A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I’m cheating again, and by cheating, I mean I’m reviewing a book that isn’t necessarily new, but new to us here at the library. Wotakoi by Fujita is a manga series following the every day lives of four friends living and working in Japan. What makes Wotakoi unique from most other manga I’ve read is that it focuses on young adults at their workplace, instead of students in high school. With YA as a genre expanding to people in their late teens and twenties, Wotakoi is the perfect equivalent to many of today’s more mature YA novels.
Woktakoi isn’t just named Wotakoi. Its full title is Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku. If you have no idea what an otaku is or what that word means, you’re in luck, because I’m just about to tell you. An otaku, as defined by a google search, is “(in Japan) a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.” I’m sure you can guess, then, that this manga revolves around the lives of people who consider themselves otaku, even as they work a regular jobs at an office and go about their daily lives like any adult would.
Our main character, Narumi Momose, has been dumped by every boyfriend she’s ever had, thanks to her obsessive interest in manga and art. When she starts a new job, she just so happens to run into a childhood friend of hers—Hirotaka Nifuji. It turns out that Hirotaka is also an otaku—he loves video games—and instead of suffering alone, Narumi decides that the two of them should date. Who would understand her better than a fellow otaku?
As an adult nerd myself, I really enjoyed Wotakoi. I loved seeing people my age being unapologetically dorky about their interests, no matter how socially unacceptable it may be. I loved that all the characters had “day jobs,” but always made time for manga, art, video games, etc. It’s this very balance that I’m still trying to find in my own life. The characters themselves were fun—I liked Narumi a lot for her enthusiasm—and the slow-burn maybe-romance between Narumi and Hirotaka always kept me on my toes.
One thing I found a little confusing about Wotakoi—considering how acclimated I am to manga that tells one large story over several volumes—is that the story is told episodically. I didn’t quite catch that at first and found myself feeling totally confused until about halfway through the book. Then I realized, oh, these are little self-contained episodes, they don’t necessarily have to flow into one another.
If you’re worried about the characters being “too old” for YA, don’t be. There’s nothing horribly graphic in here. Some suggestive dialogue, but that’s about it. You can pick up a copy of Wotakoi 1 at the Oreana library today!