First of all, what the hell is this anime even about?
According to MAL:
Kuroki Tomoko is a super popular, high school girl who has had 50 years of dating experience and 100 boys… in the Otome game world. In the real world, she is a 15-year-old shut-in who has all the qualities of a “mojo” (a gloomy or unpopular woman).
However, when school isn’t going as she expected, and she isn’t as popular as she had thought she thought she was, she takes a look at the mirror for the first time in a few years, and has some shocking revelations…
Apparently, this was a manga (that’s still going on) with the same name. This didn’t really get my attention at first because I had thought it was just some overly exaggerated thing Tumblr decided to use images of over and over again.
It didn’t take me until I saw Kotaku article about how “mean-spirited” the anime is. Supposedly, the anime makes fun of her “crippling disorder” and how the audience laughs at her through all her struggles.
At first, I almost believed what they said. After all, I hadn’t seen the anime so maybe they’re right. However, my friends had said, “Hey, this character is basically me right now” or “This character was me back in high school” and they found in themselves…to laugh at the main character. I didn’t want to comment on anything about the series other than, “Hmm, maybe both of them are right”. I didn’t want to pass judgement on something I didn’t know anything about.
So now that I’ve actually seen it, and with someone who pretty much had a “normal” high school life compared to my own, I can actually say that Kotaku is just full of shit.
The anime is not mean spirited at all, obviously. The thing about about Tomoko is that she sets herself for these high expectations but falls short because she thinks she has this fake confidence. The truth is she doesn’t have any confidence at all. At one point, they show that she was “normal”. She had her friend, Yuu-chan, and seemed to be closer to her brother.
But nothing really seemed to “cause” Tomoko to become a shut-in. It just happened. She blames her shortcomings on everyone else and never on herself, though, which only isolates further.
One thing is for sure, I definitely had the same disgusting mindset as she does. First of all, she is obsessed with anime, games (up and including otome games), and honestly thinks that she’s probably too good for her classmates.
However, especially after seeing how Yuu-chan seems to be able to balance both being an otaku and being perceived as “normal”, Tomoko uses her as sort of of a pillar of everything that’s wrong. Tomoko expected Yuu-chan to be just as miserable about high school as she is. She didn’t want to be alone in her misery and, in fact, she wanted to stir that misery just so she could feel better about herself but obviously wasn’t the case. She always asks Yuu-chan questions regarding sex without actually asking anything about it (because that would mean she has to admit her shortcomings and Tomoko can’t have that – her ego won’t allow it).
So why all this talk about Tomoko’s ego? Because I have lived it. It’s something that I saw myself experience before. Everything. The internal comments about how they girls were all bitches because an (x) reason or because of (y) possibility. I had constant fantasies about the anime boys I’ve seen or the boys I’ve seen in real life that I was attracted to but never had any real guts to talk to them. Oh sure, I blamed my shortcomings on others as well, but at that time, it was okay in a way. It’s strange to watch this now and realize how far I’ve actually came from that.
Granted, I still act like a shut-in; I’m still really obsessed with anime and games (I mean, I have this blog up after all), but the difference is that I have people I can connect and relate to outside the anime and games. Like my boyfriend. Like my friends (both online and off).
I now realize there’s a life outside of the hobbies I have and it’s okay to do other things. Anime and games and stuff like that will always be here for me – it won’t go away. And it’s okay to talk to people about things outside of those hobbies. But back then, I had the same crippling anxiety and the same crippling feelings of suffocation anytime I wanted to talk to someone and the same crippling self-destruction to do anything besides the things I’ve deemed “safe” for myself.
And, also like me, Tomoko realizes that she didn’t really wanted to be popular after all. It’s just a ruse to convince herself that she wasn’t lonely. Eventually, she came to that realization when she realized how lonely she actually was when she saw the fireworks by herself while her brother, who usually used to do things with her, was having a life of his own. Yuu-chan having a life of her own as well made Tomoko more aware of what she is and what she isn’t. Not only that, Tomoko had also found some memorabilia and pieces of the past that reminded her of who she was before she became the way she is now. She finally realized that she just wanted someone she can connect with at school.
She also realized that she actually missed Yuu-chan after all – even though she had drastically changed in appearance. Tomoko only realized this before she left the school festival though when Yuu-chan left with her friends. Granted, some people could say that Tomoko brought this onto herself and she did.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still feel sorry for her. My boyfriend had told me that while he found her antics hilarious, he understands what she really wanted – a friend and how desperate she was to try to attain one.
Not going to lie, though, I’ve actually started to cry near the 10th episode because Tomoko was really starting to take notice of her loneliness. Her fantasies changed from being queen of the school to just having some tea with some friends – just to have someone around her who wanted to make that connection with her.
It’s kind of insulting that Kotaku would take something like this anime and call it “mean-spirited” when it really isn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s definitely one of those self-aware anime where they would poke fun at the results of Tomoko’s shortcomings and how Tomoko always causes herself the extra trouble rather than just change her personality. She wants what every teenager wants – to be accepted for who they are, with every creak and wrinkle. However, she can barely accept herself as that because she over thinks and over complicates things. She wants things to be perfect and because of that, she overall fails.
While she does blames everyone else, she actually takes most of the brunt of blaming. She isolates herself on purpose so she could convince herself, “No, this is my choice. I wanted to stay in my room and watch videos and play games.”
It’s hard to have a set expectation of yourself only not just fall through but for it to fall flat on your face.
With an anime like this, it gives me a feeling of, “Wow, I was really like this!” and possibly laugh at the past behavior. Maybe for someone, they feel like this is a current feeling but still laugh at it. But not because it’s being mean-spirited.
It’s because we can relate to it. We can relate to her pain, the anxiety, the comments, the fake confidence, and, possibly most of all, the standards we want to put ourselves in.
Perhaps this blog post is close to saying that she has some internal misogyny and she very well does. That, I can’t argue. But, again, in my experience, I had been the same way too. And again, I laugh because it’s relate able and it shows me how I really did act back in the day. It’s not something to be proud of but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
So what makes Watamote interesting? It’s because we either were or are Tomoko at one point in our lives. We’re not laughing at her; we’re laughing at a reflection of ourselves.