This is review number two hundred and thirty. This anime is part of the Summer 2013 lineup and it’s an awesome one. I think it is awesome but I do know it is pretty original. It’s “Watashi ga Motenai no wa dō Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!” or No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! I’m a bit shocked this wasn’t a light novel title. It’s a manga of all things. Anyways, it’s a twelve episode anime about a girl who is awkward and she wants to have friends. That’s basically my review told over and over in a lot of paragraphs. It’s a cool show so just watch it. If you already clicked on this though then let’s read on.
Tomoko Kuroki is a hardcore loner. She likes to spend her time alone and escapes to the internet or her games to find comfort in her everyday life. After playing so many games about dating and being socially active, she seems ready enough to enter high school as a new person that will have many friends and even have a boyfriend or two. There is one problem though. She is socially awkward. She stutters and mumbles her words when she talks. She can’t make eye contact. She basically doesn’t know how to act like a normal human being in public. Did her years of experience betray her? She must be approaching the problem the wrong way. Tomoko is now determined to figure out how to gain friends and become popular throughout the rest of her first year in high school.
Taking the Pants Off
Manga adapted anime are the most cliché kind of anime you can ever watch. It’s a medium that fairly thrives on familiar tropes. It’s rare, really rare, to see something that is conceptually unique. This was the case for “No Matter How You Look at it guys, it’s your fault that I’m not popular” or Watamote for short. This anime had a really refreshing approach to its story that I personally don’t see a lot. Basically, it’s a one man show. There’s just one important character and the show only revolves around her. I can’t imagine enjoying a show with a simple story, has one character to feature and pokes at one simple idea over the span of twelve episodes. I was doubtful but I really did like the show. Perhaps it’s the relatable loner notion of the character or the simple idea that nobody wants to be alone that the anime presents strongly that makes it so fun to watch. Either way, Watamote is one hell of a surprise. It’s unique but a caution because it’s not something most people would like. It’s so different that it often feels a bit alienating being an anime fan for so long yet watching a show that doesn’t comfortably rely on cliché. It’s the concept of the show that makes it or breaks it. In this review’s opinion, Watamote hits it right out of the park.
The premise of the anime is pretty simple. Tomoko doesn’t have any friends. She wants to have friends and she’s doing her best to achieve that goal. Tomoko would think up different plans on how to gain friends yet they don’t seem to work out the same way in her mind. She’s basing her plans on the things she watches on TV and plays in video games though without realizing that they don’t really work out that way in real life. Despite her best efforts to plan ahead and dream up awesome situations of her plan working, she always seems to end up being by herself. It’s a really fun comedy show about a loner trying to not be a loner. The show sadly doesn’t have anything else going for it. It’s really just about Tomoko trying to achieve her goal. The approach of the anime is certainly different. There are just a lot of elements to the show that I personally cannot get used to. For one, the idea of the anime only having one main character and some handful side characters is something I haven’t seen before. I’ve reviewed two hundred plus anime and this approach is completely new to me. Of course, my worries slowly disappeared when I realized how engaging the main character is.
The main character is really the strongest aspect of the show. If you do not like Tomoko then the show will definitely not work for you. She is interesting though in so many levels. Tomoko talks a lot but by herself. She would always claim how stupid other people are for trying to look like sluts just to be accepted by other people. She believes that she knows the difference between being a smart person and a stupid person. She would find most social activities as a waste of time and something only people with low intelligence would join in because it’s such a lame thing. She would never participate in them and she’s fine with that. Yes, being alone in her room doing nothing but waste time surfing the net, reading manga/comics, watching TV and imagining by herself is enough for Tomoko. Tomoko is a textbook definition of a loner. She likes to be alone and hates being in crowded places. To top it off, she can’t carry a conversation normally, she’s ultra-shy and she just doesn’t do well in public. Being alone for Tomoko is a choice and sadly a curse as well. Tomoko have always watched awesome high school experiences in her games and movies though and she wants to have that as well. She’s positive that she can achieve popular status in her school in no time. After all, how hard can it be? For a socially inept loner like her though, it’s going to be one hell of a task.
