「モテないし、文化祭に参加する」 (Motenai shi, Bunkasai ni Sankasuru)
“Since I’m Not Popular, I’ll Participate in the Culture Festival”

Watamote certainly hasn’t lost the ability to surprise me.

I must be well-conditioned, because all throughout this episode I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it stayed solidly airborne. For once there really was a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t an oncoming shinkansen. Watamote has certainly shown an ability to be heartwarming before, but this is about the most consistently- well, I won’t say upbeat, because that would be going too far, but certainly the least despairing episode from start to finish that we’ve seen so far.

That said, it seems at this point that Watamote has pretty well dropped all pretense towards being a comedy. I’m currently watching Welcome to the NHK (inspired to do so by this series) but for all its darkness that’s much more a genuinely comedic experience than Watamote is, and by now we’ve pretty much blown past what I consider the benchmark for how grim and merciless a character deconstruction can be and still be called a comedy, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry. The comic moments are there and generally quite hilarious, but they’ve become increasingly rare as the season has progressed – and in doing so, taken on an almost somber tone as much of the fantastical elements are stripped away and we’re left with an unsparing portrait of one very unhappy young person’s life.

While it didn’t start out looking that way, this episode ends up with a very different vibe than last week’s pure, unfettered heartbreak. The culture festival can be a minefield for the socially awkward and lonely student – the opportunities for both embarrassment and isolation are seemingly endless, doing battle with each for supremacy in causing darkness of the soul. It’s a cosplay cafe for Tomoko’s class (this is anime, after all) but she’s not in any way included in the preparations. This is another instance where it’s felt to me as if it would almost be less painful if Tomoko were being bullied, because it’s as she doesn’t exist – it would simply never occur to anyone to involve her. Here again we see a small moment of progress for Tomoko – she volunteers herself to be the one to cut the flyers for the cafe, and even insists on doing so after her offer is gently declined by the girls in charge. It’s true that her original plan is to milk the project for five hours to get her through the entire day, but there’s no doubt – she definitely wanted to be involved.

This being Watamote – and Tomoko – disaster is always around the next corner. The two guys who get sent to help her blow through the project in shoddy fashion in minutes, and worse, Tomoko cuts herself with the X-Acto knife and flees for the nurse’s office, blood fountaining from her hand. But for once Tomoko’s misfortune is actually a lucky break, as she quite literally runs into Imai Megumi (unmistakably Nonaka Ai). Megumi-chan is the head of the Festival Committee but more relevantly, she ends up being something of a guardian angel for Tomoko. Yes, it’s yet another random encounter with someone who treats Tomoko with real kindness – the series is full of those. But the depth of that kindness won’t be apparent for a while, and in the meantime it’s clear that Tomoko desperately longs to be a part of the cosplay experience. She even buys a cheap (what – oni maid?) costume at Donki so she can mail Yuu-chan a (ridiculously adorable) photo of herself in her "work" uniform, which backfires when Yuu decides she needs to visit the culture festival herself.

This is truly a different sort of Watamote episode, though, because once again Tomoko’s misfortune actually turns into good fortune. After a day of wandering around the festival, utterly unnoticed by her class (this is where most of what little comedy there is in the episode lurks, such as the K-On club and Tomoko’s fantasy of what it’d be like if she was in it) she’s feeling more alone than ever. But she actually has a good time when Yuu joins her the next day, struck by the remarkable revelation that it’s actually possible to have fun in school if a friend is with her – they chat about Madoka Magica and eat bad food and generally waste the day pleasantly. There’s still plenty of Tomoko dysfunction here: she still calls Yuu her "bitch friend" in her mind, and sees her cuteness as a way to gain social cred for herself. And her reaction when Yuu hugs her shows just how heartbreakingly desperate Tomoko is for any human contact whatsoever – being a horny teenager and pathologically lonely is an incendiary combination. But she genuinely, honestly has fun – and it’s crystal clear that no matter how it might have seemed to Tomoko, Yuu isn’t abandoning her.

I thought just for a moment that what we’d seen was almost as sad, in the end, as what we saw last week. After all Tomoko never get involved with her class’ cosplay cafe in any way, and she’s left to wave goodbye to Yuu-chan as she goes off her with own friends, leaving Tomoko utterly alone again. Maybe it was worse to be reminded just how isolated Tomoko really is by giving her just a taste of what a normal adolescent experience could be like. But here Megumi transforms the entire feel of the episode when she sees Kuroko alone, obviously puts the pieces of what’s happened with her class together, and dons the mascot costume long enough to give Tomoko a balloon and a hug. That’s a moment most shows couldn’t have pulled off without seeming sappy, but Watamote has earned its credibility with hard-won battle scars from wounds that cut deep. The revelation isn’t so much that kindness exists even in Tomoko’s world – we’ve known that all along – but that Tomoko is actually able to grasp that it’s being offered, and however fleetingly to feel better about her life because of it. It may be a small victory but it’s a genuine one, and it’s almost enough to make you feel hopeful about her life.


