First Impressions – Watamote

Lies. All of it.

Oh my god this show. I know I said I wasn’t sure what to expect in the season preview, but this first episode really exceeded my expectations and blew me away. Watamote manages to be not only hilarious, but also painful to watch. And I don’t mean painful in a bad way.
We’re winding down on the first impressions, but this time I’m gonna glom onto Sumairii’s post about WataMote! From the description of the show, there were so many ways this could have gone that I had no idea what to expect with it. So what did we end up with?

Sadly Hilarious

Tomoko doesn’t like what she sees.

So the first thing to note is that Watamote is no ordinary comedy. The show only qualifies as such because it can certainly make you chuckle, but it doesn’t do it in the typical manner that you might expect. As we know, Watamote is about Tomoko, a gloomy girl who is one day rudely awakened to the ugly truth that she isn’t remotely as popular as she has deluded herself into believing. And sure, it may be construed that the show spins this technically depressing tale into a humorous one by way of goofiness. But that’s not quite what it does. What Watamote does is unapologetically demonstrate the clash between reality and fantasy in the mind of a complacent idiot. Now, I’m not saying Tomoko is dumb or mentally challenged, but her twisted preconceptions and distorted perceptions certainly distance her from the world of common sense. While it’s true that her physical appearance may indeed contribute to her current predicament1, it is most definitely her personality that has brought this upon herself. I mean, what kind of girl believes that she can simply waltz into high school and become an instant hit amongst the crowds without so much as lifting a finger? One who has serious problems with her head, that’s what.

Poor guy.

In the end, Tomoko reaped what she sowed. Which is to say: nothing. But fortunately for her, the start of the series heralds her first steps in realizing that she has a problem and attempting to correct it. And that’s what gives Watamote its tradmark cringe comedy. We aren’t laughing at Tomoko (to a certain extent) for her horribly botched attempts to change her image. Nor are we simply laughing at the absurdness of her attempts (though admittedly her “duckface” is priceless). Instead, we’re laughing only because this otherwise depressing material is not being presented as a tragedy. Think about it: Watamote could easily be very somber and thought-provoking. And while I believe the show does retain a certain degree of intellectual intrigue, it is overshadowed by the overwhelming awkwardness of the poor girl. Faced with this, we have no choice but to laugh to relieve the tension. That, or facepalm repeatedly. And to help us along the way, Watamote is kind enough to provide us with some well-telegraphed moments of mishap, almost as if telling us: “go ahead, it’s ok to laugh”.

A Very Sympathetic Figure

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

From the very start of the show, I found Tomoko to be very sympathetic. The show was played for laughs, but for me it never really made me laugh out loud, and that was just fine. But nor did it make me particularly uncomfortable this early in the series. There’s been quite a bit I’ve seen about whether she’s a tragic figure or not, but I think it’s just too early to determine the way the series will go, because for me that will have a big influence on what I end up thinking (not that I’m inviting spoilers from the manga here).

Success?

But what I do know right now is that I am rooting for Tomoko. From the start of the show, watching her self-confidence become more and more brittle as she realizes that her reality isn’t meeting up to her expectations, and the increasingly frantic things she does to try to recover her popularity level and that confidence just made a soft ache for her in my heart. So many times we see a character like this who is just the unmitigated butt of all the jokes, and from what they do, they somewhat deserve it. But in this case, it’s not a question of ‘deserving’. It just is. Tomoko tries to tell herself she’s better off than she knows she is, but even when she tries honest self-assessment, she can’t even stand looking at herself in the mirror. And unlike a character like Hachiman from last season’s OregaIru, it really doesn’t feel like her condemnation of the ‘popular people’ is that heartfelt. It really feels like she wouldn’t mind getting along with people, she just doesn’t possess the tools. Not even enough to say goodbye to the teacher at the school gate. The whole episode was simultaneously entertaining and almost heartbreaking for me.