This is actually where the brilliance of the anime comes in. Tomoko is likeable because she is easy to relate to. Maybe not as hardcore as her experiences but I’m sure the viewers can find something to relate to seeing Tomoko do her best and failing at it. She is the kind of character that you can’t help but feel sorry for. Seriously, there are moments in the anime where it feels a bit heavy without the anime pointing it out. Tomoko’s loneliness seems to be a bit unbearable that you can’t help but pity her. Her strong will is something that makes her likeable though. Maybe it’s just her strong stupidity that makes her charming but aside from feeling pity, you also can’t help but laugh at the embarrassing situations she gets involved in. You will feel pity and you will laugh at her but Tomoko also seems to draw out that supportive friend inside you because you will often have the idea that she’ll have friends soon somewhere in the back of your mind. Tomoko is a complex character as you can hope in an anime and it’s one the reasons why the show is so fun to watch. Here’s the interesting part of the show. Tomoko doesn’t undergo character development. She retains the same kind of personality through and through. It’s something I personally can’t quite grasp at because I like some sort of structured cliché in my anime. Watamote doesn’t have a lot of it. The idea of the show is for Tomoko to try and change so it’s certainly interesting to see when she will succeed in doing so.
The show doesn’t have an overall story and strongly relies on the premise it starts out with. There is a method to the madness though and there are certain scenarios that make up the shows entirety that makes it entertaining despite the lack of a normally progressing story. I guess I’d call them plot points so I can have structure to this review. The first plot point is about Tomoko thinking up ideas to become popular or gain friends. It’s a pretty basic plot point. Tomoko would rely on her movies and games to try and gain friends. She’d realize that she’s not being the appropriate archetype for people to approach or she’ll realize that she lacks at a certain area then finds a way to improve it. For example, she’d try to be a kuudere for a while because those kinds of characters are easy to talk to. She’ll proceed with her plan and then we slowly see the promising scheme fall flat on its face. It’s fun to see her try her damnest only for things to crumble later on. It’s a really nice part of the show because her honest imaginations betray in the most harshest ways and you can’t help but get caught up in it. As you progresses, you soon see her think up of other crazy schemes and then just be surprised at how the events would unfold.
The second plot point is Tomoko trying out certain social activities by herself. She is a really awkward girl but she thinks that spending time on social places can get her to ease up. She would go to fast food chains, coffee houses and other crowded places by herself then we just see her do her thing. She’d try something new to her and then we watch her fail at it. It’s a bit mean but her social awkwardness really makes the whole thing worthwhile. She would blunder in the most embarrassing of ways and you just know it’s going to get bad from there. She’s not doing it on purpose though. She really wants to enjoy these social things to the fullest but it’s really hopeless for someone like her. Something as easy as ordering coffee and then putting lots of things in it then spilling it as she is about to drink it is something that is really funny. It’s pretty comedic but also a bit sad because this poor girl just can’t catch a break.
The third plot point is about Tomoko escaping to her imaginations. When she is alone, Tomoko really loves to go into her fantasy world. Like the other things in this show, it’s also a bit funny and sad. It’s funny because her imaginary scenarios are often a bit too unrealistic. She’d imagine that she’s having a fun time with her friends at various places like the park or simply at school living up her high school life. She’d think up of over exaggerated scenes that she often play or see on TV and she’ll just let her imagination go wild. It’s a bit sad though because you know that she’s a loner with little to no hope of actually changing her circumstance. The imagination scenes are also pretty cute because it references a lot of cliché anime and pokes fun at a lot of tropes in anime. It’s really a treat to see how far the show will go to reference some anime. I am a big fan of the scene where Tomoko imagined the anime “Another” and the show went as far as to capture the character design of that show. I also love how the show pokes fun of certain flags (scenes) in dating sims and just over exaggerate the whole thing with how Tomoko thinks it up. Some of the references a bit too specific though and not getting the joke do suck a bit but Tomoko still saves the day with how she overcomplicates the imaginary scenes.
The fourth plot point is simply about Tomoko being alone. It’s a common theme in the plot points but there are some scenarios that are just really heavy at times. The anime did a wonderful job of establishing a really solemn mood without being dramatic. Tomoko would often be alone at certain occasions and events. These scenes are different because Tomoko would often feel how truly lonely she is and she’d often show a bit of desperation that hopefully she can soon have friends. It’s a really honest approach by the anime that still stays true to the premise of the show. The anime timed this one just right to the point where the emotions really come through. It’s pretty impressive. It often comes to a point where I personally wanted to hug our poor heroine and befriend her.
