By: Nico Tanigawa
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Yen Press
Series: No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! #2
Another day, another manga read. This time it was No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular, Vol. 2 by Nico Tanigawa, a pseudonym used by the two creators. The second volume in the series continues with Tomoko’s misadventures in high school. It’s just as fun as the first volume in the series, and one I definitely enjoyed.
Small note here: The title is often shortened to Watamote, which is also the title the anime is known by. This is what I will be using to refer to this volume for the rest of this review.
Volume 2 of Watamote continues following Tomoko through her high school career. We’ve reached the end of the first term, and summer break is looming just around the corner. She still isn’t popular, with just a single friend to her name. But that’s going to change. She’s going to make a friend and go watch the fireworks with them. Or, at the very least, keep being the cool older cousin when Kii-chan, who is still in middle school, comes for her annual summer visit. However, this proves to be much harder than it sounds.
This series never ceases to make me squirm uncomfortably. Not because Tomoko’s antics are all that bad. Okay, well, maybe they are sometimes. She does make multiple dubious choices that have us cringing before their full consequences are actually played out. But the real reason for all the uncomfortable squirming is because the manga hearkens back to my own high school days and the awkward things I wish I’d never done, no different than the first volume. The scene in the coffee shop rang particularly true for me.
I feel that Tomoko was a little more honest with herself in this volume. Where in the first volume she’s utterly convinced that things will just change for her now that she’s in high school, she doesn’t act quite as passive here. She isn’t quite as overtly angry at the turn of events (or lack thereof) as she was at times during scenes in the first volume. She is obviously upset by the lack of change through the first term, but we see Tomoko make an effort to change things. Maybe not a very coherent, well-formed effort, but an effort nonetheless. We did see a bit of this in volume one, but it feels different here.
The scene in the school library where she falsely assumes that anyone there on the last day before summer break is a loner with no friends like her is probably the most honest with herself she has been thus far. It’s Tomoko’s first somewhat coherent attempt at making a friend. That’s not to say she goes about it perfectly, or even half-decently, but we see her try.
Something else I noticed in this book is that in some scenes Tomoko loses her gung-ho attitude and does become a little more sad and subdued. She really does want to make a friend and not be quite so alone all the time. More importantly, she states this, maybe not aloud to those around her but to the reader nonetheless. The incessant rantings on how her classmates are all horrible, terrible people and why would she want to hang out with people like that anyway are also a bit fewer. There are times, plenty of times, where she name calls or makes a too-hasty judgement of strangers, but overall there there is a little less of it.
Volume 2 of Watamote is also a bit more focused on Tomoko’s role as a the oldest sibling and oldest cousin. She wants to be the cool older sibling/older cousin. And, well, that’s another thing we’ve all tried to do. At least those of us who are the older sibling and oldest cousin. Like the first volume, I still find the representation of the sibling’s behavior very true to life, which is something I find is sometimes missing in manga and novels. This is best seen in the scene where Tomoko is too scared to go to the bathroom after reading scary stories all night and wakes up her brother to escort her through the dark, quiet house. He does walk here there and wait for her. He’s not happy about, but he does it. And he definitely makes sure Tomoko knows just how unhappy with it he is. And that’s pretty much exactly what would happen between me and my two siblings.
The art is once again wonderful. I did find that I enjoyed some of the over the top faces Tomoko made in Volume 1 more than in Volume 2. Her expressions were still exaggerated, but a bit subdued in comparison to Volume 1. However, I do feel that the faces fit the overall tone of this volume well. Once again there is a section at the end of the volume for translation notes. It’s a bit shorter this time, only one page, but still just as useful as the last time.
This is a series I will definitely continue. No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular, Vol. 2 by Nico Tanigawa is funny and strangely heartfelt. If you are a fan of the anime, like humorous stories, or are a fan of young adult novels looking to branch into the manga genre this is a manga you’ll definitely enjoy. If you don’t enjoy slice of life manga, or disliked the anime you might want to skip this one.