First Impression: Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki

Tomozaki is a gamer. In fact, under the handle nanashi, he ranks first in online play in Japan for a fighting game rendered in the the light novels and Japanese dialogue as “Atafami,” and in the subtitles as “Tackfam.” (Both are abbreviations of “Super Attack Families,” a clear nod to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series.) Outside that…he’s a stereotypical high school loser who thinks the game of life is trash. It’s unfair, unbalanced, and makes no sense. But everything changes when the second-ranked player in Japan, NONAME, invites him to meet up…and turns out to be Hinami Aoi, a classmate and the undisputed smartest, prettiest, most athletic, most popular girl in school. Hinami is bitterly disappointed that the gaming rival she respected is such a failure IRL. When Tomozaki counters by arguing that someone like her who got lucky and rolled a high-tier character can’t understand an unfortunate low-tier character like him, she says he’s just blaming the game rather than putting in effort. And if there’s one thing Tomozaki hates, it’s people who blame the game for their losses. And so Hinami, a top-tier player at the game of life, takes on the role of coaching Tomozaki, so that he can see for himself if life is really a terrible game…or if it’s just as good as Atafami/Tackfam.

This is a high school romantic comedy flavored by allusions to video gaming. As a big fan of the light novel series, I’ve been looking forward to this adaptation, and the first episode didn’t disappoint. Many aspects of the story, from Atafami to Hinami’s coaching (which involves things like posture, facial expression, and tone of voice), get a new lease on life in a medium with art and sound. The first episode also raises interesting philosophical questions about how much control we have over our lives. Are we (and Tomozaki) at the whims of an RNG in a game that unfair and illogical? Does everything just come down to effort, to putting in hard work to better oneself and one’s situation? Or perhaps in the end Tomozaki will find a middle ground between his initial fatalism and Hinami’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps confidence? This episode captured much of what I like about the books, with the added of bonus of visual and aural elements that a book can’t convey. I have high hopes for this anime, and I recommend both it and the novels on which it’s based.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (light novel) is published by Yen Press.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (anime) is available on Funimation.

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