Manga or Anime? – Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku

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What is it about Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku that keeps drawing me back? So far I’ve probably watched the anime about three times now all the way through. I’ve also picked up all three US volumes (6 Japanese volumes) of the manga and have read through all of those at least twice. I’ve reviewed the anime before on this blog, and I stick by my assessment that it’s a genuinely great series about nerdy people falling in love. It’s an anime I think we really needed with its energy, comedy, and healthy older relationships. So after the anime ended I felt the need to pick up the manga and see what other content there was, and I have to say that the anime is a fairly faithful adaptation with some minor changes to pacing and story. Like a lot of other adaptations, there are advantages to each medium whether it be animation or comics, and I find myself enjoying both the anime and the manga almost equally. However, there are a few notable differences between the two that I’d like to touch on more below.

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The anime covers through volume two of the manga (or volume 4 of the Japanese version), and one of the first things I noticed when starting to compare them was just how the pacing and structure of the anime differs from that of the manga. The manga was originally created as a web manga published on Pixiv and was then compiled into actual volumes later when it was picked up by a major publisher. Because of this, the manga feels a little more disorganized. The chapters can vary in length, sometimes with just short comedy strips that are a page long and some chapters (or episodes as they’re called in the manga) up to 5 or more pages in length. The varying chapter lengths really give the manga a almost 4-Koma or comedy/gag manga feel, and in some ways that’s what Wotakoi is.

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When we take a look at the pacing and the organization of the chapters in the first two US volumes of the manga, I think that’s where we see the big difference between the anime and the manga itself. The manga has a very loose story structure. The chapters are usually not continuous, so the story doesn’t flow from one chapter to the next, it actually skips around. For something like the amusement park date arc, where the anime compiled all that into one continuous episode, the manga actually chopped it up and inserted it between stories of them going to the bookstore or telling scary stories. The continuity of the story is there as you continue reading, but it’s not all back-to-back.

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In the anime, the writing staff seemed to pull out the chapters that related to one another and created continuous story arcs from them. Some chapters were shuffled around from the manga to make the pacing and overall story work and have everything make more sense. The amusement park date arc got its own episode. The MMO video game arc got its own couple episodes in the anime. Everything was just tied more continuously together to make it work as an anime. The kind of loose and disorganized feel of the manga I think only works in comics form and as shorter animations, and I’m completely fine with that. I think what A-1 Pictures was able to do with the anime really helped make it shine and work in the new medium. The organized the story, added bits here and there to make it more continuous and help pacing, and generally fleshed out a few things better.

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The advantage of translating a manga into an anime in terms of representing the story and plot well I think really comes into play when we look at two specific scenes: the conversation between Momose and Koyanagi about ships and the scene where Hirotaka and Kabakura go out to drinks with their coworkers. Both of these are separate and distinct chapters in the manga. They are presented back-to-back, but in the anime, the writing team was able to switch much better between the two scenes because of the nature of animation. In a sense, the anime was able to bring out the contrast better between these two scenes in terms of the conversations the girls were having versus the boys. Cutting back and forth allows the director to reinforce the difference between Momose and Koyanagi’s ability to openly talk about shipping their boyfriends together in contrast to Hirotaka and Kabakura’s unwillingness to discuss relationships with their coworkers. I like how the scene was handled in both versions, but I do think the anime really did a great job bringing out and putting on display the meaning behind it.

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Another place where animation was key at making the scene really come together.

The anime also has the advantage of great music, effects, and voice actors to really add to the story that the manga provides. I can’t tell you how much I love the opening and ending for this show. The opening song is so catchy and upbeat that it really gets me excited to watch the show every time it comes on. Combined with the opening animations that introduce the main characters well and is generally really cute and funny in the same vein as the show itself, I would say it adds a lot to Wotakoi that the manga cannot do. Same with the voice acting in the anime as well. I really love the actors they picked for these characters and I really think they do a good job of conveying each character’s personalities through the way they speak. Momose’s voice actress, Arisa Date, in particular has a pretty great range in how she is able to portray Momose’s ability to switch between normal voice and otaku voice at will. Great voice actors in general also help gags and jokes land better.

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However, the manga does have the advantage of Fujita’s great art, and there are some places where I almost prefer seeing the inked panels rather than the animated scenes. Scenes where there are really expressive emotions or pretty much any scene where Kabakura gets really angry just tends to look more dynamic in the manga than it does in the anime. Maybe it’s the specific look and contrast that black and white afford expressive scenes that does it or how the line-art is a tad more sketchy than the art in the anime. Either or both are good explanations in general when comparing anime and manga adaptations. Or maybe it’s just that tactile feel of flipping one of these pages and seeing the art and expressions of the characters really jump out at you. I think Fujita’s art just does that to me sometimes especially when it comes to the expressiveness of her characters.

But there’s another advantage the manga has over the anime and that is the ability to expand on it characters, ideas, and puns with the overwhelmingly more space it has and how much easier it is to insert that kind of information in. One of the things the manga has are little insert pages between chapters that expand on the personality, likes and dislikes, and habits of the main characters. Some of them are just like information on their blood type or Zodiac sign, but some do expand on their daily habits and contrast those with the other characters like whether or not one of them is a morning person. Additionally, for someone who is not a Japanese native or speaker of the language, I really enjoy having translator’s notes at the end of each volume. I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable anime and manga fan, but there are still a of references and gags in Wotakoi that fly over my head because I’m not constantly engaged in all of Japanese culture. It’s great to be able to look over the translator’s notes and see what I missed to better understand the exact meaning of the joke.

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In general too manga just tends to have more story and characterization than the anime adaptation. The Wotakoi anime is a pretty damn near faithful adaptation, but they can’t capture everything. So what we see in the manga is more characterization of Kabakura and Koyanagi (even though they’ll be getting their own OVA soon) and more of Nao and Ko. The last relationship I think was what I most disappointed to not see more of in the anime, and kind of felt a little cheated that Ko was only introduced in episode 10, right near the end of the season. The anime chose to focus more on the main four, but I also think Nao and Ko’s relationship offers some great contrast to Hirotaka and Nao’s relationship as brothers. The anime also teases the misunderstanding of Nao thinking Ko is a guy but never following through whereas we see that resolution happen at the end of volume two of the manga.

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Have a smiling Hirotaka to brighten your day.

In the end, I would honestly say that if you loved the anime definitely go pick up the manga. The anime is pretty much faithful to the source material, only changing and expanding on a few small things to get the overall plot to flow better. The manga also keeps getting better each volume. I just picked up volume three and I absolutely loved where Fujita starts to take the story. If only we could get another season, but I feel like they may be waiting for more content before considering another season. We’re already getting an OVA with Kabakura and Koyanagi and a live action TV show, so who knows what else is being planned. Anyways, I super enjoy this series and it has probably made it into my top 5 right now, so I highly suggest reading and watching both the manga and anime to really get the full picture of Wotakoi.

There are a bunch of other differences I could touch on, but let me know in the comments if there was a specific scene in the manga that you thought was handled better or worse in the anime.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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4 thoughts on “Manga or Anime? – Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku

  1. I think I generally prefer manga for slice-of-life comedies unless the anime has a very inventive narrative or art style. Otherwise, dragging things into full-length episodes often damages the pacing.
    I haven’t read Wotakoi’s manga, but based on your post, I think there’s a high chance i’d prefer it to the anime. The anime’s got a killer OP though! “Hirari hirari~~”

    Liked by 1 person

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