For most kids, the first day of middle school is something to look forward to. For Hitori Bocchi (yes, that’s her name), it’s the day she’s been dreading the most. Suffering from a clinical level of social anxiety disorder, she only had one friend growing up, and that friend not only goes to a different school now, but she has told Bocchi that she will cut ties with her until she makes friends with everyone in her class. Now Bocchi has to figure out how to make friends, when she can’t even make a self-introduction without throwing up. For the moment, she decides to try to befriend the girl sitting in front of her, an aloof-looking girl named Sunao Nako.
While it’s easy enough to enjoy this show as just another lighthearted cute-girls-doing-cute-things comedy, the portrayal of the main character as someone with social anxiety disorder means there’s potentially more to this show than just its cuteness. This certainly isn’t the first show to have its main character with extreme social anxiety; I remember WataMote from some years back as a show that was particularly poignant in such a portrayal, though I ultimately felt it got held back by it being too focused on the protagonist’s more self-destructive behavior due to her being too focused on becoming popular. This show is practically the antithesis of that one: While Bocchi does do many silly things because of her anxiety, since she’s more focused on making friends, she is able to actually make progress. It helps that Nako is a great person to be Bocchi’s first middle school friend; she can be brutally honest at times (her name literally means “honest girl”), but her patience and willingness to work with Bocchi’s quirks becomes a positive force for their eventual friendship. There’s certainly some good comedy moments in this too (especially with Bocchi’s idea for how to hold a conversation), but I think this show can be something special in providing a hopeful perspective on dealing with social anxiety.
With all that said, I know there are readers who deal with social anxiety themselves, and I am curious if this episode resonates with them, for better or for worse. Please let me know in the comments what you think about this show’s portrayal of social anxiety.
Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu is streaming on Crunchyroll.