「モテないし、花火に行く」 (Motenai shi, Hanabi ni Iku)
“Since I’m Not Popular, I’ll Go See the Fireworks”

Watamote is certainly sticking to its guns – if you’re looking for moderation and restraint, look elsewhere.

Sometimes I try (don’t ask me why) to explain the appeal of anime to non-anime fans.  It’s never an easy process and rarely successful in terms of communicating the point, but looking at what’s really exceptional on TV at the moment gives a pretty good illustration of why this medium is so unlike any other.  Where else are you going to get shows as different to the quantum level as Watamote, Hunter X Hunter and Uchouten Kazoku and have them all be great?  For all the harem, moe pandering and formula crap that exists, this is still an art form that presents amazing diversity of theme and content.  And that, as much as any other reason, is why I love anime.

I took note of the fact that Tomoko made two statements this week that are 100% out of the manic depressive handbook, further clues of how the mangaka is relating this story from personal experience.  The first is a question – "Is it really OK for me to be like this?"  It’s possibly the fundamental self-inquiry for everyone with social disorder and self-awareness, one that they always confront sooner or later – incredibly painful but also brutally necessary at the same time.  The other was "I didn’t want to go, anyway" – which really needs no explanation or elaboration, but which gets a lot of exercise for someone like Tomoko.  In this case it’s spoken in respect to the fireworks display that coincides with the end of her first semester in high school, one of those moments that tends to force self-assessment on us whether we like it or not.

There are times when I wonder if Tomoko might be growing just a bit, but mostly she and the experience of watching her are consistent.  I almost always laugh and feel terrible for her, though the order changes and sometimes it’s simultaneously. The stuff she gets into is obviously exaggerated, but her path to destruction is always surprisingly natural and believable.  Tomoko’s desires and delusions always lead her down to disaster and this week was no different.  First it’s the completion of a "true love" sim that gets her convinced that she’s experienced a kind of virtual sexual gratification with has turned her into a pheromone-secreting beauty, when in reality she’s closer to how Tomoki describes her – "a crow dipped in oil".  In some ways it’s almost harder to watch Tomoko when she’s under the grip of her delusions of grandeur than when she’s facing depressing reality, because the truth is always so plain to us and you know it will eventually be revealed to her, too.  Is it worse to see her happy for a few moments knowing the moment will come when that happiness will be crushed, or to watch her suffer through a steady, consistent malaise?

Sex is never far from view in Watamote, because this is Tomoko’s world and it’s never far from her own thoughts.  Be it the impressively varied VNs she plays or two cats humping in the street (the dude did everything but wink at the camera) sex is the engine that drives Tomoko’s fantasy world, and usually the cause of her undoing.  Her fantasies this time lead her to drench herself with Coke Zero in the belief that black is her lucky color for the day, which in turn leads to her being swarmed by ants during gym class (to be fair this may be poetic justice, as she was trying to herd them into an ant lion pit).  Here again we see her remarkable ability to selectively screen out the swathes of reality that contradict her fantasy – she sees the guy hovering over her in the hall as she gazes out the window, but blocks out his explanation that he was trying to get a bug off her.  She sees the guy texting that a "hot high-school girl" is sitting next to him on the train, but doesn’t notice that the one he’s talking about gets off, or that he soon texts about the high-school with ants in her hair.

This is that much sadder because reality always crashes into Tomoko sooner or later, usually sooner.  And desperate to find someone to attend the fireworks with, she finally resorts to what she considers the domain of the lowest of the low – the school library.  There’s the girl reading a book Tomoko has read, which almost gives her an in to converse – but it turns out the girl has actual friends.  This prompts a "Don’t read and be a bitch – then there’s nothing I can beat you at!" from Tomoko – because of course having friends is synonymous with being a bitch.  The last hope is a megane-boy reading by himself, but Tomoko can’t bring herself to ask even a guy she considers pathetic to the fireworks and he stubbornly refuses to budge.  So she concocts a scheme using her phone alarm to press his buttons, which unsurprisingly fails miserably and leaves her fully in forever alone mode, minus three hours of her life which she’ll never get back.

All this wraps up with a scene that somehow manages to be both tragic and – almost impossibly – a little hopeful.  Tomoko retreats to the rooftop she and Yuu used to hang out on before Yuu became popular, thinking of watching the hanabi taikai alone from there (I feared for a moment the implication might be darker than that).  But a love hotel has been built next door, and the roof has been discovered by a pair of middle-school boys who have designs on watching a different sort of fireworks.  The potential for disaster hangs heavily in the air here as everyone eyes each other nervously.

It says something about both how bleak and how brilliant Watamote is that the two most touching episodes endings have been so completely wrong – first, a father stumbling in on his daughter in the aftermath of playing an eroge with a massager in-hand, and here a high-school girl peeping on a couple making love in the company of two horny schoolboys.  As depraved as that is (in truth, having an Onee-san watch with them probably works the lads up even more), it’s oddly the most positive moment in the episode – Tomoko managed to overcome her crushing social anxiety and ask the boys if she could stay (the fact that she felt the need to ask a measure of her low self-esteem) without realizing what she was asking to watch.  And somehow, she ended up connecting with people at last – in the act of spying on a couple having sex, true, but it was a shared experience of sorts.  It’s the sort of contradictory moment with Watamote seems to be built on, playing with the emotions of the audience until we’re not sure what to feel and uncomfortable with what we are.

