「モテないし、将来を考える」 (Motenai shi, Shōrai o Kangaeru)
“Since I’m Not Popular, I’ll Think About the Future”

Of all the 2013 series that end up on my year-end Top 10 list, it’s very possible that Watamote will be the one I least expected to find there.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that shows like Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui! (I wanted to write the whole name in a post at least once) are what give me hope for anime, despite the ever-increasing percentage of new series that are effectively marketing formulas on digital video. It’s a great series where I didn’t expect to find one. It’s a relentlessly, brutally honest series that challenges the audience at every moment. It’s a thoughtful and compassionate look at depression and loneliness that doesn’t remotely spare us the ugly reality of it. And it’s tremendously entertaining to boot.

There was good reason to wonder how Shin Oonuma and Silver Link would choose to end this adaptation, given the ongoing and mercilessly downbeat nature of the manga. I never suspected for a moment that the ending would sell out, delivering false optimism and invalidating all the suffering Tomoko (and we) went through for twelve episodes. But if the series had ended with, say, Episode 10 – one of the bleakest and most heartbreakingly sad episodes of any anime I’ve ever seen – I think that would simply have been too much to bear. Rather, Shin has made a somewhat unorthodox choice (this adaptation is full of them) by putting the episode that would have been the most obvious finale last week, and closing with one that’s altogether darker, but intercut with a good deal of humor and just the tiniest sliver of hope.

I think Watamote is a show that was true to itself from the very beginning, and unwaveringly so, and this episode was very much consistent with that honest approach. This was Tomoko at her most delusional, grating and difficult – but also at her most vulnerable and reflective. It wouldn’t be fair to say Tomoko has made huge progress over the course of these 12 episodes, but she has changed. One thing I find very noticeable is that she’s become much more self-aware over the last few eps – she started out with a half-believed delusion that popularity was only a matter of time, but she’s come to understand more and more just how desperate her situation is. Some may think that she’s too self-aware for someone her age as we see her in this episode, but my experience is that kids Tomoko’a age are if anything obsessively aware of what’s lacking in their lives, and the sources of their unhappiness. And Tomoko has so many of those to choose from that it’s hardly surprising she’s become obsessed with them.

In that context, it’s certainly no surprise that Tomoko was a bit of a chuunibyou sufferer in middle school second year. This is a subject that anime has itself become somewhat obsessed with of late, but it highlights the difference between middle school and high school for someone like Tomoko. An 8th-grader can exhaustively study weapons distribution in plans to become the next Koko Hekmatyar, but unlike what we see in more fanciful anime twists on the subject, a self-aware 10th-grader filling out a career-planning form cannot. I won’t suggest for a moment that Tomoko was likely happy in middle school (the club episode should prove that), but there at least she could indulge her fantasy world with a measure of commitment, and even find a soul-mate to commiserate with. Now, she’s effectively got a giant clock right behind her shoulder, reminding her constantly that her school life is slipping away from her, adulthood creeping ever closer, and she’s making no progress as a social animal.

We haven’t revisited the counselling sessions with Tomoki for a while – I’d even wondered if they were still going on – but they’re brought back into the equation here at the end. It seems as of Tomoki has been dutifully suffering through them, saying nothing or at least very little, and that Tomoko has come to realize that this too is another blind alley in her search for contentment. There’s a great moment here when Tomoko cuts off the sessions as if she’s been the one doing her brother a favor, and he not so subtly reminds her that she hasn’t thanked him for six months of service. She immediately slips into fantasy mode and the “スパーク” on her t-shirt immediately changes into an English “SPARK”.

The finale is full of great directorial flourishes as Tomoko passes between reality and delusion, the line becoming disturbingly blurry at times. Basking in Imae’s glow, Tomoko realizes that Imae is the sort of person others rave about when she’s not around. She gets the bright idea to secretly record the others in her homeroom on her phone while she’s gone, only to discover that they’re not even talking about her at all – again, it would almost be better if they were mocking her, because at least that way she’d know she exists. A wayward cockroach presents a seeming opportunity to make herself the center of attention, but after she (messily) kills the gokiburi the expected reign of adulation (which she imagines in unnerving detail) is instead shocked disgust. When Tomoko records her classmates this time they are talking about her at least, but it isn’t pretty.

