By Fujita. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii” by Ichijinsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Pool. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Jessica Sheaves.
In general, when we see romances in anime and manga that also involve “otaku”, they tend to revolve around an otaku and a seemingly “normal” person who fall for each other. Kiss Him, Not Me! is a good example. We’ve also seen the occasional otaku couple, but they’ve been fairly minor characters in a story which focuses on someone else. With Wotakoi we’re finally zeroing in on romance and otaku in equal doses, and all four characters are deeply into it. Indeed, the fact that it is equal doses is the big selling point. Wotakoi is very good at balancing out its (admittedly slow-moving) romance between the leads and also the everyday otaku banter that they go through, and it makes it feel all the more realistic, because I know couples like this, who will suddenly sing a theme tune when they’re even vaguely reminded of it. Despite the otaku veneer, Wotakoi feels genuine.
Hirotaka is the guy on the cover, he likes playing games. Narumi is the girl, she’s more of a fujoshi and also makes her own doujinshi. They’re childhood friends who meet again when she starts at a new company, Over the course of the book, the two slowly enter into a… wait, no. Over the course of the very short first chapter, the two enter into a relationship founded on “hey, we might as well date”. I really liked this, because it felt very real to me, even as it’s lampshading her “mercenary” otaku mindset. And they really *do* make a great couple, as is clear immediately to everyone else except perhaps Narumi. Hirotaka does have genuine love for her, and is content to wait while she figures everything out (though he’s also not very good at emotional bonding). They also have two coworkers who are also dating and also happen to be otaku, though Taro is the most “normal” of the bunch. He and Hanako are very different from the two leads, and I loved them to bits.
In fact, that may be one of this double-volume omnibus’ flaws – the beta couple interest me more than the lead. This is, admittedly, not uncommon in romance series, particularly one where the main girl is cute and slightly oblivious like Narumi is. Taro and Hanako have that sort of “we fight all the time but love each other deep down” relationship that only seems to work well in fiction but I love it anyway. They’re also hot, leaving our main leads to fulfill the “cute” function. And of course everyone is an adult, and actually feels like one, even Narumi. We’re seeing more and more manga get out of the high school and into the workplace, but the chwracter design still seems to be stuck back in the teens for the most part. I liked seeing people who look their age.
Wotakoi’s coming out in omnibuses, and Japan is only up to Vol. 5, so we’re going to catch up pretty quick. But I definitely recommend Wotakoi both to otaku who want to see a realistic depiction of how they work in life as opposed to the “creepy otaku” stereotypes, and also to romance fans who like comedy and don’t mind characters talking about their favorite games all the time.
Also, Taro and Hanako in evening wear. YUM. I can see why they used those shots in the anime OP.