It’s rather ironic that I wrote about SaeKano not too long ago, and here comes another show taking on the otaku culture head-on, albeit from a different angle: that of shakaijin, a group of twenty-something office workers, as opposed to a bunch of teenage students. Goodbye, clichéd high school setting; welcome to suits, cubicles, and overtime.
English: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Season: Spring 2018
Length: 11 ep. x 24 min.
Studio: A-1 Pictures
As much as Wotakoi is a romantic comedy, the best thing about it isn’t either of them; it’s how Wotakoi makes its otaku characters actually relatable to us otaku watching the show. It was, after all, popularized (and is still published) through Pixiv, a well-known social network for discovering doujinshi and other anime-style art.
Otaku Aren’t Popular
Raise your hand if you ever had a second thought about mentioning anime when someone asks you what your interests are, or what do you watch in your spare time – if you don’t have your hand raised, you aren’t an otaku.
It’s fair to say that the term otaku has quite a bit of negative connotation, especially to outsiders. Understandably, otaku themselves often don’t want to be identified as such, and Wotakoi hits on this social rejection theme repeatedly. As our pink-haired heroine, Narumi Momose, starts her new job, she decides to hide her otaku interests from her coworkers due to past experiences.
Of course, she is exposed immediately, as is expected of comedy, by her childhood friend and fellow otaku, Hirotaka Nifuji.
But all is well; the two coworkers who overheard are also otaku themselves. The green-haired glasses-wearing Hanako Koyanagi is a big yaoi fan and a popular cosplayer, while the red-head Tarou Kabakura is a lolicon and yuri fan.
As Narumi reconnects with Hirotaka in a bar after work, she reveals that she used to date a “normie” but was dumped when he found out she is an otaku. And then Narumi says something interesting:
It may seem counter-intuitive at first, given the show is all about otaku romance, but it does hint at the unpopularity of otaku, even among themselves. I think this is due to one simple reason: otaku often don’t get along with each other. Not only is otaku an umbrella term, with so many different genres and fetishes (there exist doujin circles in Comiket catering to train lovers – train porn anyone?), and even for people that like the same genre (say, idols) there are arguments. One needs to look no further than two otaku debating which girl is the best waifu. By definition otaku is one marked by passion; as such, debates and feelings can get heated.
Otaku Are Human Too
One thing that sets Wotakoi apart from other otaku anime like OreImo or SaeKano is how much more… adult the characters are. Because the characters are older, they are able to reflect on their past experiences and draw some insights into the otaku culture. A particularly poignant moment came when Hirotaka talked about why he got his ears pierced when he was younger:
Only to realize after he got older that being an adult isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. He has to work, often overtime, leaving less time for his otaku hobbies, and deal with the negative stereotypes of being an otaku at his age.
Keeping It Real
In general A-1 Pictures is more authentic than most other studios in terms of references to real life franchise/brands. Wotakoi is no exception, with plenty of well-known franchises sprinkled throughout the show to give it a degree of authenticity. Here are some real life copyrights/trademarks I found, in addition to the SaeKano reference earlier.
MahoYome (Sadly, I am still haven’t finished my review for this one T_T)
YuruYuri, inside Animate, a real life store in Akihabara
(Left to right) Kobeni from Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, some girl from Negima!, Yoshino from Masamune-kun no Revenge, Kobeni again (I think)
Wotakoi isn’t perfect. As I was watching I kept comparing it to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, a similar romantic comedy with a lot of the same setups and punchlines, but with much funnier delivery. However, Wotakoi is one of the more authentic anime, written by and written for otaku, and that alone deserves praise and a place on your list.