Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
–Mark Twain – Following the Equator
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (Watashi ga Motenai no wa dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!) (Crunchyroll) is brilliantly written and nicely animated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will enjoy it. If your memories of high school involve being shy and socially awkward and not really fitting in then it may make you laugh. Unless of course those memories are still too painful to think about. At best, even if you laugh it will also make you wince.
In a typical anime Tomoko would have been shanghaied into a club in the first episode and forced to do scary things that would eventually give her new-found confidence and fond memories. Watamote, to its credit, has carefully avoided any such facile anime solutions. In fact Tomoko invariably makes things worse for herself when she tries to act like an anime character.
Thus it’s not surprising that the series ended with no resolution to Tomoko’s problems. Perhaps she has become a little less deluded. Or maybe she has just added on another layer of self-deception.
All that I can say is that this is the only TV show that ever made me really worry about a cartoon character. That surely says something about the level of craftsmanship involved.
(See also my original post from the beginning of the season.)
I guess I’m getting more sentimental as I age, but I found Watamote to be incredibly moving. As you rightly note, the show’s humor is grounded in sorrow, and as a result, among the few things in the series I didn’t like were some of the over-broad jokes, especially earlier in the run.
But what a series it was. How many television shows tackle social anxiety, and do so in such a direct and uncompromising fashion? Tomoko is frequently not a very sympathetic character, and yet, you cannot help but root for her to overcome her fears.
I find much of the best anime (in addition to Watamote, Hyouka would be another example) to be extremely melancholy. I’m not sure if that’s something intrinsic to Japanese culture, or if I just need to get out more, but it lends an incredible beauty to a show such as this, encompassing as it does that old tagline from Kino’s Journey: “The world is not a beautiful place; so, therefore, it is.”
Like you, I’m not sure if it’s fair to say Tomoko has progressed all that much over the course of the series, but I think the ending, a bit fan service-y though it may have been, was a gorgeously heartrending way to conclude. You see, as relentlessly depressing as Tomoko’s world is, the show makes absolutely clear throughout that everything really isn’t so awful. The boy with the umbrella; her cousin; her father non-judgmentally tucking her into bed; the culture festival head who was so kind and understanding these last two episodes. Heck, all in all, even her brother was pretty nice to her.
We all have our problems, of course, but I believe Watamote sends a clear message: there is real hope out there for all of us.
I know it’s not a widely held opinion, but Watamote was an astonishingly beautiful show.