「モテないし、夏が終わる」 (Motenai shi, Natsu ga Owaru)
“Since I’m Not Popular, Summer Will End”

Ah, Watamote – why must you take me on this emotional thrill ride every week?

In all my years of watching anime, there’s never been anything that strikes me as much similar to Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!. There have been plenty of black comedies and some of them brilliant ones, too, but I can’t recall another show that’s so straddles the border between being a comedy and not being one at all. I’ve watched nine episodes of this show and I still don’t really know what the hell it is, to be honest. I just know it makes me feel much more deeply than most shows do, and that means it’s doing an awful lot of things right.

What I see this week is a portrait of a lost girl on a road I’ve seen others walk before, and maybe that’s why even if Watamote makes me laugh sometimes (it certainly does, often and loudly) I can never truly let myself go and enjoy it as a comedy. There are those who have obviously been close to Tomoko – her Mom (and presumably her Dad), Tomoki, Yuu-chan and Kii-chan – and each of them in their own way is slipping away from her. Tomoko, of course, is well aware of this, though she’s powerless to prevent it. Rather, she pushes each of them away in her own way, like calling Yuu "bitch" because of her social success (and boobs), sullenly fighting with her mother and generally antagonizing her brother at every turn.

Some of this is normal teenage rage, no doubt – as a rule 15 year-olds fight with their parents and spend less time with younger siblings as a normal part of adolescence. But there’s a phenomena happening where especially Tomoki and Yuu are visibly tiring of dealing with Tomoko. Like most who suffer from serious S.A.D. and other depressive disorders Tomoko is a pain in the ass to deal with. She’s no doubt become much more of a load since the hormones kicked in, but part of it too is that Tomoki and Yuu are living in an expanding world even as Tomoko’s is shrinking. They have choices now they didn’t use to have – Tomoki isn’t a pre-teen child and has a fully-functional social life, and Yuu has other friends who require a lot less effort. Mom, of course, doesn’t have a choice, and in many ways the way she deals with her daughter, while not especially heartwarming, seems like a reassuringly normal frustrated mother dealing with a surly teen. But the more I see her the more I detect a little undercurrent of panic in her eyes and her voice when she interacts with her daughter. She knows there’s something bigger going on here, and doesn’t want to admit it to herself.

The first chapter this week is in many ways the least painful of the trio, but it does point up a common problem in teenage friendships – very often one side isn’t the equal of the other. A movie date that probably wasn’t that big a deal to begin with for Yuu means everything to Tomoko, and when Yuu cancels she effectively wipes out the highlight of Tomoko’s summer break. Yuu has a good reason – she’s working part-time at her Uncle’s foofy cafe. She invites Tomoko for a complimentary dessert, which Tomoko accepts as it at least gives her something to do (though she panics when she arrives and sees the place filled with young couples). She also gets a bee in her bonnet that if she could somehow get a similar gig with a cute uniform, she’d become popular in a flash. When she begs her Mom to think of a friend in the cake business, Mom surprisingly knows one – but the result, rather than a romantic French patisserie or a clandestine liaison in the kitchen with a hot baker and a gallon of frosting – turns out to be an I Love Lucy style nightmare, a Dickensian sweatshop full of chain-smoking adults that sends Tomoko into a catatonic state.

With this fresh reminder of what a child Tomoko still is, and how unprepared for the world, Watamote launches into one of the things it’s incredibly good at. That is, making me really hate Tomoko and then, at the drop of a hat, making my heart break for her. We see Tomoko at her worst – sullen and self-pitying, dismissive of the unpaid labor her mother puts in around the house and viciously attacking Tomoki for having the gall to actually help out like he’s supposed to and work hard to prepare for entrance exams (for which she accuses him of being like the MC of a light-novel). I know this person very well – I grew up with her, in effect – and she’s a nightmare to be around. Tomoki as usual shows more grace than a 14 year-old often might (effectively turning the other cheek rather than taking the bait) and Mom gives Tomoko a pretty light punishment – she lets her off helping her clean the house but forces her to clean her room. This leads to a bleakly hilarious trip down memory lane where Tomoko shows a shocking lack of sentimentality in chucking her childhood memories into the bin – that is, until she stumbles upon a box full of cicada shells and a journal entry from Tomoki (this memory not more than a few years old) where he professes his love for his Onee-chan (as in episode 7 with the voice of Seri Akiko), and details the reasons why.

