Anime Spotlight #8: WataMote

tomoko kuroki

Name: WataMote ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s Your Guys’ Fault I’m not Popular (Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omarera ga Warui)

Year: 2013

Episodes: 12

Studio: Silver Link (Fate/kaleid liner Prismer Illya, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia)

Writer: Nico Tanigawa (original manga)

Director: Shin Oonuma (Ef: A Tale of Memories)

WataMote, short for the ridiculously long Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omarera ga Warui, defies my expectations by being a surprisingly poignant, though sometimes uncomfortable, comedy.

There are a fair amount of outcast heroines in anime, but none of them hold a candle to Tomoko Kuroki. She desperately wants her classmates to like her, but her crippling social anxiety keeps her from making any progress. She can barely form words when someone addresses her and shies away from any type of group activity. She panics when she’s alone in a public area and can’t even ask to borrow one of her classmates’ textbook when she forgets her own.  Instead of realizing that she lacks social skills, Tomoko blames her inability to make friends on others (she inwardly makes snide remarks about the other students) and focuses all her energy into other ways to become popular. This ranges from fairly normal things like changing the way she dresses to outright bizarre like riding a train in the hopes that she’ll be molested (yes, really).

WataMote‘s first few episodes are rather unsettling to watch and I rarely found myself laughing at the jokes which were more sad than funny. Tomoko’s social awkwardness just feels a little too real to be laughed at. Thankfully, the show eventually finds the right balance between making Tomoko’s insane antics funny (like using a vacuum hose to create hickeys) with the serious side of her situation (such as spending summer vacation alone).

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Tomoko is the heart and soul of WataMote as we spend a majority of the show in her head, experiencing her highs and lows as she tries to break through her social isolation. Having spent too much time playing BL games, watching anime, and indulging in her fantasies,Tomoko doesn’t understand how real world interactions work. She forms elaborate plans to become popular, getting ridiculously pumped up for the event, only to have it blow up in her face, usually resulting in her embarrassment. Yes, Tomoko is always the butt of the joke, but the show knows when to step back and remind us that she’s just a lonely high school girl trying to find her own way.

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She wants to be liked, but doesn’t know how to go about it, and her fear of people just makes her curl deeper and deeper into her own world and feeds her delusion. Anime will normally make the cause of such behavior rooted in something like bullying or family problems, but Tomoko’s situation can only be pinpointed to herself, which is a refreshing change. Not to say bullying or divorce doesn’t make people anti-social, but there isn’t always such a clear-cut cause for certain behaviors. She has a normal family and everyone she interacts with is always friendly. Tomoko’s trapped in a nightmare of her own making, but WataMote is far from depressing, as Tomoko always bounces back and tries again.

WataMote’s music is not what you’d expect from a high school anime. The opening, which has the same title as the show, is loud, in your face, and demands that you listen.

Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omarera ga Warui by Konomi Suzuki and Kiba of Akiba

There are several endings used and they usually represent what happened in the episode, but the main one is performed by Izumi Kitta, Tomoko’s voice actress, in which Tomoko complains about the sad state of her life. I feel bad for laughing, but Tomoko’s bad singing which gets progressively worse as the song goes on, along with the groans and coughing, are hilarious.

Do Kangaetemo Watashi wa Warukunai by Izumi Kitta

Visuals are everything with WataMote’s humor and Silver Link does not skimp. In particularly I love the moments where Tomoko screws up and there’s an overly dramatic, Picasso-ish frame.

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Tomoko’s pain, there’s no way you can’t feel it.

There are also instances where Tomoko, under distress, is completely colored gray (and at one point, merely an outline) while the rest of the world moves about her bright and shiny. It’s a good contrast to show how completely out of the loop Tomoko feels when around people.

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I liked WataMote a lot more than I thought I would. More than the jokes, I think what appealed to me was how real Tomoko’s internal struggle was. It was exaggerated sometimes, but it never tried to sugar coat anything. The ending isn’t particularly happy or sad, but it does carry a bit of hope, the undercurrent that kept Tomoko’s story turning and that was good enough for me.

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