Tomo-chan is a Girl! Tomo Aizawa
Image Source: Fumita Yanagida, Seikaisha/Tomo-chan Is a Girl! Project

Tomo-chan is a Girl!’s Wholesomeness & Relatability Makes It an Easy Contender for Anime of the Year

Pure lo- love!

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

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Over half of our entries for the 2022 anime of the year were shonen, and three of the most hyped shows in 2023 — Attack on Titan, Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer, and Jujutsu Kaisen? Shonen, shonen, shonen.

It’s easy enough to understand why, as it is a crowd-pleasing style that offers everything we love about the medium: a dopamine drip of high-octane combat and engrossing story arcs. Even a quick glance at my all-time favorite anime will find it to be populated by names like Gon Freecss and Josuke Higashikata.

As a result, other genres have something of an uphill climb to stand up against the shonen monster. In this context, consider shonen to be something of a Sukuna, or a Perfect Cell, or even a DIO brandishing a road roller with which to crush all opposition.

But every once and a while, an anime of a different breed hits just right, sans the fight scenes and high drama, instead targeting a certain spot of satisfaction that is unique to these more laidback narratives. Last year, we had Bocchi the Rock and My Dress-Up Darling. In 2023, my early frontrunner for sleeper hit in the anime of the year race is Tomo-chan is a Girl.

Tomo-chan is a Girl Misuzu Gundou
Image Source: Fumita Yanagida, Seikaisha/Tomo-chan Is a Girl! Project

When I watched the first two episodes back in January, my initial impression was that this was something that was pretty fun, and a show I would continue watching. A few months later, I’ve been blown away by just how much the cast has grown on me. The general consensus among fans of the manga is that the duo of Misuzu and Carol are the highlights (and I’ll gush a bit about them in a moment), but a story is only as good as its protagonist.

Tomo really just is a genuinely likable character who you want to see succeed. She wears her heart on her sleeve, never interested in subterfuge or mind games, content to blitz her way through any problem she faces. Anime is jam-packed with good natured heroes without a mean bone in their body, and yet, Tomo remains a breath of fresh air. She’s such a wonderful mixture of confidence and self-doubt all at once, jumbled together in an adorable package.

Across from her, we’ve seen more rapid progress from Jun than I had anticipated, who is actually addressing his feelings rather than simply remaining oblivious about everything. There is only so long the lack of awareness could have played out, so it’s nice to see that they’ve given him much more agency than that. The way the latest episode ended seems to be opening even more doors, as well.

And of course, their buddy-buddy dynamic is made all the more compelling when you add in the superstar tandem that is Misuzu and Carol. This odd couple work well in unison, while also remaining fascinating in isolation, with steady character growth that may have come as unexpected. To wit, I didn’t foresee Carol’s constant airheaded bliss as actually being a deliberate front. Episode 9, The Angel’s True Face, really elevated her personality to new heights, showing her as desperate and vulnerable.

This is also the perfect time to mention that Sally Amaki is proving herself to be one of the most versatile talents in the industry. Playing Carol in both the original Japanese version and the English dub, she has taken complete ownership of the role with her saccharine tone and impeccably hilarious delivery. Whether you’re a sub or dub stickler, she is making it hard not to watch entire scenes back to back, jumping between the two languages to see the differences and similarities play out.

Where I had initially predicted that Tomo-chan would stick to familiar trends of farcical misunderstandings, it has actually allowed its narrative to become more than that. Some segments don’t even focus on the “will they, won’t they” aspect at all, instead just following the daily occurrences of these people in slice-of-life-type adventures. The underlying thread is still there, it is just given room to breathe from time to time.

This really feels like a coming out party for Lay-Duce, a studio perhaps best known for their Fate/Grand Order and Magi: Sinbad no Bouken series. In a season where there has been plenty of action to keep the blood pumping — with Blue Lock and My Hero Academia Season 6 entering their final stages — it has actually been Tomo-chan that I’ve found myself most looking forward to each week. Hopefully recency bias won’t push it into the background when end of year considerations are being bandied about, because it is proving itself to be the quintessential rom-com.

It delivers not only on the fronts it promises, but it is really beginning to come into its own in different ways, as well. At the very least, the delightfully quirky yurukuru*love deserves to be in the discussion for the top ending OPs.

Tomo-chan is a Girl! is currently airing on Crunchyroll. If it’s up your alley, you might also like to check out our list of other anime that are similar.


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Author
Tony Cocking
A miserable little pile of secrets. Unabashed Nintendo stan, Resident Evil fancier and obscure anime enthusiast who insists everything is funnier when the rule of three is applied. Oh, and once I saw a blimp!