After Gamers! offered us a romantic comedy with a slight offering of gaming/otaku culture, I have been searching for something that could do what Gamers! could not and that was offer up a complete otaku romcom experience. When I saw the premise of Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii (WotaKoi: Love is Hard for Otaku), I raised an eyebrow and decided to give it a shot because maybe… just maybe… it would give me exactly what I was looking for. Did WotaKoi give me that experience? Did it meet my expectations?
The story centers around a young woman named Narumi. She moves to a new city for a brand-new job. While she is begin given the tour of the workplace, she recognized Hirotaka, a childhood friend. Things suddenly get tense because he knows her secret: that she is an anime otaku. She also knows his: that he’s a gaming otaku. Hoping that he would keep it to himself, he, instead, blurts out a question asking if she’s going to Summer Comiket. However, things are not as bad as they seem because it turns out that both of her supervisors are, not only dating but are also otaku themselves. They quickly become friends and the adventures begin from there.
Right off the bat, Hirotaka and Narumi begin dating but they don’t exactly act like a couple. Hirotaka still prefers to game his life away while Narumi lives her in her little anime otaku bubble. When they come together, they mainly engage in otaku talk and that is where the comedy in this series lies. The jokes are not in-your-face but rather, they are often subtle with a TON of otaku references. It really brings you into the story and absorbs into the world that these characters live in. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of what happens when two otaku get together and start holding a conversation. Add in the fact that the two of them are pretty new at dating other otaku and the hilarity only takes off from there.
There is no real big main over-arching story here, though. If you wanted to label one, I would say it’s just the progression of Narumi and Hirotaka’s relationship. Despite that, though, this is not an anime that is episodic like most comedies of this nature. References to jokes in past episodes and a flowing timeline of sorts mean that you will still get lost if you jumped into the middle of the series. The episodes, though, do feel episodic in a sense. Each episode has its own theme such as a sleepover, Narumi, and Hirotaka trying to go on a normal date where otaku-esque conversations are banned, Hirotaka’s brother Nao learning how to game, etc.
It’s a nice combination of each episode having a unique story but also those stories carry forward and build a legacy for themselves as the series pushes forward. The story’s flow is very smooth and very addicting but the characters each have their own personalities which make them stand out!
There were only four main characters in WotaKoi and one sub-character… at least at first. I will start of the characters section by griping that they added a new character on the second-to-last episode and the story that they began to tell was cuteness overload to the point where I was legit angry that the series ended and we didn’t get to see more of it! Anyhoo, here’s how our characters shaped up.
Narumi is an anime otaku who has dated “normies” in the past and never really felt anything from those relationships. She says that she would never date an otaku and yet, right at the end of that very episode, her and Hirotaka get together! Narumi is a bit loud and often brash in her personality but not in a way where she’s annoying. She seems pretty fun to hang around but even though she has that outgoing personality about her, she’s also rather reserved when it comes to flaunting her otaku side. She was extremely worried about how others would perceive her at her new job but seemed to relax and be a bit more comfortable with her lifestyle once she learned that there were others around her who shared the same hobbies.
I really enjoyed Narumi as a main character. It made me wish that I could find a girlfriend like her someday! She loves anime, has that right amount of sass about her, and seems like she could be totally fun to be around! At the risk of turning this review into a match.com ad, I’ll just move on to Hirotaka!
I don’t want to say that Hirotaka is the direct opposite of Narumi because he is and he isn’t at the same time. Hirotaka is really monotone when it comes to talking but he’s not exactly shy either. His words and his humor is extremely dry and most of the things he says sound like normal conversation. That’s why whenever he cracks a joke, there’s a natural flow to his words that seems like it would catch you off guard but you still actually get the joke. I don’t know if that’s intended because I did watch this with subtitles so reading the text rather than just listening to the words kind of helps discern the dryness of his humor.
