「モテないし、見栄をはる」 (Motenai shi, Miewoharu)
“Since I’m Not Popular, I’ll Put On Airs”

And so, the emotional roller-coaster ride continues.

If you consider the emotional spectrum of anime a true circle, there must be a point where the two extremes meet – where funny and hopeful transitions into bleak and tragic. There are series that spend some of their time moving back and forth around their part of the circle, most of them never reaching that extreme nexus point from either direction. And then there’s Watamote, a series that sets up camp and lives there almost all the time, more than pretty much any series I can remember. It’s a scary place to be, but if there’s one thing this show has to spare, it’s nerve.

The thing about Watamote is, because its natural habitat is out there where the buses don’t run, the conflicting emotions of watching it always seem to exist side-by-side for me. It’s not so much that they’re competing with each other as two sides of the same coin, one always present as the flip-side whenever the other is. An episode like this one is a perfect example, because it’s at the moments when it seems to be the most hopeful that it’s also the most unsparing in depicting just how bleak things are for Tomoko, really.

There are several notable things about this episode, which while not as uproariously funny as the last few certainly touched the heart and moved the story and Tomoko’s arc (which are basically one and the same with this show) forward substantially. The first is the arrival of Kii-chan (Kugimiya Rie, who can still do loli – a mode I much prefer to her tsundere one, now thankfully much in decline – like few actresses can). Kii is the adoring younger cousin of Tomoko, a petite imouto-type just entering middle school who’s idolized her older cousin for years. The problem (there’s always problems to spare whenever Tomoko is involved) is that her cousin has been feeding Kii-chan a line of BS about how popular she is, and about her boyfriend who “just wants to fool around every day”. Naturally, with Kii coming to visit, this is a problem – Tomoko has convinced herself that her now older and savvier cousin will see through her lies and smell the stink of virginity on her.

In the first place, I’m not so sure that was true – Kii-chan still seemed pretty innocent when she pulled up, if not when she left – but as always, it’s Tomoko’s paranoid delusion that the forces of the universe (though sadly not its teenaged boys) are conspiring to screw her that leads her into trouble. I’m not sure Tomoko was ever quite so outright pathetic as she was this week – all of her crimes were against herself (well, almost), and her desperation led her down some truly ridiculous paths. In order to make herself into the first-class “high-school bitch” she thinks she needs to be to fool Kii, she goes shopping for clothes, only to be humiliated by the grade-schoolers who dress cooler than she does. Not able to successfully plant hickeys on herself – “Not enough suction!”, not to mention the inability to suck her own neck – she uses the vacuum cleaner as a substitute. This is one of those classic Watamote moments where you want to laugh, but hate yourself for it – it is funny, dammit, but it’s also pure torture to see Tomoko humiliate herself that way.

Another significant element of the episode springs directly from the vacuum incident (which is predictably disastrous in that Tomoko leaves huge rings all over her body and practically kills herself). This is really the first time when we’ve seen signs that Tomoko’s mother has some clue just how badly her daughter is messed up. Any mother would be upset to see their teenage daughter after obviously having used the vacuum the way she did, and might even have shouted “You’re always doing things like this!” But there was an edge of panic in her voice, which frankly reassures me because there should have been, and maybe this is a clue that Mom-oki isn’t as hopelessly lost in denial as she seemed. Further evidence of this is the way she reacted when Tomoko viciously turned on her – she slapped her. That’s something I never like to see a parent do, but if there were ever a moment when it was understandable, that was it. I really want to believe Tomo-Mom is capable of helping her daughter out of the sad, dark hole into which she’s fallen, but that can’t happen unless she’s operating in reality and not in a fantasy world where her kids are still toddlers giving each other big sloppy kisses.

There a surprise development when Tomoko takes Kii-chan to the library – Kosaka, the boy who left Tomoko the umbrella back in episode 3 shows up. Turns out Kosaka is every bit as nice as he seemed then – he makes pleasant small talk with Tomoko Momoko despite having the carry most of the conversation (this is yet more brilliant seiyuu work by Izumi Kitta here) and refuses to accept money from her. Naturally enough Tomoko ends up telling Kii that Kosaka is her boyfriend – which seems like an OK improvization until Kosaka shows up at the library the next say with his real girlfriend. Once again all of Tomoko’s trials are of her own making, and Kosaka proves himself truly a gentleman when Kii-chan confronts him for cheating on Tomoko – he holds his tongue despite his puzzlement, and accepts Tomoko’s apology after she’s sent Kii away so she can “break up” with him. Tomoko’s world is full of many more people than not who are like Kosaka, decent and even kind – Tomoko is by far the most dangerous person in Tomoko’s world.

