Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui! – 11

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Watamote certainly hasn’t lost the ability to surprise me.

I must be well-conditioned, because all throughout this episode I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it stayed solidly airborne.  For once there really was a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t an oncoming shinkansenWatamote has certainly shown an ability to be heartwarming before, but this is about the most consistently- well, I won’t say upbeat, because that would be going too far, but certainly the least despairing episode from start to finish that we’ve seen so far.

That said, it seems at this point that Watamote has pretty well dropped all pretense towards being a comedy.  I’m currently watching Welcome to the NHK (inspired to do so by this series) but for all its darkness that’s much more a genuinely comedic experience than Watamote is, and by now we’ve pretty much blown past what I consider the benchmark for how grim and merciless a character deconstruction can be and still be called a comedy, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry.  The comic moments are there and generally quite hilarious, but they’ve become increasingly rare as the season has progressed – and in doing so, taken on an almost somber tone as much of the fantastical elements are stripped away and we’re left with an unsparing portrait of one very unhappy young person’s life.

While it didn’t start out looking that way, this episode ends up with a very different vibe than last week’s pure, unfettered heartbreak.  The culture festival can be a minefield for the socially awkward and lonely student – the opportunities for both embarrassment and isolation are seemingly endless, doing battle with each for supremacy in causing darkness of the soul.  It’s a cosplay cafe for Tomoko’s class (this is anime, after all) but she’s not in any way included in the preparations.  This is another instance where it’s felt to me as if it would almost be less painful if Tomoko were being bullied, because it’s as she doesn’t exist – it would simply never occur to anyone to involve her.  Here again we see a small moment of progress for Tomoko – she volunteers herself to be the one to cut the flyers for the cafe, and even insists on doing so after her offer is gently declined by the girls in charge.  It’s true that her original plan is to milk the project for five hours to get her through the entire day, but there’s no doubt – she definitely wanted to be involved.

This being Watamote – and Tomoko – disaster is always around the next corner.  The two guys who get sent to help her blow through the project in shoddy fashion in minutes, and worse, Tomoko cuts herself with the X-Acto knife and flees for the nurse’s office, blood fountaining from her hand.  But for once Tomoko’s misfortune is actually a lucky break, as she quite literally runs into Imai Megumi (unmistakably Nonaka Ai).  Megumi-chan is the head of the Festival Committee but more relevantly, she ends up being something of a guardian angel for Tomoko.  Yes, it’s yet another random encounter with someone who treats Tomoko with real kindness – the series is full of those.  But the depth of that kindness won’t be apparent for a while, and in the meantime it’s clear that Tomoko desperately longs to be a part of the cosplay experience.  She even buys a cheap (what – oni maid?) costume at Donki so she can mail Yuu-chan a (ridiculously adorable) photo of herself in her “work” uniform, which backfires when Yuu decides she needs to visit the culture festival herself.

This is truly a different sort of Watamote episode, though, because once again Tomoko’s misfortune actually turns into good fortune.  After a day of wandering around the festival, utterly unnoticed by her class (this is where most of what little comedy there is in the episode lurks, such as the K-On club and Tomoko’s fantasy of what it’d be like if she was in it) she’s feeling more alone than ever.  But she actually has a good time when Yuu joins her the next day, struck by the remarkable revelation that it’s actually possible to have fun in school if a friend is with her – they chat about Madoka Magica and eat bad food and generally waste the day pleasantly.  There’s still plenty of Tomoko dysfunction here: she still calls Yuu her “bitch friend” in her mind, and sees her cuteness as a way to gain social cred for herself.  And her reaction when Yuu hugs her shows just how heartbreakingly desperate Tomoko is for any human contact whatsoever – being a horny teenager and pathologically lonely is an incendiary combination.  But she genuinely, honestly has fun – and it’s crystal clear that no matter how it might have seemed to Tomoko, Yuu isn’t abandoning her.

I thought just for a moment that what we’d seen was almost as sad, in the end, as what we saw last week.  After all Tomoko never get involved with her class’ cosplay cafe in any way, and she’s left to wave goodbye to Yuu-chan as she goes off her with own friends, leaving Tomoko utterly alone again.  Maybe it was worse to be reminded just how isolated Tomoko really is by giving her just a taste of what a normal adolescent experience could be like.  But here Megumi transforms the entire feel of the episode when she sees Kuroko alone, obviously puts the pieces of what’s happened with her class together, and dons the mascot costume long enough to give Tomoko a balloon and a hug.  That’s a moment most shows couldn’t have pulled off without seeming sappy, but Watamote has earned its credibility with hard-won battle scars from wounds that cut deep.  The revelation isn’t so much that kindness exists even in Tomoko’s world – we’ve known that all along – but that Tomoko is actually able to grasp that it’s being offered, and however fleetingly to feel better about her life because of it.  It may be a small victory but it’s a genuine one, and it’s almost enough to make you feel hopeful about her life.

