Watamote. A popular anime and manga around the Internet despite being all about an unpopular Mojo girl who suffers from acute Social Anxiety.
Before I'll review this OVA, I'd tell you a little about Watamote's first rise to success, and I'll cover about Kuroki Tomoko's character as I wished to do it for a long time now, and then of course, I'll review the contents of this 13th Anime Original episode OVA.
Watamote (Shortest way to call it, so I'd just use that) started out as an unknown little manga that featured a very unique female protagonist, a Mojo, meaning a very gloomy unsociable girl. When I first lay my eyes upon a random 4chan thread back in 2011 featuring Tomoko , I immediately knew this manga is going to be something special.
As one who enjoys unique portrayal of protagonists, and even better, something closer to home, a more realistic one, someone you could relate to easily, I knew I had to try it out.
So I read the first chapter that got scanlated by an Anon, and I was immediately intrigued.
How did Watamote managed to rise to success so easily?
It was with the help of those 4channers themselves, which stands out as a very nice story. 4channers promoted the manga in many threads, and even helped the mangaka financially so she could write more chapters by buying as many copies as they could. So instead of Japan, we got the West to support Watamote's first rise to success.
4chan is a controversial home to various people who enjoy social interaction through image boards, troll each other, and generally spread the Internet phenomena of Memes. Through the years it had its ups, downs, and as one who used to follow threads daily for years, 4chan indeed earned its name on the Internet.
So those 4channers who many of them themselves suffered from social alienation, enjoyed Watamote the best. And after the manga became enough popular, a 2013 anime adaptation adapted the manga story, shone Tomoko in different light, making her come to life with great visuals, sound, and endless attempts for Tomoko to become a popular sociable girl, which always resulted in utter failures.
From what I read in reviews on MAL, Kuroki Tomoko is a character you could easily relate to if suffer from similar societal anxieties, or you could just throw her existence as a loser who can't learn from her ways, and have a clear lack of empathy for her, even clearly feel pain from what she goes through, to the point you feel awkward when you watch the show.
Her life portrayal in a dark comedic show is something that can be very unfunny to some, while some would laugh and then feel guilty about it.
When I watch Kuroki Tomoko in action, I don't see a loser girl that clearly. Tomoko is someone that tries her best, and fails. Then tries again, then fails. A loop that will occur in the whole show.
Why does that happen to her? Why is she so different from other people surrounding her? Is this her fate? Is this how she supposed to live her whole life?
My own answer is, her state of mind, which over the years, strayed afar from a healthy one, into one ridden with such social anxieties.
Tomoko in Middle School was more sociable than in her teenage years, that's when the social anxiety attacks harder. While some who suffer from SA can live with it, some clearly, can't.
As one who knows what it's like to feel such heavy anxiety, despite not suffering from clear SA but something different, I'd tell you, even on one sunny day, things begin to change.
Sometimes you won't feel it right away, won't understand why it's happening, that you're in this mess, but after a few years, you won't remember how it even happened.
You'll be so delusional you'll think your whole life was this way, that you amount to the lowest human being.
And when one thinks he will fail, he's prone to failures much more than others. When one is in unhealthy delusional state of mind caused by anxieties, traumas or a mental illness, he will see the world differently, sometimes live his daily life through his hobbies, will fail to see the world as it itself works in reality like others without such anxieties, see them as clear as the sun.
Then it can be a life long suffering.
The worst thing is, that many or even most people around you will see you as a lower human being than their standing. And when many, or even every person acts hostile towards you, you'll make generalizations about this world, and build up years of hatred towards many of your peers, despite the problem lying deep in yourself.
It can be an lifelong cycle of hatred, that can bring you to make drastic measures. Shut yourself in? Lose friends one after another or never have a close friend at all? Succumb to the state of mind until it becomes a lifelong illness? Much is possible.
Can one go out of it? With kind help from others, a change in environment or even with years with good Rehab, and the right medications, one can slowly come back into a healthy state of mind: A healthy soul in a healthy body.
But such thing may never happen to many people, and they will succumb to it, lose themselves in it until it breaks them, and simply tears them apart from the inside.
