Recap: Tomoko steps on a cockroach. That’s all I got.
Jel’s Thoughts: After last week’s solid outing, WataMote’s not so grand finale was one of the most underwhelming final episodes in recent memory. A surprising amount of the episode just feels lazy, whether it’s recalling moments in the series that don’t need to be recalled or on silly things like the extended chase scene at the end of the episode. The fact that stepping on a cockroach was the major plot point is rather telling, and even that fell apart in another one of Tomoko’s low stakes delusions. I actually believed this one too, I mean would it really have been that earth shattering to have her classmates acknowledge her a little? Instead, the status quo is maintained, nothing changed.
Really the only bright point is Imae, whose appearance was a nice continuation of last week’s developments. I love the fact that the series acknowledges she’s popular because she is actually a good person and not because she’s rich or beautiful or any other superficial reason Tomoko has come up with thus far. It’s a rare positive message in a medium that is often designed to help you escape from that fact. The idea of her acting as Tomoko’s guardian angel of sorts is a sweet sentiment, but predicably their scene together falls flat after a cheap panty shot and well, simply running out of time. In fact the whole episode felt like WataMote ran out of time, even though so much of it was wasted spinning around in circles. An ending this abrupt might be acceptable if we get a second season (a likely possibility), but as it stands this was a disappointing conclusion to an underachieving series.
WataMote is the perfect example of a series that peaks too early. The first three episodes perfectly mix Tomoko’s painfully embarrassing gaffes with quiet moments of introspection into a top notch, surprisingly life affirming satire. Tomoko herself was woefully misguided, but she was trying her best and you had to admire her for that much. The fact that the show manages to pull that all off without being cynical or preachy really had me excited for what was in store.
Starting with a few tasteless rape jokes in episode 4 though, you slowly realize that WataMote has played all the cards in its hand. Episode after episode rolled by with me expecting some small glimmer of hope or baby step of progress, but instead we got joke after joke at the expense of Tomoko’s frustrated libido. Add in some really tired references to popular shows like Haruhi and K-ON! and I found myself increasingly disinterested every week. The show never becomes bad or unwatchable, but as Tomoko continues to fail at mundane activities like going to a cafe (twice!) and getting pictures at a photobooth, it just becomes repetitive and boring. And that’s just about the worst thing any anime series can do.
I will say if WataMote is ultimately a failure, you can’t put the blame on the people responsible for how it looks and sounds. Director Shin Oonuma tries so hard to keep the showing interesting, pulling out every visual trick imaginable and even inventing some new ones. Whether it’s draining all the color out of Tomoko to show her social inferiority or literally turning her into a Picasso painting, WataMote always gives you something to look at. The soundtrack is great too, bookending the lonely, off-kilter score with a questionably ironic OP and a hilarious set of quirky EDs that really help shape the series’ personality.
Unfortunately production values will only get you so far, and I ultimately feel disappointed with WataMote. I never expected the show to deliver some grand ephiphany or over-arching story with a start and a finish. I was fine with Tomoko’s lonliness and awkwardness and anti-social hobbies. I just wanted to see a little bit of hope that if she ever did get out of her own way, everything was going to be OK. Perhaps that’s what the overall message of WataMote is supposed to be, but as soon as the show turned its focus away from that, I stopped caring too. I enjoyed the series at it’s best so I might be coaxed into watching more if a second season ever happens, but as it stands I’m actually glad it’s over.