When I saw the premise of Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki, I felt a bit… iffy. Reading the synopsis gave me the impression that the show is going to be some kind of self-help guide for lonely nerds where a girl helps a guy in order to be the most popular normie at school. I was worried that would be a certain vapidity in the proceeding. Now that I’ve watched the show, well, the show is technically what the synopsis said, but also something more.
More importantly it kind of cements Tomozaki as my favorite loner type characters. This is largely due to his honesty and earnestness which can be seen in the way he ties his motivation to his gamer identity.
The Loner Archetype
Way back when I started this blog, Oregairu is one of the anime that I’ve written in here. When I wrote that post, I was thinking about how Oregairu appeal lies in how much it focuses on a socially awkward friendless nerd, something that, at a time, shatters me because how relatable Hachiman is to me. Looking back, I found that there are actually a lot of things that I don’t relate to in Hachiman. For one, I don’t share his cynical misanthropic perspective. The other is that while Hachiman is a loner, but he didn’t seem to be socially awkward. He can actually hold a conversation with people outside of his circle on more than one occasion. The lonely state that he was in doesn’t seem to be (at least) primarily driven by his social ineptitude. In the years since then, I also found that this particular loner archetype is also a lot more common than I thought, not just in anime, but in media as a whole. Because of that, I didn’t find Hachiman as novel as I think he was back when I first discovered the show.
Tomozaki in Bottom-tier, with his rant about how real-life is a shitty game and how he hates normies, does seem like Hachiman’s clone, the loner archetype, at a glance. His (at least, what I assumed to be) motive, i.e. getting gud at real life to be popular, is also another element of him that turns me off. The reason why I dislike “wanting to be popular” as a motivation is that it isn’t so much popularity is wrong per se, it’s more to the fact that a lot of people often want popularity for its own sake, which is… not exactly a long lasting happiness that a lot of people would expect. However, as I watched the show, something about Tomozaki just clicked with me.
What Differentiate Tomozaki from Other Loners
Beyond his social anxiety and his nerd hobby, there’s a certain quality about him that makes him stand out from all the other lonely loser that I’ve seen in media: His sincerity and earnestness. This quality of his especially shines in the coda of episode 4 after he asked Hinami out to see a movie. Tomozaki found that he was happy when he does that, but his happiness stems beyond reaching that normie life or getting to hang out with a cute girl, but in managing to work to change himself and get a result for it. From this, it can be seen that Tomozaki’s motivation in getting gud at life isn’t because he wants to be popular or get all the girls or any other form of external validation. Tomozaki do it for the same reason he puts a lot of hard work into
Smash Bros. Attack Family; he wants to be a better person and enjoy it in the process. There’s a also certain constant thread within the series where Tomozaki’s wanting to get better at socializing is related to his perceived identity as a gamer. For him, git gud in life is really the same as git gud at Tackfam. He is not trying to attain the “ideal normie life” that other people like him want to reach. Ultimately, real life is just another game Tomozaki wants to put an effort into so that he can have yet another game he can really enjoy.
There’s also the fact that he didn’t want to, or at least hesitant in some cases, to use a method that he deemed to be “insincere” in order to git gud. When a classmate of his, Kikuchi, mistook him as a fellow lover of an in-universe author, Tomozaki relent at first but then quick to correct her misunderstanding. There’s probably a half-dozen media out there where the loser main character would content to use misunderstanding like that as a jumping off-point to a relationship (off the top of my head, there’s Dave Lizewski’s antic of posing as a homosexual to get a girl in Kick-Ass). Tomozaki’s quick decision to resolve the Kikuchi’s misconception, beyond the fact that it is refreshing and relieving, it also really speaks volume of his honest nature. He even ended up reading Kikuchi’s favorite books and actually liking it! And as much as he is trying to change himself in order to presentable, there are certain things he won’t budge about himself, and he is not afraid to let out his own opinion about it.
Because of that, Tomozaki is quickly becoming my favorite loner character in media. His earnest hard-working nature and motivation makes me relate to him more than Hachiman’s cynicism. I really hope the series wouldn’t lose sight of these qualities in the future.
- There is a certain danger in treating life as a game, but so far, the series likened life as a game in a sense that it has a certain rules and systems in place that you can analyze, observe, and take advantage of, so it’s really not malicious (at least, I think so).
- I also like how Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki characterizes Tomozaki’s helper, Hinami. In a series where there’s a female character who helps the male lead in order to succeed, it’s easy to characterize said female character into a person who only exist to help said male lead. However, in this series, Hinami has her own less-than altruistic reason for why she’s helping Tomozaki; she can’t stand the fact that the guy who beats him constantly at this one game is such a bottom-of-the-barrel real life loser because that would make her a loser! I do hope the series would explore Hinami more in the future though. There’s the fact that she has differing goals in getting gud at life than Tomozaki and how she mentioned that she has lived less than ordinary existence throughout grade school.
- Watching the show can sometimes be a painful experience. Some of them because Tomozaki’s awkward encounter reminds me of my own painful and awkward memories in highschool, some of them because it reminded me of how much effort that I didn’t put in so that I can be better at socializing. Granted, it’s not like I didn’t try to improve myself, I just think there’s always more for me to be done (fun fact: when it comes to self-improvement, there’s always more). Plus, I do believe there is a certain part of me that I couldn’t really change and other people just have to accept, but figuring out the lines between what I can change versus what is inherent within me is something that I struggle with throughout my life. I hope the show would also explore this conflict.