I did not watch Watamote! (aka No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular [aaka NMHILAIIYGFINP]) while it was airing because I didn’t know it existed. If memory serves, I spotted the glorious full length title on a season preview guide, promptly rolled my eyes, and forgot about the show. After Watamote! finished, ANN came out with this podcast, devoted entirely to discussing the show in-depth. This certainly caught my attention, as ANNCast has only ever used that show format once before, for Evangelion. My interest was further piqued by the content of the panel’s discussion. So, I took Watamote! for a spin.
And there was Tomoko Kuroki.
I’m not saying my junior high experience and Tomoko Kuroki’s high school experience are identical; I’m just saying they get mistaken for siblings when they’re at the grocery store together. Seriously, I strongly identified with many of Tomoko’s feelings, the way she read things into situation/people’s actions and the predicaments she found herself in. There is a moment in the first episode that is just so authentic, it totally broke me down.
In celebration of an accomplishment, Tomoko goes to a fast food joint to order a hamburger (for the first time no less). The cashier asks her what she wants to drink. Tomoko, in her meek, quiet voice, replies “Water.” “What was that?” “No-nothing!” Tomoko hurriedly responds.
This might seem like a little nothing-moment, but I do not see it that way. Compared the near-whisper of our “heroine,” the voice of the cashier seems as if she’s almost yelling. In reality, she is only trying to get some information from a customer. She even has a smile on her face, IIRC. However, Tomoko naturally interprets the increase in volume of the cashier’s voice to mean that this person is angry with/annoyed at her. Instinctively, she wants to diffuse any possible confrontation ASAP. Also, when someone talks loudly, other people turn to look at the scene, and Tomoko does not want to draw attention to herself. So, for no real reason at all, she is stuck eating dinner without anything to drink.
I have done this exact thing, and it’s moments like this one that support my belief the story is, at least in part, autobiographical. In order to so accurately articulate the feelings of a person with such anxiety, the plight of Tomoko must also have been your own. I mentioned that Miss Kuroki and I had similar growing-up experiences. I remember secretly hating everyone, but doubly secretly wanting everyone to accept me, to acknowledge me. I remember reading the worst possible conspiratorial motives into people’s actions because, you know, laughing at me was everyone’s true objective. I remember being scared to death to walk across a room because some girls might look at me.
Well, thank the Good Lord that I have managed to “outgrow” or otherwise move past my social anxiety (I’m still an avid worrier, just one that can interact with people!), though it can crop up a bit on particularly bad days. If you’ve read the previous post, you’ll know I have done OK for myself. That in no way, however, detracted from the value I drew from watching Watamote!. While watching the show, I was able to look back on my own mindset and behavior during my early teenage years and say, “Well I was being a dumbass!” I was able to laugh at myself and gain further perspective on that part of my past. The whole experience was quite therapeutic. So, I just want to say, “Thanks Mokocchi!”