Here’s another new thing in this anime. While it pokes fun of tropes, the show barely has some. I am used to seeing structured cliché in my anime. That means that I want certain cliché that improves a story and develops a character but I never see any in the show. At some point, I was also a bit scared because I was reaching the second half and the anime was still focused on the premise. Maybe she’ll meet an actual friend down the line. Maybe a guy will actually talk to her and then find her interesting soon enough. Maybe she’ll grow a pair and actually see that her approaches are wrong. Maybe she’ll get advice from the other characters then actually change. She might be a late bloomer and the anime might surprise us in the end. A lot of maybes and you’ll be surprised how the show progresses while not relying on a familiar cliché. I personally think that it’s brilliant because the show breaks norm and tries to be different. I was entertained through and through because there are a lot of things to introduce without sacrificing the show’s main appeal. It’s pretty double edged though. While the show does have unique-ness seeping out of it, some people may find the whole thing a bit repetitive. After all, the anime is tackling the same thing over and over without progressing anything. It keeps circling back at the same point just like what I’m doing in this review. I marathoned this anime and even I felt the repetitive pattern being a bit too much.
The show does reward the repetitive progression with some brilliant situational comedy though. It’s really just one comedic scene in the show that makes an episode really special. Whether it’s Tomoko embarrassing herself in public or a nicely timed comedic setup involving the rest of the characters, it’s really smart comedy that you will laugh at. I think the idea that you can also relate to what Tomoko is experiencing and laugh at yourself is also a strong component of the comedy in the show. I personally found a few scenario in the show that I used to do and with the show capturing the feeling perfectly, seeing Tomoko fail often makes me laugh because “holy sh*t, that was me not so long ago”. There is some comedy in the anime though where Tomoko interacts with other people and it’s often a bit comedic as well. There is always a decent setup before the execution that I really admire. For example, there is a scene where Tomoko bought a BL game and won a hand massager in a lottery. She then played the BL and had the vibrator on max. She fell asleep on a sex scene of the game, the vibrator raging and then her father walks in. There were no words in the scene but it definitely had me laughing hard.
The rest of the cast is pretty one dimensional. This is actually a good thing for this anime because it just needed them to make Tomoko look good. They aren’t truly involved in the story and their participation is little since it’s a one man show featuring Tomoko. They all have some nice personalities though contrast our little socially awkward loner. There are also only a handful of them. I think there are three recurring side characters and two minor ones. One nice stand out is Tomoko’s little brother. In a clichéd world, I can totally see him as the main character because he seems to be balanced in terms of character. Even the show pointed it out at times that his cool attitude and handsome face is the perfect combination for a lead character of a show. It truly is and I was a bit bummed he got very little screen time in the anime. Another stand out is Tomoko’s middle school friend. She is her only friend and they were both a bit geeky growing up. Her friend blossomed though and Tomoko can’t help but feel depressed about it. She often calls her friend and asks her advice or invites her to go places. It’s her only form of social activity outside pestering her brother. Her friend is the typical gentle kind of character with a really big rack. Her nice personality really compliments Tomoko’s loner personality because you can see just how far gone our main character is. Aside from side characters, there are also these classmates of Tomoko. They have no name but they’re a group of four that Tomoko always overhear trying to setup karaoke trips and stuff like that. Tomoko would often point them out as the dumb sluts she doesn’t want to be but you also feel a bit sorry for her because you know she is just putting on a façade. These four appears a lot on the show but they have no name. They basically make Tomoko look like the severe loner that makes her pretty interesting.
This is really an amazing show. Again, it may not be for everyone but I really love how unique this anime is. I’ve been blogging and reviewing for a long time now and I’ve slowly been growing a kind of cynicism that attached to my open minded outlook on anime. I’m still a fair reviewer (I think) but things do take a toll on you. I feel a bit rejuvenated though that I am still able to experience something new and unique in a medium that practically consumes me. The surprising part is that this anime came from a medium that drowns in cliché and predictability. If the manga scene can produce something so avant-garde then there truly is hope for this whole industry. Let’s hope to see more original concepts like this show in the near future. Silver Link produced one hell of a show though. I still have more to say in the paragraphs below but goddamn, this is how you get noticed. You create something that punches hard and leaves a strong impression. Let’s see if this little studio can get the steady pace going.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty great. Nico Tanigawa (pen name of two manga artists that works on the manga) really did a good job at conceiving the characters. It’s pretty simplistic actually but the small details really made the characters special. I love Tomoko’s look. The messy hair, the small body frame and the dead fish eyes really gives the character a rather sad and pathetic vibe to her especially when she monologues on the show. The way they switch looks from panel to panel is pretty cute making Tomoko serious one moment then really comedic on the next. The rest of the characters are also pretty simple on the manga. They had nice designs though like Tomoko’s brother really having that “I’m going to punch you now” look and Tomoko’s friend having this “I’m really cute and busty” look with the way she smiles and dresses. The anime really stepped it up a notch and I am really thankful for Silver Link for this. Hideki Furukawa really did a magnificent job of taking the basic concepts of Tanigawa and then accentuating the characters with a lot of detail work. The only reason Date A Live is awesome is because Hideki made sure the characters are great eye candy. That dedication to the craft comes through in this anime as well because every character really stands out amazingly. From Tomoko’s creepy eyes to her friend’s bouncing boobs, the character design is certainly elevated to a height that really made the anime pretty awesome. The various parodies are also pretty cool because of the details as well. There were a lot of imaginary Tomoko’s in the show and the references mixed with her designs are pretty awesome. It made the parodies and trope bashing that much fun to watch.
