Having slept through all four of her alarms, the energetic Narumi Momose finds herself running late for her first day of work at a new office. As she races to catch her train, she makes a promise to herself that none of her coworkers will find out about her dark secret: that she is an otaku and a fujoshi. Her plan goes instantly awry, though, when she runs into Hirotaka Nifuji, an old friend from middle school. Although she tries to keep her secret by inviting him out for drinks after work, her cover is blown when he casually asks her whether or not she will be attending the upcoming Summer Comiket. Luckily for her, the only witnesses—Hanako Koyanagi and Tarou Kabakura—are otaku as well.
Later that night, the pair go out for drinks so that they can catch up after all the years apart. After Narumi complains about her previous boyfriend breaking up with her because he refused to date a fujoshi, Hirotaka suggests that she try dating a fellow otaku, specifically himself. He makes a solemn promise to always be there for her, to support her, and to help her farm for rare drops in Monster Hunter. Blown away by the proposal, Narumi agrees immediately. Thus the two otaku start dating, and their adorably awkward romance begins.
Growing up from a kid to adulthood, I’m sure all of us has our own favorite hobbies, interests, or dirty little secret. Not many people like to admit it but it’s part of our society and how we live in. For a show about the otaku culture and exploring the lifestyle of the nerd norm, Wotake ni Koi wa Muzukashii really set the bar high. Welcome to a world where office romance, otakuism, and gaming culture become an experience you won’t forget.
The English translation title is “It’s Difficult to Love an Otaku” and “Love is Hard of Otaku”. Literally, those words mushed up together already
feels like the show is a big joke or satire. While the show seems like it’s taking a risk at mixing a variety of questionable gimmicks together, I can say safely that there’s no need to worry. As a fan of the manga, I was thrilled to learn that Noitamina was chosen to air this show. It seems fitting for such an anime based on their history of lineups. What’s more is that this show also portrays a more realistic slice of life story that you don’t see too often these days. To me, this was a God-sent gift for Spring 2018.
I’m not going to lie. Watching this anime reminds me of being a kid despite the show being targeted at an older audience. The goofy style of the storytelling along with the colorful character cast brings in a very playful atmosphere. Even as the show takes place in an office life environment, it’s hard to ignore the character chemistry between the main cast. From the start, we got two childhood friends named Narumi Momose and Hirotaka Nifuji. The two have known each other for awhile but are almost like complete polar opposites. Narumi is a bubbly outgoing girl with an interest in fujoshi and otome games. On the other hand, Nifuji is an otaku with an avid interest in video games and doesn’t actually seem to care what other thinks of him. Despite their different personalities, it’s undeniable that the two has chemistry both during and off work. The other two lovebirds in the show consists of Hanako Koanagi and Tarou Kabakura. They are dating as a couple and while the two constantly bickers at every chance they get, the two genuinely seems to love each other. Now, you’re probably thinking…is this going to be a show filled with drama and misunderstandings? Absolutely not. While the show contains office romance, it’s hardly a story that focuses on that exclusively. Instead, this anime stands out as a way of exploring the everyday adventures of these characters.
One of the primary factors that makes this show appealing is the small character cast. It capitalizes on giving every character a chance to shine without leaving another in the dust. The couple pair of Narumi and Nifuji is infectiously entertaining to watch. Their character chemistry is shown through their interests that somehow intersects with their daily lives. At the office, the two maintains a professional relationship although they still act casually towards each other. The show explores their relationship development as they understand each other more in their adult lives. This even includes going on dates to the movies or amusement park. While the show adapts their relationship more as a ship tease, I think it’s safe that fans accepts them as a couple. Hanako and Tarou are dating already so the show doesn’t hide the fact that they care for each other. It’s mostly lighthearted romance that relies more on realism to do the storytelling. Office romance isn’t easy to adapt but this anime does that without ever being distracting. Characters act the way humans do while drawing connection to their otaku interests. Each of the main characters has their own interest. (otome games, gamer, cosplaying, bishoujo) As a central theme of the show, it establishes their interest through dialogues, interactions, and references. The show often throws in jokes with characters’ small talk and arguing to sell its comedy. It’s damn entertaining as every character gets their moment of fame. It masterfully matches the pacing of the dialogues that feels very real. The impression those moments bring is an accurate depiction of how co-workers behave. Whenever this nerdy group goes out for a drink, they act like casual adults enjoying life. It brings in the sensation of a rom-com between working adults that leaves me satisfied. Oh and before I forget to mention, give the manga a try too. The anime actually expands on some background content but the manga also feels like its own little world.