The loop is closed – landing us right at “that” part of the circle – by the fact that Kii-chan witnesses what really happens at the breakup (Tomoko on her knees, apologizing). Her illusions about her cousin are shattered, all the more so when Tomoko takes her to a mom & pop konbini so she can show off her skills against elementary-school boys at the Yu-Gi-Oh!Magic: the Gathering-style card game played there. It’s not bad enough that Tomoko can only think to show off for Kii by beating little boys at a card game – she has to resort to cheating in order to do it. Even Tomoko can feel what’s happened – instead of staring at her with the eyes of an adoring puppy, Kii now stares at her like she’s an abandoned puppy. Worship has turned to pity, and this is how low Tomoko has fallen – she’s pitied by her 13 year-old cousin. Yet again, though, we see a case where no one is being mean to Tomoko – knowingly, at least. Kii-chan’s pity is driven by a kind heart, but it’s just further humiliation for Tomoko. I’ve said this before, but if you have no empathy for Tomoko now you’re probably never going to have it, because this is a real low ebb for her. And as always, it sure is hard to watch.



    1. Stop tempting fate!
      She could have killed herself with that vacuum cleaner…
      “I could not live with myself if I’d died like that!” This one made me laugh so loud I had to explain to family. “Nothing just a funny scene on tv…”

    2. Even boku wa tomodachi ga sukunai, which has a pretty miserable title, has some points of improvements for the main character. After getting slapped by her mother, even I feel that she is heading into a road of misery like Light Yagami.

  1. I don’t know why people feel so bad for Tomoko anymore. She’s gone past a pitiable creature in my eyes. She not some sweet shy girl. She’s self-centered, mean, a liar, and I enjoy seeing her get her comeuppance. However I hope she gets a clue before the series ends and has some sort of epiphany before the end of the series.

    1. No, Tomoko is not some sweet girl. She isn’t the cute mute or the emotionless girls that are so coveted. Lord knows she ain’t no Kotoura. I think the source of ‘the feels’ we have for her is due to the fact that, as it has been said many times, is that this is a more honest description of what this type of character would actually be like. As a human being, she’s going to have parts of her that are ugly, and its made more so by the fact that she is so incapable of functioning in society. She misconstrues, exagerates, all sorts of societal norms; when she inevitably fails at mimicking them, she sneers at them, belittles those who adhere, and then ignores them. The ugliness is also much more present because we are in her perspective so we receive everything unfiltered. Every urge, thought, and desire comes through to us raw. Even her desperate attempt to appear cool by showing off to and in front of grade-school children bit her back because she didn’t want to lose in front of her cousin made her look even more pathetic. I don’t think we give her a pass on her behavior. She definitely ‘gets what she pays for’. I just think watching her struggle so hard, intrinsically feeling the moment when it will all come crashing down, then watching her hate everything just a little bit more is why I know I feel for her.


      Watching her awkwardly fail in her POV and sink further into despair makes me feel for her.

      The Walker
      1. I hear you, and I felt the same way at the beginning of the series. Maybe I just got number after watch her fall so many times. I think people keep hoping she finally gets it right and when she doesn’t that’s when the cringe, because they were rooting for her.

        I find it just as entertaining to relish in her defeat in a slap-stick sort of way.

      2. Show Spoiler ▼

    2. Come on now. Everyone who had to impress a younger sibling always had to tell a tall tale or two. The problem is that doing such innocent things becomes catastrophic when one is so inept at social functions that Tomoko tries to claw and struggle with the most mundane things.
      Even at the end, Kii chan stopped feeling angry at Tomoko because the situation was so pitiable. Watching cheating on little kids to bolster Tomoko’s self esteem is less about Tomoko being an awful person than how sad her social situation really is. Kii chan at the very end realizes it is like watching a little kid struggling to make sense of social norms. Tomoko would definitely be a way worse a person if she had any grasp on social interactions and self esteem. But Kii chan can see that these acts are about Tomoko’s desperation, not about her truly exerting her ‘big sister’ influence and wisdom.

