Steve and Nicky check out this season’s stand-out romantic comedy starring an athletic girl and her oblivious jock crush. Is this a new romantic comedy to add to your queue or are the characters just too frustrating?
This series is streaming on Crunchyroll.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Nicky, this column will be going live on February 14th! And as we all learned in high school, no Valentine’s Day is complete without irresponsible amounts of PDA.
Public Displays of Ass-kicking
Well, you know how the song goes, “A kiss with a fist is better than none,” eh? Which now includes bro-fists.
But can these best bros stop fighting for one minute and just kiss already? If only things were so simple…
Alas, if things were simple, we wouldn’t get gimmicky anime romcoms every season, and then where would we be? We’d be without Tomo-chan Is a Girl!
, that’s for sure. It’s a touching tribute to bros in love because sometimes, one of those bros happens to be a tomboy.
I’ll lead with the manga for Tomo-chan is quite special to me. I wrote about this a bit in my most anticipated anime for fall, but the not-so-simple premise makes it the perfect amount of clichés that is great to see in anime, but behind that, there’s a surprising amount of heart and good-natured fun!
While I haven’t read it, the manga was bandied about for a good while in our corner of anitwitter, which is unsurprising, considering one of the leads is a fiery fanged tomboy with a handful of neurons firing at any given moment. Her problem, however, is that she’s developed a crush on her longtime friend Jun, who’s so close that he sees her as “one of the guys.” And lo, gender and all its lovely complexities rear its ugly head.
Normally, being a sporty muscle-headed jock-type who punches first and asks questions later is a bit of a no-go when it comes to attracting the person you like, much less if you want to appear feminine. Tomo knows more about karate kicks than she does anything about putting on clothes or make-up. She would have to undergo a complete transformation to make her feelings hit as powerful as her sick moves.
Society has ideas of what makes a girl “pretty” and “attractive,” and Tomo does not fall into those. Typical romance rules dictate that the only thing to save Tomo from being in the bro-zone forever is to experience a make-over!
However, is that correct? Will changing make the object of her affection see her in a different light? What we see of Tomo is that she’s plenty cool and awesome as she is, and that’s where Tomo-chan Is a Girl!
deviates from the “typical.”
Yeah, it’s to Tomo-chan’s credit that it recognizes the fundamental absurdity of trying to adhere to those societal standards. Most of the main couple’s humor revolves around how that thinking inevitably backfires.
After all, it’s quickly revealed that Jun already likes Tomo as more than just a friend! He can’t bring himself to admit it, as it would break the status quo.
You can visualize all his brain cells simultaneously struggling to calculate his situation just by looking at his dumb face.
That’s the main thing that becomes obvious as the show progresses. Tomo thinks he’s just that thick, but really, he knows she’s smokin’, but he doesn’t want the prospect of a romantic relationship to ruin the strong platonic one they’ve forged over the years. This is a fear I can relate to, but it doesn’t make their antics any less painful to watch.
It’s not necessarily a bad kind of pain. The little nuances here and there keep their schtick from getting too tired and make their issues feel human. Communication and relationships are muscles you have to develop. As growing humans, Tomo and Jun are truly in a “No pain, No gain” situation. Sometimes they even give other people pain!
Any show about teenagers in love that isn’t painful is doing it wrong, so that’s not a complaint on my end. But I also appreciate that the entire supporting cast ends up being as frustrated with the main couple as I am.
Speaking of pain, Tomo has some very interesting allies to help with that. Mainly her other childhood bestie, Misuzu. She’s a pain expert. Does she increase pain or mitigate it? Yes.
She’s tired. Though, their childhood makes it sound like she was always like this.
Misuzu serves as a kind of “necessary evil” as she’s intelligent and recognizes that Tomo and Jun need to be pushed out of their comfort zones if they want anything to happen.
But also, if she didn’t get to annoy people, how else would she get any fun out of it?
There’s pushing people out of their comfort zone, and then there are concocting NTR fantasies to taunt both parties into action. Obviously, her end goal is getting these two knuckleheads to smooch already, but you can’t deny the specific kind of exhausted vindictiveness she brings to her schemes. And that’s why I love her.
All romcoms need the chaos factor.
It makes sense that they dated, even if it was for less than a week and even if it ended exactly the way I imagined it.
