Anime: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Season aired: Spring 2018
Number of episodes: 11
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life
Thoughts: Frankly, I’m really sad to see Wotakoi go. While it wasn’t the most outstanding slice-of-life anime with cute dragon maids or stellar animation, I always looked forward to the newest episode. When I wasn’t fulfilling my lifestyle of 2-day shipping for manga and Blu-rays on Amazon Prime, I hopped onto the site’s video streaming service, switched on the subtitles, and tuned in to the hilarity of working otakus. Just watching the characters interact never failed to bring a smile to my face and every episode left me feeling satisfied.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is an adaptation of a webmanga about a group of coworkers who are all otakus and their struggle to express their passions openly and to romance themselves with someone who isn’t a 2D character. To say the least, these obstacles are overwhelmingly huge. Most of the characters are well aware of the otaku stigma in society and some of them have tried to conceal their hobbies for the longest time. Yet they find comfort in this mismatch group of coworkers that doesn’t discourage them for being who they are. They also make sure that they aren’t neglecting their duties as a working adult. Eventually, all of them end up in couples, with childhood friends Narumi Momose and Hirotaka Nifuji as the main focus of the anime.
One of the reasons why I enjoyed Wotakoi so much is because it’s one of those animes that doesn’t glorify the NEET lifestyle. Instead, it points out that it’s okay to be an otaku. As long as you put in the effort to be a contributing member of society, then it’s fine to like whatever that’s out there. This message is regularly mentioned throughout the anime, but it never grows old with the comedic hijinks and otaku references. For someone like me who follows the Western equivalent of “Work hard, play hard,” Wotakoi’s message really resonated with me. You don’t have to cast away what you love to “fit in.” Keep doing what you love and be original, but at least learn how to function normally in a “blue-blood” society and embrace your responsibilities at work. That way, you get the best of both worlds.
Now the romance part is arguably the funniest, if the most relatable thing for an otaku. It’s not the kind of humor that makes you LOL in your living room, but it makes you chuckle out of nervousness because of how realistic it is. From the very beginning, social butterfly Narumi confesses to Hirotaka that she’s not interested in dating anyone who’s accepting of her otaku side because it would mean they too are an otaku and that’s “creepy.”
I sniggered at this scene because it was so ironic that she ended up dating an otaku (i.e. Hirotaka), but also because Narumi’s reasoning isn’t so far off the mark. In terms of a relationship, it’s not so romantic when you’re constantly gushing about your waifu to your otaku SO who’s functioning as the peanut gallery during a date or a relaxing night after work. It can be a bit of a turn-off, especially if the SO wants to do something that most couples do at that moment. Even more so, if both of you share the same tastes when it comes to more… questionable things, then it could be easily said that both of you are degenerates, which I don’t think Narumi wants most people to see her as.
Surprisingly though, all the couples managed to wade through that awkward period of “Oh god, I’m dating an otaku” and found a way to balance out their lives. Over the course of eleven episodes, Narumi grew increasingly comfortable as Hirotaka’s otaku girlfriend, Kabakura yielded to Koyanagi’s insistence to crossdress cosplay, and Kou bonded with blue-blood Nao by patiently teaching him how to play MMOs. None of these interactions felt forced at all, and I enjoyed all the cute shoujo moments between the couples.
But like most slice-of-life animes, there’s usually a bit of a hiccup with the animation. The first four episodes had a lot of fluctuating designs for the in-between scenes that weren’t drawn out in the 4-koma. To say the least, it was slightly frustrating to see lopsided eyes or unshaded sections of the character designs. However, adapting a 4-koma manga isn’t the easiest thing in the world, even if it’s done by a top-tier studio like A-1 Pictures, so I let it slide. To my relief, A-1 Pictures seemed to pick up on this note, and the animation quality started to improve by episode 5.
Soundtrack-wise, there isn’t much to comment on. But the opening song “Fiction” by Sumika is very upbeat and describes the whimsical nature of relationships that exist in Wotakoi. For these characters who are always feeling nervous about entering or ending romantic relationships because of their otaku priorities, don’t worry! You have the ability to rewrite your “story” anytime and find the right person. To follow up on that note, at the end of each episode is Halca’s “Kimi no Tonari” which emphasizes the awkwardness of being in a relationship and advises the characters to take it slow if needed. It’s got a very cute vibe to it that makes me want sing-along whenever I hear it.
All in all, what really makes Wotakoi shine is its rich and experienced voice acting cast. The workaholic yet yuri-loving otaku Kabakura is voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, which is hilarious because I keep hearing either Gintoki from Gintama or Joseph from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency making stupid jokes instead of scolding Narumi for making over 200 paper copies at work. Then there’s Aoi Yūki who’s most notable for her roles as the confident Yuuki from Sword Art Online and the ruthless Tanya from Saga of Tanya the Evil, but she ends up playing the super timid Ko Sakuragi in Wotakoi. And who could forget the critically acclaimed Yūki Kaji as the sweet yet oblivious Naoya? All of their variable talents really breathed life into Wotakoi and made it a much more pleasurable experience.
However, my favorite is Narumi’s voice actress Arisa Date, who surprisingly isn’t as popular as the aforementioned three. Despite being a part of the main cast and not having as much experience, Arisa proved to be very versatile with her variable tonal shifts, which allows Narumi to be this super cutesy girl for one second and then a screeching fujoshi in the next. It’s totally realistic, and I think it really represents us as an audience when someone cosplays as our favorite character or when we forget to hit up our favorite artist’s booth at a convention.
Ultimately, Wotakoi is a unique romance anime with an otaku twist to it. On a presentation scale, it’s nothing laudable and most people probably dismissed it during its seasonal run. But its heartfelt message, quirky characters, and witty references make it all the more enjoyable to watch. I highly recommend watching it when you need a momentary break from work or school to get in touch with your otaku side.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 8
FINAL SCORE: 72
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is now streaming on Amazon.