Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki Levels Up – Using the Art of Conversation

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki Episode 2, "It Feels Awesome to Gain a Bunch of Levels After a Battle," now streaming on Funimation.

The art of conversation is a vitally important skill, especially in the confines of a high school classroom. Just beginning the game of life, the titular lead of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki has much to learn about the group dynamic and how to carry a conversation. Having secretly taken on the role of his life coach, the highly popular and experienced Aoi Hinami has given Tomozaki a new short-term goal: talk to three of their classmates on his own.

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Tomozaki's first two tries are short and awkward with little to show for his efforts. His third attempt, however, has one of the school's most popular girls exploding with laughter. This sparks a larger group debate about her humor and helps Tomozaki learn how different personalities can affect the overall group dynamic.

Tomozaki is nervous but ready to try talking to his classmates. First up is the kind and easygoing Yuzu Izumi, who sits next to him in class. Tomozaki, still wearing a face mask to practice his smiling, asks Izumi for a tissue. Izumi apologizes and says she doesn't have any. Tomozaki clams up, unsure how to respond. But Izumi turns around to the girl behind her, a shy bookworm named Fuka Kikuchi, and asks her for a tissue instead. Kikuchi hands over a tissue pack and he thanks her. It may have been mostly Izumi's doing, but Tomozaki still talked to two classmates in one go.

In HomeEc class, he sits near Minami Nanami (AKA "Mimimi"), an endlessly positive and energetic extrovert. A quick chat about getting to class early leads to Tomozaki suddenly speaking his honest thoughts about Mimimi's empathy and kindness in talking to him. Mimimi bursts out laughing, saying Tomozaki speaks like an old man. He keeps the speech going, trying to help her understand his point of view, only for Mimimi to laugh even harder. Naturally, this draws the attention of their classmates.

Shuji Nakamura, a popular but domineering type, strides over with a couple of friends to see what the commotion is about. Mimimi's explanation confounds everyone around them and a debate breaks out about whether she or Nakamura has a weird sense of humor. It's all fun and games for Mimimi, but Nakamura's tense and rather petty personality clashes with others. Tomozaki is mostly silent, feeling the tension grow but unsure of how to steer the conversation. Enter Aoi Hinami, who deftly cracks a joke about Nakamura's girlfriend dumping him and making everyone in the group laugh, dissolving the tension.

Hinami advised Tomozaki to only speak to classmates when she's close by, so she can step in and help the conversation along if needed. Her sharp thinking pays off when Tomozaki, Hinami and Mimimi walk home from school with a couple of boys from their class. The boys are talking about exercise techniques when Tomozaki blurts out a question about working their butt muscles. The entire group is puzzled, causing poor Tomozaki to clam up again, but Hinami rescues him by saying she also works on her butt muscles.

Hinami is perfectly suited to the role of coaching Tomozaki's self-improvement, watching over him closely and advising him in great detail. She even lends him a set of flashcards that she uses so she can talk to any of their classmates at any given moment. Her methods seem to be completely calculated in advance so she can adapt to different situations, as she did with Nakamura. It's a curious contrast to Tomozaki, whose main strength is his ability to simply open up and be honest about his feelings.

Tomozaki got more than he bargained for on the day but he learned some valuable lessons and completed his goal. A quality group conversation needs one person to start it and another to expand it. Although Tomozaki himself doesn't say much in the group chats, he's an astute listener and observer while the people around him are all accepting -- even Nakamura, whom Tomozaki has beaten many times in AtaFami.

Hinami's next step for Tomozaki: meeting up at Omiya Station on their next day off from school. Whatever she has planned will no doubt be another tough challenge to overcome. For now, though, Tomozaki has gained some crucial life experience.

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