Translator: Jessica Sheaves
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
Sometimes you come across a manga that just speaks to you. This is true with Watokoi, a manga that has more than a couple of scenes that seem as if they were pulled straight out of my own life. Watokoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita is an extremely relevant slice of life manga about two otaku who start dating, and a must read for anyone is or has been in a relationship with another otaku.
Watokoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is about Narumi and Hirotaka, childhood friends who wind up working for the same company and dating. Narumi is an otaku and fujoshi, something she hides from all of her previous boyfriends. Hirotaka is different. He’s also an otaku, someone she knows she gets along with, and shares the same likes and hobbies. But will that really make dating any easier.
There is a lot to love about Watokoi, especially if you are even a little bit into video games, manga, or anime.
This is, in many ways, a slice of life manga. Many of the scenes are short. Only one or two pages are spent on any one scene or joke for much of the volume. Towards the end of the manga certain sections are longer. We spend more time with Kabakura, Hanako, and Hirotaka’s younger brother. The narrative becomes more linear while still maintaining shorter scenes, which keep the pacing rather fast for a slice of life manga.
While this is a story about otaku, otaku culture, and how it’s seen by others, it’s also a story about love and friendship. As laugh out loud funny as most of the manga is, and as much as it really touches home in regards to my own relationship with my husband, it really speaks on relationships as a whole. When Narumi starts her relationship with Hirotaka, she’s nervous and doesn’t always know how to act. There is discussion on complacency and settling vs comfort and shared likes and dislikes between partners. We see characters struggle with being open about their hobbies versus keeping their hobbies close to their chest. We also see Narumi and Hirotaka’s brand new relationship in comparison to their friends who have been dating since high school.
If you are an otaku, you will find a character who you can identify with in this manga. Out of the four main characters, each approaches their love of manga, anime, and video games differently. Hirotaka is open with hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Narumi hides the fact that she’s an otaku and a fujoshi from everyone, to the point of being a bit unhealthy. Hanako is also pretty open about her cosplaying and other hobbies, while Kabakura doesn’t actually consider himself an otaku despite clearly being one when compared to his girlfriend and friends.
I did quite like the art style used here. Certain panels don’t have particularly detailed backgrounds, but not only does that make sense regarding genre, it also makes sense regarding setting. Much of the manga takes place in Narumi and Hirotaka’s office building, a space which is usually blank and boring. Where this manga shines is in its use of otaku culture to tell the story. For example, certain questions from Hirotaka initiate a battle sequence jrpg popup on the bottom of the panel with the standard ‘fight, run,’ ect. options. These were incredibly well used and always funny. I loved this.
The translation was also really well done. Acronyms, terms, and words that aren’t always translated in common usage weren’t left out or altered for clarification. They were left as-is, trusting the reader to know what they were talking about while adding in notes for clarification on terms everyone may not be familiar with where needed. A few things were outlines in notes that, perhaps, didn’t need to be, but overall the notes were used very well, making the manga very accessible to everyone and not just those who are familiar with video games and manga.
That said, I do think otaku, or those with at least passing interest in manga, anime, or video games will get the most out of Watokoi. However, each character has different likes and dislikes. This means that the manga switches between talking about different genres and aspects of nerd culture as it goes along, sometimes within the same scene. While the characters understand one another as a whole, they are still their own person.
This manga is actually two volumes in one, making it a bit more expensive than normal. Keep in mind that Watokoi can also be purchased in digital format, which is a few dollars cheaper than the physical copy.
I am absolutely continuing with this series. Watokoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita is a manga that really touches home in a lot of ways. If you are a fan of manga, anime, and video games who has ever had a relationship with a like-minded individual you will find something to love about this manga. Also, if you like josei manga, also check this out.