To be honest, A-1 Pictures is the last studio I would imagine adapting this show. However, the production quality itself is vibrant with colorful character designs. The characters looks distinct between one another with their different hair colors and facial expressions. Character reactions also sell a good deal of the comedy especially whenever Narumi reacts in exaggerated manners. As an anime that focuses on otaku, do expect video game references to be made such as the Nintendo Switch and Monster Hunter. There’s even one episode where the characters are adapted into an RPG setting with very gimmicky video game themes.
No fan service? No problem. You have the character dialogues doing the talking and most of it delivers humor in the most harmless ways. Yet at the same time, it’s able to create quality entertainment thanks to the talents of the voice cast. Narumi and Hanako in particular are able to bring out the best out of characters through that with their human personalities. The theme songs are also quite creative with their choreography. Namely, the OP song “Fiction” by Sumika is adorably cute with the body language. Every character in the theme songs stands out with their coordinated movements.
With 11 episodes, it felt just enough for this anime to do what it’s intended and that’s to sell its ideas to the audience. It succeeds that thanks to its creative circle of characters and their interests. Otakuism is not something that’s accepted easily as a positive culture norm. In fact, it’s often looked down upon in our society. However, this show presented that in a positive way. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the show is recommendable to just about anyone. A show like this deserves more attention, seriously.
I picked up Wotaku ni koi wa Muzukashii along with 3D Kanojo together back when the show first aired and expected both to be about the same, I gave the former an 8 and the latter a 7 if my memory doesn't fail me, and from then on even though both featured otaku (now it's obvious that 3D Kanojo only has one while Wotakoi has it's entire casts as the same but I picked it up together for the same reason) it became clear as day which was fresh garbage and which was the anime that made me dance. Looking at the rating I think
you know what show turned out to be the one that made me dance, yes. This is my review of Wotaku ni koi wa Muzukashii, ikuze!!!
Let's start with some backstory. My last seasonal romance watch was in Summer of 2017, almost exactly three seasons ago, which is shocking because if you know me, I love romance and always strive to watch it in some way or the other but in terms of seasonals I felt tired and stopped focusing on the genre. To reasons obvious to romance fans I felt Spring would be the best season for a romance fan to return to the seasonal genre and found a lot of romance anime to watch, but none, absolutely none made me fall over them as much as I fell over Wotaku ni koi wa Muzukashii. Not because it's cute, but because it's unique, it's fun, and of course, it's got everything else going for it.
I mean, look at it's competition this season (or even the last), what romance anime did we have? Tada-kun started strong but suffered with it's cliche problem shortly after, FranXX continues to be complete garbage in the romance category (and dare I say it every other category), the anime I formerly mentioned, 3D Kanojo almost immediately disappointed me with it's second episode, Grancrest had the same FranXX situation, while Beatless could be considered one slot better than the two mentioned. Leaving us with two romance anime this season that continued to be adored by me, Wotaku ni koi wa Muzukashii and Akkun To Kanojo. The latter was and still is an enjoyable show but being a short, it can't compare to Wotakoi in the same breath. Why? Read on!
First off, it's a fantastic slice of life anime. Wotakoi is how you make a Slice of Life Romance work and I can't find any other examples that bettered it till Winter 2017 (when I first started seasonals) and overall I'm sure it'll rank up in my top 5. Yet again you ask why? Because it knows how to captivate it's watchers with warmth. This brings us to the question, why do we watch romance anime? Many would say that it's because it brings them warmth, and surprise, surprise, Wotakoi gives you that. A cute, warm and fuzzy slice of life anime you can cosy up to whether you're single or with your partner. Even though it's centered on Otakus, it's biggest feature is that there's something for everyone.
Everyone will find something in the anime worth relating to and laughing at, and I'm just talking about the normies here, if you're a mild anime watcher or a hardcore one, both parties will find lots and lots to laugh at and references to gloss over with this anime. Be it a Dragon Quest reference, a Final Fantasy reference, a Saekano reference, etc etc. There's lots to list and I don't have enough time to list them all for we must move on to the next best part. The soundtrack. I don't think I need to tell you how popular the Opening is especially with it's dance and there's been countless videos on YouTube (some of which were taken down because Sony Music) showing viewers how the dance is done or how they reacted to this marvelous choreography. And that's not to mention the ED as well. Fantastic, cosy and just a joy to watch, it's an excellent example of a testament to the anime.
