Nerds Find Love in Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku
I don’t read a lot of manga, but I’m trying to pick up more series. When I got the chance to preview the English translation of Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii, out tomorrow from Kodansha Comics, I was excited. And let me tell you, Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku is so freaking adorable I couldn’t stop smiling.
A webmanga originally posted on Pixiv in 2014, Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku is the story of childhood friends Hirotaka and Narumi, who reunite when it turns out they work in the same office. Both are otaku – Hirotaka is a gamer while Narumi is a fan of yaoi and BL. Narumi has had bad luck when people discover her hobby, so she tries to keep it a secret. Hirotaka, not realizing this, unknowingly outs her at the office in front of a couple of their coworkers…who also turn out to be otaku. Tired of Narumi lamenting that she can’t keep a decent boyfriend once they find out she likes yaoi, Hirotaka suggests that they date.
So far, I’ve mostly read sports manga (Haikyuu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball), which of course has been primarily focused on high school students. It’s nice to read manga that’s about adults with regular lives. The manga focuses more on their hobbies than their jobs, but they are often pictured at the office, or going out for drinks. I like the balance (or sometimes lack thereof) between their hobbies and their day-to-day lives, and a lot of the struggle is relatable. I’m sure at some point in our lives, we’ve all been Narumi, wondering how much – if any – of our hobbies we should reveal to people. I’ve never really been ashamed of my interests – especially now, because I’m an adult, dammit – but I have had friends who kept that part of their lives secret even from family members.
In between each episode are a few short bonus comics, most of them not more than a page or two. These bonus scenes really help flesh out their personalities, even though the main episodes do a pretty good job of developing the characters. Aside from Hirotaka and Narumi, the other office otaku couple are cosplayer Hanako and casual gamer and manga reader Taro, who have been dating since high school. They are all quirky and endearing, each with their own particular charm, but I’m kind of madly in love with Hirotaka.
I’m not sure how common this format is in manga, but one great thing about Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku is that it isn’t one overarching plot. Mostly it just seems to be little vignettes about Hirotaka and Narumi’s relationship – like him manning her booth at a convention so she can go visit her favorite artist, or him inviting her to his place but neglecting to mention that he also invited their friends to play video games. There’s also some really great contrast between the two relationships. Hanako and Taro are volatile, always fighting, but peppered with moments of genuine affection and sweetness. Hirotaka and Narumi’s relationship is not traditionally romantic. So far (the first English volumes contains the first two Japanese volumes), they have only kissed once. And Narumi punched him. But they do seem devoted to each other, even if it isn’t always visible.
Even better news, it’s an anime! I knew it was premiering this month, but I just found out that it actually premiered last week, so I had to hurry up and watch the first episode (which contains “Episode 0” and “Episode 1” from the manga). I’m actually really excited about the anime as well, because the first episode featured scenes that weren’t in the manga – probably to beef up the story a bit, since it isn’t really a straightforward plot. I hope there are more anime-only scenes in future episodes! Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku streams on Amazon Prime; new episodes are released on Thursdays.
I zipped right through this manga and can’t wait for the next volume. I’m absolutely in love with these characters. It’s usually hard for me to get used to a new art style when I switch between manga (and honestly the way their noses are drawn still kind of bothers me for reasons I haven’t quite figured out), but I actually like the art. Not to mention, the first episode of each volume is in full color, and there are translation notes at the end for anybody like me who’s not yet that familiar with Japanese culture.
I highly recommend Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku. I think a lot of you guys will really enjoy it. It’s cute and fun and sweet.
The English translation of Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku is published by Kodansha Comics. Volume 1 is available April 17.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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