Still, Hirotaka comes off like a pretty serious-sounding character when he totally isn’t. That’s the great thing about his personality is that he’s super laid back and really only cares about his games… until Narumi enters the picture. Despite his dryness, you can definitely tell that he’s constantly thinking about her and wondering what she thinks about him. He actually wants this relationship to work and even goes out of his way to ask her out on a date for the sake of doing something nice to her. On the surface, he doesn’t seem like it but Hirotaka is a pretty stand-up guy. He certainly has a dynamic to his character that I don’t often see in anime. It’s pretty refreshing!
She is a co-worker of Narumi’s and the one who ends up giving her a tour of the workplace on her first day. At first, she comes off as cold and unapproachable but that doesn’t deter Narumi to attempt to become friends. When she discovers cosplay pictures on Hanako’s phone, her curiosity about her hobbies piques. She, not only, discovers that Hanako is an otaku but she also discovers that she’s a famous crossplayer and one of Narumi’s personal favorites! Needless to say, the two of them instantly bond and become friends!
Hanako’s personality, like Narumi’s, is pretty brash, but Hanako is more straight-forward. She also loves to drink and comes off super tomboyish. She’s not afraid to engage in girl-like gossip but she also serves as a mentor for Harumi when it comes to her relationship with Hirotaka. She reminds me of someone who is grown up and mature but can’t let go of that inner kid inside of them but at the same time, hides the inner child personality underneath a layer of responsibility and maturity. I hope that made sense!
He is Narumi’s supervisor at work, Hanako’s boyfriend, and an otaku as well. Everyone is afraid to talk to him because he always sports an angry look on his face. Couple that with his gruff and stern tone in his voice and you get a classic example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” While he doesn’t exactly hold a soft spot for others, he does respect people and is actually considerate of them. The joke with his character is that he has this rough exterior but actually loves reading Shojo manga. In fact, later on in the series, Hanako talks him into reading Boys Love manga and he instantly loves it, showing just how simple and shallow he truly is.
Tarou also serves as the voice of reason from time to time. It’s almost like his duty is to keep everyone in line but at the same time, he realizes that sticking his nose into other people’s problems isn’t and shouldn’t be his business. It’s kind of hard to peg down Tarou’s exact character as he’s a myriad of different things but that’s what makes his character fun!
Nao is Hirotaka’s younger and more flamboyant brother. He’s like… REALLY HAPPY to see you and is always smiling. Even when he finds out he sucks at video games, he just puts on a smile and laughs it off. He has a pretty care-free attitude and uses that to brighten up any situation. He also gets a bit emotional over happy moments such as when he discovers that Hirotaka and Narumi are dating. One would think, at face value, that Nao would be gay but he’s pretty straight. He’s just really feminine in his personality but that’s a good thing because any scene that he’s involved in seems brighter and a lot more fun!
Also… he’s a barista at “Starbocks.” I don’t know why but I can’t picture a more perfect job for this character.
Kou is someone who went to Starbocks one day and just started playing a game on his Switch when Nao walks up and recognized the game as the one he tried playing with Hirotaka and got his ass handed to him in. He tries to strike up a conversation with him, but Kou becomes really nervous and runs away. He forgets a paper on his way out the door and that’s when Nao discovers he goes to the same college. Nao was eating lunch with his friends when he discovers Kou sitting at a table across from him playing a game. While Nao sits down and waits for him to pause the game, his friends reveal the fact that Kou is actually a girl!
Nao is completely obvious to this but it’s at this moment where Nao begins to make Kou understand that she doesn’t need to be afraid of conversation. The two of them become gaming friends and through the RPG that they play together, a bond between them begins to form. Kou really seems like the kind of girl who didn’t have many friends growing up. It’s even stated that she prefers to be alone but thanks to Nao, she’s warming up to the idea of having a friend more and more to the point where she actually became worried when Nao didn’t log in to the game over summer break. She even went as far as to hang out at Starbocks all day to see if he would show up for a work shift.
Kou even went as far as to hand write a strategy guide for Nao to help him get better at the game! The non-relationship relationship between the two of them was insanely cute and it made me extremely angry to know that this story was introduced at the end of the first season! I WANT MORE OF THIS!