And we've barely scratched the surface. What else makes the anime so fun? The biggest reason why? THE CHARACTERS! I haven't seen such vibrant AND relatable characters in an anime in a very long time and this was just fabulous. I mean, it makes me wanna write on every character. First off, we didn't get one pairup, we got TWO. Then the interactions, motivations, situations, all made for a really cute yet not over the top anime. It didn't overstep its bounds yet created an environment that only Wotakoi could create and excel in. This isn't a Utopia, this is real life, and the real life says Wotakoi is excellent. Speaking of real life, the wonderful staff who worked on this anime. Having renowned VAs like Sawashiro Miyuki and the legendary Sugita Tomokazu himself, this anime wasn't at all short of talent, and the others too did brilliantly. I never for once felt like the voice actors did a bad job, or that the directing or scripting was bad in any way.
I might be sounding like I'm fanboying like crazy but let's just say Wotakoi IS that kind of show. It makes you warm and you're left beaming with happiness. Definitely something I'd call a feel-good show. Oh and, another reason why the anime is so amazing? It's got adults. Not high school kids as the main characters and that gives a LOT of room for different scenarios and even though our lovely cast might seem childish, in the first place, being an otaku is a throwback to childhood anyway. And second, we don't have any blushing game of random meetups and random kisses and random blushes and random etc like most high school anime (I already triggered the FranXX fanboys, don't want another group to come after me so I won't give examples now) because from the very first episode itself, everyone is dating. Yes. You read that right. They're dating from the first episode itself and they're adults and they're Otakus. Reasons enough for why it's so fantastic?
Still not convinced? How about I tell you that in spite of having such a unique setup, it handles it excellently? Convinced? I sure do hope you are, because I still have more to say. I haven't even gone to the characters in detail yet! Hirotaka might seem like your dense that you see in most high school romance but NO. Do not underestimate him because he is sharp. I mean, the ending of episode 1 changed my view of him from the get go. Surprised? I was too! He continued to be brilliant like the rest of the cast. Narumi on the other hand is fortunately not a flat female character (I just love making that pun) as we see in some romance anime and much like Hirotaka, is just a joy to watch. She's cute, relatable, and is a perfect matchup for Hirotaka. Then we got the polar opposites, Hana-chan and Gintoki- I mean Bakaku- I mean Kabakura. Both were the most loveable lovebirds and sworn enemies, which was a sharp contrast to Hirotaka and Narumi and offered an excellent balance to the aforementioned pair. Though MAL marked them as Supporting Characters they're very much main characters as well since they're a main focus of the anime too! And that's not to mention the other supporting cast too, they're cute too and the biggest part is that even though they're a supporting cast, the brief moments they feature in were all relatable and enjoyable in their own regard and this was me trying my hardest to describe how lovable the cast is, I can't find the words to describe what I feel to the exact point but this should serve as a somewhat great substitute.
STILL NOT CONVINCED? Then I can bring up the last of my cards, the artstyle. Many scorned and scoffed at the name of the studio when they first saw it's synopsis since it was made by A-1 Pictures. A studio that is designed for freelancers. What many realised later was that fortunately this was one of those “once in a blue baboon” situations where they turned out to be good, and I'm talking from the perspective of people who don't like A-1 but are objective critics. Me? Well, much like the other fans, I just enjoyed this. I have liked A-1’s many other works before in particular the Working! series and this just adds on to the fun.
Coming back to the topic, it's artstyle was unique, vibrant, cheerful and not to mention adorable. There was just that some thing about it that made it such a joy to look at, whether you're watching it in 1080p, 720p, a CR free subscriber, or the 144p master race (is the show even available in this resolution? Maybe in YouTube). Needless to say it's artstyle is YET another plus point the anime had.
It's very very tough to find negatives in this anime and the ones I found were that perhaps it's comedy didn't hit me every single time, though it did usually, I perhaps laughed at least once every episode and just longed for the next week’s episode to come out already and when it did, oh the joy I had.
Overall, I don't think I need to point this out, but Wotaku ni koi wa Muzukashii is a romance anime that you definitely must watch if you're a fan of the genre or are looking for that fun Slice of Life anime to entertain and cosy up to. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this is my pick for Anime of the Year or to the extreme minimum, Romance/SoL of the Year. Romance? Yes. Otaku stuff? Yes, but that isn't too deep for someone to get bored with. End product? Something great that anyone and everyone can watch and enjoy! Yes. Even normies :P
You and I might not see eye to eye on the anime, but I'm sure you'll leave the anime with a smile, that is, if you love watching fun shows. Much like with everyone, you'll definitely find out that you struck a chord with a lot of the things in the anime. I mean, we're all Otakus aren't we?
P.S: That last episode man. Incorporated everything that was great in the previous episodes and brought out the best from them to make for a fantastic end to a fantastic anime. If I were to describe Wotakoi in one word, it would ironically be that it's inclusive despite it's otaku centered focus. Hirotaka GO!
Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii (Wotakoi for short) is a romance comedy which characters are Otakus (Anime or Game Otakus). It is set in an office setting, featuring 4 main characters (2 couples) that are dating each other. Here in there, you would see direct references to manga, anime, games, and the likes. However, this anime fails to deliver well in both comedy and romance. I think it is important for you to treat this more as a slice of life show featuring otaku couples, as to not give any unmet expectations.
The romance in this anime is more of just a setting as it is
hardly explored. It will only occasionally throw in some romantic moments. Meanwhile, the jokes in this anime are rarely funny. I feel like the biggest problem to the comedy is the awful timing. It is really slow at delivering punchlines, making it unfunny at most times. To make it worse, there are sometimes short explanations by the game-sounding-narrator, which further slows down the pace.
The characters here are not really outstanding. There's no traits or moments that I feel really stand out from them. Also, even though the couples' relationships might change a little, the characters themselves hardly changes.
The background music is one problem I have with this anime. Maybe it's just not my taste, but although there are some good tracks, there are a lot of weird tracks that are just slapped unto an unfitting scene (honestly, I don't think those tracks could fit anywhere).
Overall, I think this anime fails to deliver a good romcom. There is only a little romance development and jokes fall flat. This is an anime for watching the daily lives of otaku couples. And that's it, since the only thing this anime got going for it is its relatability for people familiar with the otaku culture.
Welcome to the latest "what if a bunch of generic teenagers were adults" anime. Let’s see what Japan has served up this time… Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. Well, at least it has an interesting name, it’d be even more interesting if the show had stayed true to it for at least a single episode. It didn’t, and by the end of the first episode, the main characters are already dating.
Okay, that one misgiving aside, Wotakoi is a decent workplace romantic comedy with plenty of good qualities but is ultimately weighed down by poor comedic timing. Let’s first discuss what the show does well
before diving into the issues.
The characters are all fairly likable, while I never found any one of them to be great, their chemistry with one another is enjoyably infectious. With a premise like otakus falling in love, characterizing it’s cast in a believable and relatable way is where the show’s main success lies. For example, the lead character Narumi is a fujoshi and likely the most otaku of the four lead characters, yet she’s never made into a caricature. Cutesy mannerism and a little pigeon-toed running aside, her hobbies seem realistic and aren’t at the butt end of jokes. It’s the same with her co-worker Koyanagi, she’s a reasonably restrained fujo in public, but a well-known cosplayer at conventions. In the first few episodes, she and Narumi slowly learn about their hobbies because you can’t just dive headlong into the subject of BL with your co-workers unless you want to get a permanent side-eye from them. And Wotakoi handles this extremely well, otaku being sort of oddballs have to exercise self-restraint when talking about their hobbies. When they meet other otakus with similar tastes, it’s like they’ve finally found people who speak their own language.
It's an ideal foundation for a rom-com about otakus dating, but the lead pairing Narumi and Hirotaka already have known each other for years before they start working together, so it feels like it's not such a struggle for them to be in love. Unless if you consider the 'love is hard' to be referring to the glacial progression of the romance then I suppose it's faithful to the title.
About half of the show’s screen time is spent in the office space like a typical work comedy, and the other half is on dates and drinking parties just to keep it fresh, but it's a romcom so a threadbare story structure is inevitable. What's really important is the characters, not story, but that doesn't excuse Wotakoi's stagnant narrative, which we'll discuss more in depth after the positives.
The show's cast being otakus makes them better, rather than being cringely portrayed like you may expect from its ilk, it's well done and relatable. The game otaku Hirotaka (and Narumi’s childhood friend) plays and references plenty of games without it feeling forced or tacked on. If the group is going to play Mario Kart, the scene isn’t about slamming the viewer over the head with Mario jokes, but the people playing the game. Good otaku representation is always ideal in a series like this because it helps the characters to feel relatable and fills in the gaps in their characterization. And that brings us to the issues. Aside from the characters being portrayed well for the archetypes that they fill, there is very little to them as people. It feels like they selected standard romcom archetypes, mixed them with otaku archetypes, then left the characters then forgot to add much depth leaving them as placeholders for actual people. We know the bare minimum about their personalities for them to function in a romcom. There the cutesy but occasionally oblivious Narumi, the stoic deadpan Hirotaka, as well as Koyonogi's air of confidence and cleverness, and the abrasive tsundere dude Kabakura.