Animation is pretty awesome. There weren’t a lot of scenes that demands high movement but Silver Link wasn’t shy of making a high quality anime nonetheless. The anime was dialogue heavy but it was the attention to details on Tomoko’s face as she does her monologues that really stand out. There is a lot of range to her emotions. From a serious face to an “I don’t care” face to a sad face and happy one, the emotions come through amazingly and it’s the high production values that actually make the show pretty inviting. The anime is dialogue heavy but the show also had some scenes where the animation really pushes strong. A simple scene of Tomoko falling down would have the camera spin around and have different angles until she hits the ground. A running scene would have the same kind of complicated camera work and some smooth movements that still capture the character’s personality as she frantically runs through the street.
My hats off to Izumi Kitta as well. She really made Tomoko’s character really special. Tomoko monologues a lot to the point where it’s often overkill. It doesn’t seem that tiring though to hear her act stupid and feel depressed by herself simply because of her character voice work. Izumi really gave Tomoko that sad and pathetic nature just by lending her voice to her. It’s really amazing. Tomoko had the same inviting vibe as “watashi” from Tatami Galaxy or Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish. Even if you can’t see the characters, just hearing their monologues helps you connect with then and really makes you want to watch the show. Izumi’s voice is great because it’s one of the reasons why it feels easy to relate and connect with Tomoko. Like I said, this is a one man show and its Izumi’s voice that makes wasting 240 hours not such a task.
The anime also boasts a wonderful selection of OSTs. The anime’s OP is Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui ” by Konomi Suzuki n’ Kiba of Akiba. This is an awesome song. It’s a rock song with a fast beat. It’s the singer’s voices that make the song stand out though. The way the male singer screams and then the female singer following afterwards is pretty great. There was a nice balance to the song that I really like. The OP sequence is about Tomoko being all dark and emo that looks really cool. It has a lot of subtle hints about the show but the main idea is there. Tomoko is alone and she wants to gain friends. It’s a really cool sequence.
The anime had a lot of ED. The standard one is “Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai” by Tomoko Kuroki (Izumi Kitta). This is a really lovely song. It’s sung by the main character and her voice sounds cute in the song. It’s a song about her being an idiot and being sad because she’s not popular. It’s a song that nicely captures the spirit of the anime. I personally love how Izumi’s voice would falter and starts to cry at some parts of the song. It’s really lovely and vibrant. The ED sequence features Tomoko walking home with panels on her cellphone changing the backdrop over and over. It’s a really cute sequence that is as engaging as the ED song.
The rest of the episodes have different EDs to them. There are a lot of them so I won’t go over each one. This review is long winded enough. There’s a wide range to the genres of the songs and they’re usually about the situation Tomoko is involved in on that particular episode. The one fresh in my mind is Miku Hatsune singing the fireworks song when Tomoko watched the fireworks. The song was about people enjoying the fireworks when they watch it. It’s cute and the long selections of songs are as lovely as the standard ED song. The ED sequences are also different. Again, they’re also as lovely as the standard ED sequence.
8/10 “It’s cute, honest, funny and personal because being alone is something that is easy to relate to.”
This is an amazing show. It’s unique and it’s original. Like I said though, not a lot of people might get the appeal of the show but I’m sure a handful of you will be able to relate to what Tomoko undergoes. It’s actually the inviting nature of the show that lures you in but it’s the engaging and simple content of it that makes you stay. If you enjoy anime that are original then you might like this one. If you enjoy comedy anime then I’m sure you’ll love this show. If you’ve ever been a loner or someone that people doesn’t understand then Tomoko needs a friend. Go on and keep her company. I highly recommend it.