“If I got rid of my dæmons, I’d lose my angels.” –Tennessee Williams
When her younger sister, Hinata, invites a friend, Hana Shirozaki over to visit, Miyako Hoshino finds herself drawn to Hana’s adorable appearance and desires to have Hana cosplay. Although Hana initially finds Miyako off-putting, she quickly learns that Miyako is a skilful cook and makes food quite unlike anyone else, leading her to reluctantly play along with Miyako’s whims in exchange for sweets. Over time, Hinata befriends Noa Himesaka, who moves in next door, as well as the class representatives Koyori Tanemura and Kanon Konomori; they end up meeting Miyako, as well, and although Hinata’s admiration of Miyako has resulted in the whole of her class viewing Miyako as infallible, Koyori and Kanon come to realise that the real Miyako, whose crippling shyness leaves her inept with speaking with people she’s unfamiliar with, is as every bit as pleasant as Hinata describes. Later, Hana and Noa are both surprised that Miyako has other friends: Kōko Matsumoto had gone to the same school as Miyako and greatly admired her skill with a sewing needle, and since they’d entered post-secondary, has longed to know Miyako better, as well. Although Miyako only has vague memories of Kōko, she befriends her nonetheless despite the latter’s overbearing manner and begins to open up to those around her. Slowly, but surely, Miyako is able to begin stepping out of her shell and interact with a wider range of people. From taking Hinata and her friends to the summer festival, meeting Noa and Hana’s parents, who are happy Miyako had looked after them, accompanying Hana to buy some cream puffs, and even attending Hinata’s play, Miyako shares in experiences that help her to see herself in a more positive light – while Hana still finds Miyako a little creepy, she’s genuinely happy that Miyako’s been trying so hard for her sake, as well. This is Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita! (An Angel Flew Down to Me!, or Wataten! for brevity!), an anime that aired at the very beginning of 2019. While this anime’s premise had initially made it a little difficult to get excited about, once I started the series, I found myself with yet another unexpectedly heartwarming and positive series which also speaks to the idea of how falling in love can bring out the best in people.
Throughout Wataten!, Miyako is presented as being introverted, easily flustered and prefers her own world to the company of others. Upon meeting Hana, Miyako’s interest in her manifests in a dubious fashion: Miyako attempts to win Hana over with sweets such that she can have someone wearing the costumes she’s made. However, while Miyako initially appears to be someone who lets their desires get the better of them, she’s actually very withdrawn and shy; prior to meeting Hana, Miyako’s day consisted of going to campus and then returning home to her hobbies, as well as doting on Hinata. As a result of being so absorbed in a very small world, Miyako’s confidence is nonexistent, and once Hana comes into her life, Miyako constantly fights her own doubts, and her wish to get to know Hana better. Things are exacerbated by the fact that Hinata is very fond of Miyako, to the point where she tells her classmates stories about Miyako that paint her in an unrealistically impressive light. The image that people have of Miyako stand in stark contrast with how Miyako perceives herself, and this is where Wataten! particularly excels. While people may look down on themselves and have a poor impression of who they are, especially when they are so focused and absorbed on their interests, they often fail to realise that they can still have a very tangible positive impact on those around them. Miyako worries about meeting Hinata’s classmates, fearing their disappointment upon seeing that the individual they’d come to admire is actually nowhere nearly as beautiful and talented as they’d imagined as a result of Hinata’s stories. Similarly, when Noa and Hana’s mothers come to visit, Miyako’s mind concludes they’re here to hear about her perversions. In reality, Miyako’s kindness and sincerity does end up earning the respect of Hinata’s classmates after the culture festival, when she’d offered to help them make enough costumes for everyone in their school play. Noa and Hana also gain some insight into the kind of person Miyako is when they visit her university, and run into Miyako’s instructor, who praises her work. Similarly, when Noa and Hana’s parents come to visit, whereas Miyako thought they’d take her to the woodshed for messing with their daughters, it actually turns out Miyako’s been a very effective babysitter, looking after their children. Life is a matter of perspective, and the things one might not be proud of, are actually assets from a certain point of view – although Miyako is not always aware of this, she’s certainly done much to brighten Hana, Noa, Koyori and Kanon’s days; it is therefore unsurprising that Hinata looks up to Miyako as much as she does. Miyako may see herself as an introvert who can’t even shop for clothes without losing her cool, but others see Miyako as someone who always goes the extra mile for those around her.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The fact that I finished Wataten! might come as a surprise to at least one reader: when I began this series, one individual wagered I’d rage-quit before I could pass the finish line. However, even as early as half an episode in, it became clear that Wataten! has its own unique charm, and while the premise initially comes across as off-putting, the series’ execution means that a different side of yuri is explored. Folks have asked why I never write about those elements in other shows with a predominantly (or all) female cast, and the answer is simple: if romance is secondary to the themes, I care about the themes first.
