I feel like over the course of this blog I’ve read, watched, and reviewed more highschool romances than I can count now, with even more sitting on the back-burner waiting for their moment. It’s been a never-ending cycle of young girls worrying over indirect kisses, love triangles that always end how you expect them to, and relationships that amount to a singular kiss and some hand-holding. Don’t get me wrong, I still find enjoyment in a lot of these series, especially when they have engaging characters or some sort of psychological drama. But I’ve found myself gravitating more towards Josei series over the years. Maybe It’s just because I’m getting older, or that my own relationship has progressed to the point where I don’t see inexperienced adolescent romance as appealing or relatable anymore. Because of this, I think Wotakoi came at an opportune time and quickly rose to number two on my list of favorite (non-recurring) anime this season overall.
Wotakoi is the story of closeted fujoshi Narumi who gets a new job after a bad break-up and the reveal of her secret. It just so happens that one of her new coworkers is childhood friend, Hirotaka, a handsome gaming otaku. After a night of drinking and lamenting the scarcity of good men in her life, Narumi and Hirotaka begin dating. The two seem a perfect match, but as the title says, love is hard for otaku. With the help of otaku couple and coworkers Koyanagi and Kabakura, they begin to work at their new relationship. Based off the webmanga series by Fujita, the story was picked up for adaptation by A-1 Pictures for the 11-episode series and is currently being streamed in the US through Amazon Prime.
I can’t get enough of this anime, especially the opening. I feel like I listen to the opening song, “Fiction” by Sumika at least three times a week, especially at work when I need an extra boost of energy. But it’s not just the song that’s addicting, it’s the animation and directing as well. A-1 Pictures did a great job on the anime throughout the series, but you can really get a feel for it in the opening. It’s fluid and showcases the character well through their movements and the directing. You really get a sense for both the series and the characters. Their likes and dislikes are clearly expressed on screen as well as their relationships to one another. We see Narumi scribbling furiously while creating a doujinshi, Nifuji playing video games, Koyanagi cosplaying, and Kabakura reading yuri manga as the scenes shift back and forth between their work selves and their otaku selves. It manages to showcase one of the key themes of the series, the balance between professional and personal lives, the person we display to the outside world vs the person we are on the inside.
Yoshimasa Hiraike does an awesome job with the directing. Pretty much every joke lands well and the various references both overtly built into the series and covertly in the background work well with the overall feel of the show and the comedy as a whole. I love episode two and the way it’s laid out as well as some specific scenes. Throughout the episode we get a million different references, form Evangelion to JRPG’s, to dating sims, to even a passing reference to Ancient Magus Bride. The conflict that arises between Nifuji and Narumi after their newly formed relationship is great to watch as their fight is played out through a turn-based JRPG mode where it’s made to look like both of them are in a battle against one another. But then the direction shifts and we see pinned by Nifuji in front of an elevator as she is trying to run away from the confrontation. During their confrontation, Narumi stays facing the elevator, but as Nifuji confesses his feelings the elevator opens. It’s an avenue of escape, not just from the situation, but also metaphorically from their relationship. It’s in those moments that Narumi is given the chance to leave and end their relationship or stay and keep dating Nifuji. The camera focuses on her feet as she turns, the elevator doors closing behind her. I think it’s through these moments that the Wotakoi can show it’s not just all about the jokes and references, it’s about real relationships that have meaning. This kind of contrast between comedy and serious moments that really makes the series stick in my brain.
The whole series really hits home we me in a lot of ways. Maybe because I see some of the aspects of the story reflected in my own life. I feel like, in a way, my own relationship mirrors that of Nifuji and Narumi in the way we both approach our respective hobbies. My fiancee is also a pretty big gamer, and tends to focus on games more than anything else. I like playing games, but I’m definitely more of a casual and don’t really consider myself good at them. I’m definitely more interested in reading and watching manga and anime, so I can completely understand the underlying conflicts and acceptance of their relationship. Nifuji doesn’t really share Narumi’s passion for manga and Narumi doesn’t really share his passion for games, but both of them look for people to share their passions with. It becomes a point of happiness for Narumi when she finds out that Koyanagi is also an otaku as she can finally share her love and obsessions with someone else. Nifuji doesn’t look down on her for being who she is, but he’s not someone she can connect with in the same way she connects with Koyanagi. Watching this anime made me really long for someone else to talk extensively with about comics and anime, knowing that I can’t necessarily talk the same way about them with my fiancee even if I know he accepts me for the major nerd I am.
Maybe that’s why the relationships in this series feel so realistic, because they are about realistic problems faced by nerds and otakus everywhere and by real people in real relationships. Like the time Narumi is invited for a drink over at Nifuji’s apartment and the first thing she thinks about is what underwear she’s wearing. It’s a very simple, everyday moment that I think every girl has faced in a new relationship. Then there’s the larger theme of how much of yourself you reveal to other people, especially the person you’re in a relationship with. I still remember an old first date where the guy I was dating was worried I would think he was weird and nerdy for liking Hellsing. It’s a fact of life for nerdy people. You never really know if someone is going to judge you for what you are passionate about. I still try and downplay the comics that I read and will sometimes even try and describe this blog in as vague a way possible to avoid possible embarrassment, but I am getting better at being confident in myself. It’s just another way this series is so relatable, dissecting the ways in which people present themselves to “outsiders”. It’s a love letter to loving yourself and being confident in the things that you love.
I’ve been rewatching the series as I’m writing this review, and I have to say I cannot get enough of it. The jokes, the references, and the characters are all so enjoyable. It’s enough to make me consider picking up the manga to see what else the story has to offer. I don’t think we’ll get another season anytime soon since there seems to be only five volumes right now, but a girl can have hope for the future that one day we’ll get another chance to revisit these great characters. I honestly have so much more to talk about with this series, but I’ve already written enough for now. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the series and if you’ve read the manga, let me know how that is as well.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress for all Bloom Reviews content updates and news. I’m still on a reduced schedule for the next couple weeks as things are crazy for me right now. Be sure to keep an eye on Twitter for any updates from me.