One of the joys of reading manga is getting a better sense of Japanese culture. That’s without a doubt one of the coolest aspects of the romance series Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. This series follows four otaku’s which is a word for nerd. Romance is hard when you’re a hardcore gamer or manga reader, and this series details the unique lifestyle of such a person.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The awkward, romantic comedy manga about geeks in love that inspired the new anime! Can a professional man who’s secretly a hardcore gamer and a woman who’s secretly a fujoshi date without their hobbies getting in the way, or revealing each other’s secrets?
Why does this matter?
If you’re a cosplayer, play video games for 20+ hours a week, or just feel awkward with strangers you’re going to relate to the characters in this series.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I’ve probably learned more terms and little Japanese nerd factoids reading this and the last volume than anywhere else. Some references certainly fly over my head, but without a doubt creator Fujita has created an incredibly genuine story here. It’s without a doubt capturing real-life portrayals of people and the culture they live in. Being a nerd in America doesn’t quite have the stigma the characters must live through in this manga, but it’s relatable nonetheless. This volume fleshes out the main characters’ two friends Hanako and Taro (who have a wickedly sexual relationship) quite a bit with a new budding relationship.
Hirotaka and Narumi, the main characters, end up progressing their relationship a bit, but it’s clear Fujita is rolling out the hot and heavy stuff at a slow pace. There’s an intense moment in this volume, for instance, where they are close to kissing, and there’s also a hilarious beat where Narumi sees a lot more below the belt than Hirotaka would ever want. The manga captures little vignettes of all these characters’ lives, be it gaming (or even in-game role-playing), shopping at manga stores, or just hanging at the coffee shop. I could easily see this series being adapted into an American live-action show because it’s so darn genuine.
Added interesting elements include little bios and ratings of each character in-between chapters. In one, we get power levels for each, such as how good they are at work vs. gaming vs. social life. These pages add fun details and allow Fujita the ability to flesh out the characters outside of the main stories.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There’s definitely a learning curve to the cultural aspects American audiences may not understand or completely get. Much of the first half of this volume isn’t very funny because of inside jokes about anime or manga, which is a bit of a drag. Still, the series makes me even more enamored with Japan.
One element that threw me off was a flashback that occurs across a couple different chapters later on in this collection. It’s focused on Hanako and Taro, but I was a bit perplexed as far as when it was occurring. There wasn’t a clear explanation of when it was going on and they both looked slightly different being younger. I figured it out eventually, but it took awhile.
Is it good?
This second volume continues to explore relationships between nerds in a genuine and sometimes heartwarming way. It’s the kind of manga that peers into Japanese culture and will make you want to visit even more.