Some people are unashamed to declare their nerdiness for all the world to see. Others prefer to stay quiet about it and choose to only discuss their interests with a small group of friends. And then you have people like Narumi Momose, a 26-year-old who stans hard but is terrified of being outed as an otaku (someone obsessed with something pop culture-related). This fear has made Narumi’s life rather difficult, especially in the love department. Multiple guys have broken up with her over her love for manga, idols, and anime while her parents don’t quite understand her interests. But if there’s one thing WOTAKOI: LOVE IS HARD FOR OTAKU proves, its that no matter what you love, there will always be someone who will love you regardless. With its quick humor, cheerful exposition, and relatable characters, WOTAKOI Vol. 1 is a fresh take on a well-established romance trope.
A Simple Story
WOTAKOI is an episodic manga by Fujita following the budding romance of Narumi Momose and Hirotaka Nifuji. The two are childhood best friends who reconnect when Narumi starts a new job at Hirotaka’s workplace. Not expecting to run into someone who knows about her secret obsessions, Narumi invites Hirotaka out to dinner. While there, Narumi laments over her latest breakup and how her boyfriend dumped her after he found out she is an otaku. As they walk home together, Hirotaka proposes a solution to Narumi’s problems: date him. He knows about her otaku habits and isn’t bothered by them as he’s a gaming otaku himself. Touched by his bold proposal, Narumi agrees, and thus their love story begins.
WOTAKOI Vol. 1 is actually a combination of the first and second Japanese volumes and covers the beginning stages of their relationship. Unlike many romance manga, WOTAKOI takes on a slow pace as the two figure out what works for them in a relationship. But don’t let the slow pace fool you. WOTAKOI is simply a different kind of romance manga. There isn’t much drama or fights from miscommunication. Because of their childhood friendship, Narumi and Hirotaka actually know each other’s likes and dislikes fairly well. And when a problem does arise, they’re patient and communicate their needs while still respecting their differences.
While WOTAKOI might sound and look like a typical manga, Fujita’s art style adds visual humor. The manga is filled with overexaggerated expressions that represent the characters innermost feelings. This is a style most people who read comedy manga will be familiar with. But, when paired with fourth-wall-breaking jokes and the one-liner commentary that’s on nearly every page, WOTAKOI establishes itself as a unique manga both in style and story.
An Adult Love Story
The simple premise is actually one of the best parts about WOTAKOI Vol. 1. We expect misunderstandings, love triangles, class warfare, and the likes of romance stories. But we often forget that the opposite is just as enjoyable and appreciated. Anyone who is tired of dramatic romance stories will find comfort in WOTAKOI’s storytelling. The way the Narumi and Hirotaka work out their issues in an adult manner is actually quite refreshing. Even then, they still fumble, such as when Hirotako struggles to get close to Narumi after asking her out.
The two also have their senpais to look to for guidance. Hanako Koyanagi and Taro Kabekura have been together since high school. However, it’s sometimes hard to believe that they’re in a loving romantic relationship. The two bicker constantly and the smallest thing can lead to a screaming match between them. Yet they actually have great respect for each and don’t let petty fights seep into their private life. In fact, their private life is fairly tame in comparison. They watch anime, play video games, and go on dates just like any other normal couple.
Koyanagi and Kabekura are a pretty excellent foil for the two main characters. Their inclusion in the main story reminds audiences that not every relationship has to be a whirlwind romance and what matters most is that you find what works best for you.
Unparalleled Nerd Comedy
WOTAKOI Vol. 1’s strength is in its jokes. It uses familiar tropes (childhood best friends and coworkers-turned-lovers) to establish its story but stops there. Whenever a trope seems to arise, the manga pokes fun at it instead. For example, when a hot young guy gets close to Narumi at a café, her coworkers worry that he’s trying to steal her away only to be surprised when the hot young guy turns out to be Hirotaka’s younger brother. It’s moments like this, where the manga’s jokes and romance intersect, that make WOTAKOI widely entertaining.
More than that, however, WOTAKOI Vol. 1’s storytelling can be painfully familiar for some. Whether you’re a book nerd, comic book fan, movie aficionado, gamer, or all-around geek, you’ve probably had to hold a discussion with someone who doesn’t understand your passions. And if you’re one of these people who’s looking for love, you’re probably looking for someone you can share your interests with. After all, what’s the point of loving someone if they can’t understand that those are figures, not toys, sitting on your shelf?
The comedy in this manga wouldn’t be achievable if not for its unique characters. Just because they are all otaku doesn’t mean they are all one in the same. Narumi prefers Boy’s Love manga, anime, and otome games; Hirotako is a hardcore gamer; Koyanagi is a well-known cosplayer; and Kabekura sticks with mainstream shows, games, and manga. Their preferences often clash, especially when faced with non-otaku, leading to hilarious and unpredictable situations.
Much Love for WOTAKOI Vol. 1!
WOTAKOI Vol. 1’s double-feature has much to offer readers. Its main romance is easy to follow while the manga’s overall humor has us striving for a relationship like Narumi and Hirotaka’s. This is a manga that doesn’t need the complicated drama of other romance stories.
As Narumi and Hirotako slowly ease into their relationship, we’re excited to see what’s to come. The end of WOTAKOI Vol. 1 teases the couple’s first real date. Will everything go smoothly? Will drama arise in the second volume? We’ll have to read on to find out!
Featured image courtesy of Kodansha Comics.