Art, Animation, and Sound
A-1 Pictures did a pretty good job with the artwork. The show had that seinen anime feel to it and each character was designed to, not only look unique but to also accurately represent their personalities. Just through their designs alone, you could feel what each and every character was like. You didn’t need dialogue or mannerisms to get a “first reaction” feel for their personalities. Not a lot of anime do that but WotaKoi pulled it off rather well! Good job to A-1 on that front! Of course, backgrounds are backgrounds and since most of them are CG these days, they’re going to look good. Unless you’re 2017 Berserk, but we don’t talk about 2017 Berserk.
The animation was okay, though. It wasn’t anything to write home about. It was better than Fairy Tail quality but not as good as Sword Art Online quality. Then again, this is a slice-of-life series so does it really need to be glorious? Of course not. The animation fit the style of the show and that’s all that really matters… even if it’s not going to take home any awards.
The soundtrack was cute and lively but mostly forgettable. Kudos have to be paid to the opening, though. While the song isn’t something I would rush out and buy the full version of, it fits the opening really well. The animation of the opening was very unique and entertaining. This is the kind of opening that proves that you don’t need a fully orchestrated, heavy rock, in-your-face vibe to be a great opening. Sometimes something simple, creative and fun is all you need and WotaKoi’s opening nails that on all three fronts. I never skipped the opening of this show even once because it was that much of a joy to watch and listen to! Easily one of the best openings of 2018 which is sad because we all know season three of My Hero Academia will just win the best opening award at next year’s Crunchyroll Anime Awards.
In the opening of this review, I asked if WotaKoi was the show I was looking for all this time and my answer to that is a resounding YES! This is what I was expecting out of an otaku romcom and WotaKoi delivered on my expectations every single episode. While I enjoyed Gamers!, this was a FAR BETTER romcom than Gamers! The characters had more personality and the show was just chock full of otaku, anime, and gaming references. There are enough popular references strewn about for casual otaku and enough subtle references that only hardcore otaku would get. The show is absolutely brilliant and is easily one of my favorite otaku anime next to Genshiken!
Despite that resounding praise I just gave it, I can’t just hand this five stars because I personally enjoyed it. I still need to look at this from all perspectives and even though that this show had many strengths there were still some weaknesses. There were times where the show seemed to slow down and stall when it came to anything interesting happening. While the individual stories were nice, I feel like they could have either been cut short or cut altogether to allow the main characters develop a bit faster.
Introducing Kou and starting her story so close to the end of the show is a prime example of this. They left little to no time for this story to develop which made it all seem like a waste. This could have been an amazing way to open up a second season but instead, we’re left with a lot of unfinished business with zero guarantees that there will be a second season. Anime exists to sell the source material and if that wasn’t a sales pitch to go out and buy the light novels/manga then I don’t know what is.
At the same time, though, I guess it was a smart decision to end the season where they did because had they ended it before Kou’s introduction, then the series would have just felt a little flat.
Also, the relationship between Hirotaka and Narumi seemed a little too superficial. They got together rather easily after Narumi said she wouldn’t date an otaku and then the two of them have this relationship where there weren’t any real strains or moments of drama. The only “hold your breath because incoming drama” moments were just misunderstandings that didn’t reflect anything either character did wrong… such as when Narumi was acting weird when a favorite character of hers died and Hirotaka thought that the two of them would be splitting up due to the way Narumi was acting. Hanako and Tarou had rocky moments in their relationship but they worked through it like all couples should do. Their relationship seemed more real than Narumi and Hirotaka’s
Still, despite some of these flaws, WotaKoi is a great rom-com on its own and even better one if you love otaku culture!
Until next time,
Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashi (WotaKoi)
WotaKoi is a great slice-of-life romantic comedy that seamlessly blends in gaming, anime, and otaku culture. The relatable characters each had their own personalities that stood out and added to the overall atmosphere of the show!
- Subtle humor that doesn’t insult your intelligence
- Relatable characters
- Romantic comedy done right
- Pacing that starts off fast and stalls a bit
- Main relationship seems a bit superficial
- New characters introduced way too late