Thanks very much to Zanibas for helping out with caps for Watamote and Gin no Saji last week!

 

ED4 Sequence

ED4: 「夏祭」 (Natsu Matsuri) by (Utsu-P & Minatsukitoka, feat. Hatsune Miku)

Omake

37 Comments

    1. Well, that’s for the doujin writers I suppose. In all seriousness, though, for a girl as socially inept as she is, middle school boys might be her only realistic possibility to interact socially (or otherwise) in the foreseeable future. It would ruin her socially in HS if word ever got out, but given her current standing what’s the downside? It’s better practice than talking to her brother.

      1. Well, I hope not. To the boys she has status simply by nature of being a HS girl – her weirdness is mitigated by that. They get experience chatting up a girl and an older one at that, and she gets experience chatting up guys. I think it would be mutually beneficial, but in Watamote world I don’t see much chance that Tomoko would think it through that hard and come up with such a detached and logical conclusion.

    2. I was worried that she would either 1.) go up to the roof to jump over the edge (there is no dialogue to explain why she’s going to this abandoned building until she’s actually on the roof), or 2.) head down and leave the boys there, thus making her miss the fireworks after all and confirm her first high school semester as a failure.

      Oh and 3.) I was expecting her confession to join them to be a dream! It was uncharacteristic of her, but I was elated that it was not! Yay Tomoko! You CAN work up courage to ask people!

      starss
  1. M-m-m-m-m-miku power. Even though the actual credits didn’t bother to properly credit her (from what I saw), I still recognize her ED glory!

    On topic though, it hurts so much to see Tomoko make these elaborate ruses to get people’s attention because it rings so true to my own actions at times. The “pretend to call somebody to make it seem like you have more friends” tactic particularly sends shivers down my spine. That slightly over-the-top enthusiasm when faking a call–even I know it looks fake when you exaggerate it, but I still can’t help but do it myself.

    Zanibas
    1. Well, the library part made me think if I ever played the part of the oblivious megane boy (as I literally tended to forget about the world around me when deeply in lecture…). (un)Fortunately I will never know?

      ewok40k
  2. Man this episode took a steep dive in showcasing Tomoko’s depression, it was almost hard to finish. The only parts I laughed at were the cat sex scene and the end when Tomoko watched the sex hotel with the two middle-schoolers. At she had fun with it eh? Even if she makes friends with those two I’d still accept it as a one step forward. Man I want this girl to find a more accessible friend other than her current only and changed friend so bad…after all I can relate to a LOT of her problem, the difference is now I do have friends nor do I have difficulty talking to people anymore.

    gawrshness
  3. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled with this episode. I didn’t struggle with it because it was bad, it’s more.. urgh.. So very hard to watch because I felt awful for Tomoko.

    P Ko
  4. tomoko doing usual game notice whole one love thing mention blah to her brother on it then next day her chin cheeks all smooth give mention of summer break coming yet with have smooth chin cheeks feel she something to do.

    notice the smooth cheeks chin so read magazine about it all lead one thing three letter word that mostly lead “cat hugging” so next show off her cheek chin to her brother & he going like more damage control on tomoko.

    then watch horoscope color then go have black coke til splat on face then pe time going pest play til whole ANTS IN MY PANTS on tomoko then notice some guys trying reach her give cause notice & got yikes she got bug’d.

    have another coke black then run to brother go like she pest infest house then game night go like need more love yet her brother she is total damage control.

    summer break is on give tomoko got no one to see for festival trying go like make fake call to get but nope well go place see fireworks notice hotel in area.

    yet two middle school kids arrive then ask if to say they let so yea tomoko did see those of both sky & “hotel fire works”.

    hug_IT_out
  5. That was the best ending this episode ever could have gotten. I was laughing out loud! I think it had to do with the fact that Tomoko still got to see the fireworks. In a way. …. oh and did you notice the shapes the fireworks made, too? 😀

    Miku must feel dirty to have her song play over a sequence like that.

    starss
  6. Happy that Tomoko caught a bit of a break in this episode. Life just keeps taking too many shits on her. I hope she at least makes more friends.

    PS: I’m kinda new to this site. Does anyone know how I can change my username icon?

    LaughingMan
  7. last ep was genius with the whole “silent character type” i thought it might have worked out for her…BUT NO….ah i hope this show has a happy ending…hahahaha..its prob just gonna end in ultimate self delusion

    BROOKLYN otaku
  8. Man I felt really queasy watching this episode with the ants crawling all over her with her having not showered and spraying coke on herself, even deliberately later. Just a never ending whyyyy. How do you not realize ants crawling all over you to the point that it’s all in your hair. Granted it was exaggerated but I couldn’t help feeling all itchy over it.

    That ending made the episode though in how surprisingly heartwarming it was. The middle schooler calling her onee-chan almost innocently despite what they were actually doing. I like how they all reacted together and kind of did share a moment in the end. The episode ending with Natsu Matsuri with Miku singing was just perfect. Really caught me off guard.

    Yuna
  9. There’s a certain awkward sadness about this series.
    Yeah, she’s not all together, but you kinda want to root
    for her to find her stride. I love the contrast the
    writers have set between how she sees herself and how
    her mother sees her. I’ve come to like this series more
    than I thought I would – it does have heart.

    mac65

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