They can easily lose their sanity, or meet an early demise.
This is not a matter someone can brightly joke about.
Kuroki Tomoko however, is in a dark comedy anime. The show name can be used in two ways: No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Unpopular!/ It's Not My Fault That I'm Not Popular! which clearly expresses the delusion Tomoko is living in. Can Tomoko break out of it?
I didn't follow the manga to recent chapters yet, but I heard that recently she shows more of her social side, so there is some change. But clear change can take years of serialization, or...
May never happen at all.
It's time for me to review the OVA itself.
This OVA feels, looks, and is an original story. The story also feel much more lighthearted compared to the main show.
It starts with a prologue that hints about a possible second season. The prologue is about Tomoko wanting to change the series completely for the second season, then snaps out of it by Kii, her cousin, with the flashy entrance of the OP, which I really grown to love.
It manages to portray a more sociable Tomoko, in 2 halves:
One is through the eyes of a regular Chuunibyou middle school kid Aomatsu, which sees her as a cool girl who can change his boring daily life, just like in the anime he enjoys.
This part doesn't really feel like the regular Watamote, but more of a homage to many anime that cater to Chuunis. We see a cool Tomoko, with a cool voice, appearance and demeanor, spouting some chuuni remarks which the guy finds oddly intriguing.
The second part is from Tomoko viewpoint, which actually shows what happened in reality, and not through the help of Chuunibyou vision.
So it's basically half an episode covered in 2 viewpoints.
What I liked about it, that Tomoko feels different while she was in middle school, even if the Original Story setting required her to act different.
She was even unbeknown to me and to the other viewers, taller in her middle school years than her high school years, which clearly ignited the guy's Chuuni Mentality.
They both met a few times on the school rooftop, a setting to many Chuuni-inspired stories.
Tomoko just wanted to create a cool setting for them to meet frequently, but sadly, it didn't go anywhere in the end.
After 3 years, he couldn't even recognize her anymore despite bumping her once. Tomoko managed to change so much just in 3 years, with her additional social anxiety silent behavior.
So in the end, this was a refreshing Watamote story, through if I look at it overall, it was nothing that special.
I did enjoy it more compared to Yahari's original story OVA (a similar protagonist show) which I felt was more lacking, and not as refreshing.
-Art & Animation: 8-
The art is the same as the main series, which is perfectly understandable. Silver Link made the simple manga's art into something that looks way more grim and flashy at the same time. No complains here.
The OP and ED are the same as the main series, and the sound is just as great.
While some hate the combination of J-Pop and Screamo Metal in the OP song, I really found it to be the killer combination, perfectly fits the show theme of regress.
I missed the ED as well, and hearing it again in the episode after such a long time sure feels nice.
Kitta Izumi is back and great as ever. She carries the show without any flaw with her portrayal of Tomoko, a voice that she never uses in other shows, which it makes her most special role.
Tomoko, Tomoki and Yuu-chan return, with the addition of 2 new characters, Aomatsu and Komiyama Kotomi, a friend of Tomoko is her middle school years. They don't play a big role as a whole, but for a show with so little characters, every addition is welcome.
I enjoyed the main series and this OVA in the same way. They both have the same Watamote feel, despite the OVA being an original story, which shows the director's ability to produce good Watamote episodes even if they are not adapted straightly from the manga.
I also enjoy Watamote's anime more than the manga, because of great directing, and of course the addition of voice acting, music, animation, better art, and it's just better as a whole for me.
Despite this review was more about Watamote as a whole and not only this Stand Alone OVA, I said pretty much everything I wanted which was pent up about the show, since there was not much to review on this episode as standalone. So it's basically a Two-in-One review.
I recommend Watamote and this OVA to every person who enjoys dark comedy, different protagonists to the norm, and those can relate to Tomoko more easily because of their circumstances.
This is not a show about beating Social Anxiety so far, but one that just portrays it. Something that is avoided a lot in more of an Escapist (But not only) Mediums such as Anime and Manga. Please keep that in mind.
Enjoy Watching, and I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it. (: