DVD REVIEW: WATAMOTE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SHIN OONUMA / SCREENPLAY: TAKAO YOSHIOKA / STARRING: IZUMI KITTA, KANA HANAZAWA, YUICHI NAKAMURA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Based on the manga series by Nico Tanigawa, Watamote (or ‘No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!’) recounts the stumbled growths and awkward adjustments which naturally swallow us at the beginning of adolescence. Sexual awareness flicks to green, image consciousness scorns your past ways, and navigating the hierarchy of high school popularity feels impossibly herculean. For anxiety-bogged Tomoko however, it seems even worse. But looking to start anew as her first year looms, she clings to a warped internet formula which ties popularity to success with the opposite sex.
What follows is a highly comical and surprisingly affecting journey through Tomoko’s troubled high school life escapades. As she finds herself isolated and not welcomed by fellow students with open arms, she starts to despise those around her. Labelling other girls as ‘sluts’ and slowly slipping into the invisible void as her overthinking tendencies cripple her ability to socially interact, and prevent her from attaining the popularity she so desires.
While anime is no stranger to the high school setup, the refreshing perspective of Tomoko really defines the show. Both wildly erratic and frightfully shy, her qualities are brought to life by Izumi Kitta’s incredible voice work. Whether she’s practicing talking to guys through video game dating sims or nervously buying her first pair of racy underwear, she manages to bounce around her minefield personality while always keeping things convincingly sweet.
How the show handles anxiety issues has attracted controversy however, with some deeming the comedy to be at the expense of Tomoko’s suffering. And while the humour can uncomfortably clash with the occasional sombre moment, it never feels mean-spirited. You’re always on Tomoko’s side, and her drifts into ideal fantasy and naive logic are funny because they’re equally relatable as they are extreme. Situations where she spirals into fairytale dream after a brief exchange with a crush, or panics after being moved to another seat in the classroom, always feel like playful pokes at the issue to benefit those who will relate to Tomoko’s plight, and never snide digs at her ways.
The series’ best moments however come from the dynamic with her younger brother, Tomoki. His dry wit and deadpan responses to his sister are hilarious, and it’s unfortunate the series fails to deliver upon the touching arch created for them both at the outset. Moments where they reminisce about their close relationship prior to school and their dwindling connection since are genuinely moving, and it’s a shame this is pushed to the wayside as the series comes to a close.
But as an opening series, it’s extremely promising. Refreshing, funny, with a zany heart in the right place, we’ll just have to hope this is merely the beginning for Watamote. If you’re a fan of anime and possess a fondness for kickass opening title sequences soundtracked by Japanese metal, look no further for your next TV fix.
Special Features: Clean Opening Animation / Clean Closing Animation
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