If indeed “the first step is admitting you have a problem”, then Tomoko has at least taken it. If there’s anything that gives me hope for her despite knowing her terribly hard her road will be, it’s the fact that we’ve seen her display a genuine desire to change her life. Most of these attempts have ended in heartbreaking failure but at least she’s made them, and that is a kind of progress. Imae-chan seems to represent the most plausible lifeline for Tomoko – she’s kind, and seemingly quite aware that Tomoko has a serious problem. Tomoko senses this, and even convinces herself to ask Imae for advice on how to become the sort of person other people want to be around. Naturally this sequence is heartbreaking – Tomoko trying so hard to work up the courage to ask for help from someone who could actually provide it (I was yelling exhortations at the screen while this was happening) – and ends in disaster, when a freak gust of wind exposes Imae’s panties and Tomoko freaks out and bolts. But Imae has noticed the strange girl, yet again, and there seems reason to hope she’s not just going to let it lie.

I’ve been effusive in my praise of Kitta Izumi for her performance as Tomoko – and with good reason, as it’s IMO the best female seiyuu performance of the year so far – but probably not enough in praising Shin Oonuma for his direction. Episode 11 was full of great examples (such as Yuu-chan walking away into the light with her friends, as Tomoko waved to her from the darkness) and the segue into the OP was one of the cleverest moments in any anime this year. The pre-ending sequence this week (again using the OP) is another fantastically creative effort – Tomoko fleeing from her universe in a tunnel of light as her past seems to claw at her hungrily. Yes, some of these effects are taken from the manga – but Shin has really brought them to life beautifully here. I think Watamote is an extremely tough manga to bring to the screen – so much of it takes place inside Tomoko’s tortured mind after all – and Shin has perfectly captured the manic and lonely nature of that place. I haven’t been a fan of much of his recent work, but for me this show is unquestionably Shin’s finest effort as a director.

There’s no redemption here at the end of all things – yes Tomoko laughs, but it has the feeling of whistling through the graveyard. We end as we began, with Tomoko’s monitor displaying the “Definition of an Unpopular Girl“, and she certainly meets it. “It doesn’t matter” she tells us – and as much as I’d like to believe that was true, I can’t bring myself to do so. It certainly does matter when you’re 15 years old and have no friends at school, and every day is a minefield full of potential social disasters so terrifying that they can make another repeat of the cycle of loneliness feel like a relief. Tomoko’s greatest enemy has always been herself, but at least now she seems to be aware of that fact. It’s not much hope to hang your hat on, but if you don’t have a hook a rusty nail will have to do.

I said way back in my Episode 1 post that I wasn’t sure, for all the brilliance I saw on display, that I would actually enjoy Watamote. In the end I most certainly did, even if watching it was one of the more painful experiences I’ve had with any anime. I enjoyed it not just for the spectacular comic successes (this week’s Another parody was one of the very best) but because no matter how gut-wrenching it was, it was impossible not to enjoy experiencing anime this honest, insightful and emotionally powerful. I’ve talked at length about the “code” the authors of Watamote use, the hidden language that those with severe social anxiety disorders and those who love them recognized immediately and often. I can say with certainty that, as someone who grew up experiencing this in my immediate family, I’ve never seen a more accurate depiction of the experience. Even the absurd moments in the series are anchored in the truth, and the entire thing feels almost shockingly real.

No question, Tomoko is a remarkable creation – whatever percentage of her is the artist, what percentage the writer and what comes from other sources, the final product is the breakout anime character of the year. There are times when I hated Tomoko, but ultimately she’s someone I came to care about as much as I have any character in a long time – I know her too well to hate her for long. As far as I’m concerned Tomoko is the most moe character in anime right now, because she comes closest to the definition of the term as I first learned of it, before it became a generic descriptor for every sickeningly cute little girl created to sell light-novels and Blu-rays. For all her horniness and selfishness and delusions of grandeur, I can’t see Tomoko as anything but a lost little girl – someone who wants to be happy but can’t figure out how to do it.

