Tomoko Kuroki was not a social butterfly in middle school. Now that she is in High School, all of that will change because she has hatched a plan to become popular. Will it work?
WataMote is an abbreviation of an outrageously long title and is an amalgam of all that is wrong with being a teenager; adolescence is a frustrating mess full of insecurity, doubt, sexual-frustration and fear. There is no other series in anime which hones in on the inner monologues of its main character with such uncomfortable bluntness and hilariously discomforting humor. It has easily become one of the best series of the summer 2013 anime season.
Watamote focuses on the mental foibles, breakdowns and the overall lack of social function of Tomoko Kuroki, a first year high school girl who hatches several failed schemes to become popular. Tomoko is a great character, not because she is spectacular in-and-of herself, but because she represents a realistic portrayal of adolescence in every day life. Most of the story is told through her viewpoint via a series of inner dialogues which are attention deficit and defeatist in nature; In a lot of anime, the girls within can be so prim, perfect and alluring thanks to the current trend of moe in Japanese animation. Tomoko is the anti-moe and because of this, she makes this series all the more a blast. She is not a cute—like a lot of other school girls in anime—she is a lazy eyed, madded haired, emo look-a-like mess with dark bags under her eyes and a sluggish posture. It is the very fact that Tomoko can seem so unlikeable, which makes her, actually—very likable. It also helps that the character portrayal is bolstered by the performance of Izumi Kitta who really captures the pure dysfunctional nature of Tomoko so well.
Animation-wise, the series is a mixed bag. Backgrounds are simple featuring calm cityscapes and school grounds but when Tomoko goes into one of her breakdown rants, the animation kicks it up a notch. Character designs are also simple as well; falling into the omnipresent big-eyes-small-mouth style of anime with background characters who lack variety in terms of facial expression. Tomoko has the the widest range of expressiveness in the entire series and seeing her face contort to different grotesque emotional ranges, makes this anime all the more amusing. All in all, artistically, Watamote gets the job done.
Although Tomoko is the focal point, a few supporting characters play pivotal roles as well. Her relationship with her once loving younger brother, Tomoki, is made all the more funny by the fact that he now views her with disgust; as well as her long-suffering mother who does everything she can tolerate her daughters ineptitude. Tomoko also has (shock-and-awe) a best friend from middle school named Yu, who actually has blossomed into a buxom young lady when she meets her again after not seeing her since graduation. Despite the obvious changes Yu underwent since then, she views Tomoko with loving consideration. These three characters provide (or at least try to) support to help keep Tomoko grounded in some kind of reality.
With all of the praise that has been heaped onto this show, it must be safe to assume that this series is flawless. The answer is a resounding no. There is one problem with this series and unfortunately, it is a rather large one. Tomoko learns nothing when all is said and done. Without spoiling anything or giving anything away, Tomoko does not develop as a character nor does she learn anything from her experiences. One of the strong points of any good slice-of-life production is that its characters grow and should become something more than just fodder for awkward laughs. It is suggested in small snippets throughout the series that she was going to reach the holy grail of social adequacy, but such hopes were pushed by the wayside as she drifted back into old paths.
Is WataMote funny? Yes; Does it have a great lead? You bet it does. However, it lacks the closure that could have easily turned this great anime into an excellent one. In hindsight, I had a lot of twisted fun watching Tomoko deal with her fears in the most outrageous ways possible and because I liked her, I also wanted to see her grow into more than just a hilarious wallflower.
A funny series with a strangely likable anomalous female lead, strong secondary characters and a sympathetic plot; WataMote had the ingredients to make it a solid hit if it were not for the loose ends that were not tied when all was said and done. WataMote garners a four star rating. — Dallas Marshall
Recommended Audience: This anime has some sexual humor and parts of adult language. Recommended for teens ages thirteen and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
WataMote © 2013 Nico Tanigawa/SQUARE ENIX, WATAMOTE Project.
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