Technically, this anime doesn't do anything new.
So why does it get a five star review?
It's charming and relatable. I instantly connected with the characters. It made me laugh! Yeah...I really liked it.
Wotakoi isn't the only romance anime out there, nor is it the first anime to follow an all adult cast. It's not even the first story to make otaku (nerds) its subject matter.
But it does tell a story about adult nerds, with ordinary jobs, romances, & friends really, really, well.
Our main character, Narumi, is a 26 year old office worker. She's recently single and starting a new job. On her first day, she runs into a childhood friend: Hirotaka.
This sends Narumi into a panic.
She wants a fresh start at this job, and part of that includes keeping her nerdy hobbies a secret from her new coworkers.
Tragically, Hirotaka outs her right away by asking if she'll be attending an upcoming convention.
Luckily for Narumi, the coworkers present, Koyanagi & Kabakura, are also nerds.
Narumi and Hirotaka quickly form a routine of getting drinks together, and playing games, after work. Narumi has no filter around Hirotaka, and you get the sense that Hirotaka just has no filter at all.
Narumi complains about life, about her past romances, and about getting stuck in her current game. Hirotaka pokes fun at her shortcomings, but then always offers support.
Narumi values Hirotaka. But she isn't pursuing him romantically. She says they couldn't date because it would ruin their friendship.
But on their walk home one night, Hirotaka asks Narumi to date him.
This really worked for me 👍.
Hirotaka isn't just springing this on Narumi out of the blue.
She clearly enjoys his company. They're childhood friends. They already spend their evenings together. And while Narumi says she wouldn't date an Otaku, she's made it clear her past relationships failed because she tried to hide her nerdiness from boyfriends who would've found it off-putting.
Narumi wouldn't have to hide who she is with Hirotaka.
Hirotaka tells Narumi:
"If we dated, I would help you grind for materials or levels whenever you wanted. I would wait with you whenever you had overtime. I would never dash your hopes or make you cry. And I'd never tell you you're in the wrong. Plus I'd table for you at your event in two weeks."
It might not sound like the most romantic confession -- because its not.
At this point, we have no evidence that either character has romantic feelings for the other. However, Narumi accepts his offer & they seal the deal with a handshake.
It's silly. It's awkward. It's down to earth.
The rest of the story explores daily life for these two characters as they navigate their careers, various hobbies, and budding relationship. The miscommunication they experience along the way is both believable and funny. As are the insecurities that arise.
They feel like a real couple.
They can be immature together. They continue to tease each other the way most couples do when they're in private... talking to the same partner day after day. Lol.
But the anime also gives us more mature moments, like when Hirotaka invites Narumi to his house for the first time -- and Narumis first thought is "what color underwear did I put on this morning?"
They're both taking the relationship seriously. But Narumi needs more convincing to fall in love with Hirotaka. She's reevaluating her expectations for a relationship as they go.
Are we just settling each other?
Because Hirotaka isn't the most adept at expressing himself, its a slow process.
This romantic story highlights partnership.
We can guess Narumi was previously chasing romance, and physical attraction, with the men she tried dating, but maybe her and Hirotaka fit together better.
Admittedly, this isn't the most romantic story. These characters show love through daily actions, rather than grand romantic gestures, or words. But seeing this kind of romance is refreshing.
Equally refreshing to see is that both Hirotaka & Narumi keep their hobbies, rather than making their new romantic partner their sole hobby in life.
I appreciate that this story included a friendship along side the romantic plot.
Just like Narumi & Hirotaka's relationship, their friendship with the other secret office couple seems inevitable.
Because the characters were fleshed out during the early scenes, the anime had no trouble convincing me that these four would be friends.
They have great group chemistry.
Each friend has their main hobby. Hirotaka likes solo gaming, Narumi likes BL manga, Koyanagi does cosplay, and Kabakura seems to keep up with his waifus. But they can all appreciate each others hobbies too.
Whether they're getting drinks after work, gaming, shopping a bookstore, or at a convention together, they're having fun being themselves.
The Secondary Couple
Koyanagi and Kabakura have been together since high school. The story sets them up as a foil to our main couple who've only just gotten together.
While our main couple are pretty polite with each other, these two fight constantly and have a fiery communication style.
Despite how abrasive they appear, we see some sweet moments too.
I can't imagine we're supposed to look at their relationship and simply think "Yep. That's just another type of love."
The anime doesn't necessarily excuse their bad behavior... but it also doesn't resolve itself to fix it any time soon. I think they're supposed to provide comedy, but because of the translation factor I can't say for sure.
The comedy relies heavily on inside jokes, which any otaku would relate to.
I don't want to spoil any of the jokes in this review.
Some of the humor is region locked to Japan. The manga explains these references in the translation notes. It's worth reading. Not picking up on these won't hinder your enjoyment of the story, because the jokes will fly right over your head. But going back later with the explanation makes you realize just how much comedy is packed into the series.
I thought this anime was fantastic. But I also might be the specific demographic it's catering to.
Im 28. I've worked in offices. I've had an office romance. I'm a nerd. My boyfriend's a nerd. My friends are nerds 🤷♀️😅.
I would recommend anyone whose a little interested in this story to watch it. I'd also recommend watching the anime before reading the manga. While the manga provides a bit more detail, there's more cohesion to the story in the anime.
My only critique is that I need a season two!
Full Title: Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Series: 11 Episodes (+ a backstory OVA)
Language: Japanese, English Subtitles
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life
I'm curious to know what someone who didn't relate to the characters thought of this anime. Was it still entertaining?
Thanks for reading!
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