- In Wataten!, the fuzzy feelings that manifest in Miyako when she first meets Hana can only be described as infatuation, and therefore, yuri does contribute to the theme in a nontrivial manner here. As such, it is something that I would take into account when considering the series. How things unfold between Miyako and Hana is quite standard for romance: love isn’t always reciprocated, and it takes a considerable amount of effort to win the party over. Early on, Hinata reveals that Hana’s weakness is sweets – after becoming unnerved by Miyako’s behaviour, Hinata hands Hana a pineapple bun, which relaxes her quite a bit.
- Hana reminds me a great deal of both Madoka Magica‘s Homura Akemi, and GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu. In appearance, she’s a younger Homura and possesses the same stoic manner. Like Chino, she initially responds coldly to affection. However, Hana’s penchant for sweets is a bit of a weakness, and she reluctantly puts up with Miyako’s need to have her cosplay in exchange for homemade sweets from Miyako. From a certain point of view, Miyako is taking advantage of a child in ways that could be seen as illegal, but fortunately, this aspect of Wataten! is short-lived and minimal, certainly not enough to be a problem as the series continues.
- Indeed, Hana is surprised that Miyako’s as capable with making sweets rivalling what’s sold in stores as far as quality goes, and this is what encourages Hana to come back over. That Miyako’s a deft hand with making sweets foreshadows her own skill-set: while Miyako lacks confidence, Wataten! makes it clear that she’s got positive traits, too. No one is more appreciative of this than Hinata, and I can imagine that, since Miyako dotes on Hinata, she must’ve picked up her skills through looking after Hinata. In exchange, Hinata adores Miyako and affectionately refers to her as Myaa-nee.
- Once Noa joins the cast, Wataten! really enters high gear – this is when the series hits its stride, allowing the characters to bounce off one another in increasingly hilarious and endearing ways. Noa is introduced as the neighbour, and spots Miyako cosplaying. However, to Miayko’s great surprise, Noa isn’t judging her, but rather, is also a big fan of the show that Miyako had made the costume for. That Miyako initially wilts and assumes the worst shows a lack of confidence in herself. On the flipside, both Hinata and Noa have plenty of confidence: Hinata is the one who encourages Miyako, and when Noa shows up, she brings energy to things, as well.
- Unlike Mitsuboshi Colours, which felt distinctly like Chimame Corps’ Amazing Adventures, Wataten!‘s characters are unique in their own right. Having said this, several familiar names return to play each of Miyako, Hana, Hinata and Noa. Reina Ueda (Akane Shinjō of SSSS.Gridman, Bakuon!!‘s Hane Sakura, Hanayamata‘s Naru Sekiya, Shiori Shinomiya from Sakura Quest and Moe Suzuya of Koisuru Asteroid) is Miyako, while Maria Sashide (Koisuru Asteroid‘s Mai Inose) is Hana. Meanwhile, Akari Kitō plays Noa (Harukana Receive‘s Ai Tanahara, Seiun Sky of Uma Musume Pretty Derby and Machikado Mazoku‘s Momo Chiyoda).
- Par the course for series that are character-driven, Wataten! also introduces the dependable Kanon, and the unfortunate Koyori; Koyori brings to mind Hotori Bocchi‘s Aru, while Kanon reminds me of Slow Loop‘s Aiko in appearance, and K-On!‘s Ui Hirasawa in manner. The latter loves to be depended upon but her efforts usually backfire, while the former is reliable, competent and kind. During a home economics class, Koyori and Hana end up destroying their cookies, whereas Hinata, Noa and Kanon pull through. Amongst Hinata’s classmates, Miyako’s developed a reputation for being beautiful, intelligent and smart – Hinata is very fond of mentioning her older sister to her classmates, and one of the driving points is that Miyako constantly worries that she’s letting Hinata’s classmates down.
