[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.
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.
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.
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.