Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular vol. 1

...That title...Kind of a mouth full. From now on, I'm just going to use the shortening of the Japanese title, 'Watamote'. Anyway, I had heard some interesting things about this series prior to buying it. From how painfully awkward it is, to how laugh out loud hilarious it is. After reading volume one, I'd say it's definitely both of those, but I'm not sure it's for me.

Tomoko Kuroki is fifteen years old and about to start her freshman year of high school. More than a little delusional, she quite incorrectly thought she was popular in middle school, and she thinks high school is her chance to take her popularity to the next level. Little did she know that the atmosphere of high school is an entirely different beast, and she hasn't talked to a single classmate in the two months since school started! All her training in dating games is for naught! But she hasn't given up just yet. Socially awkward hilarity ensues as we follow Tomoko in her daily life as an unpopular high school girl.

It's not hard to see that the main appeal of this manga is comedy. You might even call it a "gag manga". And that gag is Tomoko failing over and over again in her attempts to have a social life. The chapters are even labeled as 'Fail 1', 'Fail 2', etc. I did indeed laugh at this gag. Out loud even several times, as well as a few internal giggles. Asking for more laughs out of nine chapters might be a little greedy. So on that front, 'Watamote' did its job very well. At the same time though, I found it kind of sad. Maybe even a little depressing. So yeah, while I did plenty of laughing, I also felt kind of bad for her. She even seemingly non-jokingly said she would kill herself when her brother jokingly told her to drop dead...

Tomoko is a loner(she refers to herself in video game terms as a "solo player"). And there's nothing wrong with being a loner, but you can see that she is lonely. She doesn't want to be alone and goes to great lengths to change that. Along with her dating game "training", she also engages in self prescribed cognitive therapy of sorts. After not talking to people for so long, she makes an effort to talk to her little brother for an hour each day in order to improve her communication skills. I actually find that kind of admirable...though her results are not nearly as good as she believes. At other times, Tomoko can(somewhat understandably) let her jealousy and envy get the better of her, making her quite mean. Internally calling the people she strives to be like "sluts" and "scum". She even claimed that she would give up one year of her life if they would all die in a fire. Of course this is all part of the joke, but if you think about it, this makes her more than a one-note gag character, and at the very least, someone you can sympathize with.

Most of this volume was Tomoko being a "solo player" and getting to see her internal thoughts, but there were a couple of supporting characters for her to interact with. I mentioned before her little brother, who though thinks she is an idiot and nuts, still puts up with her eccentricities and listens to her when she needs to talk. Though more prominently featured is her middle school friend, Yuu, who was once plain and nerdy, but has now blossomed into a real beauty. But to Tomoko's delight, Yuu's personality hasn't changed and she still treats her the same, despite their gap in social status. I guess it's because they attend different high schools, but I kind of wonder why Tomoko doesn't take advantage of the situation and spend more time with the one true friend she has. I also kind of wonder how the interaction between Tomoko and Yuu would go in a group situation. Yuu claimed that her new school is like a constant fashion show, and she had to basically adapt and makeover herself in order to maintain a proper social standing, basically doing what Tomoko couldn't do. So I wonder if Yuu would still treat the dorky Tomoko the same if her "popular" friends were around. But I'm probably getting ahead of myself there.

Even though volume one of 'Watamote' had more than the satisfactory amount of laughs, and even though it introduced a sympathetic main character with potential, I'm still not sure this manga is for me. Besides the borderline depressing comedy stylings, I also feel like to keep that "laugh at her pain" gag going, Tomoko is going to have to keep failing and keep suffering, with little development. I'm not sure how much longer I can watch that. So while volume one was worth the read, I think from now on I'll depend on others' reviews to let me know if this is a series I can handle.

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