This month marks the debut of the Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku anime series on Amazon Prime, and – very conveniently – Kodansha Comics have released a deluxe collection of the first two volumes of the original manga in its English language debut.
Narumi Momose has had it rough: Every boyfriend she’s had dumped her once they found out she was an otaku, so she’s gone to great lengths to hide it. When a chance meeting at her new job with childhood friend, fellow otaku, and now co-worker Hirotaka Nifuji almost gets her secret outed at work, she comes up with a plan to make sure he never speaks up. But he comes up with a counter-proposal: Why doesn’t she just date him instead?
The first thing you’ll notice about this opening volume is the very nifty presentation. Beyond the oversized format, it sports a glossier cover than normal for your average manga and has a generous helping of colour pages to boot. But the series has a lot to offer beyond presentation. Otaku love life is a familiar trope/genre in manga, usually examining how difficult it is. But Wotakoi takes a rather different approach. For one thing, it bypasses the usual build-up by having the two main characters get together within the first two chapters. This results in more of a focus on relationships and personalities rather than struggling to find the perfect partner. Obviously, the subject matter makes for some easy laughs. But it never comes across as mean spirited and there’s a charm to the series that mostly revels in the quirks of dedicated fandom.
It helps to have some entertaining characters that don’t just become two-dimensional stereotypes and this series has them in spades. Narumi is delightfully neurotic about her fandom to the point where she is continuously worrying about how she is perceived by her colleagues (despite the fact several are otaku themselves) whilst at the same time being completely immersed in her hobby (she apparently has several waifu according to her character profile). Hirotaka meanwhile is a perfect foil, with a rather more laidback and cynical attitude along with not caring in the slightest if people know he is an otaku or not. Likewise, fellow otaku and co-workers Hanako and Taro bring plenty of laughs to the table with their slightly more volatile relationship.
Art wise, this is a great looking series. Fujita is clearly having a lot of fun when it comes to illustration often playing up to the styles and genres he is gently ribbing. At the same time, the characters designs are very much in the realm of what you’d encounter in real life keeping it from getting too zany. Once again, the colour pages are particularly appreciated and establish early that Fujita is one to watch.
Wotakoi is an incredibly fun look at otaku culture in an everyday setting. Anyone looking for a fresh comedy manga will find plenty to sink their teeth into.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku 1 is out now from Kodansha Comics
9781632367044 – P/B – £14.99
Post by Leo