Extras

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I have to say I’m really enjoying Watamote so far. This was a strong debut for a show that’s looking like it might set itself apart from the rest of the comedies. And considering the hit-or-miss state of comedy nowadays, this is a very good sign. To me, Watamote has definitely been a solid hit, and I now have confidence it will be able to stay this way. Ganbare, Tomoko!

I really found this first episode to be touching. Tomoko’s interactions with others show where she’s at, and how far her reality veers off of her self-image, but you can also tell that she wants to change that reality. I come out of this first episode really hoping that she makes progress through the series, and really wanting her to at least get *a* friend, or some acknowledgement, or even just some ability to talk to others. That’s what I mean when I say it’s too early to know how I feel about this. If the show keeps pushing her down, I think that it will get a feeling of just kicking someone when she’s down, and Tomoko doesn’t feel like the kind of person who deserves that. And there are some promising signs that it won’t go that way, when her brother does come and take her home from the park, albeit after not sticking up for her when his friends encounter her trying to get away from her classmates (who don’t even recognize her as going to their school). I can’t blame Tomoki for that, but it was a harsh reality check. I just really hope that there’s progress.

1I think she could give Hachiman a run for his money for having the most rotten, dead eyes.

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We live, laugh, enjoy and strictly believe on "more the merrier". When together, we usually come up with very chatty, conversation-based episodics and interesting posts.
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21 Responses to “First Impressions – Watamote”

  1. lvlln says:

    What a pleasant surprise this turned out to be. With a light novel-like title like No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular! I was expecting something a little more lighthearted. Instead, it’s an incisive comedy with some bite, almost black. Indeed I can’t help but sympathize with Tomoko, the poor awkward deluded self defeating girl. Hopefully she learns her lesson sooner rather than later, but I’d guess we’ll see her stumble quite a bit.

    I liked what Silver Link did with the visuals. Some shots, like the overhead diagrams, felt very familiar to them, while the lighting effects created by hard shapes reminded me of Humanity Has Declined. Plus, what a great OP and ED pair. A hard, abrasive song to start it out, and a fun little romp through some phones at the end. I would’ve loved it if that ED had been live action instead, but that might be asking for too much.

  2. KLACMAN says:

    well yea give watching this might hang around what next give seeing tomoko doing look in mirror outfit look like the Walking Dead.

    yea i’m staying to see more on it.

  3. skylion says:

    It’s interesting when a program doesn’t even try to hit the sweet spots. Watamote is, as the review points out, just as it is. It doesn’t square off who deserves what or paint a black and white portrait. Just the reality on the ground, and you got to walk it, girl.

    With EPIC web browsing!

    Cheers.

    • Liza says:

      No one can web browse like Tomoko can!

    • Irenesharda says:

      That “Death Note” parody scene was hilarious. I didn’t even realize that was what they were going for until they were half way into it and the gothic music was playing in the background. LOL

  4. Karry says:

    I’ve known a girl like that once. After all the trouble i went through with her parents to get her to come out of her shell – she went on to become an absolute slut. So i cant be that much sympathetic to this bitch either.

  5. HannoX says:

    This show is hitting the right notes so far. Sure we laugh at much of what Tomoko does and at her self-delusions, but we also wince and feel sorry for her. The fact that she realizes she has a problem and is trying to do something about it is a hopeful sign that we will see her by slow and painful steps come out of her shell and start interacting with others. And it’s not like she doesn’t have something to work with regarding her physical appearance. With the right makeover (which she’s incapable of doing herself) and a more positive attitude (which will extremely difficult for her!) she would be passably cute.

  6. Liza says:

    I was so excited for this! This is one of the few series where I’ve actually read the manga beforehand.

    Watamote doesn’t throw any punches, Tomoko’s life is sad and depressing but at least she is attempting to do something about it once she realizes it.

    The one part I found really funny was when she was in McDonalds and the kids from her class came in and she was trying to figure out how to walk past them. Sadly, I’ve done the same planning thing on how to escape as well so I’m sympathetic to her not wanting them to see her.(Although not for that reason).

