「女の子に見られたい! / 戦慄の挑戦状」 (Onnanoko ni Miraretai! / Senritsu no Chousenjou)
“I Want to Be Seen as a Girl! / A Terrifying Challenge”

Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko! is the latest romcom that’s centered around a dream girl who must rely on both her own instincts and the friends around her to guide her into the arms of her best friend. The only problem is that she’s a tomboy who is constantly seen as his best bro, no matter how often she tries to let her feelings be known. Will this be endearing? The results may shock you.

I’D RATHER PLAY MORTAL KOMBAT ANYWAY, I’M ALL ABOUT MY JOHNNY CAGE

You can tell Tomo is built for sports because she carries this entire show on her back. Even though she’s plagued by being in the friend zone, she’s got a personality of her own as she’s very peppy and excited to get invested in karate. While she has her own softer side around Jun, she’s also a great friend to those in need.

When two of the girls who try to bully her fess up to wanting Mizuki in the funniest scene in the episode, Tomo is ecstatic because it means she gets to be the one to play matchmaker this time around. The short bits where she’s taken seriously as a girl are very sweet because of how much blatant disrespect she gets for being tougher than your average girl at school. She’s so used to getting slagged on for her tough demeanor that it’s touching to see the small parts where she’s genuinely excited to be perceived as cute or pretty.

I can also see plenty of viewers such as myself would want to have watched this because they just really like tomboys, and Tomo does have that appeal going for her as well. The main draw of the show is the fact that she’s a tough girl with short hair and a side fang. While I find her mom to be the most attractive, I can see why people were quick to fall head-over-heels with Tomo as their tomboy waifu of choice.

Sadly, the show mostly just sees her as another boy until they get a view of her chest, which comes off as one of the many superficial ways the anime mocks Tomo. Using Gundo as the show’s most predominant voice, Tomo is constantly judged for being the one to blame for her lack of presentable femininity. Her athletic hobbies and headstrong personality is seen as a bane that drags her down and leaves her unable to be seen by Jun as a woman.

I DEMAND JUSTICE FOR TOMBOYS

It has a very toxic way of seeing womanhood by honing in on how Tomo is the one who has to change herself for a man. Where she has to make the moves to come off as more feminine because Jun will constantly just see her as a man unless she dramatically changes to make him see her as a lovesick girl. And because he’s just a dumb guy, he’s not expected to know any better unless the answer smacks him in the face, so it’s the woman’s responsibility to jump over hoops and hurdles for them to be recognized.

There’s a weird fetish feel to seeing scenes where they feminize Tomo as if it’s some miracle that she has a feminine side, and just needs the right guy to bring out her femininity. It has the same nefarious feel that comes from the creepy expectations that any girl who isn’t a shy, pale-faced maiden isn’t worth their salt as a woman. It’s also disrespectful for people who do like tomboys because being seen as athletic is meant to just be a phase to bridge the gap between being a rowdy schoolgirl and being a domesticated housewife. Girls don’t have to soften up and remove their individuality altogether just because some idiot dudes online think you like men if you like Noi from Dorohedoro.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE…

Much of this is Gundo’s fault because she’s a horrible, possessive character who has ordained herself as their matchmaker despite being toxic in both Tomo and Jun’s lives from jump street. She treats Tomo like she might as well be a boy because she’s not even trying to be feminine enough to get Jun’s attention as a woman. They even add the caveat that she isn’t well-endowed and has the resentment to match it, which also hones in on the sexist stereotype of a woman’s worth being tied to their chest size. It’s sad to see the Manyuu Hikenchou class hierarchy be so heavily ingrained in how mangaka write friendships between girls.

Jun hates her guts the most because Gundo’s scumbaggery also applies to the advice she gives him. I was surprised the tone shifted back into comedy when Jun shoved Gundo in the rain because rubbing in her cuckolding fantasy of Tomo hooking up with someone else was repulsive. The joy that Gundo gets out of using cruelty to prove a point winds up being a detriment to her character, and only Jun is able to see that enough that her mere presence disgusts her. He almost takes it too far though because any time he’s in the same room as Gundo, he’s 0.5 seconds away from throwing her out of a window. It’s scary as hell, and immediately shifts the tone to much darker territory when they have to share the screen together.

Tanabe isn’t any better because he’s just a shameless pervert who insists the two are dating because she’s attractive and they’re both athletic, spreading sex rumors about the two are a result. They share the same problem as the Uzaki shippers in that they are pure scumbags who are unlikeable yet insist on playing matchmaker. At this point, the only likable matchmaker I’ve seen in a recent romcom is Najimi from Komi-san just by the virtue that Najimi genuinely likes Komi’s company and uses group outings to have Komi bond with some friends while still respecting her comfort zone.

I LOVE YOU, MAN

It doesn’t help that Jun himself is kind of a scumbag who refuses to read between the lines on why Tomo is upset at him for diminishing her efforts to confess to him. By the time he’s telling Tomo that she talks like an old man, grabs her by the collar as if she’s still a bro, and pats her on the butt as if she’s still a bro, he has to be doing this on purpose. He has to be screwing with her by constantly gaslighting her into being treated like a guy, especially since he doesn’t notice she’s a girl until he enjoys her BO and sees her chest wet from the rain.

I don’t believe in the 4-Koma adaptation curse that can’t properly blend chapters since only some shows really mess up not being able to split up chapters naturally. On the surface, Tomo-chan does naturally blend its chapters together decently since there isn’t a jarring contrast between story beats. However, this comes at the cost of Jun’s character as each new scene shows us why Jun royally sucks for acting oblivious toward every single bit of Tomo’s attempts to get her to like him.

