Wotakoi’s Hirotaka Nifuji Sets a New Standard for Kuudere Characters

Wotakoi: Love Is Hard For Otaku embodies a number of familiar anime and manga tropes, but in an uncommon setting: the workplace. By extension, the four main characters are somewhat familiar as anime archetypes, but they shake up the formula by being 20-somethings in a professional working environment. This is especially true of Hirotaka Nifuji.

Hirotaka makes up half of Wotakoi's main couple and is easily categorized as a kuudere, someone who is aloof and emotionless on the outside but warm and fuzzy on the inside. The trick is, Hirotaka's kuudere personality isn't a gimmick or a puzzle to be solved -- he's simply being his authentic self, and that means quite a lot.

Hirotaka Nifuji From Wotakoi Love Is Hard For Otaku Smoking While Narumi Momose Raises His Glasses

Wotakoi's Hirotaka is a kuudere by being a consummate professional and dignified person on the outside -- but not just to impress his bosses. He avoids drama whenever possible, tending to keep to himself. He can make friends but feels no need to get attached to everyone around him, making him somewhat popular in the office as the resident "cool guy." In his personal life, Hirotaka is quiet and dignified, rarely having strong reactions to anything -- even in the company of his BL-loving girlfriend Narumi. The twist, however, is that there is no twist. Hirotaka is not compensating for anything -- he is simply being himself.

Many tsundere or kuudere act the way they do because of a past trauma, such as MHA's Shoto Todoroki and his dysfunctional family, or perhaps they are hiding deep insecurities. Some characters even seem to behave a certain way as a mere gimmick, or to give them a single defining trait. Neither is the case for Hirotaka in Wotakoi, making him feel more authentic than a number of -dere type anime characters.

This also dodges the awkward situation of an anime's narrative trying to "fix" a kuudere's personality and force their warm, fuzzy side to show itself. Not all kuudere are a puzzle to be solved, and real-life introverts might not like the implication that being unsociable is a fault. Being a quiet character can be a personal strength, not a cause for intervention. In short, Wotakoi's narrative respects Hirotaka's withdrawn lifestyle, as do the other characters. They accept their kuudere friend as he is, no questions asked.

That being said, even a "comfortable in his own skin" kuudere like Hirotaka isn't perfect. His lone insecurity is indeed tied into his kuudere lifestyle, though Wotakoi handles it in a touchingly natural manner rather than suggesting Hirotaka needs saving from himself. Instead, he takes the initiative and admits his personal failings to himself in a moment of introspection, and never even has to voice his issues aloud with Narumi. He solves them himself and acts upon his resolution quietly.

Hirotaka is a dedicated gamer, and rather than attend parties or make dozens of friends, he comfortably spends his time playing games of all genres. On the inside, little has changed from age seven to 27, and Hirotaka is content with that for the most part.

However, he doubts himself during a date with Narumi, wondering if his gaming obsession holds him back as a person. He compares himself negatively to his outgoing girlfriend, who makes friends, goes on adventures and makes mistakes while exploring her life and the world around her. Hirotaka berates himself for not following her example, until he resolves the issue and enjoys the rest of his date in peace. A true kuudere doesn't need saving from others -- they just need self-awareness and the chance to grow their personal and social lives at their own pace.

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