It’s rare that an anime depicts the lives of everyday, adult otaku. It is even rarer that it uses their romantic relationship as its main crux. That’s why the adaptation of Fujita’s manga Wotakoi has been such a welcome show this spring. Instead of falling back on self-deprecation, the joy of isolation, and socially awkward scenarios we instead have a comedy about otaku who are in a relationship. Sure there are awkward moments, and plenty of jokes only an otaku will get, but it never belittles them for laughs. It’s a show adult otaku can both enjoy and relate to. Oh, can we ever relate to it.
Starting in the office of some nondescript Japanese company, Narumi Momose is hoping to blend in and hide her fujoshi lifestyle from her coworkers. Dumped by past boyfriends because of her hobby she feels some unwarranted shame, yet still hopes no one at her new job finds out her secret. However, running into the handsome game otaku Hirotaka Nifuji causes those plans to unravel. Along with their fellow employees, cosplayer Hanako Koyanagi and boyfriend Taro Kabakura, they navigate the ups and downs of being in love while also being otaku.
What’s been so refreshing about Wotakoi is that these otaku are never depicted as people who sit around home and waste away, nor does it treat their otaku habits as punching bag. They are adults, they work, they’re in relationships, and they do things like go out to drink after work. It’s incredibly relatable, they might have a game night together or they might go out to have a beer or go to a café. Sometimes days are filled with both activities. It’s in this depiction of otaku that Wotakoi presents a very genuine experience. It’s optimistic, while love is hard for otaku as the title implies it is also rewarding and the characters are happier for being together.
The adventures of Wotakoi’s four core characters take up the majority of the show’s time. We’ve gotten plenty of development and attention paid to the ups and downs of the two main relationships. Hirotaka’s brother, Naoya, is a supporting character who shows up in a few episodes. His role has been that of cheerleader. He wants his brother to be happy. Beyond that there hasn’t really been another character introduced with a continuing role. In that sense, the show can feel seem a bit monotonous to the outside observer. But, it’s all about the scenarios the main characters get involved in that make each episode so fluid and enjoyable. These are relatable events with real characters, but not to the extent of mirroring our own lives. Wotakoi has given its own characters enough of a distinctive personality where we can watch as a viewer and feel detached, while reflecting on the episode later makes us remember a time almost exactly like that.
A downside of a show so focused on just a few characters is that we sometimes need more dramatic arcs. But this is a pure romantic comedy, and as a result we don’t see enough of that. Both relationships have their own progressions, but for the individual characters there sadly haven’t been a lot of developmental arcs. And there isn’t an overarching plot that’s carrying with us through the entire show. These are short adventures, and they build into each other slightly but not with the dramatic force a stronger narrative would. I must stress these are minor flaws, and flaws often inherent to shows similar to Wotakoi.
Overall, Wotakoi is at worst a pleasant break from the endless wave of anime about otaku that laugh at otaku. There aren’t many attempts made at cringe humor. Instead its comedy is derived from the individual circumstances each character brings to an episode. We laugh along with the episodes, either because we’ve been there before or because each character is so enjoyable to watch. For any adult otaku this is a show I’d classify as a must-watch. And for any younger otaku, well you’ll get a kick out of it too seeing how people don’t really ever truly grow up.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is currently being simulcast on Amazon Prime.