Title: Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance
Year of release: 2019
Let’s just get this out of the way quickly: WATATEN deals with college-aged otaku-seamstress Miyako and her obsession with the 10 year old Hana’s cuteness. The series is at war with itself over what degree this is – does she simply want this cute girl to wear her cosplays, or is she getting off on it? Does she just find her cute, or is it genuine romantic attraction? With the occasional spark of romanticism to the framing, it uncomfortably leans towards the latter. But, despite what the premise might suggest, this is only actually a small part of what the series spends its time developing. Is it worth overcoming this difficult hurdle?
At its heart, WATATEN is another in a long line of cute-girls anime that creates wholesome and heartwarming, but mostly insignificant, snippets of life. In more recent years, these have been increasingly using a gimmicks of settings or character traits to distinguish themselves from the rest. While you might be inclined to think the adult lusting for a child is the prime distinguishing factor, the identity of WATATEN is actually crafted around the difference between children and adults, and the series can be a riot when focusing on its kids and their antics. The line between all-too-knowing and immature blends together to make some hilarious and fun depictions of children annoying adults and each other.
While Miyako’s sister, Hinata, can veer overly on the annoying side with her exaggerated sis-con trait, it’s Noa who really steals the spotlight for most of the series. Her entire foundation for joining the cast involves blackmailing Miyako when she knows that she cosplays in secret, and even beyond that, her constant spunk never grew old. Hana, too, fits brilliantly into the straight-man comic routine, deadpan-style putting Miyako down at almost every opportunity to bat away the romanticism more than accept it.
For all the difficulties she gives to the premise, Miyako can actually be quite relatable as an isolated college student with anxiety. Shop assistants are a pain, and, no matter how old you are, they can be scary; making friends just gets harder as you grow older; our hobbies and interests can be embarrassing. There’s even some rather touching discussion of Miyako’s personal negativity towards her body, whereby the entire rest of the cast constantly positively affirms that she can quite easily be pretty if she gets out of her slacks and stops hiding behind her hair. Miyako, when not turning into a blubbering mess of hormones, is a blubbering mess of anxiety and is well depicted in that role in the larger cast’s supportive net.
Which is why it’s so annoying that the romantic framing is so overwhelming. At a certain point in the series, it can become quite easy to forget that she has a potential romantic attraction – that is, until the storyboarding seems to value a certain kind of body language and a certain kind of distance that is hard to see as platonic feelings from Miyako to Hana. In general, it is the framing that most sells WATATEN as a romance. But, I’m on the fence of whether I should call that a strength or a weakness of the series, because it really does use its tools to create an impressive showing: WATATEN’s animation is creative and inspired. One such scene involved the children playing a board game with Miyako, and they were represented in other-worldly styles as the pieces of the board. Moreover, the play is animated into another world and many other sequences have rapidity and closeness to its characters that should feel like a blessing. There is a high level of craft here, indeed, which is why it can be frustrating.
It’s very difficult for me to give a simple verdict on WATATEN. If you already feel disgust at the lolicon premise, then this series won’t win you over, but if you’re on the fence, its delightful slice-of-life chops just might be something you can at least enjoy.