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?|
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.
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).
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.
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.