The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 85 – No Matter How I Look at it, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! (WataMote)

Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui (WataMote)

Some anime are popular for various reasons, and many are popular with fans because of the characters. However, this anime is home to anime’s most popular unpopular character: the “mojyo” (unpopular girl) Tomoko Kuroki.

This series also has one of the longest titles of any anime. This series began as a manga in 2011 under the original Japanese title of Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!, which translates into English as No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, but many people just call it by the abbreviated Japanese title of WataMote. A 12-part anime was broadcast in 2013.

Tomoko Kuroki, the central “heroine” of the story, is a 15-year-old schoolgirl who when entering high school believed that she would instantly become popular. But two months later she has no friends at all. This is not surprising as Tomoko’s ideas of what makes someone popular are very misguided.

For starters, she is not that attractive due to her having messed-up hair and large bags under her eyes. At her pervious school boys spoke to her just six times over a period of three years. Her main experience of dating boys comes from playing romantic and erotic video games, having virtually dated 100 guys over a period of 50 years. She is also rather snobbish, considering any girl who is remotely popular to be a slut. Lastly, she is cripplingly anxious and shy. It takes her all of her strength just to greet someone that isn’t a family relation.

Tomoko thus decides to deploy all of her geeky knowledge to make herself popular in any way possible. The result of this however normally leads to either annoying her younger brother Tomoki or their mother. Tomoko’s only real friend is one from her old school, Yuu Naruse, who looks dramatically different to how Tomoko remembered her – Yuu now is very fashionable and buxom.

Tomoko Kuroki has recently become both a popular character and a controversial one, due to the way she and the series portrays the issues relating to anxiety. There is debate about whether the character is a serious depiction of anxiety or a mockery. One of the main depictions of Tomoko’s anxiety is the opening title sequence, with its heavy metal theme song and showing Tomoko chained up. Speaking as someone who has had problems in the past with anxiety, I do not think that the series is offensive in its portrayal, and there are some elements of Tomoko that I can identify with, although the character is an obvious exaggeration.

This anime is certainly comic in tone. Much of the comedy is referential. If you have seen any some of the anime I have covered in this column in the past you will get many of the jokes. Other elements of the comedy are more problematic. There is for example a scene in which Tomoko mistakenly thinks she is being raped. While it is not the most offensive example of a rape joke I have encountered, listening to it still makes you feel a tad uncomfortable with it. It is the sort of joke you do laugh at, but afterwards you want to show you disapprove of it.

WataMote is thus a series that bring up both laughs and also more complex ideas. Should it be funny or serious? It is best to see it for yourself.

WataMote: No Matter How I Look at it, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by MVM Films.