Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! (manga, vol. 1) by Nico Tanigawa, translated by Krista Shipley and Karie Shipley

Tomoko is 15 years old and has no real friends. She thinks that both friends and a boyfriend will just fall into her lap once she enters high school. Sadly, this does not happen, so she tries to figure out why not and fix it. That is, when she's not mentally grumbling about slutty girls and the stupid guys who gravitate towards them.

In this first volume, she forces her younger brother to speak to her for a certain amount of time each day, because she's out of practice talking to people. She meets with a friend from middle school, who now goes to a different high school, and is at first pleased that they still share an interest in geeky things like anime. However, she, too, has managed to find a boyfriend where Tomoko has failed. When the rain briefly strands Tomoko with a couple good-looking guys, she finds herself unable to talk normally to them. At school, she's horrified when she's assigned to do a make-up assignment with a male student in her art class.

This was the worst thing I read during my recent vacation. Tomoko was the female version of the stereotypical male geek who silently stews over his inability to get a date with one of the popular girls, obsessing over them while scornfully referring to them as sluts. Flipping the gender did not make that stereotype any more appealing.

The depth of Tomoko's lack of popularity was painful (she considered herself to be popular in middle school because, during those years, she interacted with guys a total of six times), as was her complete lack of knowledge about how to fix it. For example, at one point her appearance was better than normal. When she thought about it, she decided she looked better because she'd spent the night playing a really good otome game. She'd heard that sex makes people look more appealing, so she figured that a game that made her feel sexually aroused would work the same way. So she played it nonstop until her hair and skin were oily. I think this was supposed to be funny, but I didn't feel like laughing.

I both loathed and pitied Tomoko. To her, all pretty girls were fluff-brained sluts, and all good-looking guys were probably idiots who'd only be interested in makeup slathered sluts. Even as she thought these things, she tried to make herself look more like those “sluts” in order to become more popular. And failed miserably. She was interested in manga, and yet she viewed the other people browsing manga in the same store as her with disdain, labeling them all probable NEETs. Yu, Tomoko's only friend, confused her by still being a fan of anime like her, and yet also having a boyfriend and looking like one of the pretty “sluts.” Personally, I felt Yu could have done better when it came to friends and was glad that she didn't have the ability to peek into Tomoko's thoughts. At one point, Tomoko thought of her as a “sow.” I'm not kidding.

It's possible that future volumes show Tomoko growing as a person. It's possible, but the series title tells me it's not likely. I opted not to read the other two volumes I had available, and I doubt I'll ever continue with this series or watch the anime adaptation.

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