- Thus, when Koyori and Kanon show up to visit, Miyako does her best to keep up, only to break down and admit that she’s nowhere nearly as wonderful as Hinata has suggested. Kanon does her best to comfort her, and as it turns out, meeting Miyako in person does allow them to appreciate why Hinata’s so fond of her. Here, Miyako is seen with her hair up in a rare moment: she’s usually quite reluctant to wear the outfits that she makes, so to see her don said outfits is a sign that Hinata and her friends are pushing her in the right direction. Similarly, for class, Hinata, Noa and Hana end up making a boardgame about Miyako, with the intention of pushing Miyako out of her comfort zone.
- As it turns out, Miyako is a post-secondary student enrolled in fashion design, and moreover, she’s a solid student. Being in post-secondary, Miyako has a bit more spare time on her hands and therefore, is able to spend time with Hinata and her friends: high school students in Japan tend to participate in clubs, and even for me, I spent a fair number of days every week during my time as a high school student at school doing club activities (yearbook, model parliament and in my final year, graduation committee). Conversely, in university, I spent almost all of my free time doing research, but still had enough time left over to hang out with classmates at nearby pubs.
- Curiosity leads Hinata, Noa and Hana to swing by campus. Here, they run into Kōko, a mature young woman who is kind enough to show them around campus. However, it turns out that Kōko is actually the splitting image of Miyako despite appearances – ever since she and Miyako had been in the same club in high school, Kōko had long admired Miyako’s handiwork and sought to befriend her, but was stymied by the fact that Miyako is incredibly shy. This creates a bit of a misunderstanding when Miyako finds out Kōko had been following her in secret, and ultimately, it is thanks to Hinata, Noa and Hana that Miyako overcomes this particular barrier.
- While Wataten! does not have the most detailed visuals, or the most innovative animation, the artwork and animation quality is of a consistent manner, chosen to match the series’ tenour. There’s a watercolour like feel about backgrounds, speaking to the almost idyllic nature of this world. The characters themselves are feature a more solid palette, and this distinction subtly nudges viewers to focus their attention on the characters over their surroundings.
- Kōko’s addition into Wataten! initially gives Miyako a taste of her own medicine, and she’s able to now understand how Hana feels whenever she pressures her into wearing something against her wishes. This helps Miyako to dial it back some and be more considerate towards Hana. Similarly to Miyako, Kōko’s desire to befriend Miyako is a bit heavy-handed, but her intentions are honest, and despite looking up to Miyako, her own craftsmanship and skill as a seamstress are solid, too: in the aftermath of Kōko swinging by with a maid outfit for Miyako to try out, Miyako comments Kōko’s work is of a very high standard and even beats out her own. Kōko would doubtlessly be thrilled to hear this, but she’s content to know Miyako’s willing to try it out.
- The highlight in Wataten! was when Kōko steps up to explain that Miyako’s been looking after Noa and Hana in her stead – Miyako had been worried silly that Noa and Hana’s mother would see her in a poor light, but from a different perspective, Miyako’s been the responsible babysitter, keeping an eye on their children and keeping them occupied, away from trouble. Being able to present one’s activities as being beneficial and productive is a skill: in fact, this is essential to putting a good resume together. For instance, if one’s day-to-day work consists of putting together user interfaces in Storyboards and pulling their hair out because Autolayout Constraints can be a little fickle, then on their resume, they might describe this as “obtain user requirements and produce pixel-perfect graphical interfaces to maximise a pleasant user experience”. In this moment, Kōko shows that, like Miyako, she also has things to be proud of, even though her heart is set on befriending Miyako, similarly to how Miyako is actually quite talented despite thinking of herself as being otherwise.
