Have you ever watched a particular character or a particular Anime and found yourself thinking “I’m a little like that”? I’ve found myself thinking that exact thing every now and then while watching Watamote, one of the new series rolling out for the ‘Summer’ season.
From the opening moments of episode one, watching poor Tomoko dealing with the harsh reality of everyday life, the term ‘Social Anxiety’ comes to mind. While often being mistaken as ‘just really shy,’ Social Anxiety can actually be a rather limiting form of mental illness. People find it hard to make new friends or be in social situations, often going out of their way to avoid such encounters (things I myself find a little difficult.) A quick google search also finds that ‘Social Anxiety’ or ‘Social Phobia’ is fairly common in Japan, where it can also be known as ‘Taijin kyofusho’ (roughly translated as ‘fear of interpersonal relations syndrome,) and affects between 10 and 20 percent of Japanese folk.
You get the feeling the creators of Watamote wanted to raise some awareness about this issue, and have done so with such humor and rawness that potentially connects with someone who is dealing with Social Anxiety, and invokes a more positive outlook on life.
The show centers on Tomoko Kuroki, who has just started high school with the rather optimistic approach of being immensly popular and, due to her vast experience with dating sims, is confident she’ll bag herself a man within a month of starting high school. Trouble is, Tomoko is so incredibly reserved and petrified of human interaction that even something simple as ordering at a fast-food restaurant take an incredible amount of courage. Before she knows it, it’s been three months into high school, as she has barely said a word to anyone, to the point where she literally gets ignored in PE class (until she cops a basketball to the head that is.)
Of course, in private, Tomoko is completely the opposite, being rather bubbly and optimistic (albeit very eccentric and odd), and predictably often clashes with her brother Tomoki, who struggles to understand her weird behavior. That weird behavior also lands her in some hilarious situations, but there are times where you feel slightly sorry for her, as she goes to great pains to become popular. Unfortunately her oddball personality often gets in the way of this, however it is this very personality that makes her one of the most adorable characters of recent years.
Watamote has all the oddness that has been in Anime comedies as of late (Mysterious Girlfriend X comes to mind,) but has a big heart. I hope we get to see Tomoko become a little more confident as the show progresses. It promises to be one of the better shows of the Summer season.