「モテないし、悪天候」 (Motenai shi, Akutenkō)
“Since I’m Not Popular, The Weather’s Bad”

The experience of spending 22 minutes with Kuroki Tomoko sure isn’t getting any easier.

I’ve been of a mind to come up with one-word summations of anime lately, and with Watamote the one that really leaps to mind is "brutal".  There’s a kind of savage brutality to this show – this is dark comedy taken to the point where it may not even be comedy anymore.  It’s the unerring truthfulness of the material that makes it work anyway, but that has a kind of brutality too – this series is ruthless in the way it depicts Tomoko and the things that happen to her.

More than ever I’m convinced that the mangaka here is someone who has a very close relative with Tomoko-like issues.  The whole enterprise has the feel of a kind of therapy – dealing with pain by laughing at it, with a dash of payback – and the fact, is, it makes no bones about showing Tomoko in a harsh light.  If the author is Tomoki – or someone in a roughly similar position – they know from experience that people like Tomoko are sometimes driven to try and make the people around them as miserable as they are.  I don’t sugarcoat it because I know it from my own experience, having been on the receiving end – that when what someone wants more than anything is to be normal (as they see it) and they can’t, there are times when a darkness comes over them and the resentment bares its fangs.  "If I can’t climb up there with you, I’m going to drag you down here with me."

The thing is, even when they do this you have to love them anyway, because they’re family.  And there are much better moments than those dark ones, too, to tease you the possibilities for how things could be, if only…  And not having to be personally subjected to Tomoko’s dark spells it’s that much easier to be sympathetic to her as an anime viewer.  Mind you, I’m still conflicted but what I mostly feel for Tomoko is sympathy even when she does some frankly nasty things – which we saw a lot more of this week than we have in the previous two, where she was really more than anything on the butt end of life’s cruelties.

I’ve commented on this already, but if you watch Watamote closely one of the things that really leaps out is that we see very, very few examples of people being intentionally mean to Tomoko.  We see a teacher make her cry (heartbreakingly so) over forgetting her textbook, but that’s more the usual tone-deaf thoughtlessness of adults towards adolescents than anything.  We see a man yell at her, but with good reason – she’d parked herself on a bridge over an overflowing stream that was close to sweeping her away.  Tomoko can add paranoia to her list of symptoms, because she really does feel as if the world is out to get her.  When she misremembers where she left her umbrella, she launches into a diatribe about the evils of umbrella thieves and how she could kill them all (taking pains to note that they’re probably going on dates despite their acts of evil, a very telling detail) before remembering she’d simply left it on the opposite side. Tomoko constantly rages at those around her, mostly for imagined crimes and misdemeanors – but in truth, mostly for ignoring her too often and for being happier than she is.

That umbrella leads to the most cutting scene in the episode, a spectacularly awkward turn of events when the umbrella breaks and she seeks refuge under a canopy at the park..  Two boys in the same boat (Fukushina Jun, Morishima Shuuta), seek refuge in the same place – which is of course the worst possible scenario for Tomoko.  This is one of those meta-moments where Watamote is hilarious and terribly uncomfortable to watch all at once – Tomoko desperately tries to make a stab or two at humor ("I’m just going to take a dump outside that bathroom") with predictable results.  She internally excoriates the boys for imagined crimes against her dignity, but in fact – like most of her fellow teens – they aren’t really mean to her at all.  One, in fact, defends her as a "quiet girl" and gamely tries to make conversation with her.  After her lame poop joke Tomoko escapes to the bathroom and when she returns the boys are gone, and there’s a gut-wrenching shot of her slumping to the bench, where she falls asleep.  The boys return, the thoughtful one having bought Tomoko an umbrella (to be fair, likely for 105¥ at the hyakku-en shop) which he leaves for her – and when she awakes she doesn’t make the connection (what actually happened being inconceivable), and wistfully laments "I wish a boy would be nice to be once in a while."