It’s really a remarkable transition the show makes here – like a 180 degree turn at 100 MPH without slowing down. What’s been acid and harsh becomes unapologetically sentimental. Having just seen Tomoko at her most unlikable we now see her at her most vulnerable – a lost child who fully realizes just how alone she is in the world. We’ve seen this before with Watamote – Tomoko builds a stout wall out of anger and delusion, only to see it come crashing down when she stumbles on some reminder of what her reality is. I kid you not, my heart absolutely broke for her in that last chapter – she was just so desperate for something so simple and elemental that everyone should be entitled to, and that’s a connection with other people – yet she’s unable to make it. When she sat there on that bench slurping instant ramen and watching the meteor shower, alone, it might just have been the saddest moment in anime this year – and I think that’s because she was so acutely aware of why it was so sad. I’ve praised (and rightly so, I’ll add) episode 8 of Uchouten Kazoku for being incredibly emotionally transcendent and heartbreaking. But the difference is that even as the Shimogamo family was dealing with their terrible moment, they had each other – that’s the thing that sustains them through everything. Who does Tomoko have, really?

It’s hard to watch a sequence like the meteor shower chapter and not come to the conclusion that what makes Watamote so remarkable is how utterly ruthless it is. Not only is it encyclopedically accurate about the agonies of severe anxiety disorder, but it shows no mercy in depicting them – there are no pulled punches in the usual anime fashion. Tomoko isn’t a nice person most of the time, but she wants mostly what anyone wants – love – and she isolates herself more and more with each act of depravity she engages is. There’s no light at the end of her tunnel, unless it’s an oncoming train – her life sucks, and there’s no obvious reason to think it’s going to get anything but worse. I keep waiting for Watamote to pull up, to step back from the cliff, but it never does. At best we get the oddly moving moments that always seem to come at the end of episodes, the tiny little kernel of hope in the most bizarre or inappropriate circumstances. Here, Tomoko’s wish does come true after all, and she gets a boy to watch the meteor shower with – a tomcat. But he likes her, at least and for a few moments anyway she’s not totally alone. When it comes to Tomoko and Watamote, you need to take your uplift wherever you can find it.



    1. Serves her right.
      Blaming others and comparing them can make you feel better but it won’t help us grow.

      You can only become popular when you do things you love to do and not what others think that you can do.

      I pity Tomoko but this is just to much.

      1. Tomoko certainly has a lot of lessons to learn. But nobody ever DESERVES to be miserable for life, even if it is due to their own mistakes.

        She really needs a lot of help and a stern hand to guide her.

      2. Yes, I agree with you but it’s hard to come to a point where you think that doing what you love is the best especially at the age where you want to do what the majority is doing. I was like Tomoko, wanting to be popular and doing stuffs that everyone was doing just so that they notice me. But it took me what…till university? before I realise that doing what I love was healthier than bothering with what the majority can. Coming to that consensus is hard, especially for Tomoko since now what she considers important is not herself but the people around her.

  1. Heh, this episode brings back memories. I’ve ended up the same way during my teenage years when I went looking for a part-time job – only to end up in a utterly mindnumbing sweatshop where I felt like nothing more than a cog in a machine. And I quit after a day too. Never again.

    Anyway, this really one of the more sadder episodes, in a way. She doesn’t horrifically crash and burn the way she does last week; instead the episode goes for a more subtle, introspective approach. Though Tomoko can certainly act like an annoying nuisance to the people around her, we can also clearly see just how miserable and desperate she is. While she may often lose herself in all kinds of delusions, this episode showed that she certainly has a type of self-reflection as well, coming to the harsh realization of just how unhappy she is (especially as she thinks of happier times). All she has now are little victories, little things that keep her going, but even those are often trampled underneath (like going to the movies with Yuu). In the end, she is always alone. As much of a jerkass as she can be (and she hasn’t even been seen at her worst yet), nobody deserves that kind of misery, yet a lot of people still deal with it (as the show is rather painfully realistic in that regard).