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ED4: 「そこらの着ぐるみの風船と私」by Velvet.kodhy

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  1. t

    First of all I'm weirded out by the fact that I also have had Deconstructing Harry in mind while watching the show.
    Kudos to the chairman for not only wanting to help Tomoko but finding the right way to do it, something others despite their best intentions havn't found, that was the real difference maker to me.
    Also it's quite ironic that Watamote of all shows ended up having a moment that warmed my heart a whole lot more than any "healing anime" I've watched recently, likely because as you've said that moment was really earned.

    PS: if Watamote is more of a steady ride,I found NHK to be a roller coaster, it's highs are lighthearted but the higher you are the higher the fall…

  2. R

    She is the first to notice that Tomoko has a Problem, takes the time to dig a bit deeper and to actually tries to help her even if just in a small way. All the other Characters so far were either helpful to Tomoko but ultimatly obvlivious to her Problems (like Yuu and the Umbrella Boy) or they clearly see that she has a Problem but don't do anything because they decide it's not their Problem.

  3. k

    I wonder if I should watch Deconstructing Harry. I'm not what you'd call Woody Allen's fan, though I've seen some of his older movies. As for Watamote, this ep is exactly what this show needed to avoid drowning masses of viewers in depression. It was great and well timed. No, actually, I think it might be a form of fanservice provided by the author, as he must've known we'd be already craving for a true ray of hope.

    PS From what I heard, if NHK anime is a roller coaster, then manga is supposed to be a night flight during a storm in an plane with no working engines. Without parachutes. I would read it already if I weren't afraid where it goes.

  4. totoum, I really think Deconstructing Harry is the closest analog to Watamote, right down to the fantasy sequences. To the point where one could almost see someone like Tomoko ending up like a female Harry in 40 years.

  5. G

    We actually got to see her show a genuine smile this week too (at least once).

  6. R

    This episode is really a treat. I love seeing Tomoko try and speak her mind, and I love seeing her truly feel the warmth in her heart. Her time spent with Yuu-chan was heart-warming to watch, but the highlight was totally the hug from the chairman. You know, I wanted to hug Tomoko, too…well, actually I wanted to give Tomoko a hug every week.

    Happy to hear that you are watching Welcome to NHK. I quite like the show. Enjoy! Love to hear your thoughts on the show when you're done and have time.

  7. i

    That was pretty sad or rather melancholic, the kind of thing that after watching you'd listen to Midnight Blues. I really do agree that Watamote has a far warmer and real touching side to moronic LN adaptations of the same topic (i.e. no friends).

    For Tomoko, all I can say is that at least one person in school, the hell she spends half of her next 2 and a bit years in, knows about her problems. I'm sure that there was exactly such a sempai for the mangaka in her own trials. And she has Yuu and her family (at least somewhat) outside. I don't really know anything about people with her problems but I guess that the more people who realize what she goes through, the more chances she can overcome it. That at least is the message that I think the mangaka is aiming for.

    Surely this manga was meant more for those that can pity than those that can sympathize.

    Note: I wrote how Tomoko is like the guy from NHK, among others, but a female (rare) in my MAL review of Watamote when the show first came out. Teehee.

  8. c

    I think Tomoko is nowhere near Satō's level yet, maybe once she has finished High School. Tomoko may not be able to interact with people, but she can at least be in there presence. Thats not to mention the suicidal behaviour and drug use.
    I'd say that Sato had hit rock bottom and was finding his way back up (providing he doesn't kill himself first), where Tomoko is still a long ways off the bottom of that dark pit. She still has the chance to turn her life around before that point with the help of friends and family, where Sato had lost that support when he moved into his own flat. It would be interesting to find out how far Tomoko could fall if she lost that support like Sato.

  9. R

    I just read that an OVA is going to come out… on October 22, 2014. Damn, that's a long wait.

  10. R

    wow! this is definitely the first time that watamote did't make me laugh out loud and then feel uneasy afterwards. in fact, i can't help but smile at the end of the ep.

    i must admit that i was also half-expecting something to go horribly wrong for tomoko (am i bad for thinking that?. but her finding a new friend in the student council chairman and finally reconnecting with yuu is definitely a good turn. oh and that balloon scene at the end is just heartwarming.

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