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.