This is a blog series comparing a manga and its relevant anime adaptation, discerning which version is ‘better’. These posts will be spoiler-free comparisons helping to inform people on which version is better—in my opinion of course.
What’s the important information? No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! or ‘Watamote’ for short is an ongoing manga series that has been running since August 2011 and as of August 2018 has 13 published volumes. A 12 episode anime series adapting the first four volumes aired during the Summer 2013 anime season.
What’s it about? Tomoko Kuroki is a high-school girl who’s pretty much as socially awkward as they come, this slice of life cringe comedy series explores her high-school experience as she finds herself increasingly isolated due to her social anxieties and finding out that life isn’t at all like it is in the otome games she’s so fond of. Her awkward interactions with other students, teachers, family and the general public are always a source of cringe-inducing comedy throughout the series.
Which has the better art? The manga’s artwork is simplistic but conveys the various shades of embarrassment on Tomoko’s face perfectly, which is a large part of the success of this type of story. The anime captures this same visual style but feels like it has a greater attention to detail—in this respect the anime does it better, but it’s a close call.
Which has the better comedy? One of the most important things in comedy is timing, something that is often difficult to come across accurately with text and images alone—sometimes a joke is only as good as the person delivering it or the pacing provided with what’s not said being just as important as what’s said. And for a series that thrives off awkward pauses and odd line-deliveries the anime excels where the manga can only do so much. Don’t get me wrong the manga is still very funny but the comedy in the anime is pretty much perfect.
Which has the better characterisation? While oftentimes the manga version is far and away the better at characterisation as there’s less of a need to keep up the pacing and more time to allow character moments to breath the very nature of this series means nearly everything our protagonist does is character-building. However the manga just edges out the anime in this instance simply due to the fact that there’s more surrounding content.
Which has the better pacing? The structure of the manga is more traditional, with even some 4-panel segments interspersed between the larger chapters. Whereas the anime almost feels like a Western sitcom in similar vein to shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. However I think the pacing works ~slightly~ better and feels more naturalistic in the manga—only just though.
Which has the better ‘cringe’-factor? If we’re going strictly off what both original and adaptations provides and we’re judging on it accordingly not only do we have to talk about the ‘comedy’ we have to talk about the ‘cringe’. Some people love it, some people hate it—personally I think it can go either-way depending on the character and Tomoko delivers just the right amount of cringe to make it enjoyably tense and comedically uncomfortable but never distasteful or annoying. The anime strikes the balance a lot better simply due to the more deliberate and apparent comedic timing, making the ‘cringe-factor’ superior in the anime.
What specifically is better about the anime? Aside from the obvious and already mentioned positives of anime adaptations in general the anime feels simultaneously more and less hopeless. While the anime is arguably more comedic and therefore lighter in tone just by the addition of musical cues it also relies more heavily on the aforementioned sitcom structure which makes it feel like forward character progression ~sometimes~ gets stymied in favour of having “everything back the way it was at the start of the episode” and that makes for a more rounded and enjoyable surface-level experience.
What specifically is better about the manga? The aforementioned “surface level enjoyment” of the anime makes it a more shallow experience compared to the manga. Whether it’s true or not it at least feels like the manga is a lot more intimate with the character. For example, Tomoko’s thoughts as she interacts with people are present alongside the dialogue rather than being something that’s cut to for comedic effect. This is simply a virtue of manga since text bubbles for both speech and thought are present at the same time but where it might feel overloaded or even confusing in an anime (especially if it’s the sub) in the manga it feels almost like a diary. Being able to read this deeply troubled and sometimes deeply sad individuals more private thoughts as she tries to navigate social encounters makes for a richer and more rewarding experience. Also, while the anime still has plenty of references to otaku culture, the sheer density, complexity and specificity of the references are so much more satisfying (and explained at the back of each volume) in the manga that there’s an added layer of joy to almost every scene.
No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! Anime VS Manga—which version is better? From a purely entertainment level (assuming you’re a fan of cringe comedy) the anime nails that genre from the get-go and doesn’t let up for the whole season. But that said the manga feels like a more rounded experience, even if it’s lacking in some respects such as aesthetics and comedic pacing. I personally prefer the more consistent and prominent comedic edge of the anime and so will ultimately recommend that but only by the slightest of margins—the manga definitely has a lot of unique selling factors and is well worth reading alongside or after watching the series in order to get a more complete experience.
More Anime VS Manga Comparisons:
If you liked my post and want to support my content, please consider supporting my Patreon page, or donating by buying me a coffee on Ko-fi!