Anime Review[Spoiler-Free]: Love is Hard for an Otaku

Aired: Apr 13, 2018 to Jun 22, 2018

Studios: A-1 Pictures

Genres: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Summary

The series focuses on the lives of two couples who are otakus, as they strive to have a balanced life between work, relationships, and their otaku hobbies, of course. But, all is not sunshine and rainbows as they’ll soon discover, for love is hard for an otaku.

That’s literally what the title means: Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii(shortened to Wotakoi). I’ve seen quite a few rom titles before, and this one seems to be quite promising, so let’s get to it.

Soundtrack

The opening theme, “Fiction”, is pretty catchy. I find the hand movements to be especially cute. The opening theme shows the four main characters in both their working environments and their individual otaku hobbies, while occasionally meeting up for dinner and drinks.

The ending theme “Next to You” shows the four of them walking at the same pace, the lyrics implying they’ll figure out things as they go.

I find both themes to be mellow, lighthearted, and easy-going. The background during certain situations are appropriate, be it heartfelt or hilarious.

Soundtrack score: 7.0/10

Animation Quality

The general quality is adequate. I spotted no glaring errors. The colours used are soft, reflecting the light-hearted nature of the series.

Heh, Starbocks.
Oh look, cross-promotion! Well, Aniplex is working on the upcoming movie.
There’s some footage of a Monster Hunter game in some episodes too.
The mobile game they’re playing was also stylized in the opening in the form of retro pixel art.

Animation Quality score: 8.0/10

Characters

The four main characters are working adults, and while they have a few general otaku interests like video gaming and anime watching, each person has a specific interest in particular.

From left to right: Hanako Koyanagi , Hirotaka Nifuji, Tarou Kabakura, Momose Narumi

Hirotaka likes playing Monster Hunter in particular, and spends his holidays playing the more anticipated video games. Momose Narumi often accompanies Hirotaka during his Monster Hunter sessions, but her main interest is making doujins, which is paramount during Comiket(yes, there is a Comiket episode). Hanako Koyanagi also shares Momose’s passion for BL, but her main thing is cosplaying as male characters. Finally, Tarou Kabakura likes to read shoujo manga.

In addition, each character has their own demeanor. Hirotaka keeps to himself mostly, and doesn’t speak much unless he has to, as he was an introvert for most of his youth. Narumi has a very bubbly and cutesy personality (as mentioned by Kabakura a few times). Koyanagi is rather flirtatious in her conversations, but is quick to anger, often getting into arguments with Kabakura. Speaking of Kabakura, he’s serious about work ethic and is generally sensible, which allows him to handle Koyanagi’s shenanigans.

And yeah, they fight a LOT. Bonus points in Animation Quality for those facial features.
Hirotaka’s my kind of character. He doesn’t bother anyone much, always gets his work done, and then he goes off to play video games.

On a side note, Hanako Koyanagi is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, who also voices Kanbaru in the Monogatari series.

There’s plenty of comedy to go around. Some of the well-timed punchlines made me go “Ohhh snap!”, while other punchlines would slowly creep up on me. One example is when they were at a sleepover at Hirotaka’s place, and while he was showering, Koyanagi decided to search Hirotaka’s room for his porn stash, prompting Narumi to follow her. Kabakura refused to tag along, so the two of them went to work. As Kabakura heard them ransacking Hirotaka’s room from the living room, the realization slowly crept up on him, to which he shouted “Hey, Koyanagi. Don’t tell me you searched my room too!”. That was hilarious.

The core of the series is to view relationships through the lens of an otaku, and Wotakoi does a good job at that (well, mostly). While Hirotaka may seem like a top tier main character at first, his shortcomings become more apparent as the series goes on. He is very good at observing people, though the regular social cues go right over his head, and that includes relationship cues as well. Unlike Momose, he does not have any relationship experience, and has to learn things the hard way.

However, as the episodes progress, it is nice to see him pick up on said cues, and act on them to improve his relationship with Momose. He rarely shows emotion, so when he finally laughs, it’s a wholesome thing to see.

