Anime Spotlight: Watamote

Have you seen Watamote or Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! ? (En. No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!) Chances are probably not. While Watamote has developed a bit of a cult following, it hasn’t been as wide a success as other titles. Starting as a manga by Nico Tanigawa in 2011 in Square Enix’s GanGan Comics online and later in 2013 as an anime series, Watamote follows the main character Tomoko Kuroki. Tomoko, a first year high-school student begins her new life under the assumption that she would become instantly popular given her mastery over the otome games she often plays in her free time. Not long after starting however, Tomoko quickly discovers that things don’t quite go as expected. After realizing that she had become a bit of a loner almost completely incapable of holding a conversation with virtually anyone, she vows improve her social ranking and skills.

The series plays out in a slice of life fashion, giving glimpses of Tomoko’s daily endeavor to become popular, often with each scheme either failing miserably or backfiring in unexpected ways. While comical from start to finish, the story gains depth and even a heavy feeling as it deals with and brings social anxiety to light. Its treatment of Tomoko’s social awkwardness has been a point of controversy given how raw the look is in both the manga and anime, often being misunderstood as poking fun of those with serious social disorders but closer inspections shows nothing for respect for our main character.

While most of her plots fail, she inches ever closer towards her goal with each passing day, getting to a point where eventually she gains a few good friends. Moving beyond the quest for friends, something which isn’t seen in the anime but comes through clear in the latter chapters of the manga is Tomoko’s evolving level of maturity. What started out as almost naive and somewhat childish schemes, soon transforms into a more and more considerate introspective  of who she is as a person and eventually a subtle but almost completely abandonment of the dream to become popular. Instead, her live then revolves around becoming closer to the friends she does have, but ironically fails to recognize them as such.

Overall it’s a simple, yet strangely heartwarming experience that will leave you rooting for the strangest girl you’ll probably ever see in anime. However, through all the strangeness is a staggeringly well-crafted character complete with many highly realistic and relatable qualities that don’t quite exist in too many other places. It’s nothing flashy, and it’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s got ton of heart and a strong enough entertainment value to warrant a read if not a watch by so many more eyes. This is why Watamote deserves a spotlight.

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