- While Wataten! has some solid thematic components, the series also excels in its comedic moments. Halfway through the series, to help Hinata become less clingy, Miyako uses the “do whatever I ask” card she’d saved from Hana and has Hinata endure five days without Miyako. Although Hinata initially seems unaffected, by the third day, she goes into withdrawal, and things become severe enough so that Noa dresses up as Miyako to keep Hinata from fading out entirely. This is effective, and Hinata is thankful for Noa’s efforts, although it does become clear that to her, there is no replacement for Miyako.
- Miyako and Hinata’s mother, Chizuru, is often displeased with Miyako’s tendency to stay home when she’s got downtime; I rather relate to Miyako, since I am fond of curling up with a book or blowing stuff up in Battlefield when I’ve got a spare moment, although I imagine that in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be spending a lot more time going out on the simple virtue that I am moving to a more pedestrian-friendly part of town: there’s a host of wonderful restaurants and stores (including a bookstore and computer store) already within walking distance, and virtually everything of note is now a short trip away via mass transit. This is a far cry from my old address, where the only walkable amenities are a gas station, Subway and Dairy Queen: everything else is half an hour away on foot. While driving is not a problem, everything being closer incentivises me to go out much more.
- Chizuru typically reprimands Miyako verbally, although there has been at least one occasion where she hangs Miyako from the ceiling in the same way that Futurama robots are “welded to the wall”. On this latest occasion, she simply has Miyako go out for clothes, and Hinata ends up tagging along to help Miyako out. They end up running into Noa and Hana, as well as Yū, Kōko’s younger sister. Because Kōko also has a puppy she calls Miyako, Yū immediately knows who Miyako is and treats her like a puppy. This scene was absolutely adorable: upon spotting Yū, Hinata wonders if she’s the older sister now. Once things are cleared up, everyone heads their separate ways: Miyako ends up picking up raw materials to make her own clothes, to her mother’s displeasure, while Kōko and Yū head home. Noa and Hana spend a bit more time together on their own.
- I note that Chizuru looks somewhat like an older version of Kanojo Okarishimasu‘s Chizuru Mizuhara, and it’s not too much of a stretch to suppose that Kazuya ends up winning Chizuru over while finding his own path in life, with the only caveat being that Chizuru had desired to be an actress someday. Fan speculation is something I don’t ordinarily partake in or write about with much frequency, although it can be fun to ponder the what-ifs in fiction from time to time. Here, Chizuru shares with Hinata and Noa photographs of a younger Miyako, after a day where Noa and Hinata go on a mini-date of sorts to the movies.
- Towards Wataten!‘s late game, interpersonal relationships amongst the characters have stablised to the point where Hana is comfortable in sleeping over, and Noa has now become an integral member of the group, as well. Moments of tenderness, humour and surprise bring everyone together, and these aspects are something I most appreciate from the anime I watch – there is considerable merit in living a normal life, and I believe that the reason why anime of all genres place an emphasis on what are known as slice-of-life moments – after the horrors and desolation of the Second World War, and then the rapid development of Japan into a modern world power, life in Japan had become very high paced, and so, entertainment focused on slower moments to remind people of the merits of taking the time to smell the roses, as it were.
- If and when I’m asked, I generally prefer meals over sweets – a hearty meal leaves a sense of contentment, whereas deserts simply are a way to “fill up the corners”. A good curry omurice would particularly hit the spot, and to no one’s surprise, Miyako’s a strong cook, as well. Hinata pegs Miyako’s cooking as the best, and this sleepover, no one is disagreeing. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sweets, and I’m okay with everything from cakes and doughnuts, to cookies, pastries and everything in between – I’ve never been a particularly picky eater and have a curiosity in trying things that give people the willies. According to what I recall from health sciences, picky eating is an instance of both nature (genetics) and nurture (upbringing) playing a role. Being Cantonese, I’ve had exposure to Cantonese cuisine, so things like pork blood and chicken feet are considered commonplace for me, and my genetics means that I don’t taste things quite the same as someone else would.