ED5 Sequence

ED5: 「そこらの着ぐるみの風船と私」 by (Velvet.kodhy)



      1. I need to watch the episode again because i totally missed the Madoka reference. I love Madoka so i’m a little disappointed with myself that i caught the K-ON and Haruhi references but missed Madoka.

  1. Quite unexpected, but it was a nice heartwarming episode. Even for Tomoko, every cloud has a silver lining. The social event she dreaded turned out in an enjoyable and memorable day. I’m seeing positive signs here.

    1. The really great part? This show has continuity, as we see that a lot of Tomoko’s efforts kind of paid off… if incidentally. She spoke up by doing work to prepare for the cosplay cafe. She put on a cosplay costume and sent it to Yuu-chan and invited her to the festival! She talked with the committee chairman! We knew that the more the show continued, the more Tomoko realized how utterly depressing she is and she’s been trying to fix that time and again!

  2. I felt it was necessary to play the K-ON! opening during the light music club’s performance :3
    Feels bad that I couldn’t catch the madoka reference and of course that last scene had to make me go awww, not D’AAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWW, just that heartwarming “awww”. Thank you Megumi-chan.

  3. Oh wow. Once again this show proves how good of an adaptation it is, because while it was one of the ‘nicer’ (in terms of what happens to her) chapters in the manga, they really hit the ball out of the park here in terms of emotional payoff. They captured the mood perfectly, and for once, Tomoko finally catches a break. It helps that they gave a bigger role to Megumi here as well; in the manga she only had two scenes (another one if you count an omake), but they added several here so you could see her connect the dots, and make her actions more meaningful. A good case of adaptational expansion. Ai Nonaka (at her most Kafuka-ish) nailed the role as well.

    And personally I’d still qualify this as a tragicomedy (much like Welcome to the NHK, incidentally). It still has plenty of funny moments, parodies and dysfunctional behaviour (“this is my slut friend!”) to make me chuckle from time to time, and while Tomoko’s life is depressing, I don’t feel that’s purely the point of the show. It ís a character study though, so that’s why it’s more focused on developing her rather than quickly moving the plot along.

    I do wonder what the final episode is going to be about though. This would seem like a good point to end the show, but there’s one more…let’s hope that one won’t end on a depressing note.

  4. “Caution: Beware when hugging a lonely person. She or he may get confused and misinterpret Specially if you are hot!”


    Nice heartwarming, episode.

    One thing that I noticed about Tomoko is that although she has a lot of selfish and mean thoughts, sometimes she hits a selfless and nice thing. The problem is that she is unaware of that part of her and that part isn’t much exercised. But sometimes, something digs it up.

    In this episode, when her pervness calmed down she was able to genuinely enjoy the day with Yuu. Before, there was the moment when she found her brother’s ol diary and left a cicada shell to him; waking up at the middle of the night to, clumsily, change the wet towels of her sick brother (unecessary if she was there only to get sick) and trying to lift Yuu’s spirits when she thought she was alone in episode 2.

  5. Well, its nice to see Tomoko happy, even if for a short time…
    One thing that surfaces briefly, is her unability to clearly read human body language, she mistakes Yuu’s friendly hug for something erotic, but she would probably not notice a boy trying to pick her up – or maybe she would misinterpret it as mocking her. ORZ.
    But it certainly feels good to have a friend with common interests. I have a few of those irl, so even if they dont always have time for me, I am keen to meet them over gaming table for a figures battle and some talk – including diverse topics from games we play to anime to politics.

  6. I’m constantly amazed at how nice everyone in Tomoko’s class(or maybe even her entire school) is.Better yet,how everyone around her is.What’s up with that town?It’s like,a city of angels!

  7. Most heartwarming episode of the series it seemed like Tomoko actually had fun for once. This episode seemed to show some growth on Tomoko’s end she was able to converse with her classmates decently enough and she was able to talk to her seinor calmly.

