First Impressions: WataMote – The Struggle to be Cute

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Not all of us were born moe.

WATAMOTE ~No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular, or Watamote for short, is a show about a girl, Tomoko, who’s convinced herself that high school will be as easy as it seems in her games where she’s managed to conquer the hearts of many a boy. Reality, as it usually turns out, is far less ideal which Tomoko finds out when two months into high school, she is still friendless and unable  to coherently say more than a few words to anyone outside her family members. The episode chronicles Tomoko’s first attempts at trying to cultivate a “cuter” appearance, her first real outings since her began high school, and how both ultimately fail.

I really liked this first episode because of how well it managed to nail the comedy aspect. One of its biggest draws its strangely relatable quality. In contrast to most anime/manga where the heroine enters high school and practically has the school’s population on their knees, Watamote portrays a different story where the reality isn’t nearly all that wonderful. Instead of being popular like she had imagined, Tomoko has become a social outcast who struggles to to even say good-bye to the teacher at the gate who sees students off. She may be at the extreme opposite of the popularity spectrum, but there are some instances where her demeanor or dialogue are similar to how we all have felt at some point. In that sense, much of the comedy tends to have a slightly darker, or more depressing, slant.

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The best example of this is the end where Tomoko, desperate to not be recognized by her classmates, changes her appearance, repeating a failed cute-ify attempt. Though she manages to barely slip past her target group, as she’s about to walk down the stairs, she runs into her brother and his friends. Though her brother pretends to not recognize her, his friends immediately comment on her appearance and call her ugly. Tomoko’s facial expression was funny, but it only takes a few seconds for it to sink in how hurt, or at least let down, she must have been to be called ugly by the opposite sex, a group she was striving to impress. Though the general tone was humorous, there was something about that scene that struck me as a bit melancholy.

Another reason why I suspect the jokes work so well is because of the visual style. Tomoko, and even her brother to an extent, look perpetually sleep-deprived with bluish marks and small wrinkles under her eyes. She really does look like someone who spends a bit too much time in front of their computer and not enough time outside. It’s certainly not aiming to be the pretties show around, but it does look good and has a uniqueness to it that I like a lot.

Though I’m not quite as smitten with the OP as everyone else seems to be, I enjoyed the episode immensely and can’t wait to see where it goes from here. I didn’t mention the brother, Tomoki, much, but he’s pretty neat as the Kuroki sibling that seems to have some grounds in reality. Not to mention he doesn’t have the hots for his sister which is a plus in this day and age of anime. I eagerly await the next episode and look forward to seeing more of what this dark comedy dishes up.

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