- While I’m open to trying new foods, the one thing I am adamantly close-minded about are horror movies. I simply don’t enjoy these movies despite having a rudimentary understanding of how movies are filmed – an active imagination means things stick in my head long after I’ve seen them. A happy, pleasant movie leaves me relaxed, and I’m amped after watching things like The Avengers: Endgame. I am aware that a good rifle is often enough to deal with a crazed chainsaw murderer, and willpower negates the toughest onryō, but imagery is often difficult to flush from my mind, which begins going on tangents. The same thing that allows me to discuss a variety of topics for this blog leaves me overwhelmed after a horror movie ends (pondering the what-ifs or implications of what drives people to do what they do, and the fear that monsters exist in all of us, for instance). This is something I share with Hana, and although she tries to be brave about it, her actions speak otherwise. Miyako consents to stay with her until she falls asleep as a reassuring presence, marking one more instance where the true Miyako is shown.
- While doing up everyone’s hair one day, Hana becomes curious to know why Miyako regards her differently than the others; Miyako tends to treat everyone like Hinata once she opens up to them, but around Hana, Miyako is a little more reserved and bashful. To viewers, the answer is quite plain: it was love at first sight for Miyako, and although she came on strong, to avoid troubling Hana, Miyako has since dialled it back. The changes that Hana bring about in Miyako are gradual, but still quite noticeable. It is through Hana that Wataten! conveys how falling in love can impact people, and moreover, that love can come from most anywhere. This is the general significance of yuri: it is an expression of open-mindedness and a willingness to accept that love can take many forms.
- A tolerance of ideas and concepts from a broad spectrum is vital towards gaining a fuller understanding of others: in series where yuri is a core component, it is logical to consider how yuri is used to drive messages the author strives to convey. However, I continue to maintain that it is irrelevant to bring up yuri on the basis of what’s colloquially referred to as “shipping”, the practise of expressing a particular preference for fictional characters’ relationships. The reason why this sort of thing is irrelevant in other works, such as The Aquatope on White Sand‘s Fūka and Kukuru, is because the characters’ growth and experiences (in turn, affecting the themes) are not contingent on any learnings they gain from falling in love. Conversely, in something like Wataten!, what Miyako experiences is entirely dependent on her falling in love with Hana at first sight.
- For some of my former readers, my disinterest in speculation surrounding hypothetical fictional relationships somehow is equivalent to dismissing yuri entirely as having no academic merit. This is a massive subjective leap in judgement on these individuals’ part: I find value in looking at yuri from a literary perspective, to see how it can tell stories and what it does differently compared to how relationships of different kinds unfold. Seeing story events provides insight into the author’s stances on things like yuri, and that in turn can speak volumes about a creator’s views on society. While I won’t begrudge or dissuade others for participating in the practise of discussing hypothetical fictional relationships of any kind, I find that exercises built purely around speculation, and whose outcome only yields wish fulfillment, is not academic in nature by definition.
- The surest sign that Hana and Miyako have come a long way from their rough start at Wataten!‘s beginnings occurs when Hana allows Miyako to accompany her out to a local patisserie so she can try out their cream puffs. For the occasion, Miyako ends up wearing a dress that Kōko had made her and puts her hair up: while sporting a sullen appearance when she’s got her bangs covering one eye, Miyako actually does have an endearing character about her with her hair up. Although Miyako initially draws the attention of a police officer, Hana referring to her as onee-san assuages the officer’s worries, and the walk over to the patisserie is smooth. Hana is able to enjoy her cream puffs in the end and is happy that Miyako had gone out of her way to help her out.
- With the culture festival fast approaching, Miyako offers to help Hinata’s class make the costumes for their class performance. Even for someone as skilled as Miyako, such an endeavour would be a lengthy one, so Hinata, Hana, Noa, Koyori, Kanon and Kōko also decide to help out, and in no time at all, there are enough costumes for every classmate in the play. Although Miyako might not be the role model Hinata painted her to be, by this point in time, it is evident that there is truth in what Hinata says, too.
- On the day of the culture festival, Miyako shows up and gets pegged as a suspicious person: the teachers hold her in a classroom until Hinata shows up and vouches for her. Such incidents in reality would be troubling, but in anime like Wataten!, they’re passed off as comedic moments. The shame does come to pass, and while Miyako is mortified that something like this has happened, she does decide to go ahead and watch Hinata’s class play, anyways, having bought a video camera for the occasion.
