The Most Mean-Spirited Anime I Have Ever Watched

The Most Mean-Spirited Anime I Have Ever Watched

This past week, I told you about the five anime you should be watching this summer. To prepare, I asked Kotaku readers to vote on their picks. The winner by a landslide was Watamote. I am dumbfounded by this. Watamote is, quite simply, the most mean-spirited anime I have ever watched.

Watamote — No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular is ostensibly a comedy about Tomoko, a young high school freshman who, as a master of dating sims, is unable to comprehend why she isn’t popular and is unsure how to change and become so.

The problem is, this show isn’t a really a comedy. It’s a tragedy. Any laughs you get are due to her emotional pain and suffering. And while this is fine if the character is evil and thus getting some kind of karmic comeuppance, Tomoko, as a character, has done nothing worthy of being saddled with the hell that is her life.

Let’s be clear here. Tomoko is not simply a nerdy girl who is a little socially awkward. Given the state of her socialisation skills, it seems safe to assume she is a girl with a severe social anxiety disorder. And as all the jokes in the series are at her expense, the show really comes off as “let’s make fun of the girl with a crippling psychological disorder.”

Which, given the popularity of Watamote, is, apparently, the height of humour.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s take a closer look at some of the “comedic” situations in Tomoko’s life.

When her homeroom teacher says goodbye to her as she leaves school, she realises that is the first time she’s had any verbal interaction with anyone outside her family in two months. She is so startled she runs away in fear (and joy).

Because crippling social anxiety is “funny.”

Once, she forgets her textbook and is too afraid to borrow one from another student (as she has literally no friends or acquaintances in school) and is then bitched out by the teacher until she cries.

Because emotional abuse by a teacher is “funny.”

She is so socially awkward that the most major social accomplishment to date is ordering at a McDonalds.

Because being barely able to put three words together and thus generally unable to do things we all find so easy to do is “funny.”

At one point, after deciding to improve her social skills, she goes to her brother — one of the few people she can talk to without being overwhelmed by anxiety — to ask him to talk with her for an hour a day. She has to threaten to kill herself to get him to listen to her before she can even ask the favour.

Because having to threaten to kill yourself to get the bare minimum of social interaction from a family member is “funny.”

Another time, she starts wishing to be molested on a train because that at least would mean she’s attractive. And then when she actually thinks she is being molested (as something hard is rubbing between her legs), she screams for help in terror — realising that being molested is not a good thing like she had hoped. It turns out to be a naginata, however, and not a molester.

Because experiencing the feelings of shame, terror, and helplessness one feels when being molested is “funny.”

There has been, to be fair, one laugh-worthy part in the show to date. Feeling depressed, she buys a boys love game and by chance wins third prize in a raffle: a back massager. Thus she finds herself walking down the street with an erotic game in one hand and what looks like a vibrator in the other. This (unlike all the previous examples) is funny. It is a sight gag based on bad luck, nothing more. Her social anxiety has nothing to do with this situation. She is not the butt of the joke.

I hear people like this show because they identify with Tomoko — that they had similar experiences in school and now look back on those experiences with nostalgic humour. But for me, despite being more than a little bit of a social outcast in high school myself, none of this is funny. It’s just reveling in the pain of a mentally ill person — laughing at a girl who is even more awkward than they were in order to feel better about their own lives.

And that is just plain fucked up.

Watamote — No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular is currently airing on TV Tokyo in Japan. For those in North America, it can be watched for free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll and Hulu.


  • I think the joke has gone right over your head. This show clearly has two demographics, nerdy/socially outcast girls who would closely identify with the main character, and nerdy/socially outcast guys who while both identifying with the main character, also find humor in seeing what their lives would be like gender swapped.

    You seem really upset about this fictional anime, I think you need to see it from another persons perspective here. Tomoko embodies everything so called ‘Outcasts’ go through every day of their lives, and its nice to see that the animators/creators of this show probably went through similar things as children but can now laugh about it.

    • Does he even know the writer basically is Tomoko in real life?

      She based this about her awkward experiences.

  • To a (drastically) lesser extent, so is Big Bang Theory. Remove the laugh track, and you’ve got a rather sobering documentary about a person with autism.

    • Replace the “nerds” with Jews obsessed with money or black mean eating chicken and nobody would be laughing at it.

    • “Documentary” might be a stretch. Unless we are talking about a close examination at how misinformed Hollywood writers ideas of what autism are.

    • Everyone forgets that according to the show Sheldon is not crazy (nor autistic)… his mother had him tested.
      That said, he clearly has some issues including a lack of empathy and social skills, and is a massive extrovert (always wanting to be the center of attention).

      But yes, the vast majority of the humor is about the main characters’ lack of social skills.

  • Richard seems mad.

