an OVA. The manga is still being published today.
15-year-old Tomoko Kuroki believes that she would become popular upon entering high school because she has become well-versed in the world of otome games. In reality, she finds that she has become an unsociable loner, though she still forces herself to try out what she has learned about achieving popularity. As she progresses through high school, Tomoko attempts to improve her social status among her peers.
My encounter with this series is probably similar to those who discovered it for the first time, the series of events that made Watamote (in)famous on Western circles is a story for another time, but what I’ll have to say is that it was captivating at first sight. It was the first time of many things thanks to the series: The first time I imported manga from Japan that didn’t even had an official release. The first time I began collecting figurines of a character I like. Up until that point while I enjoyed Anime and Manga, it was mostly hidden and probably ashamed of it a little. By no means I’m claiming it changed my life but maybe it made me realize that this is the kind of thing I enjoy and appreciate. When the anime was announced I was excited and really looking forward to it. And then it aired and I liked it. But that was the end. It felt like closure and even when the manga was still ongoing, I had no desire to continue reading it. Now after seven years, rewatching the show brought some answers on why it felt like that.
Tomoko is a complex character on a quest to find what most people look and that is belonging to something. Be school life, family or even appealing to strangers, Tomoko has a wild imagination on how to make people like her and even bend over her. These delusions of grandeur are not justified by her looks (although she tries) nor her charming personality (also she tries) but massive unwarranted self-importance. She always wants to be the main attraction, the center of attention but without affecting her own ego. It is difficult not to root for her because all the situations that appear in the show end in social disaster. There’s these massive gap between what she wants to achieve and the results of her actions. I won’t call Tomoko an architect of her own demise, because there’s a bigger threat in the show and that’s life.
One example of such occurrence is the WcDonalds scene, for many people eating alone at a fast food restaurant (was) is just a part of a normal life, but for Tomoko such endeavor is a draining experience. But she does it and succeeds at it, even enjoy her burger but then people from her class appear on the scene and she feels threatened by them, why? Because she thinks they might think or talk about her and as we see how Tomoko’s imagination is her strongest and weakest point. Often times building unlikely scenarios and she is acting upon them. And this is the point where in another show, maybe with a more “conventional” character you would have minor discomfort scene playing or even she joins them and realize they are not different. But Tomoko cannot be that person, willingly or not, so she comes up with an over-engineered escape plan that would allow her to pass her made-up enemies. She does escape, alas as faith should had it, she encounters her little brother with friends in a scene where time slows and every second is an eternity for her and us the audience. And this is the usual play for almost all episodes. This not a criticism of the writing or directing of the show, this is the core of the entire story.
Many people cannot tolerate what happens in this show, akin to watching a car crash or the footage of an air disaster, the uncomfortable moments that this show has makes it difficult to process as a lighthearted story or even a comedy. At least that’s the common reaction that I’ve read since the show aired and I think it’s a great misunderstanding of what Watamote has to offer. We should not pity, nor mock or even ‘cringe’ at Tomoko’s character, we should empathize with her because as the title suggests, it is not really all her fault what happens to her and we share some responsibility as the audience for the reason that there are some that enjoy seeing her downfall over and over and those who wrote and created those scenarios knew it. And that’s why laughing at her misses the point, Tomoko has flaws that impede her to create meaningful relationships or to keep them together and yet she tries even when all the possibilities are against her.
There’s also a case to be made that Tomoko is an unreliable narrator, that our perception of her interactions with others are affected by her delusions and we are a getting skewed view of how people perceive her. You can see that with her family, her innermost social circle. There are moments where we think her mother is just indifferent and her little brother is tired of her behavior. But we see on videos and from memories of other people how in the recent past Tomoko was happier with her family and friend, enjoyed what life brought to her and even her little brother loved her so much to the point she wanted to marry her. What happened between that time and the present in the show, that’s the part that brings Tomoko’s narration to question. Not so much that the world deteriorated rapidly, maybe it was just her.
Watamote is entirely carried out by Tomoko and that’s why I’m focusing more on her character than any other aspect of the show. This is both a positive and negative aspect, all the side characters begin to shine until the last third of the entire season and if by then you are still watching the show you will be left unsatisfied because you know the show will end in the next two episodes. Watamote is a time capsule, a perfectly preserved moment in time for the character and the story because after the Anime, the manga changed completely its course and began the transformation of its main character. As far as I know she now has friends that compete for her affection and now she is a more normal girl (still with quirks and Tomoko’s own style). I feel that the show served as a wake-up call for the author and artist, they didn’t want Tomoko to continue on a path of self-destruction. So what you are watching is the equivalent of the “Before” picture of a fat guy in an infomercial, an imperfect and unfinished painting.
I don’t know if I can recommend the show. I think this is one of the rare occasions where I would recommend starting with the original source and if you can handle it then you should check the adaptation. If you never had any contact with this story by now, give it a chance. There’s more to Tomoko’s character than her memes and this collectively built image of a loner loser girl. The anime and manga are available where anime and manga is, you could also acquire it if you want.