By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I had a real love/hate relationship with WataMote, more so than any other anime I have watched this year. The show, which is also known as No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, is based off of the manga of the same name that has been running since 2011 and follows the daily life of high schooler Tomoko Kuroki. Kuroki is an avid player of dating sims and other games, and believes she will debut in high school as someone that’s popular and well liked. It becomes obvious rather early on that due to an immense amount of social awkwardness the exact opposite is true and she’s an ignored loner. The twelve episodes explore her attempts to try and change the situation to hilariously awkward results, but despite presenting itself as a darker comedy/slice of life the storyline throughout WataMote comes off as frustrating and a little too hard to relate to at times.

Social awkwardness has been used as a setup for anime before, with the most notable example being Welcome to the NHK! That series examined the hikikomori phenomenon as well as a number of other Japanese societal problems, but it was handled in a way that was often easy for me to relate to on a personal level. I was expecting WataMote might go in a similar direction, only with a female lead being thrown into many of these situations. What I got wasn’t quite as relatable as I had hoped for, but there were still some moments that did seem familiar. Tomoko is not only socially awkward, but she’s fairly perverted and has a tendency to not only lie to her only friend and cousin about her dating and social exploits but sometimes deludes herself into thinking certain situations will happen. As a result, each episode of the show is focused around a particular social situation or event that Tomoko comes up with expectations for, and then everything backfires and ends as horribly as possible.

Some of the core underlying themes on display through WataMote are certainly relatable, and I appreciated the attempt to explore them. In particular, I think that some of Tomoko’s awkwardness towards having a simple conversation and the concept of being an outsider that didn’t fit in is something that can resonate with a lot of viewers to some extent. A lot of the comedy requires that you laugh at her misfortune, and it’s a bit of a darker direction than I’ve seen some anime go recently. However, there were two issues that persisted throughout the series that kept me from truly connecting with it. First, there were moments where Tomoko’s delusions seemed just a bit too unrealistic and felt as though the author had simply said, “What’s the worst possible thing we can have her do/think in this situation?” There’s an episode where she has a partial fantasy about possibly getting molested on a train that just goes weird places, and a few other scenarios that seemed a bit more along the lines of dark comedy just for the sake of it. Additionally, if you’re looking for any kind of real progression over the course of the twelve episodes prepare to come away disappointed. Without going into too many details that might ruin the events that do happen, Tomoko’s really in the same exact place at the end of the series as she is at the beginning and just has hopelessly awkward and embarrassing things to show for it. For me it was just a bit too much, and I became frustrated at how predictable it was to predict the downward spiral of each scenario by the end.

You may have already guessed this based on the plot summary, but there are only a handful of characters featured throughout WataMote. Aside from Tomoko’s family who are incredibly normal compared to her, the only other featured characters are her middle school friend Yu who has gone from nerdy to popular and the student council president Megumi Imae who seems to be one of the only people who might be capable of helping Tomoko with some of her issues. There isn’t too much else to say about the supporting cast simply because they don’t get a whole lot of screen time, and viewers will be spending the bulk of their time watching Tomoko and listening to her inner monologues. While I was sympathetic to her desire to be popular and inability to do so thanks to a combination of social anxiety and awkwardness, this started to wear thin by the end. She seemed to only get more delusional, desperate, and perverted in ways that I just couldn’t fully connect with, even for a fictional character. This lead to a real love/hate relationship from one episode to the next, as each time Tomoko would win me back over and have me rooting for her she’d do something that made me want to stop watching due to the sheer stupidity of her decision making. For all the anime I watch, maybe I’m just not close enough personality wise to really be the target audience of this show or something, as it just never really clicked.

WataMote was produced by Silver Link, and this anime seemed like a change of pace for them. While I haven’t watched everything they’ve worked on, the majority of the shows I have watched (Baka and Test, OniAi, Tayutama) had a more lighthearted look and feel so this gave the studio the chance to show off a very different side. They definitely did a good job with the material, and the overall look takes your typical slice of life anime and completely twists it around to reflect what would happen from a loner’s perspective. The animation used a lot of quick cuts and extremely exaggerated facial expressions to showcase Tomoko’s frustrations and fantasies, and there were a lot of little details that caught my attention. It was interesting to see how they took all of the traditional scenarios and animated them in a much darker fashion to highlight how each “typical high school life” element was backfiring on Tomoko. Overall, while I haven’t been crazy about all of the titles Silver Link has chosen to animate they’ve been a consistent studio as far as the quality of their work and this one continues that trend.

As much as I struggled with liking Tomoko’s personality throughout WataMote I will admit that voice actress Izumi Kitta did an incredible job bringing her to life. She really nailed the subtlety of her shyness as well as the over the top inner monologues where Tomoko became much more extroverted in her fantasies. The rest of the voice acting is on point and everyone seems to fit their respective roles, but I feel as though Kitta is the one that most viewers will pay attention to. I also enjoyed the opening and ending themes, as the opening had a mix of screaming and singing and had a choreographed sequence of Tomoko mouthing along to the screaming sections that I liked. There were a few different ending themes, but the one that appeared on the majority of the episodes featured Izumi Kitta and had her singing bad on purpose during a few sections, really reinforcing her role as Tomoko.

WataMote is an anime I wanted to like more than I did, as it had promise with its exploration of social awkwardness in a comedic fashion. But after the first few episodes, it started to feel less relatable and more like the writers made the main character choose the worst possible option at every turn just for comedy rather than because it truly made sense. Combine that with the fact that there’s really no visible difference between Tomoko from episode one to episode twelve and you have a frustrating experience that feels like it overstays its welcome. I’m sure there are others out there who will feel differently, especially since I’ve seen the series rated highly on Crunchyroll, but WataMote just didn’t do it for me and I never fully connected with Tomoko’s character or the absurdity of the situations she found herself in.

WataMote is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Hulu


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