26 March 2016 | Quizzical-Panda
Tomoko is best girl
I've never seen a show that can so quickly move from heartbreaking to hilarious and not skip a beat. The best thing about the show is unquestionably it's main character, Tomoko Kuroki, a 15 year old asocial girl (who I personally suspect has undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome) as she attempts convoluted schemes to try and make herself popular. On paper she should be horrible, with an unquestionably vindictive side, and a deep-rooted tendency to pass responsibilities. However, she possesses an unquestionable resilience, that no matter how dark and lonely it feels, she's still in control, with a fantastic tenacity to continue in her pursuit of social acceptance. Both English and Japanese voice-actors perfectly sell her anxiety and naivety. When she acts cruelly, the Universe usually punishes her for it, so she never reaches the point of her being unlikeable. These flaws allow us to laugh as she winds up in calamitous and embarrassing situations none of which I will spoil.
But this becomes the chief tragedy as well as a source of humour. As we see how warm and nice she was at the very beginning of childhood, to slowly see her devolve into isolation and rejection, from being almost transparent in Middle School to totally transparent in High School is hard to watch. To see that happiness drained from her face to one of cynical desperation can be hard to watch, but what is harder still is the main perversion of her character; her twisted sense of priority. Despite having the unquestionable love of those in her family, she appears almost ignorant of it, instead frantically pursuing the next scheme to somewhat increase her social standing for a brief few years at best. Her life has flown far off course and she doesn't even really understand why.
If you have a problem watching people in embarrassing situations, especially if you can relate to them, you won't find much enjoyment in the comedy. Tomoko's antics produce more 'Spaghetti' than the entirety of Italy. I found my cheeks physically hurting from the amount of cringe that was upon me, even as I laughed uproariously. We feel bad for her, but none of it is serious enough that we feel bad for laughing. We know she's going to come back with some poorly thought-out scheme next time and get right back on with it.
An obvious reason that the show took off was the similarity of the main character with many Anime viewers, who would have similar niche interests, as well as unsatisfactory social lives. It was ultimately 4chan who revived the Manga, and kept it from falling into the ether, igniting a wave of popularity in the West before the translation even came about (the creator would write a subtle thank-you to 4chan when the English edition came out). Tomoko is one of my favourite characters precisely because she is so flawed, while possessing all the right traits to keep me rooting for her, which is the basis of good writing.
I haven't even talked about the great opening which perfectly sells her anger at her isolation in the grimy prison she finds herself, the ED, which provides a magnificent dissection of her character in lyrics, and the animation, which uses colouring, and the lack thereof, to express the draining of her individuality beneath the crushing losses she finds herself enduring. Frankly, if I could have any form of interaction with her, I would simply give her a hug; she clearly needs some.