This will be a spoiler-free post.
Watamote was, in my opinion, a really underrated show. Seeing as it never got a season 2, I ended up picking up the manga to continue where the anime left off, and I was rather pleasantly surprised at the development of the plot. It ended up going in a direction I never expected from a story of it’s type, and that was turning it into a character ensemble.
I will mostly be talking about the manga AFTER the anime. If you want a comparison of the manga chapters adapted by the anime, I highly recommend Cactus Matt’s post focusing on the differences between Watamote’s manga and its anime counterpart.
Just to give context for those of you who are interested in the manga but didn’t watch the anime:
Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! chronicles the life of a socially awkward and relatively friendless high school otaku as she attempts to overcome her personal barriers in order to live a fulfilling life by becoming the most popular girl in school!
A huge chunk of the manga’s first half is focused on either Tomoko’s Wil E. Coyote like attempts at getting attention, only for them to backfire on her miserably, or her constant procrastination of socializing normally. A lot of the humor comes from the cringe of Tomoko being humiliated in some way or another, or her own imagination getting the best of her.
She’s crass and elitist, constantly thinking rude thoughts about other people, but she herself can’t even properly speak to a non-family member without shaking, and has a lot of pent-up confusion about her own sexuality.
Not to mention, being an otaku who bases her experiences with romance from eroge, she also has a very skewed perception on real life due to her tendency to project otome tropes to real life situations as well, making her a massive pervert.
For most of the first half of the manga, the only people she can even interact with on a regular basis are her brother, her parents, her younger cousin, and her teacher. All of them pity Tomoko greatly, and to varying degrees, try to help her become a functioning member of society.
Although she is still a crass and socially inept nerdy girl, she eventually learns to be more honest with herself. She accepts that her constant attempts at becoming the most popular girl was ridiculous, and so sets her sights on a much more attainable but still difficult goal: make a few friends.
Every new character we meet that interacts with Tomoko is, at first glance, out of her league in one way or another. Most of them tend to be much more social or confident than she is, and yet they all seem to gravitate towards her with each chapter. The reason for the attraction isn’t actually plotforce, but a genuine sense of progression in both Tomoko’s character and the cast’s ongoing journey to understand her.
The best way that Watamote deals with Tomoko’s inability to converse with people at first, was by literally forcing her into social interaction, via friendly people such as the ever-energetic Hina Nemoto or the senior class rep Megumi Ikae-
-Or being grouped together with complete strangers during a field trip.
Masaki Yoshida, a delinquent girl with dyed hair and temper issues and Yuri Tamura, a fairly ordinary girl of few words, end up together on the trip without having had any prior interaction.
It was from this point on that Watamote turned from a gag comedy focused on Tomoko’s loneliness to a character ensemble that gives every character of the cast a day in the limelight. The plot doesn’t shift to make Tomoko relevant, but instead, it’s Tomoko who changes to progress the plot and takes part in it. The humor as well completely changes from being based on cringe, to being more focused on how different character react and interact to a situation, and it makes the manga much more fresh.
Watamote has changed a lot from its initial premise, but I genuinely believe that it’s all the better for it. Even the humor has improved because it’s no longer centered around Tomoko’s awkwardness alone, but also the quirks of everybody else around her.
Giving us a taste of how lonely she is in the early chapters only makes the development on the later chapters and change of focus that much more satisfying, and I highly recommend that you follow it to support the creator!
Do you know of any other manga that had a major tonal shift in the middle? Is shifting the focus so late in the story a good thing, or a bad thing? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time!