As she gets older the fantasy world that sustains Tomoko becomes harder to maintain and the overgrown tomboy she is becomes even less socially viable (it’s hardly a surprise that she seems to feel most comfortable around boys younger than she is, because that’s what she acts like a good chunk of the time) and that happiness seems ever-more elusive. If I had to sum up Watamote in one word it’d probably be “heartbreaking” because it’s the moments where Tomoko confronts her loneliness head-on that I remember the most distinctly. I want to end on a high note, but I don’t think it would be any more honest for me to do so than the series itself – in reality Watamote is a dark ride, full of uncomfortable moments only somewhat leavened by the true gallows humor. But it’s a ride I’ll never forget, one that made me feel more deeply than the overwhelming majority of anime I’ve seen. It’s a series that has something important to say and says it brilliantly, and that combination makes it one of the best anime of 2013.


  1. A newbie seiyu provides the best performance of the year?? What an accomplishment! If this doesn’t land her tons of other roles, I will eat this hat I don’t have!

    It’s also testament to the wonderful, detail-oriented directing of this show. Bravo. I too was also wondering how they could possibly end a very different anime based on a web manga that isn’t done, and they chose a fine way to do it.

  2. Beautiful summation, Guardian Enzo, it really captures my feeling about the show as well. Watamote is no doubt a show that will stay in my mind for a long, long time, and I’ve no doubt that this one will end up in my best-of-the-year list either. It’s a superb adaptation (indeed, while Shin Oonuma’s work quality is all over the place, he really hit the ball out of the park with this one) and Izumi Kitta’s performance deserves all the praise it gets – as a manga reader, I couldn’t imagine a better voice for Tomoko. Hell, this might be one of those adaptations that triumphs the original for me.

    This episode was a good example of that as well. It had great comedic moments, like the Another parody (not to mention that was relevant to the plot at hand, and wasn’t just referencing for the sake of it), we saw a little change in Tomoko due to her self-reflection and despite her depressing life, saw a glimmer of hope in the end. Much like last episode, I liked how they expanded Imae’s role again due to added scenes. I was dreading the moment she started following Imae, because I knew how it would end, but the way it ended was subtly different: whereas in the manga Tomoko just awkwardly ran away, here we see things from Imae’s perspective as well – and look at that, she actually likes Tomoko and doesn’t think negatively of her at all! The world isn’t always as judgemental as Tomoko thinks it is, which is nice to see.

    As for Tomoko in general, even though she can be a real jerkass at times, I think her flaws ultimately make her a more relatable character. I’ve no doubt people like her exist – hell, I’ve got more in common with her myself than I’m willing to comfortably admit – and she really feels human because of it. This isn’t just some sad anime girl, but a heavily flawed person that was likely created from a ‘write what you know’ perspective from the author. And yes, she’s as moe as they come (even more than Kaiji!) because of it, in the purest sense of the word. This whole show is something special, something that’s often uncomfortable to watch, but one that only leaves a stronger impression in the end because of it.

    Ah, Watamote, I shall miss you.

  3. That Another parody was one of most hilarious moments of entire season.
    But that is not the most important thing…
    Tomoko, marry me!!!! It is said common interests are greatest way to form a relationship. I’ve spent most of my 8th grade trawling thru Military Technology Encyclopedia!!!!! We’re soulmates separated by distance geographic and the 4th wall, but I dont care! I will accept you as you are, and we can discuss antimaterial rifles from WW1 to present, RPGs from Panzerfust and Bazooka to most modern ones in service, and whatever kind of weapon you’d like!
    Ahem, excuse my delusions are getting better of me. Sorry…
    “turns on Weaponology episode on antitank weapons”

  4. Probably the only show I cared for this season along with Gin no Saji. And yeah Tomoko’s VA really stood out to me with her performance in this show. Just the right amount of crazy mixed with a desperate tone as well as some hilarious delivery on a lot of lines.

    Kaioshin Sama
    1. I’ve heard neither, and frankly I’d be pleasantly surprised if there’s any additional anime for Watamote beyond the OVA. Movie, S2, whatever – I’d love that. I just don’t see this being successful on Blu-ray/DVD – stalker points suggest about 2-2.5K, and while there’s a tiny chance this could be that 1% series that defies the stalker numbers in a big way given it’s huge 4chan following, I’m not getting my hopes up.

