Wotakoi: Love Is Hard For Otaku
Narumi Momose is a "yaoi fangirl" who discovers that her childhood friend Hirotaka Nifuji, also an otaku (a gamer), is also an employee at the firm she's just joined. Soon she finds more kindred spirits in another pair of co-workers, Hanako Koyanagi (a cosplayer), and Taro Kabakura (prefers "cute girl" manga, though he's supposedly less obsessive (or at least more appearance-conscious) about his hobby than the others.) Narumi and Hirotaka indulge in, but also struggle with, their otaku sides as they grow toward a romantic relationship.
My impression is, in the real world, office romantic relationships are fraught with peril, and NOT just supervisor/subordinate relationships with their associated twin demons of sexual harassment and favoritism; even among peers there are issues. When the relationship DOES work out, it can be a distraction that hinders work performance; AND being around their lover 24/7 doesn't work for some people, who need at least a little "space" (time of their own, away from their partner.) On the other hand, if the relationship DOESN'T work out, you're still going to see that person every day that both of you are employed at that firm. But our two couples in THIS show are taking a stab at it, anyway. Our four principals are mid-to-late 20's; the relationships are "adult" but subtle (more on that later.)
Narumi is the closest to a POV character in the show. She is, as noted, a yaoi fan. She's exuberant, cheerful, by far the most expressive of the group, and generally kawaii; she's also a bit flat-chested, though. (This is important in the context of the show.) On the other hand, her would-be boyfriend, Hirotaka, is one of those usually emotionless types who's equipped with a dry wit; he's a gamer, as noted, and spends most of his free time indulging in that. He's a smoker (I didn't care for that), but he has a marvelous little confession to make to Narumi- he loves watching her enjoying herself. That kind of generosity is a large part of genuine love, in my opinion.
As for Hanako and Taro- well, their relationship originally began with quarreling with each other, and has remained so. There's some physical component to their fights (he grabs, she slaps), and they're each skilled at getting under the other's skin with insults. On the other hand, it's fairly clear by implication (though it's never explicitly acknowledged) that they're a lot more intimate with each other than Narumi and Hirotaka are (yet); in particular, Hanako spends a lot of time in Taro's apartment, dressed in sweats. She's quite voluptuous. A plot point here is that each of the guys actually favors the other guy's companion's body type- it's HIROTAKA who likes buxom girls (such as Hanako), while TARO really prefers petite-but-cute girls like Narumi. Narumi is particularly sensitive about Hirotaka's inclinations here (and it leads to two or three wonderful sight gags.)
The writing here is pretty low-key but occasionally brilliant. My favorite episode has Taro and Hirotaka going to dinner with two guys from the office, while Hanako and Narumi go to a bar. The two guys who go with our boys, unaware of our male heroes' relationships with the girls, proceed to make lecherous comments about Narumi and Hanako, while the boys quietly seethe; on the other hand, Hanako and Narumi debate the individual roles their respective boyfriends would play in a hypothetical yaoi matchup.
Another major theme of the show's plot is that some of our principals express considerable angst over whether their partner might not prefer a more "normal" romantic partner. Narumi, however, HAS tried that route, and found it hopeless, so she and Hirotaka may, indeed, be stuck with each other. (I've been watching another show, In/Spectre, which also features characters who are with each other at least partly because "normal" people wouldn't accept them. I'm wondering if this theme is a "thing" now.)
We've also got a storyline involving Hirotaka's brother Naoya, who's much more socially outgoing than his brother (and apparently didn't inherit his brother's talent for games either); and one Kou Sakuargi, a timid, chronically-apologetic classmate of Naoya's who's much better at games than Naoya, and also has one characteristic that Naoya's oblivious to. This storyline could have stood a bit more development; maybe in another season?
It was kind of a refreshing change to have an older cast; a story mostly about the dynamics of, and anxieties involved in, relationships; and some droll, low-key, but often hilarious dialogue and sight gags. I have to agree with Hanako, though- Taro could be a lot nicer than he is. Hanako is really much more vulnerable than she'd ever admit. The domestic violence is the only real black mark on a show that’s otherwise completely admirable, with a kind of Seinfeld-ish vibe, which is pretty unusual in anime. I have no idea how realistically it portrays the typical otaku in their mid-twenties, though. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Amazon once more cops out with a TV-NR rating. I don't remember any actual nudity in the show, but there's that physical violence in the Taro/Hanako pairing, and we've Mature Situations for sure. I'd go about TV-14 here.
Version(s) Viewed: Amazon Prime digital stream
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Wotakoi: Love Is Hard For Otaku © 2018 A-1 Picture.
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