After surfing the web for too long one night, Tomoko, knowing deep down that she won’t be getting skinship with a real boy anytime soon, tries other means to get into sexual situations: first by trying to induce wet dreams–which don’t come, except at the worst possible moment; second, by wishing that someone would at least molest her–which does not have the outcome she expected or wanted; third, buying sexy panties with help from her now-fashionable friend Yuu–which are exposed in the most humiliating, and unusual, way; and finally by buying a BL game and a “massager”–which is discovered by her father. It seems that Tomoko is destined to be “pure,” and not voluntarily either.
The episode opens with a scene that I can relate to wholeheartedly: spending hours into the night surfing the web, reading one random article after another long past your bedtime. Tomoko is a hikki in training! But the bulk of the episode is about sex, sex, sex, and unlike Nakamura’s railing about it in Aku no Hana, it’s not boring.
Let’s be honest: for a lot of nerds/geeks in high school, one of the most frustrating things is feeling like there’s no outlet for all those hormones rushing through your body. You’re not handsome/pretty enough, you’re not popular enough, no one will go on a date with you, and so while all those other people are making out and learning all about their bodies, you’re just left standing there with only sad fantasies to keep you going. And I can tell you that this is even true, perhaps doubly true, if you have a religious upbringing.
There’s both a refreshing and a troubling level to the things that happen to Tomoko in this episode: it’s refreshing in the sense that Tomoko is not the “virginal pure” type of high school girl that we often see in otaku-oriented anime. Her lustfulness, which gets taken to deliberately absurd heights, is much more believable on a human level, and all the more sad in that we know her efforts are going to be thwarted. (It doesn’t help that she comes off as creepy, even to Yuu.) Her unhappiness over being undateable and untouchable is easy to relate to for some of us.
That feeling is tied to the troubling aspect, particularly in the molestation storyline, where the story seems to make light of harassment and even rape by the end. Yes, we get that Tomoko is desperate, though part of her does seem to get that this is no picnic; and yes, perhaps the point is that she so starved of validation that her lonely mind can think that this is fine. But it’s not fine, and the show’s ambiguity on the point breaks the tension between comedy and tragedy that the show had negotiated so well. It wants us to laugh at her mindset, but I found it more depressing than funny, and so I couldn’t laugh at that segment at all. Can someone be so starved for touch that she’d think being molested is preferable to nothing?
(Note: I’d be interested to hear whether there are people who can answer that question, or if this episode is a fanciful projection, which is what I suspect it is. And if it is, that’s not a good reflection on the mind of the creators.)
We are still treated to the same incredible facial expressions as before, fortunately, and the same genius comic timing/cringe humor, particularly by the third part when she discovers the BL game and the vibrator. (Come now, that’s what we are supposed to think it is and is the basis of the scene’s humor.) Those parts did make me laugh, though the pain vs humor ratio is a lot higher overall. You begin to think, “so this is why Japan’s birthrate is so low…” and why surveys show that the Japanese are the least sexually satisfied out of major developed nations. Combined with the hikikomori phenomenon–and Tomoko is well on her way toward being one–the humor of WataMote might be a reflection of the sad state of affairs that many of the “less desirable” people, men and women, face for relationships. It’s not pretty.
The raunchiness of this episode, is, admittedly, sometimes both fun and funny. But it’s a mask for Tomoko’s humiliation and loneliness. There is one ray of light: we see her dad gently, non-judgmentally carry her to bed after she’s fallen asleep in front of the game with the massager still turned on. Despite her callous treatment of her brother and his reciprocal disdain, Tomoko at least still has a family and a real home. Right now, it’s the only place she really has where she can more or less be herself. Let’s hope she’ll be able to move forward even further.