- Wataten! actually goes through the trouble of telling the play’s entire story in a more vivid, visceral form: rather than showing viewers the play and allowing one’s imagination to fill the rest in, the series brings the entire story to life. Unsurprisingly, the play tells of an angel who falls in love with a mortal and accepts a mortal life to be with her love, remained separated even as the mortal aged, but then came to meet her granddaughter instead, and is able to forge new memories as she discovers love anew. It’s very thoughtful for a class play and succinctly captures the idea of how patience is required to realise love, which is an integral part of Wataten!.
- In the end, the class play is an unqualified success, and in the aftermath, Hinata’s classmates become curious to meet the Myaa-nee whom they’d heard so much about. To Miyako’s surprise, Hinata’s classmates are overjoyed to meet her; her skill as a seamstress live up to expectations, and everyone suggests that Miyako’s ordinary appearance is akin to how celebrities may adopt a more low-profile appearance while out in public. To help with things, Kōko and Yū act as a security detail to ensure the class remains ruly, and towards the end, even the teachers stop by to thank Miyako for everything she’s done.
- To wrap the series up, Hana admits that she’s warmed up somewhat to Miyako, admiring that she’s been trying so hard for Hana’s sake. I had originally intended to write about Wataten! as a “Terrible Anime Challenge” post, but ultimately, my final impressions of this show were actually consistent with the community’s thoughts, and while I did procrastinate on watching Wataten! because the start of 2019 saw me starting a new position, which lead to my schedule becoming quite busy, I didn’t stop watching the series because its content was challenging to handle. As a result, this series simply became one that fallen under the radar owing to life circumstances.
- For clarity, Wataten! is certainly not a terrible anime by any stretch, and I’d have no qualms issuing this series a B grade (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of 10, for those who like number scores) – the series is fun, covers a side of falling in love which, despite the potential for trouble, manages to come out encouraging and friendly. With immensely lovable characters, Wataten! began a little more slowly and hit its stride mid-season, finding its footing once more of the cast were introduced. By the end of the series, viewers are left with the feeling that Miyako is in a position where she can continue to grow, making for a satisfactory close to an anime that proved unexpectedly fun. With this in the books, the only remaining post I have planned out is for the remaining part to Girls und Panzer for #AniTwitWatches: the next few days will be going to be exceedingly busy, and I anticipate needing every second I can spare.
During its run, Wataten! strives to convey that, while there is a limit on where love ends and obsession begins, pursuit of love in a sincere and honest fashion brings others into one’s life in such a way as to perceptibly change in circumstances. Meeting Hana, and hearing Hana’s blunt response to her advances pushes Miyako to re-evaluate herself – it becomes clear that brute-forcing things with sweets, while effective in some places, won’t bring Hana any closer. By talking to Hinata and Noa, and hearing their thoughts on things, Miyako becomes more aware of her own shortcomings; the board game project that Hinata does with Noa and Hana brings to light things that end up spurring Miyako to improve so that she can become closer to Hana. For instance, Hana absolutely loves sweets in general, but Miyako can’t even walk into a store and order sweets owing to her jitteriness. By spending time with Noa, Koyori, Kanon and even Kōko, Mikayo is pushed to pick up the dynamics and nuances of a conversation. Thus, when Hana ends up wanting some cream puffs, the Miyako that has these experiences under her belt is able to spend a day with Hana and get her the cream puffs she’d been longing to try. It speaks volumes to the kindness in this effort, that Hana remarks that she’s come to love the taste of the sweets that Miyako makes for her the most. That Miyako’s determination to pursue her heart has wrought such a profound change in her is ultimately what leads Hana to warm up to her – Wataten!‘s outcome might not be particularly decisive, but it does create the foundation for both improving things between Miyako and Hana, as well as pushing Miyako so that she can be more comfortable with social interactions while at the same time, remaining true to the pursuits (e.g. fashion) that make her happiest. This is where Wataten! excels – the series is enjoyable on merit of its characters, their interactions and gradual change over time, and together with consistent animation, artwork and sound, the final result is a spirited, adorable journey. The final question becomes whether or not we could receive a continuation to Wataten!: the manga is still ongoing, after all. The answer is actually a pleasant surprise: Wataten!: Precious Friends, a movie, is scheduled to première later this year, and the key visuals suggest a summer setting. No opening date has been announced as of yet, but it appears that the cast will reprise their role for the movie.