    Still, you gotta grab victories where you can find them. I do have to admit that that final part made me smile.

    Can’t find a real boy? A cat is fine too!

    1. I definitely feel that this episode was the most gut wrenching one for her so far. She experiences existential crisis and it is something that shakes her to the core and not something she can sleep off. I feel she always knew how unhappy she is, and that is why she schemes to have fun or play games and watch TV all day. When things simmer down and she is lazying around bored and is not distracting herself, all these realizations about herself hits her like a brick. You typically can’t distract yourself in school with games or TV, so we often see her forced to introspect in school.

  2. Tomoko is really a spoiled brat who thinks that everything needs to revolve around her. Adolescent? Suffering from minor “panphobia”? Please… all those are just petty excuses and it doesn’t justify her actions whatsoever.

    To me, she never experienced any hardships in her life as a result she’s too naive about herself and the world in general. She has so many opportunities and potentials to change herself yet she doesn’t want to simply because she’s scared of “everything”.
    Moreover, she lives in a very comfortable environment where nothing will stop Tomoko if she tries anything. For example: does she have a broken family? is she poor? is there anyone who’s bullying her directly and making her life miserable? Does she suffer from major illness such as cancer? etc…

    She really needs to wake up and get her shit together.

    1. I don’t think anyone is saying that she is not bratty at times. But not much more so than most teens really.

      The sad part of Tomoko’s tribulations is her internal state of turmoil not because she has things working against her externally. She even has a few friends and family to rely on and she can hardly see it because of her anxieties. She doesn’t have external bullies but she herself is her biggest bully, making it seem like the world conspies against her. Her personal life is in such shambles because she sees her life as a mortal battle. I think she would be less bratty and know how to take her life in stride if she doesn’t feel constantly pressured by her mental condition on a constant basis and her only oasis in life is at her room.

    2. This is precisely why people who suffer from any mental illness often don’t get the help that they require. Everyone around them discount their illness because it’s not ~cancer~, ignoring the fact that it’s just as painful and at times just as fatal.

  3. Guardian Enzo, that was a really great writeup. I find it hard to confront myself about what I think about what each episode/show means to me, because that would mean I need to consider the painful parts more than I think I’m willing to.

  4. I seriously wonder what happened to Tomoko that made her change from a sweet little girl to what she is now. I refuse to believe someone can make such a drastic personality change overnight without an external trigger.

    This episode did a very good job at bringing out the worst in Tomoko and actually make me hate her for doing all that. However, the last scene tugged really hard on my heartstrings and made me want to give her a big hug and tell her she´ll be all right eventually.

    Lord of Fire
    1. There could have been triggers, but social anxiety doesn’t need anything to grasp someone. The reason why people feel so entrapped by it is because they don’t know why they feel those things. It is considered a mental condition and it has implications with chemical imbalance withhormones and the brain. Tomoko may need serious professional help
      You don’t just ‘snap out of it’ with willpower and revelation alone. Social Anxiety Disorder is no joke.

    2. You don’t need a trigger. It’s a self-defeating cycle that honestly comes about by taking one step too far in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

      TBH, I haven’t even watched or read Watamote yet, but I always come back to read the comments section anyways. Believe me when I say that I know all about the dumb self-defeating cycle. It’s even worse when you know it’s there, but refuse to actually fix it because reasons.

      Yeah, really. Just reasons. When you finally get far enough past it you can look back and see how outright retarded the whole mess was, but in the moment you’re basically stuck in neutral with no idea what a car or car manual is.

  5. I liked how the creators trolled people (on purpose or not) who wants/demands her to change fast and have a happy ending with the hot baker “final episode”. This show is just not like all the others who have a loser protagonist who gets all badass and hot and have supporting friends.

    If anything the closest show to this one is Welcome to the NHK.

  6. Again: poor mothering. Did she even try telling Tomoko to do something other than hang around in her room all summer, at the BEGINNING of the summer, instead of 10 days before it ends!? Sometimes, this show. By this point, I’m glad Tomoko got slapped AGAIN.

  7. summer almost over for tomoko give plan movie watch with yuu but not happen but turned into visit to cafe where yuu is working to have cake.

