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by Kevin Cormack,

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd Stage

Anime Series Review

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd Stage Anime Series Review

With the help of seemingly "perfect" high school girl Aoi Hinami, socially awkward gamer Tomozaki Fumiya has successfully begun navigating the complexities of real life, no longer considering it a "trash game." Even though he's managed to make friends and find a place for himself within his classroom hierarchy, Hinami's not done with Tomozaki yet! His new assignments are to influence a difficult bullying situation and then find himself a girlfriend!

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd Stage is based on the light novels written by Yuki Yaku and streams on Crunchyroll.


I was a little surprised when Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd Stage failed to win enough ANN reader votes for weekly streaming reviews of its second season, as I'd been under the impression the first season was pretty popular. I guess I was wrong. To several of my internet buddies, each successive volume of Tomozaki's source light novel might as well be a brand new Bible testament. I'm not quite so obsessed. I've not read the light novels, but I immensely enjoyed the first season, feeling like it was a less navel-gazing, more broadly entertaining take on My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU.

As before, Second Stage's biggest strength is in its complex, nuanced character development and dynamics. Unlike SNAFU's Hachiman, Tomozaki is less likely to be mistaken as a sociopath-in-training. He's a fairly typical teen – low confidence among crowds and people he doesn't know well, preferring to spend his time enjoying an environment he can control – the online game Attack Families (or AtaFami for short. It's a blatant Super Smash Bros. homage.) His main rival on the game's leaderboards, NO NAME, is Aoi Hinami. They continue to spar regularly online throughout this season, but Tomozaki's AtaFami alter ego "nanashi" remains an undisputed winner.

Mostly, the show focuses on Tomozaki's character development via real-life interactions, as dictated by puppet master Hinami. Now, I don't think there is a teenage girl alive with the sheer determination, drive, and psychological insight that Hinami demonstrates when manipulating her self-image or the classmates around her. She's a disturbing character who will do almost anything to maintain her status and enforce her version of justice while keeping herself squeaky clean and seemingly above reproach.

The conclusion to the first five-episode arc showcases Hinami at her Machiavellian worst, with even Tomozaki and some other characters recoiling in horror at her blatant emotional manipulation of bully Erika's feelings. The outcome is (arguably) very positive, but to achieve her rigid version of justice for the bullied Tama, Hinami reveals more than a little of the cold, calculating monster beneath her myriad masks. This entire arc is uncomfortable, and I know it turned some viewers off. Still, I found its examination of the group dynamics around bullying fascinating, even if I'd hesitate to call it "entertaining."

Hinami is a difficult character to like by this point in the story. Although her influence on Tomozaki's social standing has benefited him, I'm glad we see him push back morally on some of her methods. She's a great, if unrealistic, character. The show couldn't exist without her, though the second major arc that comprises the remainder of the season features her much less prominently. Instead, the focus moves to the two main female characters Hinami assigns Tomozaki to choose between – mousy, introspective writer Fuuka Kikuchi and blue-haired goddess of beaming smiles and chaos Mimimi (absolute Best Girl, I will broker no disagreement, fight me).

Mimimi seems like a more standard "genki girl" character in that she's bouncy and upbeat and gives people silly nicknames (Tomozaki is "Brain," for example), but she's quite self-conscious and thoughtful. I love her deranged but fiercely supportive friendship with the much quieter Tama. I was rooting for Mimimi to get her guy, but is Tomozaki the right one for her? Kikuchi, in comparison, is more challenging to quantify. She's introverted, very focused on her writing, and tends to be more self-defeating in her attitude. I never really warmed to her character, but I can see how Tomozaki would like her. It's a mark of good writing when you can appreciate the characters' nuances and development without particularly vibing with them.

I found the season's final arc to drag quite a bit, especially with the reliance on the school play as a plot device. It's honestly a bit clumsy and even frustrating – I don't care about the characters of this story-within-a-story, even if they're thinly veiled versions of the "real" characters! Tomozaki and Kikuchi's discussions of a fictional author's novels and characters also provide a level of abstraction above their actual feelings, and sometimes, I find their interactions difficult to parse (or care about!)

As highlighted in this earlier ANN article, Tomozaki's beautiful background art is heavily based on real-life places. This certainly lends the show an air of realism. In general, it's an attractive show with decent character animation and expressive designs. I also love the energetic opening and ending songs from the 8-piece band Dialogue+, with lyrics and sound effects heavily referencing Tomozaki and Aoi's competitive gamer personas.

Overall, it's a very classy anime production with deep, interesting characters that, while very affecting, sometimes operate at a level or two removed from the more primal emotions I think it should evoke in the viewer. I often sat back and appreciated the author's narrative skill rather than feel as deeply invested in the characters as I wanted. Much like the superficially similar SNAFU, Tomozaki is not an anime for everyone. There's little action; it's mostly talking heads and introspection, but I still recommend it for those with the patience to appreciate its subtleties.

Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A

+ Complex, thoughtful character writing, Mimimi is wonderful.
Sometimes over-intellectualises its subject matter almost to the point of viewer alienation.

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Production Info:
Director: Shinsuke Yanagi
Series Composition: Fumihiko Shimo
Shingo Nagai
Fumihiko Shimo
Yūki Yaku
Yuka Yamada
Shiyo Hatsumida
Keiichi Ishikura
Akira Nishimori
Atsushi Satō
Shinsuke Yanagi
Episode Director:
Masayuki Matsumoto
Yoshihisa Matsumoto
Norihiko Nagahama
Takeyuki Sadohara
Shōto Shinkai
Takanori Yano
Unit Director:
Atsushi Satō
Shinsuke Yanagi
Music: Hiromi Mizutani
Original creator: Yūki Yaku
Original Character Design: Fly
Character Design: Akane Yano
Chief Animation Director:
Kenichi Matsumoto
Takahiro Mizuno
Eri Ogawa
Akane Yano
Animation Director:
Min Mi Ahn
Hyo Jung An
Ju Hyeong Eom
Seung Hee Ha
Beom Seok Hong
You Seon Hwang
Kumiko Kawahara
Hyun Ok Kim
Jeong Soon Kim
Seo Young Ko
Yong Sang Kwon
Ji Taek Lee
Sang Min Lee
Se Jong Lee
Suk Yoon Lee
Young Mi Lee
Kenichi Matsumoto
Hyeon Suk Min
Takahiro Mizuno
Sang Ho Park
Ryuji Tsuzuku
Akane Yano
Sound Director: Satoshi Motoyama

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Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd Stage (TV 2)

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