4 Volumes – Completed
Ressentiment – A generalized feeling of resentment and often hostility harbored by one individual or group against another, especially chronically and with no means of direct expression.
It’s 2015. Takuro is fat, thirty and fed-up. He’s resigned himself to a dead-end job, living with his parents and using his annual trip to the brothel for contact with women. Whilst bemoaning his fate to his friend Echigo, an out-and-out otaku, the latter introduces Takuro to the latest in dating sim games – 3D virtual reality – telling him that VR girls are better than the real thing.
Thus begins the tale, as Takuro gives up on real girls forever, entering VR as a younger, slimmer version of himself. (The ressentiment of the title is the emotion Takuro succumbs to when he decides that it is pointless hoping for anything out of real women.) Here he meets Tsukiko, who should, to all intents and purposes, satisfy his every need. Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. Far from being a pliant sim-girl, Tsukiko seems to have a mind of her own, resisting his horribly inept attempts at seduction and also seemingly aware of his ‘real’ persona.
Life becomes more complicated for Takuro, as he tries to find out more information on Tsukiko, convinced her software has a bug. On top of this, he suddenly has to contend with the attentions of a female co-worker, desperate to marry before she’s too old. As the story builds to its climax, Takuro needs to make the choice between VR and reality… a choice given a little extra spice by the fact that Tsukiko is aware of his real-world interests… and she’s jealous… and angry… and Takuro is about to find out that isn’t a good combination.
Overall, there’s themes running through this that have been done many times before, from Welcome to the NHK, with its take on otaku and erogames; Chobits, with its ‘which-is-better’ theme; and the herd of slightly deranged magical-girlfriend stories that are out there.
Hanazawa manages to combine all three elements, however, in a tightly-knit tale using humour, pathos, drama and wrapping it all in a slightly stinging rebuke of otaku-dom and their retreat from reality into the world of moe dating sims.
Watching Takuro and Tsukiko’s clumsy courtship is sweet, but entirely fake – she’s nothing more than a program, whilst he is an attractive and unreal facsimile of himself. Hanazawa reminds us of this, dragging us back into reality with some effectively used cut-scenes. In the best example of this, we are shown Takuro hugging a sobbing Tsukiko, as she wails about how alone she was before he came. “Don’t worry,” he says, “you’re not alone.” Immediately, we cut back to his bedroom and are confronted with fat, slovenly Takuro hugging thin air.
In stark contrast to their VR personas, all of the characters in this tale are generally crude, vulgar, shallow and generally unlikable. This is reflected in the character design, which really highlights everybody’s worst features. I’d go as far as to say that even Tsukiko, the love interest, barely passes for cute, compared to standard manga and anime definitions of moe. Despite all this, Hanazawa weaves a tight, complex, not-quite-subtle story, which will leave you with the feeling that no matter how much of a loser you think Takuro is, you really do want him to get the girl in the end.
Overall, it’s a refreshing, funny, albeit somewhat scathing, take on familiar themes and worth tracking down.
[Reviewer: Gerwyn Petty]