Izumi KittaAtsumi TanezakiKengo TakanashiHaruki Ishiya
Also known as: Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2013
Director: Shin Oonuma
Original creator: Nico Tanigawa
Actor: Izumi Kitta, Kana Hanazawa, Risa Hayamizu, Yuichi Nakamura, Ai Nonaka, Aki Kanada, Akiko Seri, Asuka Nishi, Atsumi Tanezaki, Ayaka Asai, Ayaka Fukuhara, Haruka Kudou, Haruki Ishiya, Hironori Saito, Jun Fukushima, Kanami Satou, Kazutaka Ishii, Kengo Takanashi, Kouji Takahashi, Kousuke Toriumi, Miina Obata, Momoe Matsumura, Momoka Ikebe, Rei Sakai, Rie Kugimiya, Rieko Oda, Ryo Iwasaki, Ryusuke Oobayashi, Saki Ono, Sanae Nakata, Saori Onishi, Shinya Takahashi, Shiori Izawa, Shizuka Ishigami, Shuta Morishima, Shuuhei Iwase, Subaru Kimura, Tomokazu Sugita, Yoshihisa Kawahara, Yukitoshi Kikuchi, Yuko Kurose, Yuuko Mori
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15008
Website category: Anime 2013
Review date: 8 August 2016
Whoah, brutal. It's an otaku comedy whose lead character (Tomoko) can't interact with other people to save her life... but it's also pulling no punches in portraying her as a failure of a human being whose condition has turned her into a pathetic, desperate wreck whose life is a non-stop train wreck of self-delusion.
It's also very funny, though, and there are ways in which I even respect Tomoko.
There's quite a lot of manga and anime about otaku. They're the target audience, after all. These tend to be ego-strokes, reassuring the viewer that it's okay to be a scary obsessive fanboy, hikikomori, NEET, pervert, eternal virgin or whatever. Don't worry, otaku! Look at our hero here! He might tick all the "hopeless otaku" boxes, but he's also super-intelligent, destined to save the world and/or about to have two dozen girls hopelessly in love with him!
Watamote is actively hostile to all that and, perhaps as a result, the Blu-rays of its anime sold poorly in Japan. There won't be a second season. However it has lots of foreign fans, many of whom claim (worryingly) to be just like Tomoko. Some of these people bought the manga in Japanese even though they couldn't read the language, just to support it. The manga's still going strong, incidentally.
Tomoko (the real one who's my wife) saw bits of this show as I was watching it. At first, she assumed that you wouldn't find people that extreme in real life, but apparently the manga's writer says that he was even worse than this when he was in high school and university. Yuu's only there because the manga's editor thought it too depressing for Tomoko to have no friends at all, while the reason Tomoko isn't bullied is because the writer and artist thought it would have made the story too personal for them. It's based on their personal experiences, after all. (Instead, her peers don't even notice her existence.) That said, though, I think she has two distinctive and even admirable features that make her significantly healthier than many of her real-life equivalents. They're probably mandatory in a comedy protagonist if you're going to have a watchable show, but:
(a) she's not consumed by depression. She's often very negative and she's suppressing a fair amount of pain, but at least she doesn't let it overwhelm her.
(b) she doesn't turn inward. She keeps trying and keeps looking for ways to triumph against a universe that seems to hate her. She often interprets things positively (even if those perceptions are wildly at odds with reality) and she doesn't give up. She wants a boyfriend. She thinks everything will be different when she starts high school, or when the spring term starts, or whatever. Despite everything, she's an optimist. Also deranged, stupid, greedy, self-centred, appalling and goblin-like, but an optimist. She keeps banging her head against reality and I'd like to think that one day she'll make a bit of a dent in it. That's certainly better than shrinking into herself and shutting out the world, which is probably what she'd do if she ever gave up.
Tomoko is the show. It's all focused on her. No break, no let-up. Don't try to watch the whole thing all at once, or it might just kill you. The title might as have been Internal Monologue Of A Total Loon, or perhaps Watch A Train Wreck In Slow Motion. (Look on the internet and it won't be hard to find reviews of this show by people who found it struck too close to home and made them deeply unhappy or uncomfortable.) The full title, incidentally, is "Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!" or "No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!" Things she might do include:
1. Collapsing into horrified, churned-up silence when spoken to by anyone not related to her. She might eventually produce an inappropriate, barely comprehensible response (usually in a whisper) after a delay of ten seconds to 24 hours.
2. Being a nightmare of a big sister. On occasion, borderline evil.
3. Having a near-death experience with a hoover while trying to use it to give herself love bites.
4. Play trading card battle games with tiny children... and cheat to make herself look good.
5. On being told to do some housework and that her brother Tomoki does his share, she goes and tells off Tomoki. He's setting a bad example! She then tells him to do her share too, instead of revising for his high school entrance exams.
Occasionally she'll have good ideas. Getting a part-time job in ep.9 was probably the best plan she'd had yet for making herself socialise. It fails, obviously. However she's more likely to be trying to do things that make you cringe, with the worst being the living horror that is ep.8 and the cousin to whom she's been pretending to be cool, popular and sexually experienced.
It's impossible to know her sexuality, by the way. (It's hard to say that she has much idea either.) She's foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed, but she's so starved of human contact that it's hard to assess her behaviour. She thinks she's heterosexual. She wants a boyfriend and she gets off playing adult video games and fantasising about the men in them. However she can also turn into a dirty old man towards her one and only friend from middle school, Yuu. Is she bisexual, or is this just another symptom of flailing rootless desperation? I'm currently inclined to trust her self-identification, but I could be wrong. It's a bit like the wildly inappropriate insinuations she'll occasionally direct at her brother, which one assumes are just boils of social inadequacy rather than something she means seriously.
(Apparently there's stronger evidence on all this in the manga. I might well read that one day, but for now I'm just going on the anime.)
There are parodies and hat-tips, unsurprisingly from an otaku comedy. I spotted Death Note, Haruhi Suzumiya, Another, Terra Former, Parasyte and K-On!, but there will have been more.
The title sequences are also of interest. The opening titles are like a defiant punk anthem, screaming Tomoko's attitudes at the world to an animated representation of Tomoko shattering her chains. After that there are various closing titles, but the usual one is merciless in its crushing of Tomoko's illusions.
Tomoko herself is paradoxically lovable. She's got gargoyle eyes, but a glorious range of facial expressions and you've got to love the way she'll drag herself back to happy evil vim on blind mad optimism, self-delusion, rage, misanthropy or bloody-minded malice.
I shouldn't oversell the show. It's embarrassment otaku comedy about a filthy-minded little grouch, not Chekhov or Strindberg. Its purpose is to make you laugh. However it can also be poignant in its cold-blooded dissection of Tomoko's life and of the way almost everything she says and does seems to make it worse. The worst of it is that Tomoko's actually adapted quite well, like a frog that's worked out how to make the best of being in a pot of boiling water. She doesn't want to be like this, though. Ep.10 is basically tragedy. Tomoko is a character who can, at the same time, repel you and make you want to give her a hug.
I think the show's deceptively powerful, actually. I hope our anti-heroine's efforts do bear fruit, one day. She'll need a lot of help, though.