There’s not much great character development at all. When the show gets into backstories and motivates it only goes skin deep then backs off as if it’s afraid to tell us too much about the cast. Like the scene with Hirotaka telling Narumi about his ear piercing because the guy she was dating at the time had pierced ears as well. It was kindhearted and subtle flirting like Hirotaka tends to do throughout most of the series, with Narumi being typically oblivious or sometimes considering maybe she does love the guy she’s dating. Hirotaka and Narumi flirting is comparable to trying to carve an ice sculpture with a pencil, there’s barely any momentum and the characters hardly grow by the end. It doesn’t help that the show is still adding characters by the tenth episode to digress from the lead couple.
The characters are still quite watchable despite these flaws because the show's writing doesn't travel far outside of its comfort zone to create a well-rounded experience. It's a series with no noticeably bad moments, just plenty of meh ones. Wotakoi is sadly an example of; succeeding only because it did not try hard enough to risk failure.
From a technical perspective, the characters are at least well designed, passionately voiced, and their hobbies are realistically detailed, and they do have chemistry. Seeing arguments that Kyabakura and Koyanagi have over BL and yuri feels like they understand their own opinions greatly like the author was pulling from real people’s experience. If only the joke delivery capitalized on the chemistry’s potential, it could have been better. The romance between the two main characters is quite stagnant, but sadly the comedy is also affected by its own pacing problems. The pacing is slow and the jokes don’t hit with much impact. Looking at how the manga delivers jokes, it's much funnier and flows better. This adaptation just feels like a moving manga, there is no consideration for pacing or how it will animate. What likely caused this is a lacking budget and a director not talented enough to improve the source material in any way.
For example; sometimes we’re slapped with an intentionally unfunny joke from the po-faced Hirotaka and they just hang on screen for a painful few seconds that feel more like an hour, grinding the scene’s pace to a halt. That’s the pace of a majority of the jokes, with very little animation aside from funny reaction faces (taken from the manga). Every joke is presented with a slow lethargic pace that makes the director seem like he has no concept of how to time a joke properly. That brings us to the show’s production issues. Ok, to be fair, the op is really well done. It’s dynamic, well edited, and offers plenty of details on the character’s personalities.
The main cast having anime colored hair to help them stand out from the background is a bit jarring considering the blandness of their work environment. Speaking of which, often times it seems like the four leads are the only ones who work at the company. It’s partially excusable when they’re in a relatively small 6 cubicle office space. When wacky hijinks ensue and the four of them are running all throughout the building I can’t help but wonder if A-1 couldn’t spare the animation or if the writer couldn’t make the jokes funny enough without having to unrealistically remove all of the background characters. I suppose it’s better than the CGI crowds the show regularly uses. The end result is still somewhat funny if a bit unrealistic if only it didn’t bend the audience’s suspension of disbelief to get to the comedy. It’s scenes like this that make you wonder if the show would have been better if it were adapted by a different studio.
Ah, if you noticed that I skipped over Kabakura when talking about what I liked about the characters, that was intentional. I think he’s a jerk who treats Hanako like an asshole then occasionally makes it up to her by doing one nice thing. The friction between him and Hanako actually gave the show a chance to explore that theme of love being hard for otaku, but instead, the conflict is reduced to: they’re together because they always have been. That itself is a message, that otaku don’t have many options, but it’s not a dynamic that you can just sweep under the rug. It should have been discussed because relationships like that do have negative effects on those involved, but like I mentioned there’s no discussion it’s just "oh I’m sorry, have this gift and we’ll go back to normal". They had some nicer scenes in the later half of the show, with them discussing yaoi versus yuri, and it’s genuinely nice. But it needed to be more than just moderately pleasant, there needed to be more substance or at least effective comedy.
[Story: 6/10] Nice themes, very little progression.
[Art: 7/10] Great character designs, lackluster direction.
[Sound: 7/10] Vivid opening, passionate performances.
[Character: 6/10] Likable and well portrayed, lacking characterization.
[Enjoyment: 6/10] Funny reaction faces, poorly timed jokes.
[Love Hardness Level: Easy]
[Final Score: 6.4/10]
Having relatable and uplifting themes is great, but a show should still be compelling on its own and that’s where Wotakoi disappoints. The characters are likable for their strong personalities and in-depth hobbies, but they lack the development needed to be truly memorable. Even if the jokes weren't timed so poorly, this series is still lacking, but it sure could have helped if they hired a director with a better understanding of comedic timing.
Although it still feels like it only just started, we are now somehow halfway through the Spring 2018 anime season already, and trends are now clearly starting to emerge. In the past three weeks, Boku no Hero Academia returns to prominence, Persona 5 sinks like a stone and more.