Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! Series Anime Review

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How I feel when I watch this show.

“Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!” or “No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!” or simply “Watamote”. Now breathe from trying to read all that out loud at once. Because this show will make you laugh and cringe all in the same breath.

Watamote, as it is affectionately known, was a manga I picked up reading before it was announced to be an anime. My interest was piqued by the main character. A dark-haired girl who looked like she had a lot of dark eye circles with a really weird expression on her face. It was her strange expression which convinced me to turn the cover- a stressed out, wanting to die kind of look. From the first page, I was instantly charmed by the unconventional female protagonist. Tomoko is a shy girl who prefers to spend her time in front of her computer, whiling the days away on internet forums or playing an otome game. She has a complex about talking to other people and goes to an extreme in trying to fit in. She’s crude, she’s self-centered and she judges the world based on her own failings. I was very, very, very surprised to see this classified as a shounen manga. I wouldn’t even blink an eye if this was a shoujo, since…Tomoko is so identifiable.

She feels real as a character to me. Her social anxieties, her worries about school and after-school activities, her dreams to be cute, her desires to be loved – they all feel like what anyone has gone or will go through at some point in their lives. Tomoko is such a quandary. In a way, her outward actions seem to show that she doesn’t give a fuck what other people think of her, but inside, she does. She cares so much that her actions become odd because she tenses up so much.

If she could relax, and really truly not give a fuck, she would have an easier time, but that’s harder than it looks. I empathise with Tomoko. Sometimes it’s really hard to relax. And even as tense and anxious as I get about social situations, so much so as to hide sometimes, my friend is even more tense than me. I’ve known her for a few years and she has a diagnosed social anxiety disorder. She’s extremely quiet when we’re out in public around groups of people, and I understand. It’s hard to find topics of conversation to talk about when your brain is trying to process everyone looking at you and you’re trying not to make a mistake because you’ve made so many in the past and you’re embarrassed about it.

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Behold, the female otaku in her natural habitat.

Of course, if Tomoko were a male, she wouldn’t be illustrated and depicted so cutely. There’s just a charm about her, as put so succintly by her senpai. She’s very determined and her inward thoughts about trying to break out of the cycle are actually written more clearly in the manga. What the anime does well is in the little flairs it puts in, like the animated floor map at the fast food place. The various references to popular anime also make it a really fun treat to watch. It’s just all executed well. The simple art style from the manga was replicated and coloured in well. I liked it a lot when Tomoko turned grey when she was ignored, and in almost revenge, the people around her who are inconsequential to her, lack faces. It saves on the anime budget and also helps us to visualise the world through Tomoko’s eyes. A world where people do not matter individually, but only as a group.

The voice actress for Tomoko also did an incredible job – Izumi Kitta. From the softer stutters to the loud screams to the nonchalant bashing of other people, everything was spot on. I really liked how Tomoko railed on others and curses her own misfortunes; there was a certain vulnerable quality to it. We’re made aware that her words are an almost reflex defense, said in jealousy of what the others have. Friends. Of course, Tomoko isn’t totally alone. I personally think it’s just that she takes more time than others to make friends in her school, which may be why she feels such an anxiety about it.

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Ssss! Your moeness is too blinding!

The contrast of Yu and Tomoko makes me laugh every time. Yu started off in much the same place as Tomoko, and from adapting to her environment she changed the outward appearance of herself. Inside, Yu is very much the same good friend she was to Tomoko. Supportive of her friend’s weird actions and questions, never judging but always friendly and helpful. Watching the two interact made me realise- we are a Tomoko to someone, and we are also a Yu to someone.

Tomoko would represent our self-consciousness and our desire to fit in to society, and yet knowing we are apart and somehow different from it. She is the friend that you can barely tolerate but is fun to have around because of their antics. Yu is our relaxed affableness, blending in seamlessly with the fabric. That friend you can always count on to help you out, and who is a friend to everyone. Both are essential to have in a person. It wasn’t something I understood in the manga, but their contrast and interactions were clearer in the anime.

The manga is actually still ongoing, so I was wondering how they would end a gag manga. Would Tomoko still be at square one? Or would she have destroyed and made her situation worse? I was really satisfied with how the anime ended, though I really should not have been surprised. The overall anime would have been a little depressing if they had chosen to end it a little earlier, and I’m glad they closed it the way they did. She finally did not give a fuck, growing up just a little bit more.

By the end, Tomoko’s come to appreciate Yu’s company, and she’s settling down well in school and made a new friend. That’s really a big milestone for Tomoko. She’s come full circle from the opening and it made me really happy to see how sweetly they animated her senpai. I did get kind of a shoujo-ai vibe to it, and it makes me wonder if Tomoko might not end up getting a boyfriend in the end.

This show made me nostalgic, hopeful and at the same time sad. I think most of us spent too much of our youths worrying about inconsequential things, like how people might think we’re weird for doing something, when really, most everyone are too busy to pay attention to your problems. I mean, try to recall a random passer-by or even classmate in school that you weren’t close to. Do you recall something embarrassing they did? I don’t, and it’s almost a certainty they did do something embarrassing. It’s a trick I taught myself to not give a fuck. It makes me sad that Tomoko might be missing out on a lot of fun in life by worrying too much, and yet it makes me hopeful that she’ll learn to relax since she’s still young and surrounded by quite supportive people. Tomoko’s lucky in that sense.

It makes me wonder if the anime is actually a social commentary on the target demographic, which is most certainly male otaku. Or maybe it’s just a statement on youth today. We see Tomoko playing her handheld otome game quite frequently, and she’s consoled by the game in place of actually seeking out friends. Does her computer cause her to have a lack of friends or does it help keep her company when her courage fails?

And yet, is it so bad to have just one good friend who will stick with you through thick and thin? Why must she feel so pressured to have so many friends just because it’s a social norm? I know quite a few people who would exchange their mass of fair weather buddies just for one good friend.

Some things are just a lot more easily seen through the eyes of a socially anxious high school girl.

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