By: Nico Tanigawa
Release Date: (Original) January 21, 2012; (English Translation) October 29, 2013
Publisher: Yen Press
Series: No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! #1
You know how sometimes you stumble on something that hits so close to home it makes you a little uneasy? This manga does that. Over and over again. No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular, Vol 1 by Nico Tanigawa is a story about an awkward teenage girl who loves video games and manga, has trouble making new friends and talking to boys, and isn’t as close to her brother as she used to be.
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (an extraordinarily long title abbreviated to Watamote for the manga and anime series) is written by Nico Tanigawa, a pen name for the two creators of the manga. Both the chapters and manga itself are significantly shorter than some other manga I’ve read. The art is rather wonderful. Facial expressions especially are often highly stylized and convey the characters thoughts and emotions perfectly.
Tomoko Kuroki is fifteen and just starting high school. Her goal? Make new friends and get a boyfriend. Shouldn’t be too hard, she’s talked to boys a whole six times last year. The manga follows her misadventures in navigating high school, family, and friends. All of a sudden Tomoko cares about things like her appearance, only she has no idea what to do to fix her perceived flaws or how to really handle high school and social situations in general. The only thing she has as a reference point are dating sims, and she quickly finds out that they are not a good reference point for actual high school life.
A shut in to the point where she doesn’t seem to understand how the real world works, Tomoko seems to judge Yuu, her best friend, for changing, but simply expects all of her classmates (some of whom she’s known throughout middle school) to treat her differently in high school without making any sort of concerted effort herself.
This manga is funny, but also endearing. It’s very easy to see yourself in Tomoko, despite the extreme reactions she sometimes has. Tomoko’s actions are cringe worthy, and I can’t help but compare my own high school days. We’ve all made the mistakes she makes. Every incredibly embarrassing encounter, every over the top social faux pas, is something we’ve all personally done, though perhaps not to that extent.
Of course, Tomoko takes every embarrassing encounter or awkward exchange to the extreme. Not only does she never manage to say the correct thing, but she always assumes the absolute worst of people and picks the exact wrong thing to do or say in almost any situation. Yet, the manga shows the goodness in the people around her as well, something Tomoko always seems to miss. Yuu sticks beside her even when others might not. Even after the incredibly botched attempt to talk to the two boys stuck in the rain with her, they still go out of their way to leave her an umbrella.
Something else I liked about the manga was the Translation Notes section in the back of the book. Its short, only two pages, but has notes on words and terms found throughout the book which people might not be familiar with. Some are references to things in manga, anime, and video games. Others are more tied to Japan and Japanese culture. As for the translations itself, it’s really very good, with none of the awkward phrasing or too-literal translations that can sometimes slip in.
No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular is a manga series I love. It’s relatable while not entirely true to life. The art is style is, at times, a bit over the top but wonderful nonetheless. If you like slice of life or high school manga pick up a copy and give this one a read.