'Otaku' began as a derogatory term in Japan, used to insult people who are passionate about anime, manga and gaming -- or, to use an English term, nerds. But Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku spotlights the various types of otaku that exist in a humorous, lighthearted way that fully embraces anime, manga, cosplay and gaming culture unabashedly in the process.
Wotakoi is loved by many, and most of its fans want a second season of the anime after the first ended after just 11 episodes. They'll have to make do with a second special anime episode coming next year, as well as a tenth manga volume. In the meantime, let's look at how this nerdy rom-com became such a fan-favorite.
What Is Wotakoi?
Created by Fujita, Wotakoi started life in 2014 as a pivix comic -- a Japanese social media platform on which users can post their work for fans to give support and feedback. Ichijinsha, a publishing company that is now owned by Kodansha, published Wotakoi in print a year later on the comic site POOl. To date, the manga has approximately 10 million printed copies. A live-action film was produced released in February, starring Kento Yamazaki (who played L in the 2015 live-action Death Note movie) and Mitsuki Takahata (who voiced the main character in Napping Princess). The film was very successful, opening at #1 in its first weekend in Japan.
The series follows the everyday lives of four people who work in an office: Narumi Momose, Hirotaka Nifuji, Hanako Koyanagi and Taro Kabakura. They couldn't be any different from each other personality-wise, except for the fact that they're all otaku. Narumi is a fujoshi (a lover of BL), Hirotaka is a gaming nerd, Hanako is a BL-reading cosplayer and Kabakura loves bishoujo (beautiful young girls), and is probably the most low-key otaku out of the four of them. His anime-watching and manga-reading are usually reserved for after work hours. It takes some time for Narumi to come to terms with being an otaku -- choosing to hide this side of herself from her ex-boyfriends, knowing that they would reject her if they ever found out. However, she discovers that she can be her real self when she dates Hirotaka.
Why Is Wotakoi So Popular?
One of the things that makes Wotakoi stand out in its genre is that its cast of characters is all well above high school age. They're already 'adulting' but they still love anime, manga and gaming. There's a stigma surrounding otaku that admitting to other non-otaku that you still watch anime, read manga and game as an adult is immature. But this series normalizes it by putting its nerdy characters smack-dab in an office setting. They have to balance their work-life and their nerd life, making it relatable for adult fans who also continue their nerd hobbies while holding down adult jobs. Nobody makes fun of them for it and nobody shames them (except for Narumi's ex-boyfriends, that is...)
Throughout the series, we follow two couples at very different stages of their relationship. The main one is Hirotaka and Narumi, who are only just starting to try and transition from their usual camaraderie as geeky friends to that of lovers. They're understandably worried that there's nothing really that different between their previous relationship and their blossoming one, which is why they attempt to penalize each other for bringing up anything nerd-related on their first date. It fails miserably, of course, but it makes them acknowledge and accept that their relationship is going at a different pace, and that's okay.
The second main couple is Hanako and Kabakura, who have been dating since high school. Unlike Narumi and Hirotaka who are taking their first steps into a romantic relationship, Hanako and Kabakura are extremely comfortable with each other, which makes it much easier for the two to butt heads. Their relationship is far from perfect but it's incredibly realistic because of this. They bicker, they argue, they constantly make each other mad, and they couldn't be more different from each other. Yet despite all of those differences, Hanako and Kabakura are so in love with each other that they're willing to fight for their relationship, and that means communicating and listening to each other.
Besides the romance aspect, the series is also incredibly funny. The characters' reactions are spot-on and super relatable for real-life otaku, like when Narumi sobs over an episode of Sailor Moon R at work or disagrees with Hanako on their BL pairings. Despite all of these characters having different passions, they're all respectful and attempt to understand why the other person likes the things they do -- even Kabakura, who is very resistant to reading anything BL-related at first. Plus, the anime's opening is adorable and hilarious.
What's Next For Wotakoi?
The upcoming OVA looks like it will feature Hirotaka's non-otaku brother Naoya and his relationship with Ko Sakuragi, a socially anxious gamer. The introduction of this new couple came fairly late in the series, so they haven't had much development compared to the other two couples as of yet. We have had a hint as to how their relationship will grow, however, when we see Ko slowly being brought out of her shell by Naoya's clumsy enthusiasm for gaming, despite having little to no experience at it, even though Hirotaka is his brother. We can't wait to see how this dynamic will get fleshed out.
The OVA of Wotakoi will launch February 26, 2021.