Love might be hard for an otaku, but how hard is it to love this show?
If you've been watching anime for a while or have been on some Japanese culture-related online communities, you might have heard the word "otaku" thrown around to refer to someone as a geek or nerd about anime or manga. And while this definition isn't wrong, it's a very western definition. In Japan, the word carries a lot more stigma and has a far greater derogatory connotation; think the difference between being a "fan" and being a "maniac". Historically, otaku have been looked down upon in Japanese society, and people that identify as otaku won't really openly admit it or wear it on their sleeve. While this is slowly changing as more parts of the otaku subculture become commonplace, a lot of young adults in Japan still choose to keep their otaku-related hobbies and interests a private matter.
Now we're clear on otaku culture! Let's start talking about the show.
Here's the premise for Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. Remember how I said that some people keep otaku hobbies a private matter? Well, the main character of the show is a 26-year old office lady named Narumi that transfers jobs because—guess what?—her otaku hobbies got outed at her old job and her former boyfriend broke up with her over it. She's looking for a new lease on work and love, while hoping to keep her otaku hobbies a secret this time around. Neither of those go quite as planned.
I don't want to focus too much on a plot synopsis here (because that's not what these columns really are about), but I think it's important to note that despite having a subtitle like "Love is Hard for Otaku", Wotakoi isn't really that much of a romance anime. It's definitely a show that focuses on otaku culture first and foremost, with some romantic undertones (but more than enough to qualify it as a romance show.) You're not going to wait five episodes for the girl to confess to the guy, and the show is never in-your-face about the romantic relationship between the characters. A lot of times the romance is there as a secondary effect toward highlighting the difference between "how normal people handle romantic scenarios" and "how otaku handle romantic scenarios".
It's honestly probably better this way, because Wotakoi does a pretty good job at what it's primary focus is. Highlighting what it's like being an otaku in a otaku-averse environment will strike a chord with a lot of people watching, even for those outside of Japan. Plus, even without the otaku side of things, Wotakoi does a pretty good job of being a workplace-themed slice of life show ala something like Servant x Service.
The unfortunate thing is that there are some jokes that the show doesn't do a good job of explaining to the casual viewer, and that require some familiarity with otaku subculture to begin with. For instance, there's a punchline at the end of episode 1 that requires the viewer to both a) understand what Comiket is, but b) also understand the effort required in selling things at Comiket. There's other instances where the characters will use some lexicon or internet slang that might be hard to convey through subtitles (Amazon Prime Video didn't even try, and that makes me sad), but overall it's an acceptable viewing experience for people that are at least familiar with otaku culture themselves.
Also (and this is mostly separate from the rest of the show), I absolutely love the opening song. I don't normally rave about opening or ending songs for anime because I've listened to a lot of them over the years, but every now and then there's one song that is just so well crafted that I'd be remiss not to bring it up. Wotakoi's opening song is one of those. I praised it online before, and I'm gonna praise it here again: it's absolutely fantastic. You can listen to it below, and you'll have the joy of listening to it every week if you pick up the show.
Wotakoi is a show so rooted in otaku culture that it might be jarring for some, but for those that can appreciate those jokes (or really, for people that don't mind it), there's enough here where you can probably find something to love. The show probably won't blow anyone's mind and won't shatter people's expectations, but that's okay, because it shouldn't need to as long as it continues doing what it can do best; tapping into the otaku subculture and using it for interesting effect.
Verdict: Decent show, fantastic opening song
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