He’ll smack her on the butt in a bro-y way, but then be flustered about seeing through her clothes. We’ll get a scene where Tomo attacks Jun because of the rumors Tanabe spread, but then it won’t be important because it didn’t spread far past their friend circle and wound up never mattering anyways. Jun will shove Gundo in the rain and they’ll give each other death stares as if the next time they see each other, one of them is getting stabbed. But then, the story immediately forgets this and moves onto another cutesy comedy scene. It’s tonally all-over-the-place throughout the first half, and even the second half gets bogged down when we jump from location to location to location without any time to breathe.

I think that Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!’s first episode can be summed up as an underwhelming experience. Some people might be drawn in by the breezy romcom antics of Tomo and Jun, but I find myself picking at the premise too much for it to be my cup of tea. Compared to most of the other fluffy romcom anime that’s cropped up within the last few years, its main draw of seeing a tomboy fight for her love isn’t nearly as endearing as I thought it’d be. Many of the contrivances to force Tomo to make her feelings come through come off more as annoying for me than amusing, so I can’t say I’d look forward to seeing more of how their relationship develops if it winds up being this static and Jun is this oblivious of his surroundings.

13 Comments

  1. I have a feeling this may not become as popular in America as the manga does in Japan, since the US is a melting pot of very diverse cultural groups, many who value the varying representations of all types of people. While tomboys are indeed a fetish among anime fans, it’s frustrating to follow the first episode of a show that clearly mocks Tomo for just being herself, and tries to force this moral onto us that we have known for most of our lives. Everyone should be seen as who they want to be, no matter who they are, yet I feel like it’s Tomo who has to do all the heavy work in proving this? This is a moral little children should be learning, not this shows’ target demographic. Frustrating.

    starss
  2. I was kind of looking forward to this, but I didn’t even manage to complete the first episode. I get what starss is saying about it and I think that was part of it, but the whole thing just felt wrong – not sure I can really put my finger on what exactly put me off so much.

    Angelus
  3. Well, that was kind of negative
    I liked the show just fine, this episode was a blast to watch. Sure, I can understand not all characters are completely likeable from the get-go. Gunjo might indeed be a problematic character, but for all the darkness she certainly seems like she’s rooting for her friend’s love life.
    And I don’t think the show has tried so far to be toxic about Tomo being a tomboy. At least it’s not critizing her for being athletic. It does, however, show that her temper and proneness to violence is not doing her any favours in the romance department, and that’s not a disservice to her character. You’re free to be yourself, but how you act around others will have an effect on how they treat you.

    ruicarlov
  4. I can honestly say, besides the second half of Danmachi, this is probably the only Anime I am interested-so-far. Even so, I FFFFing hate Jun that boy is so dense, I don’t think he can even read between the lines.

    Also I took offense to him smacking Tomo on her bottom, even between two dudes that feels uncomfortable.

    Hands to yourself JUN!!! (–_– )

    RenaSayers
    1. It’s even more confusing in that the dub translation has Tomo confess her LOVE for Jun, not just admit she has a crush on him, which are two different things. But when she does use the word love, Jun immediately thinks she means the casual bro-tastic definition. And that’s your FIRST JOKE OF THE SHOW, which isn’t a very smooth first impression.

      starss
  5. While I’ve heard the praises of this story, I’m hesitant to jump onboard because dense af male leads really grind my gears these days. I’ll follow the series from afar and only jump in once I’m sure the development doesn’t leave you hanging with the male lead still being a dense idiot at the end.

    Gawrshness
  6. ” Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?”
    Well, Tomo-chan is in the same boat…
    I am torn because I really like Tomo-chan as a character, but the way entire school treats her is, well, atrocious.
    I think Japan’s persistent insistence on everyone fitting into preexisting concepts – including those regarding gender – is showing its ugly face here.
    In most US schools she might be classified as just another weirdo, with half a dozen of them in every class.
    Or am I mistaken? Anyone with personal experience?

    ewok40k
    1. The problem (and what’s so off-putting for most of us) I think is that the joke is being taken too far. Tomo being a tomboy is fine, Jun being oblivious to her womanly charm – i.e. boobs – is fine for the sake of plot, but to have other characters continue in his fashion and to have Jun himself contradict his own comedic status (e.g. where he’s suddenly embarrassed by her figure showing through a wet shirt) breaks suspension of disbelief.

      My experience is the average kid would see Tomo as a tomboy, but also definitely as a girl; tomboys aren’t that uncommon at younger ages, and there’s lots of girls who carry on in their male-dominated interests even after puberty hits. No teenage guy in the US or Canada for example would see Tomo as anything but as a girl. It’s largely Japan which has assigned the tomboy label to any sporty and physically strong girl more inclined to speak through their actions than their words, leading to these weird disconnects between Western audiences and their domestic crowd who are admittedly more tied to gender roles than we currently are.

      In either case will be interesting looking back on this one come spring because there’s liable to be a lot here worthy of discussion, especially in terms of cultural differences.

      1. This is gonna be fun and painful for me. Being Asian American my western values will be in conflict with Asian perception of tomboys.

        Still, why the FK did Jun spank a girls toosh?

        Renasayers
        1. it was between-guys way of communicating “get your ass moving”
          rarely seen nowadays, as people tend to be more aware of all things remotely sexual, and homoerotic conntations

          ewok40k

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