Honestly, if you have a heart I don’t know it can’t break for Tomoko there.  But as usual, her wounds are self-inflicted – and then she turns around and behaves abominably towards Tomoki, who’s own treatment of her is never worse than normal sibling nudging.  For no reason she refuses to let him into the bathroom when he comes home soaked after his umbrella breaks.  She pours hot porridge on him when he’s asleep recovering from the cold she partially caused (this is anime after all – we all know what happens when teenagers get rained on and don’t immediately change clothes and bathe).  She teases him mercilessly, and blames him when his friends stop by to drop off homework because no one stops by for her.  It’s not a pretty picture, and when she gets the cold she’s been trying to catch from him too late to miss school but in-time to ruin her weekend, it feels like just desserts more than anything.

I suppose everyone is going to react to Tomoko – and Watamote – differently, based on their own background.  I confess this show has made me laugh out-loud probably more than any this season – the "Kuroki’s Basketball" gag was spot-on, and so was the “psychological test" the girls in gym class were discussing (Yuu’s betrayal is ultimate again – we all know what answer #3 means).  But there are times where I feel like I’m a peeping tom – like this is seeing someone in a way that no one deserves to be seen.  In truth it’s pretty ugly a lot of the time, both in terms of the way Tomoko suffers and the way she behaves.  That’s exactly the point, I guess, and this series is pretty remarkable in the whipsaw of emotional reactions it can elicit in a few moments time.  I can’t say that I like Tomoko exactly, and I can’t describe what I get out of watching Watamote as "enjoyment".  But shows in any medium that are this emotionally accurate and so adept at making you feel, period, are a rare bird indeed – and that more than anything is the reason I embrace this series in spite of all my reservations.

Omake

52 Comments

    1. For me instead that scene was so awkward I couldn’t bear to watch…

      I couldn’t even bring myself to give a “that-was-embarrassing” laugh…

      ‘Caunse… it Hurts…

      Yuu
  1. tomoko hearing talks how rain messed hair yet her hair messed & not notice it then class time forgot her book get BLAH by teacher so after school see water river til BLAH by same teacher cause danger of water river in rains.

    then tomoko got damage umbrella til two guys appear what do panic & run to restroom then nap give two guys give her a new umbrella then arrive home give trying herself yet left her brother out have got him with cold.

    tomoko on pe give not a b-ball person til hear 3 option for path walk give went with option 2 aka unwanted cherry cause 1 is pure & 3 is married with got KO by b-ball.

    back home tomoko tried get her brother cold even far cause no one visit her then yet she got the cold cause it happen later time yet happen on weekend & text send to yuu well she pick 3 aka married cherry.

    B.I.T.W.
  2. This show makes me so uncomfortable that I literally have to take breaks to finish watching an episode.

    Having a lot of trouble deciding if this is a good thing or not..

    Tori no uta
  3. A new episode of Disgusting Girl the Animation ft. Disgusting Girl!

    I fucking love this show.

    But I never really had any experiences similar to her like a lot of other people so I feel like I’m missing out on being able to relate to it <_<

    EmD
    1. I find her cute. In fact I find myself questioning whether or not Konata from Lucky Star would be like that without friends, with a more realistic take on isolated introversion. The moe sort of parts of her performance for me come when she gets blindsided in the heat of the moment, haha. Like last episode when she noticed glasses guy glaring at her or this episode the reaction to being dragged off the bridge, haha. Did anyone besides me think she should worry about being kidnapped? So quiet from the outside perspective. She is sweet unless she’s despairing really.

      Breedo
      1. Maybe, if Konata didn’t have Kagamin it’s possible she could have turned out that way, but still Konata was blessed in Having a out-of-the-ordinary Dad to whom she could, if she had the need, confide.

        Tomoko instead has a family of “normal” people, and being different even inside your own house is not a good feeling…

        Yuu
  4. It’s Not My Fault ________

    This is just a large list of thoughts, some of which makes me wonder how is she more miserable than most anime characters, who are oddly popular in their show. As well as some other random thoughts. Does anyone have their own?