And speaking of wholesome, there are a few situations in this anime where the characters get to show how much they care about their significant other. During the Comiket episode, Hirotaka acted as Narumi’s assistant at her booth. That’s a good episode to look out, both for the pre-Comiket prep work and during the event. You can see how he constantly urges her along to complete what she has to do, and she views him as her savior (a bit exaggerated, but that’s how she views it through her otaku lens).

There’s also an argument(well, one of the arguments) in a restaurant between Kabakura and Koyanagi, and how he diffused that particular situation is telling of his quality as both a man, and a boyfriend. I really enjoy it when a rom title goes deep in exploring the differences in how guys and girls go about certain things in both relationships and their interests.

The answer to Kakabura’s question comes later when they go to the bookstore to pick up some manga or magazines. There’s a very clear difference between how the guys shop for books vs how the girls do it. Their emotions are wired differently.

Also, keep in mind that since the girls are really into BL, expect a lot of that in some of the episodes, maybe a bit too much.

When you use your boyfriends to fuel your BL fantasies.

Since the relationships are already established up front, there are no horribad shenanigans of the guy trying to get the girl, along with all the awkward misunderstandings that come with that package. In its place, though, are events of mild cringe. Reconciliatory hugging or lover spats at work are two examples. I get that it’s an anime, but it goes against the characters’ image of professionalism. Aside from Momose who is new to the job, everyone else is rather capable at their jobs, as they rarely work overtime (again, except Momose who had to take a few shifts early on in the series).

There is one part of the series that could have been really meaningful but was devoid of emotion: when Hirotaka suggested to Narumi that they start dating. While not a direct confession, it still implies they’d be dating, and there was very little emotion in that moment. Now, there may be justifiable reasons for this, but forming a relationship with a person does move them emotionally in that specific moment, and its absence really made the scene less meaningful and memorable than it could have been.

While these are the four main characters, a few others get introduced later on, particularly Hirotaka’s brother, Naoya, who is the complete opposite of him, so look forward to that.

Character score: 8.0/10

Plot

The pacing starts out slow for the first two episodes, but eventually gets to a comfortable place by the third. Narumi bumps into Hirotaka on her first day of work. It’s revealed in the first episode that they are actually childhood friends (yes, in this title, the childhood friend finally wins the girl’s heart). Since they began dating after episode one, there’s no “chase” element of this plot, so there’s more time to focus on the actual relationships between characters.

Each episode is pretty much them partaking in otaku stuff (talking about anime, playing video games together, buying manga) and in non-otaku stuff (conversations at work, dinner after work). While nothing out of the ordinary, some eps do have some useful information such as the main characters keeping their relationships a secret from their co-workers (I can’t imagine how despite the aforementioned shenanigans at work), and even some bits about Hirotaka’s and Momose’s past.

The series really earns its “slice of life” tag in a few scenes, particularly, one where Kabakura confronts a guy for seemingly going after Momose, despite that wasn’t what the guy was doing. It’s hard to justify a situation like that, especially when said guy was unaware of their relationship, something painfully relatable to anyone who has tried to chase a girl while not knowing she’s already taken. That scene really did hit home, before devolving into a hilarity fest, obviously.

There isn’t any ramp-up to a climatic episode or event per se. There were hints to something that could potentially make for a good final episode, but it didn’t really amount to much. The story tends to put these four characters in similar situations by proximity (meaning they would be in the same location or nearby). At times it’s fine i.e after work, but other times are a bit too coincidental for my taste.

Despite not having an impactful cimax, the show ended on an okay note, just like any other episode. Hopefully, this means a second season may come in the future.

Plot score: 7.0/10

Score Summary

Soundtrack score: 7.0/10

Animation Quality score: 8.0/10

Characters score: 8.0/10

Plot score: 7.0/10

Conclusion

Wotakoi is definitely one of the better rom titles I’ve seen thus far. It focuses on the characters and their interactions, with less emphasis on cringy rom shenanigans. I hope to see more rom titles with this kind of format.

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