Tomo-chan is a girl!’s wholeness and belonging make her an easy contender for anime of the year

The anime landscape has long been dominated by the Shonen demographic. Many of the biggest stars that even non-fans recognize come from Shonen, including Goku, Naruto, and the timeless Astro Boy. 15 of the 19 manga franchises that have sold over 100 million copies are considered shonen products.

Over half of our 2022 Anime submissions were Shonen, and three of the most hyped shows in 2023 – Attack on Titan, Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen? Save, save, save.

It’s easy to see why, as it’s a crowd-pleasing style that offers everything we love about the medium: a dopamine-drip of high-octane combat and compelling storylines. Even a quick look at my all-time favorite anime will reveal that it’s populated by the likes of Gon Freecss and Josuke Higashikata.

As a result, other genres have to climb a bit to compete against the Shonen monster. In this context, think of Shonen as some sort of Sukuna or Perfect Cell, or even DIO wielding a road roller that he uses to smash all odds.

But every once in a while, an alternate race anime hits the spot, devoid of the fight scenes and high drama, and instead aims for a certain point of gratification unique to these more relaxed narratives. Last year we had Bocchi the Rock and My Dress-Up Darling. In 2023, Tomo-chan is a Girl is my early pick for hit sleeper in the Anime of the Year race.

Tomo-chan is a Misuzu Gundou girl
Image Credit: Fumita Yanagida, Seikaisha/Tomo-chan is a girl! Project

When I watched the first two episodes in January my first impression was that this was pretty fun and a show I would continue to watch. A few months later, I was blown away by how much I grew to love the cast. The general consensus among fans of the manga is that the duo of Misuzu and Carol are the highlights (and I’ll gush about that in a bit), but a story is only as good as its protagonist.

Tomo is just a really likeable character that you want to see succeed. She wears her heart on her sleeve, never interested in excuses or mind games, and is content to muddle through any problem she faces. Anime is packed with good-natured heroes without a mean bone in their bodies, and yet Tomo remains a breath of fresh air. She’s such a wonderful mix of confidence and self-doubt thrown together in one adorable package.

Opposite her, we saw Jun progress faster than I expected, actually addressing his feelings instead of just forgetting everything. There’s only a limited amount of time that the lack of awareness might have had an impact, so it’s nice to see they gave him a lot more agency. The way the last episode ended seems to open even more doors as well.

And of course, their buddy-buddy dynamic becomes all the more compelling when you add superstar tandem Misuzu and Carol. This odd pair work well in unison but remain intriguing in isolation, with steady character growth that may have come unexpectedly. That said, I didn’t anticipate that Carol’s perpetual breezy bliss is actually an intentional facade. Episode 9, The Angel’s True Face, really took her personality to new heights, showing her desperate and vulnerable.

This is also the perfect time to mention that Sally Amaki is proving to be one of the most versatile talents in the business. Playing Carol in both the original Japanese version and the English dubbing, she fully embraced the role with her sugary tone and impeccably hilarious performance. Whether you’re a sub or dub devotee, she makes it hard not to watch whole scenes back-to-back and jump back and forth between the two languages ​​to see the differences and similarities.

Where I initially predicted that Tomo-chan would stick to well-known trends of absurd misunderstandings, it has actually allowed its narrative to go beyond that. Some segments don’t focus on the “will they, won’t they” aspect at all, but simply follow the daily events of these people in slice-of-life-type adventures. The underlying thread is still there, it’s just given breathing room from time to time.

This really feels like a coming-out party for Lay-Duce, a studio perhaps best known for its series Fate/Grand Order and Magi: Sinbad no Bouken. In a season that’s had plenty of action to get the blood pumping – with Blue Lock and My Hero Academia season 6 entering its final stages – it’s actually Tomo-chan that I look forward to each week most pleased. Hopefully it won’t be relegated to the background when year-end deliberations take place, as it’s proving to be the quintessential rom-com.

Not only does it hold up on the fronts it promises, but it’s also starting to unfold in a variety of ways. At the very least, the delightfully quirky Yurukuru love deserves to be in the top-end OPs discussion.

Tomo-chan is a girl! is currently airing on Crunchyroll. If it’s your thing, you can also check out our list of other anime that are similar. Tomo-chan is a girl!’s wholeness and belonging make her an easy contender for anime of the year

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