    & after seeing tomoko ask her mom to want work on cake yet she did in a cake factory give only lasted a day on it.

    so now summer almost over time to clean give tomoko going why me give way she is also blah on her brother cue tomoko’s mom WRATH on her to clean now!!!

    so after doing junk toss item & shell bugs checking then go outside have ramen cause see shoot stars make a wish for someone to watch the stars with tomoko.

    & yet it happen give it was cat as company to see stars yet it was male.

  8. This mother…there’s nothing wrong with scolding her daughter as Tomoko fully deserves it but she never does anything after that.Some kids can be left alone,some can’t & need to be told why they got scolded,etc.If she’s well aware of the fact that her daughter just spent time alone in the house for most of the summer(should be hard not to) and is displeased with it then why doesn’t she try to look into the matter further?Have a talk mother-daughter talk with her,maybe do something fun together,try to understand her better & ask for profesional help if she can’t.But she’s not even trying.The mother is constantly living in her illusion where everything is fine or noticing it but not doing anything regardless.

  9. As much as I sympathize and relate to Tomoko… It’s frustrating to watch her so self absorbed into her own reality that she doesn’t see what kind of amazing resource she has in Naruse-san… Some of us anti-socials don’t even have a friend in high places (Or someone they socialize with regularly that could be called a friend). If I were in her position I’d be on my knees, telling that friend how bad my situation is and asking that friend what I can do to be more social/friendly (And in Tomoko’s case, ask what I can do to not look like I just got out of bed in the morning. Thankfully, being a guy means less emphasis on looks). Heck, I’d ask that friend to bring me along so I can meet my friend’s friends and get into her circle… Probably would move heaven and earth to transfer to that friend’s school while I’m at it. (I speak from ignorance, though, of the science behind choosing highschools in Japan, at least what is presented in anime, which I’m assuming isn’t 100% accurate).

    Then again, Naruse-san could be one of those friends I had that simply put me at the bottom of the priority list and never really bothered to include me in the big events all of my friends seemed to have without me…

  10. I too, thought of I Love Lucy at the factory, then I saw Tomoko’s drenched hair and thought Nightmare Before Christmas….. The cat scene made me think she’ll follow the life path of shut-in cat lady. I totally busted out laughing when she charged Tomoki over being a good kid. And knew mom would follow with thunderous rage. I’m not convinced mom panics yet, I’m not as sure she’s diagnosing the situation as much as thinking Tomoko is messing around. We don’t really know if she’s had that sort of conversation with Tomoko yet…maybe before the end of the series we’ll see it….Jeeeezuz…that would be a heavy moment.

    1. I really wondered if anyone even knows what I Love Lucy is anymore. Does stuff like TV Land do enough to keep classics from before we were born in the public consciousness of young people? This is the one of the few sitcoms ever that can honestly be said to have changed the way television is made.

      1. Well that scene/gag has been duplicated many times, maybe they rogued it from vaudeville. Like we’d know? hahaha Tomoko’s scene was more of a reality sucks moment though. Sitting in the employee room was a real shellshocker I think. If only someone started chatting with her.

  11. too many of us see our own reflection – maybe somewhat distorted, but all the more painful – in Tomoko…
    when I do visit my father and his new family, usually most time I spend with their cats…

  12. ” When she begs her Mom to think of a friend in the cake business, Mom surprisingly knows one – but the result, rather than a romantic French patisserie or a clandestine liaison in the kitchen with a hot baker and a gallon of frosting – turns out to be an I Love Lucy style nightmare, a Dickensian sweatshop full of chain-smoking adults that sends Tomoko into a catatonic state. ”


    is this China?

    I expect that kind of work there… but this is Japan! Land of automation and all…
    That kind of work that Tomoko did for one day should be left to automation!

    delicious cake
    1. That scene is just what one would call honest work in the industry. It only looks shocking when you live in a media manufactured world that has outsourced all production power overseas, with recessive results.

  13. “As a rule 15 year-olds fight with their parents and spend less time with younger siblings as a normal part of adolescence”

    …in the USA. That is not the same in every part of the world, where family as an institution still holds.


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