What’s the Story?
Hitori Bocchi is an incredibly shy girl, so shy in fact that she struggles to talk to anyone but her very best firend. Unfortunately for Bocchi, her best friend won’t be attending the same middle school as her and, clearly worried, her friend makes a deal with her. Unless Boxxhi makes friends with every member of her class by graduation, she’ll never be friends with her again. Now, you may be thinking that this is an incredibly extreme measure to take, but you have yet to understand the true, crippling awkwardness of Bocchi, frankly I’m amazed she functions as a person, but we’ll save that for the review, speaking of which…
I really like this show, I’ll say that upfront. It’s a sugary ball of delight that never failed to brighten my day whenever I watched an episode, and yet, as I sit here and let my brain get all analytical I have to admit that the show was okay at best. The show is a cute and charming bit of fluff, it’s nice and while nice is a perfectly good word its never going to set the world on fire. There’s nothing really that new here, there is an army of school anime set around a group of friends being cute and getting up to various antics, but the comedy is never zany enough and only occasionally manages to blow out the cute-o-meter. Honestly a lot of what this show does has been done before and better in plenty of places, it doesn’t help that the show this has a ridiculous premise and a status quo that shall remain forever etched into the Rock of Eternity itself.
Let’s talk about that premise, and the utter stupidity of it. So, you have a friend, they’re socially awkward to the point that it’s a wonder they haven’t locked themselves in their house and barricaded the windows (I’ll get to Bocchi in a minute), and you’re concerned that your friend is going to struggle at a new school by herself. What do you do? Why of course you threaten to never be friends with her again unless she makes twenty-nine other friends within a three year time period! Because forcing someone to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable is the best way to solve a problem, naturally (speaking as someone who constantly feels socially awkward and has to make a conscious effort to talk to people sometimes, I will admit that there are times when someone needs to drag me out of my comfort zone for my own good, but it’s far better to know that I have the support of a good friend along the way. You don’t threaten your friends into doing things!). Anyway, this whole premise is utter nonsense and purely there to give Bocchi an arbitrary goal to reach by the end of the season, which she never will because the twelve episodes only cover her first year and she’s nowhere near her target by the end, as if that surprises anybody.
Let’s talk about Bocchi and, while she’s…fine, she also happens to be the least interesting character in the series. At first she’s pretty funny, her social awkwardness is stretched to completely unbelievable proportions, but she’s kind of adorable as she comes up with convoluted plans to make friends, ties herself in knots completely misunderstanding situations and just digging herself in deeper and deeper. The trouble is she’s pretty much a one-joke character and once she’s run through the various forms that her awkwardness takes all that’s left for her to do is just to go through the cycle again and again. There are moments were you think she’s made a small, incremental change, but then she faints as soon as she makes a new friend and you realise, no, Bocchi hasn’t changed at all, at least not in any significant way. The clearest example of this comes with the very last episode of the series, the series began with Bocchi trying to give her introduction to the class on the first day and instead throwing. The epilogue of the last episode has Bocchi on the first day of her second year as she’s about to give her introduction and what does she do? Yep, she throws up. Nothing really changes and that’s what holds back the comedy the most with this series.
Okay, I’ve been tearing into this series pretty deeply and all the while my heart has been quailing because I do genuinely enjoy this series. Despite all its problems, I have an incredible amount of fun watching this show and that comes almost entirely down to the characters, well, the characters besides Bocchi. If you can’t get into the characters of this series then there’s really no chance for you, but if you can, as I did, you’ll find such a warm, sweet and enchanting series. I love these people, from the lethargic Nako-chan who is often mistaken for some kind of thug (especially by the hopeless teacher), to the ever-unfortunate Aru or Sotoka who wants to be a ninja. They’re all odd in their own ways, but never completely off the wall and while they’re hardly very deep characters, they each have their sweeter moments and I just love the way they banter with one another. Seriously, Nako and Aru need their own show, I love those two together. Heck, the friends even make Bocchi more interesting as she’s often at her best when she’s getting involved with their antics rather than just going through her joke again.
In the end, Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu is a fun little show, but that does depend on whether you can invest yourself in the characters that fill this series. Without them the jokes and the bright visuals just aren’t enough to carry the show. It doesn’t help that our lead only has a few jokes to herself that she quickly runs into the ground and the central premise is nonsense of the highest order. If you can connect with these characters then maybe you’ll be like me and laugh and smile all the way to the end. Have an Extra-Special-Aru-Aru-Do-Your-Best Beam on the house!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.