  7. Soliia says:

    I really like this so far. Poor Tomoko. I can really sympathize with her, particularly every time she tried to talk. You know, she’s actually really adorable just as she is. I hope she manages to come out of her shell more throughout the show.

  8. JPNIgor says:

    About the extra image… Is she playing Counter-Strike on hard mode? XD

    But, man… This show has some true potential. I’m really hoping that we have a progression somewhat similar to Ugly Betty, that throughout the show she can progress as a person an in appearance as well. And Tomoko isn’t ugly .-. She only have some huge dark rings on her eyes and some big misconceptions about beauty. And a weird voice, as well.

    At least she isn’t a fujoshi. I loved her face and her reaction when she was playing the game with massage. Like “I’m massaging you is it exciting?”, “Yes, it is. Actually I’m coming” .-. I know that I wouldn’t like her if she was a fujoshi.

  9. Overcooled says:

    I never actually laughed, but there’s something else intriguing about the show. Watching Tomoko essentially set herself up for failure is oddly captivating. It’s like being unable to look away from a car crash. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to her shyness as well, although I doubt many people go to such extremes. You two already perfectly described what makes this show so interesting though. Hopefully they continue with this as the focus and don’t devolve into tons of anime references. A couple (like the Death Note one) is fine, of course.

    Speaking of references, I heard that apparently the I’M COMING SOOOOON game is a real thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3YxRG-52T4

    • Liza says:

      I KNEW IT WAS A REFERENCE TO THAT GAME! YES! :D I feel smart since I usually never understand the subtle references.

  10. Irenesharda says:

    After reading this article, I decided to try it out. I found it interestingly dark but hilarious. Tomoko’s her own worst enemy and to see how much she deludes herself is really quite sad but hilarious. In a way, she reminds me of Sunako from The Wallflower, except even Sunako was prettier then this chick.

    However, I can understand the pressures of high school and how much you want to fit in. Its not really till you leave it behind that you realize how useless your non/popularity truly was in the grand scheme of things, and you’re able to get a larger, clearer picture of your life.

    I do feel a little sorry for Tomoko, but her antics and inner monologue are so funny, that it takes away some of the despair. I do hope she finds someone who can understand her weird nature and bring her out of her self-formed hole.

    I might follow this, just to see how it all goes for the girl. I give this episode an 8/10.

  11. BlackBriar says:

    Wow, I must say I’m intrigued by this. This must be the sour side of Eighth Grade Syndrome. Living in a fantasy based on reality. The show has a dark feel when it comes to its comedy, almost like satire.

    Tomoko is a shut-in driven by her own preconceptions. Her desire for popularity and the desperation behind it makes her a polar opposite to the lead male character in SNAFU. One thing she doesn’t understand is that what she’s after comes with a price and it’s something that doesn’t last long if it can’t be maintained. You could be the next big thing today and be has been tomorrow. At least I sympathize with her wanting some attention.

    It’s funny to see her attempts at being cute crash and burn but honestly, they don’t suit her. The tomboy look is better. What should be taken into notice is Tomoko’s appearance. Obviously she doesn’t get enough sleep so it makes me inquire as to what she’s been doing before the episode started.

    • Highway says:

      I think it’s more than just not sleeping enough, more that it’s a family trait. Tomoki shows the same kind of dark circles under his eyes as well.

      • Sumairii says:

        I believe she mentions her unhealthy sleep habits at one point, but it’s entirely possible that it’s just a family trait as you say.

      • Irenesharda says:

        I noted that too, and since her brother seems to be the opposite case, I think it’s probably genetic. The mother doesn’t seem to have them, but like in many anime, we never see the father, so it’s possible that they got it from him.

  12. Mochan says:

    This show was painful to watch, in a bad way. I tried reading the manga, and it was worse. Apparently though I’m the only one who hates this show.

  13. AllenAndArth says:

    i still don’t know if i cry or laugh at the show…

    • BlackBriar says:

      You can do both. Just take 5 minute turns each time. :D

  14. Moni Chan says:

    I’M COMING SOON. This show kills me, and it’s sad at the same time. Reminds me of my life long long time ago

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