Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku ?
Wotakoi spirits us away to realms both virtual and imaginary in this week's nerd power half hour. Watch as our heroes do battle with dragons, drunk co-workers, and deeply rooted beliefs about BL!
I obviously cannot help but compare the gang's MMO adventures with another nerd-focused anime romcom to come out recently, Recovery of an MMO Junkie. This is a wholly unfair comparison, because MMO Junkie used its runtime to lay out a thoughtful treatise on the nuances of online relationships, whereas Wotakoi has 10 minutes to crack some jokes before moving on to other topics. So this segment amounts to little more than a fun diversion, but that's fine! The fantasy chibi versions of the main characters are cute, and although I'm slightly wistful for the way MMO Junkie explored the disconnect between characters and their players, that's a petty complaint to lobby at this very different comedy. And Wotakoi still throws in some neat subversions, like Narumi's cute elf exterior hiding a bloodthirsty (and rare-drop-thirsty) assassin. She also comments that Hirotaka, despite being the group's designated game otaku, doesn't really like online multiplayer and prefers to play games solo, which is a mood I can get behind. The weirdest part is that Hanako gets some random bath fanservice in the middle of this segment. This felt out of place for a show that typically doesn't go down that route so explicitly, and it especially stuck out to me because we see Narumi drooling over Hanako's sexy witch avatar and posing for a screenshot almost immediately afterward, which felt much more in character for Wotakoi.
Naoya's appearance is as endearing as ever. His flailing endeavor to fight the giant monster reminded me of my own few futile attempts to teach my parents how to play video games. Naturally, Hirotaka takes over and saves the day, because even though he's not that into MMOs, his character is maxed out on levels and power. This MMO segment is also notable for being consistently nice-looking! Wotakoi's often janky presentation hasn't bothered me enough to detract from all the things I like about it, but when the show looks more polished than usual, it stands out. There's nothing particularly unique about the aesthetics of the MMO they play, but the chibi-fied character animation is cute and crisp, and the dragon battle allows for some dynamic framing and effects that we normally don't see in this down-to-earth romcom. All in all, this part is a slight offering, fulfilling Wotakoi's obligation to do something with MMOs, even if it's not particularly novel. But as always, it's the strong character writing and acting that keeps things fun to watch.
The B-part of this week's episode follows both the girls and the boys during their respective nights out. While Hirotaka and Kabakura have to entertain some junior co-workers for dinner, Hanako and Narumi decide to have their own meal together. I really appreciate that, despite the show's focus on romance, Wotakoi also stresses the importance of the strong bonds of friendship between its main characters. Hanako and Narumi's conversation begins by highlighting the simple pleasure of marathoning an anime recommended to you by a friend, so that you can talk about it together. I can blame much of my taste in anime on similar interactions with friends, and silly chats about anime make up about 90% of my Twitter interactions, so this is definitely real stuff to me. Of course, equally real are opinions about ships, and these two put their friendship to the test when their conversation gradually descends into a heated BL debate.
I absolutely love how Wotakoi handles this part, because while ship wars have absolutely destroyed friendships, Hanako and Narumi's conversation strikes a tone of tongue-in-cheek silliness without belittling the experience. It's a comedic exchange between two women about BL that doesn't make their hobby the butt of the joke, which unfortunately is rare to see. Instead, their conversation feels like it's written from a place of experience, more about the fun nerd activity of having passionate arguments with zero stakes. As otaku, we gather all this information about absurd minutiae that practically nobody cares about, so being able to employ it with others in a playful manner can be tons of fun (as long as both parties don't take it too seriously)! Narumi and Hanako embrace both the gravitas and goofiness of talking about their nerdy passions, and sometimes that means arguing about which of your boyfriends would top the other.
Normally I'm against shipping real people, because nerds can get real creepy and gross about that. But two friends having a silly private chat about their boyfriends is a different situation. This conversation is kicked off by an extremely fortuitous bit of double entendre in the translation of translating “tsukkomi” to “straight man.” It's the correct translation (tsukkomi meaning the straight man in a comedy duo), but captioning that “the straight man is gone today” before two women drop their reservations to start talking about BL is hilariously perfect. And of course, neither of them can agree which of their boys would top. Now, they both make good arguments, so I've thought about this a lot, but this is where I currently stand. I wholeheartedly agree with Narumi that glasses on top is a huge point in favor of Hirotaka, but the taller guy being on the bottom is an absolute necessity, so I have to agree with Hanako that Kaba/Hiro is correct. However, I am open to arguments to the contrary, so please leave your opinions in the comments.
Meanwhile, Hirotaka and Kabakura's night out is quickly overtaken by their juniors talking about Hanako and Narumi. Having to spend time with co-workers who jump straight into rudely sizing up their female co-workers as soon as an opportunity presents itself is a nightmare scenario of mine, something I've had to experience more than once. Of course, this situation is further complicated by the fact that they're having this conversation in front of these women's boyfriends without knowing it. To his credit, Kabakura tries to gently nudge them away from the topic, but eventually he has to break out his scary face to shut down the convo. This part was more uncomfortable than funny, and I would much rather have spent more time hearing Hanako and Narumi talk about BL. The saving grace of this scene was how adorable Hirotaka looked after hearing that Narumi called him her boyfriend in public. Hirotaka's cuteness is a potent weapon, and Wotakoi's been savvy about deploying it.
This episode of Wotakoi demonstrated just how strong and refreshing the relationship between Narumi and Hanako can be. It's rare to see an anime featuring two adult women having a frank, fun, and somewhat fiery conversation about boys' love, but these are conversations that happen every day between fans. Male otaku have been acknowledged in their own media for decades now, so it's been great to see a trend where more anime speak directly to their female audience too. Wotakoi fits squarely in that trend, and this scene is a great example of finding the humor in being a fujoshi without unnecessary meanness. If my Twitter response to talking about this show is anything to go by, Wotakoi has definitely found a receptive audience over here. May we all aim to be as powerful as Hanako when she reads 18+ BL in plain view of her boyfriend.
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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