    Anyway, there’s surely a reason for its popularity. IIRC, a few of 4chan’s boards really like the manga. Maybe it’s more of a case of relate-to-ablity rather than enjoying the social torture.

    By the sounds of it, Tomoko is like a more awkward, less friends-having version of Konata.
    And everyone liked Lucky Star, right?

    • “IIRC, a few of 4chan’s boards really like the manga.”

      IIRC, 4chan is the internet’s hive of scum and villainy. ‘course they’d love it.

      • 4chan is a melting pot of so many extremes, it’s really impossible to accurately describe it with just one sentence.

      • It’s been a while since I frequented 4chan, but unless it has drastically changed the only real “hive of scum and villainy” is /b/, all the rest are relatively normal, at least by internet standards.

      • *IIRC, facebook is the internet’s hive of scum and villainy. ‘course they’d love it.*

        Fixed that for you.

        Obviously you haven’t spent any time on 4chan or you’d know there is only 1 place thats that bad.

    • Maybe it’s more of a case of relate-to-ablity rather than enjoying the social torture.

      Pretty sure this is why.
      I doubt anyone is laughing when she is “bitched out by the teacher” or spills her coffee from starbucks.

      Just because it is a comedy does not mean everything in it is therefore intended as funny.

  • I think that at least some of it isn’t actually meant to generate humor, instead the goal is to give the audience a feeling of schadenfreude. Sort of a “I may have been/still are an emotionally/socially awkward wreck but good lord at least I was never as bad as this, at least I never hit THAT level” feeling. It’s probably even a little re-assuring to some shut ins who can at least say they get along with their family and can actually talk to people without it feeling like an accomplishment.
    It might not what you’d call nice but if you are going to get that sort of feeling at least your only getting it from a cartoon that’s parodying it to questionably comical extremes.
    I’m with you though, I just find the show painful to watch.

  • Yeah I fail to see how it’s comedy. Japanese culture needs an enema. And not the sort they have in all their pornos.

  • Actually, on 4chan, especially on /a/ board and /jp/ board, the manga was quite a big hit. You could take the view of looking at it as tasteless and laughing at someone socially in-ept.
    However the majority of readers that discussed about the manga (from what i’ve read) actually felt a connection towards her, because quite a few have had terrible experiences or thoughts in common with her in school/society/social events.
    Quite a few hope she gets the better end of the stick, in fact a few readers hope for it. It’s a bittersweet pill to swallow when watching the anime or reading the manga, it gets maybe a silent chuckle before a sign of recognition and then a silent nod at the events taking place.
    I’m saddened that you viewed it Richard in the way you did, but I cant blame you for your interpretation of it’s popularity.
    For a lot of those whom are shut -ins or socially awkward, the feeling that someone out there has gone through something similar makes them feel a little better; but I digress.

  • Well now i don’t know what to think about Watamote, i mean i was sort of enjoying it but now i have no idea.
    Also in my opinion i don’t see it as a comedy, i see it as more of a ‘slice of life’ anime about the life of someone who is severely socially awkward (and i presume about how they overcome it eventually).

    Besides all that best OP of the year anyone??

  • Watamote is not mean spirited.
    Watamote is empathetic.

    It is popular because niche nerd subcultures, like anime fandom, have a tendency to attract people with greater or lesser version of the social anxiety that Tomoko has, and they can relate to the situations that she’s put into.

    Although , fortunately, I’ve never had nearly as bad anxiety as Tomoko, when I first encountered the manga, I was going through a a rough patch, and I really could relate to a lot of the situations Tomoko found herself in. I think that the authors really understood anxiety and were drawing from some amount of personal experience, and I found it comforting that somebody understood it well enough to make me laugh about it.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s black, self deprecating humour, but something about having a character that feels EXACTLY the way you feel, and still makes you laugh is comforting. It also reminds you that you’re not alone, other people feel like this. And if you feel like you’re an alien from another world, then there’s at least one other alien down here.

  • Love how the writer slates all the other offensive jokes, but then commends the last offensive cos its a dirty joke…

    but its not my type of anime, so I’m not like, defending or anything, just seems a little… One sided…

    • It’s not the content of the jokes that the author has issue with, it’s the nature of the jokes. The earlier examples are all jokes in which the character is tastelessly and actively abused due to her social anxiety, which is as funny as a rape joke. The last example is a joke in which poor fortune has placed the character in an awkward situation, rather than the character being exposed to torment due to her mental illness. Just because the joke is inherently sexual, or “dirty” as you put it, does not mean it’s on the same level as the other “jokes”.

      • All of the jokes still run with the central theme of how awkward her life is… I agree that they are different cos she has little control over it, but its still the writers doing.

        • The difference being that she has coincidentally wound up in an awkward situation, rather than being actively mocked by others. It’s the difference between someone tripping over and someone being tripped by someone else, to make a crude analogy. In the latter, someone is doing something unkind to someone else, while in the former the situation is based on chance.

