The irony of anime fandom is we’re all a little awkward. Before you write me an angry comment think about how awkward it is to be fighting about cartoons over the Internet. See?
At least in my case, I felt a connection with anime because I didn’t feel like there was a place for me in mainstream society. I was able to lose myself in a world that was completely foreign to me. Even slice-of-life anime was a complete inverse to my everyday life. Anime was my escape.
With Watamote, however, there is no escape. Tomoko is even worse than we are.
After I’d watched two or three episodes of Watamote, I wrote a blog post about how relatable I found Tomoko’s experience to my own high school years. The next two thirds made me regret what I’d said. Sure, I remember being shy and socially inept. But I don’t remember intentionally sabotaging every potential friend’s effort to alter that. I wasn’t great, but I was better than Tomoko, who is a parody of excessive teen awkwardness. Kotaku’s review called it “mean spirited,” implying that it goes to such lengths to placate the rest of us at her expense.
Tomoko wants to appear as an enigma. But we’ve all figured her out. She says she wants to be with people, but she avoids most of them at all costs. And then when she realizes everyone else is hanging out without her, she feels envious and personally wronged.
I hoped that eventually, somehow, Tomoko’s life would improve. It’s not even much of a spoiler to say it never does. The real wonder is how this anime remains so engaging with so much internal monologuing and few recurring characters.
For me, Watamote is summed up with the scene in which Tomoko wants to watch the fireworks on the roof with somebody. Of course, she can’t find anybody, but she gets up the courage to ask two boys who are already there if she can watch with them. They acquiesce—but it turns out they’re actually there to spy on the love hotel next door. Yet another bittersweet, cringeworthy conclusion for Tomoko, and a dose of reluctant schadenfreude for all of us at home.
This post is the sixth installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year.