Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku ?
As a comedy about otaku, Wotakoi is contractually obligated to include at least one Comiket episode, and here it is! (However, since it technically lasts only half of the episode, don't be too surprised if they return in the winter.)
Narumi moonlights as a BL artist of some renown, so naturally Comiket is a big deal for her. This was alluded to in episode one, but it's nice to see that passion of hers in action—the frazzled, sleepless passion of a woman with only two weeks to prepare for the biggest nerd gathering of the year. I just spent the month of March using most of my free time to prepare a panel for Sakura-con, so I felt her pain quite acutely. Anime conventions are serious business! Luckily for Narumi, Hirotaka is a good boyfriend, filling in her screentones and providing moral support over his gaming headset. It's the kind of uniquely cute bonding activity we should expect from a show about otaku love, and the rest of their time at Comiket is full of fun little moments like this.
I really appreciated that Hirotaka never once expressed discomfort over helping his girlfriend write and sell her smutty BL doujin. I was honestly waiting for that lame comedic plot to show up, dreading the inevitable gay panic or fujoshi denigration, but I'm so glad Wotakoi didn't go for this low-hanging fruit. Amusingly, what does prompt Hirotaka to take a break from Narumi's stand is not discomfort, but jealousy over all the attention she gets from her customers and fans. In a similar fashion, Kabakura's only minor hangup about Hana's drag cosplay is all of the attention she gets from fangirls. To be fair, she's stunningly handsome when crossdressing, so I was right there with Narumi as Hana reduced her to a swooning and sobbing mess. Neither of the boys seem to share their partners' particular passions, but that's okay! Relationships aren't built on identical sets of interest; they're build on support and understanding, and that's what Hirotaka and Kabakura do well.
The episode's only notable misstep comes when Hirotaka has to temporarily take Narumi's place selling her doujins. It actually starts out great, because Hirotaka happens to look like someone who could have jumped out of a BL manga, so naturally he attracts a crowd when he starts hawking gay porn. Narumi rushes to save him from this onslaught, but the ever-unflappable Hirotaka was just fine and even had fun manning the BL stand. Unfortunately, one of the customers was a total creep who sexually harassed him, and the way Wotakoi treats this is bad for two reasons. First, it tries to make this into a humorous situation with Narumi's and Hana's over-the-top reactions, but there's nothing funny about unwanted physical contact or being unduly harassed by a stranger at an anime convention, no matter the context. These are still very real problems in the community, not things to make light of for a cheap joke. Secondly, this faceless creep is the only gay person who's been portrayed in the show, which is a pretty busted debut. There's plenty of otaku romcom shenanigans tp pull from that don't involve creepy behavior or putting sexual minorities on blast, so I hope Wotakoi is smarter about this in the future.
Comiket ends, but the dirge of the gang's 9-to-5 drones on into infinity, so Narumi and Hirotaka soon find themselves at work again, making plans to drink at his place. They're still early in their relationship, but it's nice to see it progressing at a measured but believable pace—something that feels both comfortable for them and non-glacial to the audience. Of course this includes the possibility of new physical intimacy, a concern that manifests in Narumi racking her brain to recall the color of the underwear she put on today. It's funny and neurotic, but it's also 100% true-to-life. Nobody wants their first romp in the sheets to be marred by a lame-ass pair of underwear you've been hanging onto for no good reason. Narumi's worries end up unfounded when the furthest she and Hirotaka get that night is a kiss, but I'm sure she'll be more careful about her undergarment choices from now on.
Hirotaka leans pretty hard into the clueless nerd stereotype in this second half of the episode, completely missing the romantic implications of inviting Narumi over for the night. However, his decision to turn it into a sleepover with Hana and Kabakura is adorable enough to forgive. His chemistry with Narumi remains strong, and their equal-opportunity teasing of each other remains extremely representative of the nerd couples I know. All four Wotakoi members also act like believably buzzed young adult nerds, i.e. they play lots of Mario Kart, drink lots of beer, and perpetually act like goofballs. The hunt for Hirotaka's porn stash is a pretty dated way to spend the evening (as the characters themselves are quick to point out), but I can't say I haven't been part of sillier group activities.
Between all these goofy drunk otaku antics, there are some genuine moments of vulnerability and deepening relationships. Hirotaka comments on how nice it is to hang out with everyone and that it's a new sensation for him. As much as Wotakoi is ostensibly about romance, it also focuses extensively on the four leads together as friends, and how all of these dynamics, both romantic and platonic, are emotionally valuable. We also learn that Narumi and Hirotaka became friends by trading cards like Yu-Gi-Oh, which pulled my soul right back into elementary school recess. He then tries to segue some sad childhood talk (he was a shy kid with few friends, who could have guessed?) into a kiss, which I'm sure he thought was smooth in his head, but in reality it definitely wasn't. It's not so much a bad move as a clumsy and inexperienced one, so it definitely fits Hirotaka's character. Likewise, Narumi reciprocates with the headbutt he deserves, and they get back on solid footing right afterwards. There were always bound to be some bumps along the way, but hopefully Hirotaka takes his sore forehead as a lesson in communicating more clearly with your partner.
And that was another episode of Wotakoi! It went by super fast again, and I still find it very charming. Aside from one busted jokes, this was another perfectly pleasant 22 minutes spent with some endearing dorks who love each other almost as much as they love mercilessly trolling each other in Mario Kart. It's tricky to tell what the long arc of the show will be, if any, but as long as it keeps up the solid character writing and relatable nerd fiascos, I'm content to relax with it each week this spring. I just hope we solve the mystery of the big tiddy porn in Kabakura's desk.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is currently streaming on Amazon.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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