Summer vacation has started, and isolated Tomoko–true to herself–does not bother going out of her room, choosing to while away the hours in front of a computer, a book, listening to more fantasy boys on MP3, playing games…and kvetching late at night, to the continued annoyance of her brother. Eventually even she realizes that she’s wasting her time, so she orders a webcam and attempts to start a streaming live show, only to discover that she has little to say that’s funny or entertaining to an outside audience. Her experiment with webcam stardom ends in failure.
By chance, however, she discovers that she has a ticket to a handsome voice actor’s meet-and-greet, where fans have an opportunity to have him record a line for them. Smitten by the possibilities, Tomoko freakishly prepares for the event, only to discover that she is utterly unprepared when it’s her turn to give him her desired lines. He handles it like the pro that he is, however, and soon Tomoko has an entire collection of his lines to tickle her ears, which she then proceeds to edit together with some of her “responses” into a suggestive audio play. Which, of course, her mother overhears because Tomoko plugged her headphones into the wrong jack.
This was the most hilarious episode of WataMote to hit in a while, and it’s all thanks to the way Oonuma builds up the episode. One might argue that the first third or half was slow-paced and boring–we essentially watch the passage of time as Tomoko spends most of her day inside her room consuming media (an experience many of us, myself included, are all too familiar with on vacation days). It’s only mildly punctuated with her night-time noises. But what is happening is a slow windup, which builds throughout the webcam story and which culminates with the voice actor recording. By the last third I was in a constant state of hilarity. The ridiculousness of the situation only becomes apparent over time and makes the payoff of the final scene that much sweeter.
One might also judge this episode as a win for Tomoko, given the parameters of the story. She essentially has her fantasies and desires fulfilled: in this case, getting to do what she wants in her room, meeting one of her idols and getting him to do what she wanted, and even using a bit of creativity to take that product and make it her own. Sure, the live stream was a failure, though the camera’s microphone was put to use; sure, her mother found out, but, much like her father did when she was discovered with an eroge and a vibrator, her mother just backs away and lets her be. One can debate whether a good parent should do such a thing, of course, and it was certainly embarrassing, but given all her past humiliations she got let off mighty easy in this episode.
There is one scene that was woven into the narrative that was a short, separate chapter in the manga: the one where Tomoki (the brother) sees his mother watching tapes of him and Tomoko as small children, when they loved each other and were affectionate to one another. He even declared he wanted to marry her then! His reaction, of course, is one of mortal embarrassment, but I found the scene to also contain an undercurrent of sadness too, given the contrast to their much more antagonistic current relationship. Oonuma, however, never gives in to playing up the sentimental parts too hard in WataMote, so the most we are given as a sign of reconciliation is him watching Tomoko from his window as she lights fireworks by herself. This realistic emotional understatement is a refreshing contrast to the likes of, oh, another just-concluded show about brothers and sisters that ran in the opposite direction. Both, oddly enough, have insufferable sisters who are at times barely tolerated by their brothers: but in this one, the sister is the subject rater than the object, and the difference could not be more stark in execution.
There’s also something in this episode about the obsessive nature of fandom and producing vs consuming media, but I’ll leave that discussion to my upcoming article/review of that other brother/sister show.