Manga Monday: WataMote

Posted May 18, 2015 by Allison in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

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Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! (literally No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, referred to as “Watamote” for the rest of this post for the sake of brevity) is a comedy manga serialized in Gangan Online, written and illustrated by Nico Tanigawa.

Tomoko Kuroki has one desire out of her high school life: to be popular, with a cute boy toy on her arm. However, due to her less than stellar social skills, she instead finds it a struggle to even get through the day. The manga chronicles her life throughout high school and how she slowly (very slowly) comes out of her shell.

I will admit, this review will be shorter than my other ones because I find it incredibly hard to be unbiased toward Watamote. In fact, it is almost certainly one of my top five manga of all time with a protagonist that definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite fictional characters in any medium. But I don’t want to gush too much, so I’ll cut myself short here. This series’ greatest strength is its character writing and Tomoko in general.

Tomoko does not start this series as a good person. And indeed, as we’ve hit the middle of the series (with the class trip of second year arc going on longer than any arc has before), she hasn’t really developed into a good person either. She’s selfish, paranoid, anxiety prone, impulsive, cynical, bitter, and lazy. She’s depicted as full of desperation and loneliness which only serves to shove the relatively normal people around her away. Despite all these negative qualities though, the dogged determination with which she pursues her shallow goal of “being popular” inspires the reader to root for her. We want to see her catch a break, even though the only reason why Tomoko can’t catch one is because she backs herself into her own corners. If that’s not excellent writing, I don’t know what is.

Because the world is filtered through Tomoko’s ridiculous overblown eyes, it’s hard to get a sense of the people around her, but a more minor character really stands out to me. Introduced later on, Komiyama is just Tomoko lite when it comes to personality, yet she’s treated as a villain by Tomoko and discarded out of the potential friend pool. I for one find this contrast incredibly interesting, and all the ironies that come with it. The relationship Tomoko has with her younger brother, Tomoki, also feels realistic and somehow sad. These alliances, while perhaps not the focus of this series, is another example of how the author can write a great character when it comes down to it.

I’m not a comedian, but I find this series a bit hard to laugh at even if it is billed at such. Perhaps because I feel for Tomoko so much, the ludicrous situations she gets herself into are hardly something funny but instead worth pitying. Although sometimes it does wrap back around into being hilarious, it lacks the sheer over the top personalities of the characters of Nozaki-kun (which I reviewed last week) and feels too grounded in reality to be gut-bustingly funny. That’s all incredibly subjective though, and if you like cringe comedies, you’ll be laughing hard.

The art is very interesting. Even now, it’s kind of hard to tell if I like or not. Tomoko is drawn quite differently from the rest of the cast, with pupil-less eyes and a generally sullen demeanor, probably to separate her worldview from the rest of the cast. The color artwork is mostly flats and is nothing to really write home about. However, the idea of beautiful or intricate art would distract from the message and the comedy of the series, so even though it isn’t super detailed it is quite appropriate.

I would recommend this manga if you are interested in a major character who is quite striking and well written, though perhaps not a good person. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you hate cringe comedies.

Availability: Yen Press is publishing the manga currently, with seven volumes out now in English. You can probably find other ways to read it too if you look. I quite like Yen Press’ releases though, and would recommend picking them up if you can swing it.

I’d Rather Watch This!: An anime aired two years ago, and that adaptation is probably one of my top ten favorite anime of all time (certainly one of the top fifteen). Silver Link did an excellent job with everything from selecting the proper voice actress down to picking a suitable, ridiculously over the top faux metal opening theme. I highly, highly recommend the anime if you have any interest in this series.

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