Narumi Momose is starting fresh at a new job, hoping to meet some new people and keep her anime-loving, doujin-writing otaku tendencies entirely separate from her professional and personal life. She manages to keep this front up for…less than a day, thanks to a run-in with an old friend from middle school, Hirotaka.
The initial conflict in this romantic comedy is Narumi’s struggle with accepting her interests as a part of herself for fear of friends and significant others judging her, but this inner battle quickly dissolves as Narumi finds herself surrounded by nerds at her new workplace, from her former middle school friend turned gamer to an older coworker secretly renowned for her cosplay prowess. The relationships in this show develop in a steady pace, with our main couple, Narumi and Hirotaka, jumping one huge hurdle right as the first episode ends.
Visually, this show is pretty standard, but the animation is particularly crisp in smaller detailed moments and in its expression of reactions. Which is a thoughtful distribution, since many of the show’s best punchlines are in the reactions of the characters, a trademark in certain brands of Japanese comedy. This expressiveness seems to be the show’s lifeblood, with many comedic or emotional beats comprising of close up shots with backgrounds shifting to match the tone being presented.
While episode one of Wotakoi has a few references sprinkled into it, it mostly relies on various awkward social interactions that Narumi finds herself in, both in her workplace with her more experienced coworkers and out drinking with Hirotaka. The second episode, however, really packs in the references to anime, manga, and games; including real franchises in their settings along the way. This makes for some great laughs, especially since the references are presented in a situational way that makes them funny even if they go over the viewer’s head.
Episode 2 also brings two supporting characters more into the center of the action, Koyanagi (the cosplayer) and Kabakura, who is pretty discreet about his love of manga but doesn’t deny it when asked directly. We learn a bit more about their relationship and interests as they fight over Narumi and Hirotaka’s budding relationship (again, episode one makes strides) and the quartet of otaku make a journey to animate together. Yes, actual animate. A real anime store in Japan.
These four have interesting character dynamics; as couples and coworkers, they tend to make up for what their counterpart lacks. Narumi is cheerful but a bit spacy at work, while Koyanagi is more serious and mature. Hirotaka is fairly carefree and quiet, which can throw the boisterous and tactful Kabakura off every now and then. Each character is balanced well by the other three, and what happens between them can be hard to predict!
This show is moving ahead in a fresh and fun way, as long as it plays to its characters’ strengths and doesn’t get lost in a sea of references, it should be a smooth ride!
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is currently streaming on Amazon Prime on Thursdays!