    3. “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone”… right?
      Next time you post a comment like this, try to remember the word “compassion”.
      Unless you were having a bad day today, I do not understand…
      Sorry to sound aggressive but your comment really upset me.

      1. Uhm… You do realize that Tomoko isn’t a real person and only exist to entertain us, right?

        I’m not sure why you took it so personally. However if you think people who are generally crappy to everyone around them deserve you pity, we just happen to disagree.

  2. You’re right. This show is written in code. To some, it appears like it’s supposed to be this dark comedy. To other’s like me, it’s more or less a slice of life starring the socially inept.

  3. Aw jeez. Being a manga reader, last episode was one I really wanted to see animated because it was hilarious…and the moment I saw the cousin show up I remembered that this was what I did not want to see again. Not because it was bad…but because, goddamn, Tomoko really shows her most pathetic sides here. She’s never crashed and burned to this extent before (because mostly it just ends with people ignoring her). Totally deserved, in a way, because this was just all her lies, boasting, cheating and general jerkass behaviour coming back to bite her, making her lose the adoration of one of the very few people who still respect her. It was painful to watch, really, like some kind of Greek tragedy.

    Ah, well. It can only get better for her from here on…after which she inevitably crashes down again.

    1. just of curiosity how did that guy react? the one who was nice enough to leave an umbrella. for some reason I can’t sit and watch tomoko begging for forgiveness it just too pathetic. Did he look freaked out or scared? I could never get through that particular chapter in the manga.

      1. All we know is that Tomoko said he waved it off with a forced smile. I’m guessing he really held back what he truly thought of her, thinking how hopelessly pathetic she must be to stoop this low.

        Lord of Fire
      1. A fun easter egg:

        the text on that card, which appears fully for just a frame, reads : “Your opponent loses the game”, written in a different font than the cards shown before.

        So not only Tomoko cheated by pulling that card out of that sleeve, she probably counterfeited it to allow her to win just by playing it!

  4. Wow,this episode really put tossed most of the comedy part in order for the dark to take the stage.

    I have to say,I’m quite annoyed with her mother.Yes,we can say her reactions were appropriate as a parent for the vacuum incident but she also gave me the impression that she was more worried about Tomoko embarrassing her in front of Kii-chan & her mom instead of checking if she was okay.The ignorance she’s shown so far doesn’t help my impression of her either.

  5. You know, during the first half I really liked Tomoko and thought she’s someone I’d like to be friends with, but now I’m having mixed feelings about her. I had and still have depression so bad that I see a psychiatrist for it, I was in a horrible family situation much worse than hers, I didn’t have a single friend until I was 20 years old, but I always tried to be as nice as possible. She seems like she’ll step over people to get what she wants, and doesn’t seem to care about others feelings as long as she reaches her goal. Her friendship with Yuu in particular bothers me, because she doesn’t seem like she cares about Yuu at all, only what she can do for her. Every time she’s spoken to her in the series, it’s been because she’s needed something, I never get the sense that Tomoko just wants to spend time with her friend, it’s like she always wants something.
    I can empathize and relate to her situation very well, but I’ve never used my depression as an excuse to act like a jerk. I’m still rooting for her, but she needs to change soon before she risks becoming an unlikeable character.

      1. This is the reason why stories like this (and “The Catcher in the Rye” and to a lesser extent, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) really start to turn me off after a while. At a certain point, you want her to grow up and realize her first-world problems are really quite insignificant, and that the world is not her enemy: more often than not it’s simply apathetic. It’s not so much her failure to engage with the world as it is her understanding of the world and what “happiness” actually is. She just approaches it from a very immature standpoint, that quickly becomes grating.

  6. Ouch man…just ouch…when you’re pitied by a middle schooler like Kii-chan you know you’re having it bad. From the looks of it, it doesn’t seem that the show intends to end on a more positive note unless they decide to do something in the span on 4 episodes. Even when you think there is light of hope they bring in something to immediately shatter that thought, in this case being the guy who turned out to have a girlfriend.

