One the weirdest things about being someone with nerdy interests is that I’ve never felt compelled to join any fan communities — not because I’m a rugged individualist or a snob, but because I’ve always felt inauthentic in the presence of superfans, people whose emotional investment in a franchise or hobby outstrips my own. Maybe that’s why I found Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku such a head scratcher…
Wotakoi has a great premise: two self-professed otakus agree to date one another after a string of failed relationships with “normal” people. Though Hirotaka and Narumi seem like an ideal match, each brings considerable baggage to the table. Hirotaka has difficulty being demonstrative, while Narumi is terrified that her colleagues will discover her interest in yaoi and otome games. Aiding and abetting their romance are their pals Hanako and Taro, an established couple who loudly and proudly embrace their otakudom. (Hanako cosplays; Taro loves bishojo characters.)
Fertile as this set-up is, Wotakoi is one of the few manga that would have worked better in a 4-koma format than a conventional chapter-by-chapter structure. Part of the problem is the script, which sits uncomfortably between mumblecore realness and rom-com antics as it charts the ups and downs of Hirotaka and Narumi’s fitful courtship. In small doses, their conversations have a ring of truth, but spun out over the course of 270 pages, the story begins to sag under the weight of so much aimless chatter. The other problem is the artwork, which is competent but bland; Wotakoi could just as easily be a movie, a TV show, or a novel without changing the basic nature of the story or the storytelling. And that, for me, is the series’ biggest failing; Fujita never shows us what it’s like to be in either Hirotaka or Narumi’s head, or captures the erotic and emotional power of sharing an interest with a partner, instead settling for unimaginatively staged dialogue and fujoshi gags that do little to make these characters come to life on the page.
For a different perspective on Wotakoi, check out my Manga Bookshelf Sean Gaffney’s review.
Kory and Helen’s latest Manga in Your Ears podcast splits the difference between old- and new- school titles with in-depth reviews of The Key to the Kingdom, a CMX title from the aughts, and Dead Dead Demon’s DeDeDeDestruction, the latest series from Inio Asano.
New and Noteworthy
- Again!!, Vol. 1 (David Brooke, AiPT!)
- Alice & Zoruko, Vol. 1 (SKJAM, SKJAM! Reviews)
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Vol. 1 (Bryony Stibbons, UK Anime Network)
- Dead Dead Demon’s DeDeDeDestruction, Vol. 1 (Sean Gaffney, A Case Suitable for Treatment)
- Dead Dead Demon’s DeDeDeDestruction, Vol. 1 (Josh Piedra, The Outerhaven)
- Land of the Lustrous, Vol. 1 (Megan V., Mission Viejo Teen Voice)
- Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho, Vol. 1 (Helen, The OASG)
- So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 1 (Bill Curtis, Yatta Tachi)
- Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, Vol. 1 (Kathleen Townsend, Looking Glass Reads)
- Akame ga Kill!, Vol. 14 (Josh Piedra, The Outerhaven)
- Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, Vol. 6 (Eric Cline, AiPT!)*
- Flying Witch, Vol. 2 (Dennis Amith, J-Ent! Online)
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz: Glory of the Losers, Vol. 5 (Dennis Amith, J-Ent! Online)
- Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, Vol. 9 (Sean Gaffney, A Case Suitable for Treatment)
- Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 10 (Krystallina, The OASG)
- Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 2 (Josh Begley, The Fandom Post)
- The Royal Tutor, Vol. 6 (Krystallina, The OASG)
- Silver Spoon, Vol. 2 (Sean Gaffney, A Case Suitable for Treament)
- Smokin’ Parade, Vol. 3 (Matthew Alexander, The Fandom Post)
- To Your Eternity, Vol. 4 (David Brooke, AiPT!)
- Today’s Cerebus, Vol. 7 (Richard Gutierriez, The Fandom Post)
- Twin Star Exorcists, Vol. 10 (Jordan Richardson, AiPT!)
From the Vault
- Chi’s Sweet Home (Krystallina, Daiyamanga)
* Denotes a digital-first or digital-only release.