  • The humour comes from the awkwardness of Tomoko’s attempts at , and subsequent failures, to be popular, most of which she takes from dating sims and magazines/webpages which never work.
    The events you’ve described aren’t meant to elicit laughs from the viewers, but sympathy.
    When I saw the eps online (via Crunchyroll), I never saw any part of these as humorous in anyway, more as making me feel bad for her.
    This is exactly why I’ve grown so attached to this series, in the hopes that it all works out for her in the end.

  • What people seem to not get is that Watamote isn’t strictly a comedy. It’s a cringe comedy, the whole point is to make you feel uncomfortable (and give flashbacks to the times of having no friends in highschool and not knowing how to deal with your fellow classmates, while dreading group activities. To the point you cant watch any further episodes because you need to go find a dark corner to cry in)

  • This is the very reason i didn’t watch it. because like you was a social outcast during highschool. Wasnt a fun period in my life.

  • As someone who has lived with someone who has suffered from a severe social anxiety disorder for a long time, and seeing as there is pretty much 0 help for people with these problems, I think it’s good that it gets people thinking about it. Good exposure set in a way that will make people watch it. If anyone made fun of my partner like that in RL, I would punch them out though…It’s really not funny for anyone who can associate with this character.

  • As an aspie I can appreciate the sentiment.

    However, attacking your readers like this was probably not a good idea.

  • I think this comes down to perception. I think you’re possibly taking it a bit literally… The creators of this anime did not create it with the intent to remind you of your “crippling social anxiety” and is certainly not “mean-spirited”, but rather as a series of hyperboles simulating somewhat absurd extents of potential problems encountered with social anxiety. Tomoko’s life may be particularly unfortunate, however my point is that anime in general is not to be taken so sensitively. It’s more along the lines of an anime allowing for a sort of sympathy, something like “wow, if that happened to me I’d be just as stressed”, the humour isn’t as dark as you are seeing it, it’s essentially up to your own perception. However, you are correct in pointing out the response we get from the unfortunate events as somewhat wrong. Then again, the intent of this anime may not necessarily be to point out the crippling events and make fun of them, it is most probably simply making light of a situation that an increasing number of people are encountering. That said, from your own experience, I’m sure this has brought on a more than sensitive response and you’re obviously entitled to any perception you’ve invoked from this.

  • I have all these problems, and I enjoy being able to laugh about them in a safe environment was fun.

    I’m sorry you’re so insecure and dickish that you can’t relate, but abuse for dumb reasons isn’t very fun, is it?

  • I personally don’t think it is a comedy at all and I don’t think I’ve ever found myself laughing at it. I just find it interesting. Which watching something that is interesting is way better than watching something that is funny.

  • As someone with (gradually improving) issues with social awkwardness, the series focuses more on making you empathise with Tomoko and never actually makes fun of her situation directly.

    The situation with the text book, yeah i can relate I sat through quite a lot of classes without a text book just to avoid sharing or borrowing one because i didn’t really get along with anyone (not that i tried).

    The situation of being unable to say goodbye to the teacher in the first episode is something i can relate to, when your seriously socially awkward you know what you want to say but you can’t get them out you make a few unintelligible noises and thats it you try and try but you can’t get anymore out.

    Her reaction to seeing her classmates at the WcDonalds restaurant and subsequent plans of escape are something that most can relate to because haven’t we all tried to avoid someone we know just to avoid the slight chance of having to talk to them.

    The molestation scene is interesting, she went out with the aim of getting molested, she is disappointed when she isn’t, but when she actually is (or so she thinks) she realises what a terrible thing it actually is to have happen to you, it’s not a scene that is meant to be humorous it’s meant to make you empathise with her.

    The humour comes from how she tries to cope with these situations, every socially awkward person has at some stage tried to plan an escape route to try and avoid people that might try and strike up conversation, but she takes it to the next level by trying to obscure her identity (it works but not as she intends). and if anything the majority of the situations she finds herself in are to make the audience empathise with her plight rather than make fun of the situation.

    TL;DR the humour of the series comes from how she copes with situations not the situations themselves.

  • The OP is a little over the top there IMO. Watamote is a great show, and I think through humor it gives a serious problem a lot more attention, which can be a good thing. Of course, how Tomoko handles this problem over the series will be the key thing…

    I find myself both laughing along with the show, but also feeling incredibly sorry for the girl…I know I have a few social issues myself, and it’s great to be able to relate a little to Tomoko’s personality.

  • Nope, didn’t get it. Reads like a rant rather than an article. I really hate stuff like this, when is it ever appropriate to tell someone that? That they didn’t understand? People usually say never, it isn’t fair to ask… But then, when they obviously didn’t, what do you do?

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