    Btw did any else picture Tomoko singing her opening in that bunny rocker outfit? :}

  8. I’m always a bit annoyed by how Tomoko refers to her friend, but I wonder if this expression is more of a term of endearment? I hear a lot of girls call their best friends sluts, hoes and bitches, not in a malicious way but out of fun and the closeness of their friendship….then again they say this openly to each other which Tomoko has not done…:/

    1. Tomoko uses it both as an insult but also as a kind of compliment.

      Using as a compliment, “bitch” to her is a person who has an active love life, which is something she desires a lot.

      As an insult it doesn’t need explanation.

      Sometimes the two meanings are used at the same time. Sour grapes if you will.

  9. Not too much analysis and TL;DR from me this episode. I just had a general warm and fuzzy feeling watching this, which is kinda sad since there were so few moments of happiness; but they were substantial. One thing I want to note is how when Yuu and Tomoko were parting ways, Yuu was standing in the light and Tomoko in the dark. To me it shows the worlds they are returning to: Yuu to a brighter world with friends, Tomoko into darkness with no one to greet her; the rest of the school looked like they were outside. I felt it was very telling.

    The Walker
  10. How grim can an anime be, that Tomoko getting a balloon and a hug from a mascot is considered such an epic win? And we, who are along for the ride, are actually moved by the moment?! Oh Tomoko, no one is perfect, hang in there girl! Man, this anime claws at my heart!

  11. In the manga, I didn’t even realize it was the chairman that hugged Tomoko at the end. Guess I wasn’t paying attention, or maybe the manga simply didn’t make it clear enough.
    Anyway, nice episode.

    On a side note, Welcome to the NHK…man, that can be a brutal series to watch.

  12. This was probably the second episode where Tomoko actually talked with people a lot besides Yuu-chan, and this time, it had a POSITIVE feel! Too bad we only have one episode left, and I have a feeling we won’t be seeing the committee chairman anymore after this. Bummer. She should’ve been another regular.

  13. school fest on ready yet tomoko doing nothing as usual then want to paper slicing then got cut hand then cover-drink blood to bump into school fest member to get tomoko to nurse.

    give school fest member have tomoko cheer up & be ready so tomoko go tried maid with horn outfit & invite yuu to ti give arrive on day 2.

    while day 1 have balls of meat & concert give got tomoko to punk out then day 2 arrive here yuu so the 2 go have some fun yet did it bit well.

    & oh school fest member seeing tomoko after day fest is over go in disguise mascot outfit to give balloon & hug tomoko to cheer up with did oh well go with the flow to cheer up.

      1. Don’t bother, man~~. I did enjoy the TV series, but oh man, that movie standalone is a complete sellout, a pure-grade garbage.

        You’d thank me for not wasting 2 hours of your life. Unless you’re a masochist who like torturing himself needlessly with a shitload of collection of the worst anime formulas/tropes + recycled and (even worse) rushed plots. They didn’t even try with it and stuff like that deserves not to be seen and quickly forgotten… on the bright side, now that I dumped all over it and perhaps lowered your expectation on it to the gutter, maybe it won’t be as bad for you -if you still decide to see it.

        Now “Welcome to the N.H.K.”, on the other hand, was good. I wouldn’t call it an all time great, but was certainly a unique show and don’t necessarily regret watching it.

  14. Friends like Yuu-Chan have to be the biggest source of pain for any person finding themselves in the shoes of Tomoko. Less than a year ago, you were sharing the same rung at the bottom of the social ladder. The company made digesting your situation better, because friends ’till the end makes everything better… Until you friend manages to climb to much higher places on the social ladder while you stay put. Sure the way she treats you should be a clinic to everyone on how to treat an individual…

    But the way she can walk away with her friends and waive goodbye without even a single thought to extend an invitation to hang with them is just despicable. For Tomoko, it just increases your loneliness. You had a foretaste of the life you wanted, but you just see it walk away, as if you’re not good enough for it.

    I despise that trait in a friend. You are the one person forgotten when your friend orchestrates an event… As if you aren’t “friend” enough or part of the in crowd enough to get invited, even though that friend shares a common interest with you and you treat each other admirably… In the end it makes you feel worse.

    1. Something is wrong with you, buddy. “…I despise that trait in a friend.”?

      Not everything is about you and people have their own lives to live. She goes to a different school and she has her own friends besides Tomoko. She certainly don’t have any obligation to stick around until you leave. She’s a friend, not a paid servant. Don’t expect people will hold your hands every step of the way.

  15. Was not expecting to be moved to tears by this anime…I guess it just goes to show how torturous the 10 episodes before this was. Gosh I hope things are finally getting better for Tomoko.


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