  7. We all continue watching this show because we secretly hope that something happy will finally happen to Tomoko… or that she will “man up”…
    And we are also afraid that might not happen before the end of the show.

  8. This is, by far, the most painful episode of this show I’ve seen. Lying has been Tomoko’s game, but she takes it too far in this one that it’s not even funny to watch.

    And I can’t blame her cousin for going yandere on her.

  9. Do you know the ironic thing? This week was the longest she had ever actually held conversations in with other people, and it still happens in the most gruelingly uncomfortable episode! Now, I hate to think what would happen if she DID converse at the amount of a stable human being!

    Horrid. Absolutely horrid, this episode. My body was shaking! Tomoko, you need to talk with your mother and tell you everything you experienced! The sad part isn’t JUST that she cheated at a card game, but she clearly did it long enough to fool the other kids AND the supervisor lady! How long has she been doing this for?!? Months!? Years!?

  10. tomoko have ready & do things be a big sis to impress kii so trying outfit makeover then go kiss marks til lead to vacumm overload marks & dried-up.

    cue mom going like i will NOT have my daughter be like a vma miley HO-SKI even slap some sense into tomoko with her all proper clean here come kii.

    so go book area give kii get a book then tomoko meet guy who gave her umbrella all look fine give go next day til another female cue toilet paper roll.

    then kii go fix things yet tomoko go like down on knee cause kii to be in despair so in try get her happy again have some treats & yet show her being card queen player.

    give kii got her a feeling even lead til tomoko pull sneak trick yet golden kii side has awaken to show kii feel she must be the LIGHT to save tomoko’s mess.

  11. I finally caught up with the series the other day, and watched this one today. I still don’t know how to feel about this series. Can’t say I’ve ever watched or read anything like it any way possible. I usually avoid stories like this because they 1) bother me because of the anime quality, shallow as this sounds, 2) the main character is not relatable to me in any way, and I have a hard time wanting to watch her actions and how I don’t really get it. So many of her actions are ridiculously exaggerated from what I would think to be believable, but maybe I’m just heartless and lack empathy. I’m not saying I don’t like this show because if I really did, I wouldn’t be watching until episode 8 or writing a comment about it.

    In this episode, I really had hope for Tomoko since that umbrella boy from episode 3 showed up again. I was thinking that maybe this boy could help her out of the rut. I didn’t expect him to become her boyfriend, and it was not surprising to find that he had a girlfriend since he is so kind. Doesn’t help that she didn’t decide to fess up to her cousin and shrug it off like a joke, but I guess that would go against her personality and actions prior to this scene.

    Should I be worried that I don’t find this series very funny? I mean that in the politest way possible. I notice there are comedic scenes, but it’s just… it’s like they’re bittersweet. It’s not the fun kind of funny, not the ones where a character does something completely ridiculous and stupid, it’s mostly the cruel type, to the point it makes me feel uncomfortable. The ones where I feel like I’m making fun of someone else to laugh, the ones were someone else is in pain while I’m laughing and having a good time. It’s like I’m bullying her if I want to laugh at these scenes. Or maybe my train of thought is a bit off, and I should find humor in those scenes.

    That being said, I choose to continue this series to see where it goes and to read your posts, Enzo. It is always interesting to read your analysis, especially hearing that you may understand her on a personal level from experience with someone you know(?). Thanks for another week of a great analysis and presentation.

  12. Dude, did no one pick up on the Puzzle and Dragons reference (egg, angel, smartphone)? Been obsessed with that game for the past few months so I nearly choked on my dinner when I saw it. Cute loli Goddess voiced by Kugimiya Rie, I would love to have that Goddess of Symphathy, Chaos Kii-chan on my team 😛

    Anyway, I just hope there some push towards the positive eventually. So far it seems to be gradually getting worse and worse. I was surprised by the lack of reaction after Tomoko’s mom slapped her and it makes me wonder how much Tomoko’s mom actually knows about her daughter’s situation. I suppose what Tomoko really needs is someone like Manabe, but given how this series is more of a monologue, I’m guessing that path will unlikely be explored…

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