    Show Spoiler ▼

    L002
  5. Let’s have a wager for those who haven’t read the source material myself included. I believe life will get better for Tomoko before the series end, at least a few people will start talking to her and she’d be able to produce more audible responses. So the story makes you laugh…and feel guilty about doing so; especially when you realize how much you have in common with the poor girl.

    gawrshness
    1. Life won’t get better for Tomoko on it’s own,it’s more like she has to get better at life and I really think she will.It’s impossible not to learn something from all her experiences and adapt to them,even if just a little.There are teenagers like her who are bullied and/or treated like crap by their teachers or even their own family.We didn’t see her have any of those issues so far,so the problem only lies with her.She just has to try to look at the world around her differently,especially after seeing how her ways are just not working.She has to ask herself “What if I do this differently?” at least once,or for someone with some influence on her to ask her that and it might already be a step forward.

      MgMaster
  6. I laughed, I cringed and I felt uncomfortable, dis show…
    Actually had to pause it a few times before proceeding xD
    The kuroki’s basketball and psychological test (especially yuu’s answer part) were indeed the best parts. But when the nice guys left and she woke up and said I wish a guy was nice to me, that just made me GAAAH a moment. Onward to next week for more awkwardly gut-wrenching slightly depressing hilarity!

    Catsrofl
  7. Definitely the cringe moments and for which us audience can relate to, is something that uniquely stands out compared to other “comedy” shows. Some people might not like it but for me, I love it since the comedy itself (e.g references, dialogue etc) is funny and it’s something that I can relate to and have a laugh about it.

    With that being said, there are real life people who are worse than Tomoko’s case. I don’t consider Tomoko as “extreme” case in terms of psychological POV however, she really needs to seek out help before her self-esteem reaches all the way down to rock bottom.

    kanade_
  8. You cry at being told to share someone’s textbook by the teacher because you forgot yours? …introverts value their personal goals very seriously, no matter how small. She really did want to avoid any confrontation, but not only was she talked to, but was scolded. I experienced that several times in my life, but NEVER to the extent that I broke down!!! …. Tomoko, you need someone who could teach you and would NEVER give up on you.

    This episode was all kinds of “oh my god” throughout the 22 minutes. So far the first 2 episodes had a funny tone combined with the dark element. This….. was just unpleasant.

    ….Yuu isn’t that much of an unwanted virgin if that eye-catch is anything to go by! :3

    starss
  9. So… Enzo and you kids can tell a basketball reference in Kuroki’s Basketball.

    But are you seriously telling me that nobody has realized THE Slam Dunk reference? The picture 12, Sakuragi and Sendoh to be specific?

    Yeah, yeah, I get that it could be slightly tricky since they got rid of the signature red hair, but that Sendoh hairdo is a dead giveaway. Gah, I feel so old all of sudden. Gah~~. Now all these teenagers don’t know anything about Slam Dunk.

    deathtogeneric/formulaicshows
    1. Now all these teenagers don’t know anything about Slam Dunk

      You know,there are probably enough anime fans here that aren’t teenagers and are not interested in sport animes.

      MgMaster
  10. When Tomoko said “I wish a boy would be nice to be once in a while”, I can’t help but recall Hachiman’s wise words on nice girls. All Tomoko needs is a good 5-minute talk with the pro.

    Saki
    1. As Hachiman’s diciple, I’d say:
      “Beware nice boys, they are probably trying to get under your skirt.”
      But considering how she is looking to lose her virginity, that might backfire…

      ewok40k
  11. Well, truly depressed (medically confirmed) people can be like that: they always see the world as a dark hole where there is no joy, even for a second. They can’t feel joy anymore. Even a thing that used to make them happy before.

    yoaken
  12. This show its painful to watch, but amusing at the same time. I just cant stop watching.

    I think Tomoko somehow suffers from “Social Anxiety” but she doesnt know and just tries to be normal, or wants to be normal, but fails. I relate to her so much that it sometimes hurts.

    Nebulem
  13. When Tomoko was imagining being a sniper 2 things came to mind: “Hey its Ghost in the Shell” 😀 and “Wow she looks almost exactly like Re-l from Ergo Proxy” :O

    agr0n

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