“Dated” with a big asterisk that reads “in middle school.” We discover that Misuzu and Jun have no romantic feelings towards each other because his idea of a fun date is an Olympic athlete’s daily regimen.
Tomo accidentally makes the girls at school fall for her by being a completely sincere, noble, and crushingly ignorant female himbo is one of the best gags, for sure.
Though, I would not say that Misuzu is immune.
If anything, I would say that if anyone understands how much of a female himbo Tomo is, it’s Misuzu.
Despite how interested the series is in gender performativity, it doesn’t delve too deep into the queer angle beyond the occasional gag about Tomo’s pangender appeal. This is a missed opportunity, given the subject matter.
The idea that Misuzu might be a lesbian equally pining for Tomo isn’t explicitly explored since she still cares about helping her friends first and foremost, despite how evil and selfish she may come off. But, haha, it really wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to fuel that. She also has no tolerance for guys who go after her, which is fun.
Well, it all works out in the end because Misuzu does get her own girlfriend eventually.
Speaking of fun, I’d say Carol is the most fun character around. And by fun, I mean chaos.
Carol shows up looking like she should be chasing after Austin Powers in the opening credits. But once we get to know her, it turns out she’s an entirely different breed of freak and the best character in the show.
She’s also got brilliant casting since she’s voiced by Certified Professional Gremlin and member of the multimedia idol group 22/7
, Sally Amaki
, in Japanese and English! Sally became viral for her very humorous English vlogs, so she’s a perfect fit for Carol.
She brings the correct dose of weird girl energy to her performance, so it’s a unique blessing that both dubs get an equivalent experience with Carol’s charms and horror.
All of her dialogue is caked in the same unsettling sing-song register, but the subtle variations to that are what makes her so fun.
So much horror. At first, you think Carol might be dumber than Jun or Tomo, but actually, she might be scarier than Misuzu and the vagueness makes it all the more terrifying. I love her. I’m happy to see her animated. She just wants to have fun.
She immediately picks up on the situation with Jun and Tomo and dissolves into the cast perfectly like a bundle of cotton candy in a backyard kiddy pool.
Carol’s mom perfectly nails Misuzu as a good girl trying very hard to look bad. Chef’s kiss. No notes.
Tomo’s Dad explains a lot about her too. Mainly that she gets her lovesickness from him. As well as his karate moves, considering he owns a dojo and all.
It’s true; the strongest men get their power from being a wife guy.
And going along with your other point, I also enjoy that Misuzu’s mom correctly identifies Carol as a dangerous cryptid.
They are drastically overestimating either Tomo or Jun’s ability to be honest with themselves, but bless them for their optimism.
I like that they have so much faith because they know them. Jun is a dojo member, so he has dad’s full support. Tomo was once a member too, but she moved into the boys’ club at school instead after failing to join the girls’ club by being too stronk. Emphasizing that Tomo and Jun have been each other’s spar buddies forever.
Yeah, I like the moments where the narrative breaks down how arbitrary the divide between gendered sports is. Like the entire male dodgeball team is cheering when Tomo gets added to their roster. It’s a good example of the show using its dumb comedy in a smart, targeted way.
It could easily fall into some lousy gender pitfalls, but it doesn’t really because it’s so wholesome. It sets itself up, but many jokes will land in ways you don’t expect. It’s not the show with the greatest animation, but the timing and the feelings are there.
I’m content as long as it keeps giving us good closeups of Tomo getting flustered.
Most of all, I appreciate the show’s respect for Tomo. It’s clear that Jun sees her as more than just a friend but as a rival worthy of his respect, and respect is a strong basis for any good relationship. There’s still a lot they have to learn, but I hope anyone looking for it can find someone who looks at them the same way Jun looks at Tomo.
The show’s overall message is about being true to who you are, not who other people say you should be. While trite, it’s still a good message to have out there, and more specifically, it’s nice to see a romcom that doesn’t believe tomboys need to be “fixed.” Tomo’s perfectly cool, just the way she is.
Except for all the ways she’s painfully uncool, which is why we have the rest of the cast to commiserate with.
Ultimately, Tomo-chan Is a Girl!
is a sweet, fun, and lax show with enough surprises that make it perfect for snuggling up with yourself, with a partner, or sitting back and watching with a friend. It’s a real champion of my heart, and I’m happy more people can enjoy it and marvel at these adorable idiots. Happy Valentine’s Day, all!