  5. Since it is the last coverage of Watamote, let me just say that I don’t usually go out of my way to praise an anime blog, but I’d like to give credits where credits are due and that feels appropriate here.
    I’ve read multiple episodic blogs on Watamote and I can safely say that none of them have that deep level of understanding towards the main theme (social anxiety) you seem to have, Enzo.
    Watamote may be a cringe comedy on surface level, but the themes of depression, loneliness, envy, anxiety and escapism underneath it were poignantly expressed and emphasized in your writings.
    Instead of merely stating references or what happened each episode and solely judging the anime on story, character, visuals, sound and enjoyability, your blog transcends that by mentioning how some of it is well-relatable to real life, how the show affected you based on personal experiences and most of all, by accurately analyzing Tomoko’s behavior and thoughts in situations. You constantly hit the nail on the head due to your great comprehension of the subject.
    For example, Tomoko is full of contradictions: She looks down on others but actually wants to belong to their group, she avoids social interaction to be in her safe little world but longs to have a rich social life. I thought that you’ve perfectly explained these opposite feelings by wording how her fear of being judged, her lack of self-confidence and social ineptitude resulting in self-embarrassment cripples her wish and ability to change her life.

    One issue I think you haven’t (understandably) touched upon much is suggesting a way Tomoko can improve herself and break the vicious cycle or just be happy with herself. The viewers and even Tomoko are aware that it needs to be done, but how is the difficult question. What is the magical cure? I could only refer her to a psychiatrist, same as you did.

    Watamote may not go down as a classic anime in history, but the personally unique emotional experience makes it highly memorable for me.
    And I felt that your blogs were perfect complementary essays I enjoyed next to this hard-hitting but wonderful show, so I want to sincerely thank you for that, Enzo.
    The show as well as your work really impressed me. Great job, man!

    1. Thank you Sylpher – that means a lot to me. I’ve loved blogging this show, and it’s nice to know you got something of value out of reading my scribblings. Some great shows are hard to blog, as I’ve said, but this one was actually one of the easiest. It reminds of of MGX in that way.

  6. Ah I was hoping for a more advanced Tomoko by the end of the series, but while she has changed it is still somewhat subtle, she’s still a Sawako gone wrong. But it was an interesting ride and if there’s more I think I’ll hop on despite the depression it causes…the anime that makes you laugh and then shed tears of depression.

  7. It’s a shame that this almost certainly won’t get a 2nd season. I think it’s nearly caught up to the manga, and with a story like this, I don’t expect the discs to sell very well 🙁

  8. I was laughing so hard when she was remembering her past.

    The SNK salute and Another reference.

    That cockroach scene was pretty freaky.

    That panties shot holy shit ;D

    A solid 9/10 from I don’t think I’ve ever felt this much for an anime character accept possibly a few deaths I’ve seen.

    Great job on the write ups Enzo I will miss reading your writing next season, because sadly I’m not watching any of the anime your doing 🙁

  9. I kind of get where you are coming from, Enzo, in regards to the marketing nature of anime but I feel most shows still does a great job of being self respecting creative works. It is not quite the marketing apocalypse of American cartoon industry went through in the 80s and early 90s.

    Also, I think Tomoko being unlikeable is pretty multifaceted considering much of her misbehavior comes from her sense of desperation, not cold and calculated malice. She hounds her brother constantly but she obviously looks up to her brother’s social prowess and him living like an adult already while Tomoko is still limited in her social prowess because of her social anxiety. Same with her calling girls sluts and bitches and yet it is so obvious she looks up to them in the ways she tries so hard to emulate them. Like how she was calling girls in the clothing store skanky and yet she picked up the clothes the little girls recommended among themselves. Not to mention she can genuinely act like a bratty kid like all of us did at some point in our childhood and she comes across as pretty realistic. She may be pretty broken as social anxiety suffering person can be, but her turning to extreme measures out of desperation and emotional instability is very easy to empathize with. I suppose I can sympathize with her on many levels considering I suffer from crippling social anxiety disorder as well.

      1. Yeah. Problem is that people see social anxiety as simple shyness or something to grow out of. Most people don’t understand far reaching mental ailment aspect attached to it. Hence why people like Tomoko and I continue to suffer in silence.

