In the days leading up to the release of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki-kun’s second volume, I found myself suddenly (and maybe a little unreasonably) excited to get my hands on it. Perhaps it was residual from the anime announcement or from the generally warm reception to future volumes that I’d seen on twitter in the recent weeks, but I was very ready to return to this series and with high hopes.
The burden of expectation has, admittedly, ruined many a volume from far too many series for me but I did end up enjoying Tomozaki-kun’s second book a lot. It’s solidified the series as one of the most promising and fun ones that I’ve read this year and I wanted to take some time to talk about what makes it so special.
In a few words, Tomozaki-kun is a slice of life, high school rom-com that’s very much inspired by the likes of Oregairu. There’s a lot of similarities between the two series but perhaps the most obvious is in its main character and its premise. The titular Fumiya Tomozaki is a high school kid that’s had it with how much of a “shitty game” life is. As a so-called “bottom-tier character”, he can never hope to attain the heights of achievement that others his age have because of the absurdly unbalanced nature of it all. This is the perspective we’re first introduced to and as you might expect with its proximity to Oregairu, this isn’t one that’s meant to last.
The novel quickly introduces one Aoi Hinami – the top student at their high school and a so-called “perfect superwoman” – a top tier character by every one of Tomozaki’s metrics. The two meet, due to some coincidental circumstances, and the series progresses from there with Hinami attempting to prove to Tomozaki that life, far from being a “shitty game”, is one of the greatest. From then on, Hinami teaches Tomozaki how to improve at the game of life from the bottom up, with of course the whole host of drama and threads of romance that hallmark this genre of the novel.
What I loved about this central conceit was that it never left any room for doubt as to what it wanted to say about Tomozaki’s perspective. The series is generally sympathetic to him but hammers home that self-improvement and the very attempt at bettering yourself is a worthwhile thing. One of the best moments of the series for me was a scene in which Tomozaki first noticed visible signs of change in himself, which was followed by an incredible feeling of pride and accomplishment in him.
There are a few other small things that I love about the series that I wanted to mention: Atafami is Tomozaki-kun’s equivalent of Smash Bros and is an important plot device. As a result, there’s a lot of detail put into the characters and game mechanics that make the small fighting game fan in me happy. The novel also evidently puts a lot of thought into its social scenarios with heavy attention on the ‘atmosphere’ with how the characters handle and talk about it. Alongside this, Tomozaki’s intense overthinking and general social awkwardness was and continues to be painfully relatable – which gets a reluctant thumb up from me.
The novel isn’t perfect though and its somewhat weak dramatic threads in the first two volumes as well as the uncomfortable feeling of leeriness that I got from the writing in regards to some of its female characters, do put a damper on my enthusiasm for the series. I did hear very good news about the former moving into volume three though so at least part of my worries will be hopefully remedied.
It’s a series that I’d certainly recommend to lovers of this particular genre of the novel and of course, fans of Oregairu. It’s weird to say but it feels like it’s been a long time since I read or watched anything in the high school rom-com space and Tomozaki-kun was exactly what I was looking for.
So if this series interests you at all, please do check it out!
Thanks for reading,
This is post two of twelve that I’ll be writing as part of this year’s 12 Days of Anime. Be sure to check out all other amazing writers that are participating in this year’s event here.