Tomo-chan is a Girl Review: The Most Frustrating Anime This Season

Directed by Hitoshi Nanba

Produced by Lay-Duce

Streaming on Crunchyroll

It is surprisingly difficult to find anime to review this season. Of the top ten anime airing this winter, seven are sequels: even considering the sequel-reliant nature of the anime industry in 2023, that’s a staggering number.

Difficult to find new anime, yes, but not impossible. If you, like me, are a rom com connoisseur, we are facing a barrage of options. Nagatoro-san is in its second season for those of you with a masochistic streak, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten for the kind of guy who needs his girlfriend to tell the McDonalds cashier “he said no pickles”, and even the rare adult workplace comedy in The Ice Cool Guy and His Cool Female Colleague.

For those of you paying attention, yes, I did recycle that McDonalds joke from my Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie review. You could argue that I’m getting lazy, but I’d counter that we’re in a glorious renaissance of femdom anime that I even get the chance to repeat that line.

And that brings us to Tomo-chan is a Girl, perhaps the most straightforward romantic comedy this season. We’ve all known that girl who’s just “one of the boys”, but what happens when our heroine tries to ditch that label and be seen as a girl? Well, wacky rom com hijinks for one thing, and a lot of karate-fueled violence for another.

To begin, let me just say it is the funniest thing in the world that a character whose defining feature is that they’re somebody’s friend is called “Tomo”. I’ve seen that joke in a dozen different anime and manga by this point, but whenever it begins to get old, I imagine an American writer creating a character named “Pal”.

Tomo Aizawa and Jun Kubota have been best friends forever. They trained in karate together, played in the mud, and got up to trouble as kids. In fact, Tomo’s tomboy persona was so convincing that until they went to the same middle school and he saw her wearing a skirt, Jun thought she was a boy.

A few years later, it is getting increasingly difficult for Jun to ignore that Tomo is a girl, though that won’t stop him from doubling down. While the anime has been coy about this so far, reading between the lines suggests that Jun is desperately trying to hold onto the friendship that they’ve had, and their feelings for one another are complicating that.

But that’s just speculation, because what we do know at the moment is that Tomo worked up the nerve to confess her feelings, and Jun responded by slugging her on the arm and replying, “I love you too, buddy.” Tomo, roll 4d8 psychic damage.

But with the help of her friend and Jun’s bitter enemy, Raiden Shogun, who the characters insist on calling Misuzu, Tomo will manage to ask Jun out, and make him see her as a girl. And also beat the living daylights out of him because cheese and rice, Jun, you can’t just tickle a woman and not expect to get maced.

That Genshin joke seems like a good time to segue into talking about Tomo-chan’s presentation, because the character designs are…okay, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, passing grades all around, but nothing really wows me. I love the anime girl fang as much as the next guy, but Jun is literally just the protagonist of every light novel harem anime, and there’s really nothing else remarkable about the designs.

It looks serviceably good. There’s a little more action than your average slice-of-life, considering how most of the cast are martial artists, so I’ll admit that the bar is a little higher than normal. That being said, presentation is more than just frame counts and fidelity.

The direction doesn’t possess a particular visual identity, whether it’s leaning more into the action or the romance. You might understand why I’m having a hard time coming up with things to say if you watch it yourself. Is it offensively bad? By no means, but neither is it exceptionally good. Really, the score here is going to come down to the strength of its writing.

I will say that I’m glad Tomo-chan is getting a dub day in date with the sub. I was surprised, considering the dubs of big titles like Chainsaw Man and Blue Lock lag behind their subs, but not disappointed. I’m happy that Crunchyroll is getting back in the swing of things; we were this close to many of the biggest shows in a given season having simuldubs, up until COVID went and put the kibosh on that. And as for the quality of that dub…it’s alright. Yeah, that’s a running theme here.

While I’d like to avoid sounding like a broken record, I don’t think the writing in Tomo-chan is especially strong or weak. Yeah, I’m in tatters, but for the life of me, it’s just a pretty good rom com, a 6/10 in almost every conceivable way.

That opinion might change if Tomo and Jun’s relationship should evolve in an interesting way; I speculated about Jun seeing Tomo as a boy to avoid confronting his feelings, and that would be an intriguing development, but I can’t evaluate an anime on how it might turn out good. At the moment, I’m going to say it’s just okay and give myself the opportunity to come back and see if later episodes have changed my mind. If you’re reading this unchanged, then yeah, it was so-so.

I think that Jun and Misuzu have a fascinating relationship. I love to see romance anime that make use of the supporting cast for both of the leads, and it was one of the best parts of all-time greats like Fruits Basket and Horimiya. I’m not just saying that because Misuzu gives big Hanajima vibes, either, though that may be part of it.

So, if you’re looking for a plain romantic comedy in a season chock full of rom coms with a twist, Tomo-chan is a Girl is probably your best bet.

I’m in a bit of a pickle. I want to honestly evaluate a good selection of anime of varying quality. I don’t like it when I only review great anime, because if you don’t have bad anime to measure them against, your praise means nothing. To balance out both trash and gold, you have to have something in the middle, and that’s where Tomo-chan falls.

If you like good old-fashioned rom coms and you don’t need a lot of window dressing to spice that up, then you’re probably going to have a great time with this one. My own feelings towards the show are just complicated by the fact that because I’m reviewing, I want to have a take.

You’re taking the time to read this, and I appreciate that more than I can put into words, so I don’t want you to think I’m wasting your time by writing 1000+ words that are all some variation of “eh, it’s alright”. We have our middle of the spectrum covered for this season, with Tomo-chan is a Girl at Neutral Fine, so I hope to bring you either the hottest rising stars of the season next, or maybe the hottest dumpster fires.

Feels wrong to plug my stuff after such a mediocre review, but hey, maybe I’ll have something worth saying over on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku. Until next time, thanks for reading.

FineTomo-chan is a Girl
PleasingNieR:Automata Ver1.1a

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