  10. About the “SPARK” in the T-shirt: I think it says “SPARK” the whole time, except when the drawing style changes to the one used at the end of the previous episodes, where it is written in Katakana (スパーク)
    I haven’t rewatched the previous episodes to verify this, tough. But I looking at this one alone I disagree with SPARK=reality and スパーク=fantasy . Which means that she really thanked her brother, even if she did in a “tsundere” way?

  11. Pretty happy with how this turned out.

    As a topic of discussion, I wonder how far this series would have gotten without the hype generated by 4chan’s buying spree of the first volume back when it was published.

  12. Actually I thought the “It doesn’t matter” at the end was the epiphany I’ve been waiting for all season. If she just stopped trying so hard to not be unpopular she’ll find making friends so much easier.

    Anyways I found this serious a lot more funny and a much less uncomfortable when I started looking at Tomoko as a Wile E Coyote-type MC.

  13. To think that during the first few episodes of Watamote,I was expecting for some hopefull event(s) to happen at the end.With each passing episode,a voice in my head was getting lowder & lowder saying “Alright,you should know by now that things won’t get so unrealistically convenient for Tomoko.” and it looks like it did stay true to itself till the very end – that alone is something a show deserves credit for.

    Interesting enough,a friend of mine marathoned this and didn’t enjoy it as much and I can probably see why.Despite the fact that I greatly enjoyed this show,I too,would’ve probably gotten slighly bored of watching this all in one go since there’s no actual plot to go anywhere after all.

    Overall,this was definitely a unique anime in the good sense of the word and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Tomoko in the future 😛

  14. There’s not enough manga material at present for a second season, counting the middle school prequel, unless you want anime-original content. Though they did a good job with the little stuff they added and if it ever gets another one there probably will be by then.

    Also right now the manga looks like it’s in a story arc with Show Spoiler ▼

    1. wrong in, as “she is a first year highschooler”? then possibly right, depending on laws wherever you live, otherwise she is adorable in her awkwardness, and quite sex crazed herself (teenage hormon storm…)

  15. school fest is over yet back to same usual doing for tomoko yet wonder why no one notice her or that have much fun give she trying recall yet go like screw past focus on now future time.

    even ask yuu of mention middle school tomoko want do arms dealer yet argh then next school see isme yet compare her tomoko plan want try be like her.

    so new plan record device see if tomoko been mention but no mention of her that fell like the “another” of class then make a notice to stomp “brown person” but result in weird way.

    then make try to talk to isme then winds of changes appear cause her see “whitey” cue tomoko run like crazy yet isme still find tomoko cute in her way.

    tomoko on the run give yuu wonder to catch her til cat appear & well oh yea give read about unpopular yea tomoko laugh it back to her usual.

  16. Like you, I agree that this show is really something special. However, I’ve been left scratching my head over the “it doesn’t matter” line at the very end there. What exactly were they going for with that? The fact that the narrator backed up Tomoko’s claim that her story doesn’t really matter comes across like an invalidation of her experiences, feelings and worries, which is strange because that is not the vibe I’ve been getting from the show at all until now.

    Hihashi Hen
    1. maybe it is a Shakespearean take on life…
      Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.

  17. Hopefully this show can comeback one day. I heard the anime adapted the first 34 chapters but re arranged the order or chapters a lot (not bad since most chapters are just gags so you can rearrange those easily), like a lot of the later chapters being the more outrageous first 4 eps and the festival was like chapter 20 (gotta sorta end a show with a festival I guess). Seeing as there is about 50 chapters now it can come back in few seasons (if it sells I guess).

    Either way, was a surprising show. Highly enjoyed it.

  18. This is one of the two animes that I look forward to every week but after the last episode Kuroki is just pissing me off. Ok. everyone must have felt some of what she feels during her freshmen year but her “shyness” and loneliness looks pathological. If this is a reflection of how some Japanese teenagers feel nowadays then I’m afraid of the future in an interested sort of way.

    I did enjoy Watamote for not being generic though. I’ll watch the second season.

  19. First of all, thank you GE for blogging this so succinctly. Your posts persuaded me to stick with this and I am very glad I did, however difficult it was to watch at times.

    For anyone that liked what they saw, may I recommend Peep Show? It is much (MUCH) more crass/vulgar, so if this series hit very close to the bone then give it a miss, but it presents a comprehensive view of how a person like Tomoki would end up in the adult world.

    J Jay

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