Watamote: How to make a loser protagonist feel like an ACTUAL loser.

[Repost, because this dumb hiatus is taking longer than expected. Also, for a short update on my life rn, it’s pretty busy. Birthdays, work and other stuff has been happening, but rest assured, I am still writing!]

I finished Watamote a LONG time ago, and first things first, this is what struck me:

Tomoko is a pathetic loner. Not a quirky loner in most other anime, where their flaws actually enhance them, a.k.a. klutz moe characters.

Full-on, almost no friends, loser. No harem of love interests like Hachiman, no super skill that makes her special ala Shiro from NGNL, no living in another world like Kazuma from Konosuba, and no alternate persona in another world like Kirito. Just a plain old girl.

And that is G R E A T.

Too often, characters like this are put into roles to make them “interesting”, when really, it’s only so that otakus can self-insert for their fantasies. I’m not saying these characters can’t be well written, but it has become a cliche at this point.

Oh Kirito, why must I beat your dead horse one more time?

Plus, these “loner” characters have the social upstanding to talk to these beautiful girls who they just met and even physically hit them like they were buddies.

I love these two guys, but the way they act is not at all realistic for socially awkward “loners.”

Tomoko is the anti-moe character. She is often awkward and unapproachable. Her heart’s in the right place, but her actions always make her out to be weirder than she is. She’s clearly unattractive due to her lack of self-care, not because of genuine ugliness. She has no friends outside of one childhood friend, who is her opposite and would usually be a love interest if the protagonist was your typical LN protagonist. She constantly fantasizes about SoL situations that will never happen. Best of all is how it is never sugarcoated. Her actions are never romantacized as just quirks or comedic, and characters she interacts with always act appropriately instead of laughing it off, like her cousin showing actual disgust at some of her actions, but understanding them as well.

But my favorite part about her is how real her loneliness is. Episode 10 shows this extremely well, with the 1st half showcasing her going out of her way to be alone, and the 2nd half showing her doing the opposite, wanting to start a club to make friends. Some people say Tomoko never grew as a character in the anime, but I think people mistake growing with maturing. The episode clearly shows two different halves of her character chronologically. The finale as well, shows her starting to see how silly she’s been.

Plus, no real antagonists. Nobody ever bullied her. As a matter of fact, most of the people are nice and cordial. Her only real enemy is herself.

She shows that these flaws are not quirks, like so many people seem to do, and that being introverted and being socially inept are two different things.

She did grow and change, as evidenced in the final episode. Just that, surprise, one revelation won’t suddenly make you socially adaptable, and she knows that.

I just like this reaction image, to be honest.

It’s just refreshing to see an anime actually tackle the Hikkikomori stereotype and showing it as raw as possible, without any romanticism.

Except maybe Welcome to the NHK (wink, wink)

TL;DR It’s nice when loser protagonists are actually losers.

20 thoughts on “Watamote: How to make a loser protagonist feel like an ACTUAL loser.

  1. Tomoko really is one of the strongest individual characters in anime history, despite the fact that she’d be a nameless background face in anyone else’s story… Actually, maybe because of it.

    We’re given a very distinct sense of her identity, who she is as a person, how she views the world and what her motivations are, but they made no effort to influence how we’d feel towards her, nor are we told one way or another if her social situation improved or not. We can love her or hate her, we can debate for days whether she does or SHOULD make any progress, but at the end of it all, we know exactly who she is.

    She doesn’t really do anything of note throughout the story, or really change or develop at all, but she still manages to come off as a layered and compelling character.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, she is who she is, and that’s very interesting. She’s a bystander not content with being a bystander, but she’s so socially awkward that if anything, she makes it worse for herself when she tries so much. I find myself not being able to compare Tomoko with any other protgaonists.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s because any other character would have been handed a ticket out of their slump by the end of episode 1. With Tomoko, there’s no inciting incident, which was a bold move that paid off tenfold.

        Like

    2. Are you planning on reading the manga now? Tomoko in the manga have grown to the point that she have shed some of her negative traits . The fact that she now have friends in her class (unlike Yuu who is in another school) and have positive relationship with her school acquaintances including the popular girls (especialy Katou Asuka, who is very nice to her) is a testament to this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have to read the watamote manga past where the anime goes. Everything you appreciated here is only made better in my opinion. Watamote was a show that I thought was hilarious and about a lot of themes that I could empathize with, so the manga just became something special later. Great post!

    Like

  3. Oh Tomoko. She made Watamote a joyfully cringey experience worth sitting through week after week. I like her a lot as a character for the reasons you stated. No sugarcoating it, and growing in a more subtle way than just having her overcome her problems out of nowhere.

    Still haven’t read the manga, though wanting to her transform is what still has it in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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