First Look: Tomo-chan is a Girl!

Alternative title: Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!
Manga Adaptation by Lay-duce
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Aizawa Tomo wants to confess to her childhood friend Jun. Unfortunately, her boyish looks and rowdy personality keep getting in the way and Jun just sees her as “one of the guys.” How will Tomo convince Jun of her romantic affections, prove her femininity, and affirm her identity as a cool girl who likes to do karate?

Gee’s verdict: This Hole Was Made for Me (I Wish it Fit Better)

I think 2014 me would have really loved this show, purely on the back of seeing my own personal preferences realized in full animation. Tomo is a generic but wholly likeable amalgamation of all the traits I’ve always liked in female anime characters. She’s brash but well meaning, she’s got a sensitive side, and she does martial arts! What’s not to love? In a post Kaguya-sama world though, Tomo-chan is the stark and unfortunate reminder that this is the actual bar for most anime romcoms in the biz. It’s not that Tomo-chan is bad, it simply has one joke, and mercilessly beats that joke like a drum for 22 minutes. Tomo likes Jun, but her damn boyish charm prevents him from seeing her romantically. But maybe he does and the affectation of seeing Tomo as a bro is itself a defense mechanism? Throw in some other characters who all fall into the familiar stock archetypes of an ensemble based anime comedy and you can sort of see where this one is going.

And yet, I can’t help but respect it. There’s a bald faced transparency to this show’s premise. It defiantly shouts, “I like tomboys and I’m tired of them always losing to the main heroine in other works, so I’m going to write my own where she is the main heroine.” It’s admirable. No truer expression of, “be the change you want to see in the world.” A kindred spirit understood the appeal of girls like this. The facets shine so much more when you’re the only one who can see them from the right angle. And I guess it’s kind of cool that anime has come so far that we can have one this blatantly aimed at a specific niche without feeling the need to compromise the heroine into something more conventionally acceptable. Historically, tomboys in romance anime either lose due to their specificity or must mold themselves into something far more generic. It’s a Catch-22. Lose the race, or transform yourself into something no longer recognizable. Tomo-chan recognizes that the appeal is the fact that this girl has short messy hair and does karate.

Peter’s verdict: Episodes before unfortunate events

Gundo is the best girl. No bullshit, just messing with Tomo and The Guy, making jokes with the most deadpan face, and even actively defends her ability to do this from other people. That is commitment and I love it. The problem is, I know what will happen. Not from reading the manga or looking it up, I just know that Gundo is The Third Wheel. She will absolutely develop feelings for Whatshisface later in the series; we get a monologue of some conflicted feelings about messing with Tomo’s relationship being a defence mechanism hiding her true feelings for So-and-so but eventually decide on cheering on Tomo instead and retreating to the sidelines.

At least she’ll be hilarious in the process.

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