By Thea Srinivasan
At this point, I have written too many reviews on romance manga. There is certainly nothing wrong with that as romance manga are my guilty pleasure, but I am worried that I’m seeing life through rose-tinted glasses due to all of the shoujo-style happy endings. Luckily, the following manga doesn’t have any additional shoujo gunk to clog up anyone’s mind.
Wotakoi: Love is hard for Otaku is about Narumi Momose, an otaku who finds that her hobbies are a burden in her life. She keeps her hobbies a secret from her non-otaku friends and her work life. One day she meets her childhood friend, Hirotaka Nifuji. Unlike Narumi, Hirotaka doesn’t care about hiding his hobbies and tends to have an apathetic exterior. Narumi invites Hirotaka for a drink to rekindle their friendship, and in their conversations, she decides to ask Hirotaka to be her boyfriend. He accepts, and from there, the two begin dating and learn how to deal with otaku related issues within their relationship and friendship with co-workers: Hanako Koyanagi and Taro Kabakura.
The characters in the manga don’t fit into their traditional archetypes, rather they focus on their personal. For example, Narumi is a cute woman yet isn’t the hardest worker. We learn about her preferences as an otaku and isn’t fit into one specific archetype. Hirotaka is a cold man who has his personal preferences as an otaku as well. While Narumi and Hirotaka don’t share the same opinions on everything otaku-related, they respect one another’s thoughts and get along really well due to their personal love for anything otaku related. My main concern with the pair is their romance. Narumi slowly developed feelings for Hirotaka over time. While it is cute to see their relationship evolve, I do doubt the feelings Narumi develops are actually towards Hirotaka because she keeps replaying flashbacks of their childhood. To me, I find the relationship between Hanako and Taro to be more interesting and plausible. They are constantly arguing, but their banter comes off as more playful rather than something truly degrading. I believe that their relationship is much more interesting to watch and read about compared to our leading characters.
The hidden otaku references are very cute to see. As an otaku, or nerd, whichever definition is the correct one, I love seeing all of the hidden messages throughout the manga. Although there were a few references I couldn’t catch, I was still able to understand most of them. For readers who don’t have as much knowledge about otaku culture, this manga is not suitable for them. I normally don’t like to marginalize readers, but this manga is meant for someone who has more knowledge about otaku culture. People will find themselves confused and lost if they don’t understand the subtext that takes place in the manga.
Finally, the art style is quite calming and is quite beautiful to look at. Compared to other art styles, this has a delicate balance between the backgrounds and character designs. I really enjoy looking at the art and find myself wondering how the creator balanced it so well. No complaints here on my end. Hats off to the creator for their decision-making skills.
Overall, this is a nice and easy romance for many otakus. The slice-of-life feel allows more emphasis to be placed on the otaku culture and allows readers to get a nice romantic feel from both couples. The art style is pleasant to look at and I don’t find myself grinding my teeth at the cotton candy romantic moments. This manga is for the person who wants to experience a subgenre without having to leave their own couch.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku vol. 1