The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
WATATEN!: an Angel Flew Down to Me
How would you rate episode 1 of
WATATEN!: an Angel Flew Down to Me ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
If this premiere is any indication, WATATEN! is poised to spend the season walking a tightrope between almost tolerable humor and off-putting creepiness. While there's drama to be found in watching something teeter on the verge of disaster, I think I'll skip this particular balancing act. No matter how much restraint is used in the delivery, the premise of an adult obsessing over a fifth grader is just a bridge too far.
The show certainly goes out of its way to make that scenario more palatable, starting with the general nature of Miyako's interest in Hana. For the time being, it's portrayed as a kind of aesthetic admiration rather than physical desire, even if the word “lust” still popped into my head while I was watching it play out. In taking Miyako's reaction an extra half-step beyond the ordinary “cute things are cute” routine, the script pushes itself out of any middle ground where it could have been written off as an innocent joke. If anything, all the exaggerated attempts at restraint just make the final product seem more suspicious.
It also irks me that there's clearly some decent creative talent being poured into this thing. When it's not being actively creepy, this premiere manages to put together some decent jokes. The ending scene of Miyako trying on one of her own cosplay outfits is particularly well done, as it jumps from the goofy joy of dressing up to the abject horror of being seen doing something embarrassing. The art and animation are also strong, and the visual direction generally avoids lingering too long on anything fanservicey. Competent work is being done here, it just happens to be in the service of a bad idea.
If the premise doesn't immediately turn you away, WATATEN! is strong enough in its production that could provide some comedic entertainment. I can also see people watching this show out of morbid curiosity, just to see if it can last a whole season without tipping all the way into pedophilic territory. Personally, neither of those appeals are enough to override my gut reaction of discomfort, so count me out.
I spent the bulk of this series' first episode trying to figure out exactly what was intended by the presentation, as while its premise isn't as inherently creepy as Uzamaid!, it still at least strays near some questionable territory. Ultimately, I'm still undecided as to how innocent this content can really be considered.
Taken purely at face value, this is a slice-of-life comedy about a socially awkward young woman who's masterful at making cosplay outfits and sweets but otherwise lives as a shut-in. She's then overwhelmed by one of her sister's friends, who maxes out her cute meter. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with this if Miyako's ponderings about her reactions to Hana couldn't easily be described as some degree of love or lust, and her behavior certainly sets off warning bells for young Hana. One of the episode's running jokes is that Miyako is behaving like the kind of person that kids should be wary around, but that Hana is too susceptible to the temptation of sweets to fully heed what she's been taught about such situations. Miyako's sister (and Hana's friend) is gleefully and childishly oblivious to any degree of tension in this situation, although she seems to understand her elder sister's awkwardness well.
I do want to stress that there's nothing overtly sexual about the result, so I wouldn't go as far as calling this lolicon; more of a lolicon tease, perhaps? On the whole, the intent seems to be more making jokes about behaviors that could easily be seen as creepy but are in truth benign, such as when Miyako assumes an angle for taking pictures that's commonly associated with up-skirt shots, even though she doesn't seem to have lascivious intent. This is a landmine-filled path to walk, and while the first episode doesn't set off any explosions, it's still putting itself in the danger zone.
The technical merits are run-of-the-mill for Dogakobo's slice-of-life content, although Hana is convincingly cute and the cosplay outfit designs (the first of which heavily resembles Ruri's outfit from Oreimo) are pretty sharp. Overall, I can see this one being mildly entertaining if you can handle the way it dances around the creep factor, but it's definitely not going to be to everyone's tastes.
This is one of those shows I'm conflicted about. The fact that it's based on a four-panel manga that runs in a yuri magazine is largely where my issues stem from. Miyako's a teenager or in her early twenties and basically a shut-in – her little sister, fifth grader Hinata, tells her friend that Miyako is very shy and doesn't like to have people who aren't family in the house. Poorly managed social anxiety of this intensity can sometimes make the sufferers feel more comfortable interacting with people outside of their age group. In that sense, Miyako wanting to be friends with Hinata's pal Hana makes sense, and she comes off as creepy to Hana because Miyako lacks basic social skills.
However, much as I'd love to take a deeper psychoanalytic view of this episode, it's much more likely that Miyako simply finds Hana attractive in a sexual sense. Hana's inner stranger danger alarm is going off full blast – she finds Miyako's swift attraction to her totally creepy, and by the time Miyako is asking to take her measurements, the poor kid is ready to leave and never come back. That alone is enough to sour me on this episode, because making fifth graders uncomfortable isn't my cup of entertainment tea.
That said, it's clearly being played for laughs. Hana, being a fifth grader, is easily persuaded to do things with Miyako's amazing homemade pastries, and Hinata is totally oblivious to all subtext, making her a goofy counterpoint to both Hana and Miyako. Hana's deadpan reactions to Miyako are also at least a little amusing, mostly because of the faces she makes. Likewise, the scene at the end where another little girl sees Miyako doing a magical girl routine in full cosplay is kind of fun, although the theme song promises that this kid will become another member of the fifth grade harem Miyako's building, so that makes it more uncomfortable.
Simply put, WATATEN isn't as icky or uncomfortable as some other lolita series we've had in the past, but it has enough of that vibe to make it something that some viewers will want to avoid. If you just like shows with cute girls, it may be more palatable, but right now this feels like it's aimed at a very specific niche audience I am not a part of.
After spending years as the resident champions of fluffy, luxuriously animated slice of life shows, Doga Kobo have been indulging in some questionable passions these last few months. Their major production last season was Uzamaid!, a show about an adult woman who gets herself a job as a maid so she can lust after the little girl she's taking care of. And this season, they're offering WATATEN!, a show about a college-aged woman doing basically the same thing.
Adults lusting after children isn't my bag, and the first half of this premiere was predictably rough as a result. While Uzamaid! framed its dynamic as over-the-top farce, WATATEN!'s framing feels more like a genuine romance, which made it that much harder to engage with. Our college student, Miyako Hoshino, spends most of this first half dizzily wondering what this “funny, squirmy feeling” she feels towards fifth-grader Hana could be. In a shoujo romance, this would probably parse as charmingly naive, but the inherently predatory nature of such a relationship in this case meant I couldn't really sympathize with Miyako. As a result, many scenes that were executed perfectly well by romcom standards fell flat because I couldn't buy into the feelings of the protagonist.
The second half fared better, as it actually switched us to Hana's perspective. Hana is perfectly aware that Miyako is a huge creeper, and I found her internal negotiations weighing her desire for sweets versus her dislike of Miyako pretty funny. As you'd expect from Doga Kobo, the animation is also quite fluid, the character designs are expressive, and the comedy beats are generally snappy. Additionally, outside of a cosplay shoot framed from Miyako's perspective, I didn't feel there was too much predatory framing of this show's young stars—basically, I was relieved to see the camera's eye didn't necessarily share Miyako's obsession.
Ultimately, my lack of sympathy for Miyako's perspective was just too great for me to get much out of this episode. The show found her significantly more charming and sympathetic than I did, and that disconnect kept me from appreciating the show's other strengths. WATATEN! is a reasonably executed premiere, but I'll be happier if Doga Kobo gets through this “profoundly predatory romance” phase.
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