Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui! – 08

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And so, the emotional roller-coaster ride continues.

If you consider the emotional spectrum of anime a true circle, there must be a point where the two extremes meet – where funny and hopeful transitions into bleak and tragic.  There are series that spend some of their time moving back and forth around their part of the circle, most of them never reaching that extreme nexus point from either direction.  And then there’s Watamote, a series that sets up camp and lives there almost all the time, more than pretty much any series I can remember.  It’s a scary place to be, but if there’s one thing this show has to spare, it’s nerve.

The thing about Watamote is, because its natural habitat is out there where the buses don’t run, the conflicting emotions of watching it always seem to exist side-by-side for me.  It’s not so much that they’re competing with each other as two sides of the same coin, one always present as the flip-side whenever the other is.  An episode like this one is a perfect example, because it’s at the moments when it seems to be the most hopeful that it’s also the most unsparing in depicting just how bleak things are for Tomoko, really.

There are several notable things about this episode, which while not as uproariously funny as the last few certainly touched the heart and moved the story and Tomoko’s arc (which are basically one and the same with this show) forward substantially.  The first is the arrival of Kii-chan (Kugimiya Rie, who can still do loli – a mode I much prefer to her tsundere one, now thankfully much in decline – like few actresses can).  Kii is the adoring younger cousin of Tomoko, a petite imouto-type just entering middle school who’s idolized her older cousin for years.  The problem (there’s always problems to spare whenever Tomoko is involved) is that her cousin has been feeding Kii-chan a line of BS about how popular she is, and about her boyfriend who “just wants to fool around every day”.  Naturally, with Kii coming to visit, this is a problem – Tomoko has convinced herself that her now older and savvier cousin will see through her lies and smell the stink of virginity on her.

In the first place, I’m not so sure that was true – Kii-chan still seemed pretty innocent when she pulled up, if not when she left – but as always, it’s Tomoko’s paranoid delusion that the forces of the universe (though sadly not its teenaged boys) are conspiring to screw her that leads her into trouble.  I’m not sure Tomoko was ever quite so outright pathetic as she was this week – all of her crimes were against herself (well, almost), and her desperation led her down some truly ridiculous paths.  In order to make herself into the first-class “high-school bitch” she thinks she needs to be to fool Kii, she goes shopping for clothes, only to be humiliated by the grade-schoolers who dress cooler than she does.  Not able to successfully plant hickeys on herself – “Not enough suction!”, not to mention the inability to suck her own neck – she uses the vacuum cleaner as a substitute.  This is one of those classic Watamote moments where you want to laugh, but hate yourself for it – it is funny, dammit, but it’s also pure torture to see Tomoko humiliate herself that way.

Another significant element of the episode springs directly from the vacuum incident (which is predictably disastrous in that Tomoko leaves huge rings all over her body and practically kills herself).  This is really the first time when we’ve seen signs that Tomoko’s mother has some clue just how badly her daughter is messed up.  Any mother would be upset to see their teenage daughter after obviously having used the vacuum the way she did, and might even have shouted “You’re always doing things like this!”  But there was an edge of panic in her voice, which frankly reassures me because there should have been, and maybe this is a clue that Mom-oki isn’t as hopelessly lost in denial as she seemed.  Further evidence of this is the way she reacted when Tomoko viciously turned on her – she slapped her.  That’s something I never like to see a parent do, but if there were ever a moment when it was understandable, that was it.  I really want to believe Tomo-Mom is capable of helping her daughter out of the sad, dark hole into which she’s fallen, but that can’t happen unless she’s operating in reality and not in a fantasy world where her kids are still toddlers giving each other big sloppy kisses.

There a surprise development when Tomoko takes Kii-chan to the library – Kosaka, the boy who left Tomoko the umbrella back in episode 3 shows up.  Turns out Kosaka is every bit as nice as he seemed then – he makes pleasant small talk with Tomoko Momoko despite having the carry most of the conversation (this is yet more brilliant seiyuu work by Izumi Kitta here) and refuses to accept money from her.  Naturally enough Tomoko ends up telling Kii that Kosaka is her boyfriend – which seems like an OK improvization until Kosaka shows up at the library the next say with his real girlfriend.  Once again all of Tomoko’s trials are of her own making, and Kosaka proves himself truly a gentleman when Kii-chan confronts him for cheating on Tomoko – he holds his tongue despite his puzzlement, and accepts Tomoko’s apology after she’s sent Kii away so she can “break up” with him.  Tomoko’s world is full of many more people than not who are like Kosaka, decent and even kind – Tomoko is by far the most dangerous person in Tomoko’s world.

The loop is closed – landing us right at “that” part of the circle – by the fact that Kii-chan witnesses what really happens at the breakup (Tomoko on her knees, apologizing).  Her illusions about her cousin are shattered, all the more so when Tomoko takes her to a mom & pop konbini so she can show off her skills against elementary-school boys at the Yu-Gi-Oh! Magic: the Gathering-style card game played there.  It’s not bad enough that Tomoko can only think to show off for Kii by beating little boys at a card game – she has to resort to cheating in order to do it.  Even Tomoko can feel what’s happened – instead of staring at her with the eyes of an adoring puppy, Kii now stares at her like she’s an abandoned puppy.  Worship has turned to pity, and this is how low Tomoko has fallen – she’s pitied by her 13 year-old cousin.  Yet again, though, we see a case where no one is being mean to Tomoko – knowingly, at least.  Kii-chan’s pity is driven by a kind heart, but it’s just further humiliation for Tomoko.  I’ve said this before, but if you have no empathy for Tomoko now you’re probably never going to have it, because this is a real low ebb for her.  And as always, it sure is hard to watch.

