Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko! - 01
??????????! / ??????? (Onnanoko ni Miraretai! / Senritsu no Chousenjou)
"I Want to Be Seen as a Girl! / A Terrifying Challenge"
Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko! is the latest romcom that's centered around a dream girl who must rely on both her own instincts and the friends around her to guide her into the arms of her best friend. The only problem is that she's a tomboy who is constantly seen as his best bro, no matter how often she tries to let her feelings be known. Will this be endearing? The results may shock you.
I'D RATHER PLAY MORTAL KOMBAT ANYWAY, I'M ALL ABOUT MY JOHNNY CAGE
You can tell Tomo is built for sports because she carries this entire show on her back. Even though she's plagued by being in the friend zone, she's got a personality of her own as she's very peppy and excited to get invested in karate. While she has her own softer side around Jun, she's also a great friend to those in need.
When two of the girls who try to bully her fess up to wanting Mizuki in the funniest scene in the episode, Tomo is ecstatic because it means she gets to be the one to play matchmaker this time around. The short bits where she's taken seriously as a girl are very sweet because of how much blatant disrespect she gets for being tougher than your average girl at school. She's so used to getting slagged on for her tough demeanor that it's touching to see the small parts where she's genuinely excited to be perceived as cute or pretty.
I can also see plenty of viewers such as myself would want to have watched this because they just really like tomboys, and Tomo does have that appeal going for her as well. The main draw of the show is the fact that she's a tough girl with short hair and a side fang. While I find her mom to be the most attractive, I can see why people were quick to fall head-over-heels with Tomo as their tomboy waifu of choice.
Sadly, the show mostly just sees her as another boy until they get a view of her chest, which comes off as one of the many superficial ways the anime mocks Tomo. Using Gundo as the show's most predominant voice, Tomo is constantly judged for being the one to blame for her lack of presentable femininity. Her athletic hobbies and headstrong personality is seen as a bane that drags her down and leaves her unable to be seen by Jun as a woman.
I DEMAND JUSTICE FOR TOMBOYS
It has a very toxic way of seeing womanhood by honing in on how Tomo is the one who has to change herself for a man. Where she has to make the moves to come off as more feminine because Jun will constantly just see her as a man unless she dramatically changes to make him see her as a lovesick girl. And because he's just a dumb guy, he's not expected to know any better unless the answer smacks him in the face, so it's the woman's responsibility to jump over hoops and hurdles for them to be recognized.
There's a weird fetish feel to seeing scenes where they feminize Tomo as if it's some miracle that she has a feminine side, and just needs the right guy to bring out her femininity. It has the same nefarious feel that comes from the creepy expectations that any girl who isn't a shy, pale-faced maiden isn't worth their salt as a woman. It's also disrespectful for people who do like tomboys because being seen as athletic is meant to just be a phase to bridge the gap between being a rowdy schoolgirl and being a domesticated housewife. Girls don't have to soften up and remove their individuality altogether just because some idiot dudes online think you like men if you like Noi from Dorohedoro.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...
Much of this is Gundo's fault because she's a horrible, possessive character who has ordained herself as their matchmaker despite being toxic in both Tomo and Jun's lives from jump street. She treats Tomo like she might as well be a boy because she's not even trying to be feminine enough to get Jun's attention as a woman. They even add the caveat that she isn't well-endowed and has the resentment to match it, which also hones in on the sexist stereotype of a woman's worth being tied to their chest size. It's sad to see the Manyuu Hikenchou class hierarchy be so heavily ingrained in how mangaka write friendships between girls.
Jun hates her guts the most because Gundo's scumbaggery also applies to the advice she gives him. I was surprised the tone shifted back into comedy when Jun shoved Gundo in the rain because rubbing in her cuckolding fantasy of Tomo hooking up with someone else was repulsive. The joy that Gundo gets out of using cruelty to prove a point winds up being a detriment to her character, and only Jun is able to see that enough that her mere presence disgusts her. He almost takes it too far though because any time he's in the same room as Gundo, he's 0.5 seconds away from throwing her out of a window. It's scary as hell, and immediately shifts the tone to much darker territory when they have to share the screen together.
Tanabe isn't any better because he's just a shameless pervert who insists the two are dating because she's attractive and they're both athletic, spreading sex rumors about the two are a result. They share the same problem as the Uzaki shippers in that they are pure scumbags who are unlikeable yet insist on playing matchmaker. At this point, the only likable matchmaker I've seen in a recent romcom is Najimi from Komi-san just by the virtue that Najimi genuinely likes Komi's company and uses group outings to have Komi bond with some friends while still respecting her comfort zone.
I LOVE YOU, MAN
It doesn't help that Jun himself is kind of a scumbag who refuses to read between the lines on why Tomo is upset at him for diminishing her efforts to confess to him. By the time he's telling Tomo that she talks like an old man, grabs her by the collar as if she's still a bro, and pats her on the butt as if she's still a bro, he has to be doing this on purpose. He has to be screwing with her by constantly gaslighting her into being treated like a guy, especially since he doesn't notice she's a girl until he enjoys her BO and sees her chest wet from the rain.
I don't believe in the 4-Koma adaptation curse that can't properly blend chapters since only some shows really mess up not being able to split up chapters naturally. On the surface, Tomo-chan does naturally blend its chapters together decently since there isn't a jarring contrast between story beats. However, this comes at the cost of Jun's character as each new scene shows us why Jun royally sucks for acting oblivious toward every single bit of Tomo's attempts to get her to like him.
He'll smack her on the butt in a bro-y way, but then be flustered about seeing through her clothes. We'll get a scene where Tomo attacks Jun because of the rumors Tanabe spread, but then it won't be important because it didn't spread far past their friend circle and wound up never mattering anyways. Jun will shove Gundo in the rain and they'll give each other death stares as if the next time they see each other, one of them is getting stabbed. But then, the story immediately forgets this and moves onto another cutesy comedy scene. It's tonally all-over-the-place throughout the first half, and even the second half gets bogged down when we jump from location to location to location without any time to breathe.
I think that Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!'s first episode can be summed up as an underwhelming experience. Some people might be drawn in by the breezy romcom antics of Tomo and Jun, but I find myself picking at the premise too much for it to be my cup of tea. Compared to most of the other fluffy romcom anime that's cropped up within the last few years, its main draw of seeing a tomboy fight for her love isn't nearly as endearing as I thought it'd be. Many of the contrivances to force Tomo to make her feelings come through come off more as annoying for me than amusing, so I can't say I'd look forward to seeing more of how their relationship develops if it winds up being this static and Jun is this oblivious of his surroundings.