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  1. A

    Hard to watch, indeed, but much easier to watch than 99% of the other shows this season. 🙂

  2. H

    You watching 99% of the other shows this season? Cray.

  3. i

    I didn't funny this episode quite funny. But I didn't feel sad for her either. I just thought that now she's passed the line from paranoid to delusional and needs an intervention. All three of her family members and her cousin and the aunt who drove the cousin (going by her reaction to 'Tomoko's cute') seemed to know that Tomoko has lost it (not that it) long ago.

    I'm pretty surprised there hasn't even been an attempt to send her to someone, though I feel she'd reject it out of hand (not that would matter to mummy dearest). I do hope that some point she goes for help because at this rate she'll end up like Halle Berry from Gothica.

    And Tomoko also needs professional help with her wardrobe. Those socks make her look like a classmate of those elementary kids (WTF to the dress of the pink one, only that messed up kids pageant Toddlers and Tiaras children dressed stranger than anime). I really hope for an episode where mom says Tomoko should get a haircut and forces her into a beauty salon.

  4. R

    I'm pretty sure she was already highly delusional all the way back in episode 1.

  5. M

    I think I'm only continuing to watch this show because I'm wishing for an episode when she'll start coping with things better with help of a professional or a friend who truly gets her and not put off by her behaviours….. I don't want this series to end depressing!!

  6. M

    'put off' as in ignore her and hope she'll sort herself out in her own time.

  7. S

    Love how this show makes me feel. It's a little bit like surfing the best cringe-videos on r/cringe. Sweet torture, but addicting. And Watamote has a lot more heart.

    There was at least some positive notes today. She didn't seem to have any problem socializing with those card game kids. And now the cousin at least realises her situation. Maybe there's still hope!

    My subbers keep translating "bitch" to "slut", I don't understand the need for that at all. Is a "bitch" a worse insult in Japan than anywhere else? It's annoying me.

  8. M

    I have to say,I’m quite annoyed with her mother.Yes,we can say her reactions were appropriate as a parent for the vacuum incident but she also gave me the impression that she was more worried about Tomoko embarrassing her in front of Kii-chan & her mom instead of checking if she was okay.The ignorance she’s shown so far doesn’t help my impression of her either.

  9. That's a fair question to ask – it may be an embarrassment issue.

  10. i

    Do you think it is just Japanese culture for parents to worry more about their appearance in general?
    As an American, I don't know for jack about Japanese parents

  11. I think American parents worry about it plenty. I also think it's premature to write off Tomoko's mother as only being concerned about appearances here – she may very well have been worried about just how unhinged her daughter had become.

  12. M

    Sadly,I don't think we'll see the truth here as I don't think the anime will focus too much on that,if at all.

  13. R

    this is one episode of watamote where i don't really know what to say. that vacuum cleaner scene is just disturbing, but i can't help but wince in laughter.

  14. R

    This was funny — it got me laughing — but I felt really bad at the same time. There are truly a lot of kind-hearted people surrounding Tomoko, but that won't make a difference — Tomoko can't help but is trapped in her own mind that she absolutely needs professional help. Well, even though she's cheating, at least she felt good showing off her superiority in front of Kii-chan. It looks like Tomoko has less trouble talking to people (or boys) younger than her, and it makes me feel so good seeing her getting so popular amongst those little kids.

    I think we are more open to the topics of SAD, MDD, or other mental disorders in our country — at least in the last decade in our province. There are supporting systems for the families, and there are community groups helping generate more awareness and educate the public. It's not perfect, and a lot of people still don't understand, but I think we are more receptive here than in Japan. In a way, I feel really glad that this manga got published, and the anime got aired.

  15. E

    It's because she's having delusion easily. Since she's not shotacon, she's fine with younger boys.
    But one thing that we should notice is, she's abnormally hates the same gender. I wonder why. I haven't seen any girl being mean to her yet.

  16. This is pure speculation, but we also haven't seen any girls (apart from her cousin and old friend) be nice to her, only boys. Perhaps historically, boys have been kinder to her than girls. Also, it's natural for teens (as if it were just teens, heh) to feel more competitive with others of their own gender. Girls are a threat for Tomoko, and any one that's more popular (i.e, all of them, pretty much) a stark reminder of what a social failure she is. Boys are not that sort of threat.

    In a way it's a shame she's not a shotacon – or at least not into younger guys – because that would open up the field for Tomoko considerably…

  17. M

    she has an inferiority complex, common considering her situation

    when she is with people she cant help but feel inferior to them and feel pain from this, and so she try to bring them down mentally and this is the reason of all the trash talk in her mind about girls being bitches, boys being perverts, ecc. also when in the fireworks episode she hated the girl reading because she has friends because "i cant beat you at anything in this way" which is pretty explicit

    meanwhile when she is with younger children (especially the cousin and the boys from the game store that already recognize her as "superior") she naturally feel better than them and can act normally; well, normally for tomoko standards

  18. R

    I´ve found this video from Image-Nation that features Watamote
    and includes some interviews with the editor, Producer, Shin Oonuma
    and Izumi Kitta.

    Nothing special in it, but might be interesting for anybody who has
    some time on their hand to waste.


  19. Thanks for the link. I find those English-language personalities in NHK Wu-ral-do to be incredibly annoying, but it was nice to hear from Oonuma Shin and especially Kitta Izumi.

  20. Z

    The manga is so sad but it's soooo good. 🙂

  21. M

    Man, what a Grasberg of a gold mine.

  22. c

    There are two other shows that are perhaps in the same league as WataMote for cringe-worthiness, though each of them is very different from the others. One is last season's Aku No Hana, and the other is (can I say, "of course?") the original live-action Densha Otoko.

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