Series Review – Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (2021)

While slightly overshadowed by Horimiya and the second season of Quintessential Quintuplets, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki brought some much needed comedy to a Winter anime season full of slice-of-life dramas. Initially catching my eye due to its unique and relatable premise, Tomozaki managed to be an incredibly fun watch, containing some real heart within it as well.

Aoi Hinami and Fumiya Tomozaki in episode 10, “Multiplayer games have their own special appeal”

Based on the light novel of the same name by writer Yuki Yaku, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki follows Fumiya Tomozaki, an avid gamer who has never cared too much about the persona he carries in the real world. That is until he decides to meet up with the player who constantly comes in second place behind him in his favorite video game, Attack Families. He soon learns that this player is actually Aoi Hinami, the top student at his school. She immediately begins criticizing the way he treats life, claiming that it is a “god-tier game” that is not meant to be disrespected. Tomozaki, not fully understanding what she means, accepts her challenge to play the “game of life” and work with her to improve his social skills. Through his efforts, Tomozaki forges bonds that make him slowly realize that Hinami’s view of the outside world is just as flawed as his own.

Tomozaki is a deeply relatable protagonist, whose attempts to become less socially awkward make him incredibly endearing. His dynamic with most of the main cast, especially several of the main girls, is what makes the show’s writing shine so well. Fumihiko Shimo (Clannad, Golden Time) is well-known for his work on adapting dramatic slice-of-life manga into hit anime, so it is no surprise that Tomozaki‘s dramatic moments land particularly hard. However, the comedy is where the series really shines, often times feeling like a spiritual successor to anime like Gamers! and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU due to the way he is able to balance the two genres.

Tomozaki talking with Fuuka Kikuchi in the library in episode 3, “When a girl’s your first friend, life feels like a date for a while”

Aoi Hinami acts as this unstoppable force, making challenges for Tomozaki to complete, such as interacting with and becoming friends with his classmates. Whether it be a date with bookworm sweetheart Fuuka Kikuchi, working with the stubbornly competitive Minami Nanami to help her become class president, or aid the romantically stunted Yuzu Izumi with her boy troubles, each relationship builds Tomozaki’s character.

However, while Hinami only sees these experiences as a way to build Tomozaki’s fake façade and to give him points in the real world, Tomozaki soon realizes that the relationships Hinami is trying to help build him are all built on a façade. Even when she tells him to be genuine about his feelings for Kikuchi, she is still telling him to act a certain way to form a relationship, instead of presenting his true self. Each member of the core cast (in their own unique way) help Tomozaki grow away from being the friendless shut-in he was at the beginning of the series.

The animation team at Project No.9 (Higehiro), led by director Shinsuke Yanagi (A Certain Scientific Railgun, Toradora!), did a fantastic job bringing the characters from Yaku’s light novel to life. I am not the hugest fan of most of Project No.9’s works, but Tomozaki proved to me that the studio is capable of adapting some truly great material. The animation, while mostly simple, was still able to portray each character’s personality through their motion. I appreciate the effort put into animating Tomozaki and Nakamura’s hands while they played Attack Families as well.

Izumi and Tomozaki playing Attack Families in her room in episode 4, “Sometimes you conquer a dungeon only to find a strong boss back in your village”

Like many English dubs recorded during the pandemic, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki‘s takes full advantage of the wide pool of talent due to so many anime voice actors across the United States having home recording studios. The casting that single-handedly got me on board with this dub was Adam Gibbs (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) as Tomozaki. He brings so much of the socially-inept attitude he had with Hachiman with his performance here and it fits Tomozaki perfectly. His rapport with the rest of the cast is impeccable as well, especially the female leads. I am sure much of his performance is thanks to the phenomenal direction from ADR (automated dialogue replacement) directors Anthony Bowling (One Piece, Our Last Crusade) and Mike McFarland (Fullmetal Alchemist, Attack on Titan) and the script writing by Clayton Browning (Akudama Drive, Arte).

I have unfortunately not seen Faye Mata (Konosuba, The Rising of the Shield Hero) play too many morally grey characters in anime, and her performance as Hinami makes me wish that was not the case. She brings so much snark to Hinami that heavily plays into the mask she wears, not just for those around her, but for herself as well. Her chemistry with Gibbs’ Tomozaki is seemingly effortless, especially in the last two episodes of the season.

Minami hugging Hanabi Natsubayashi in episode 8, “There are some problems a bottom-tier character can’t fix alone”

The rest of the cast is equally brilliant as well. Christina Kelly (Golden Time, Real Girl) has what appears to be the most emotional performance of the series as Nanami, attempting to pry tears from my eyes. Natalie Rose (The Day I Became a God) brings an endless amount of endearment as Kikuchi, perfectly matching the character’s quiet, introverted personality. Chris Hackney’s (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) Nakamura acts as a welcome antagonist force for Tomozaki as well. He manages to show Nakamura growth from hating Tomozaki to seeing him as a sort of acquaintance, if not a friend. Stephen Fu (ID: INVADED) brings this aura that oozes cool as Takahiro Mizusawa, only to show how easily broken that facade is over the course of the series. While the voice actors for Izumi and Hanabi Natsubayashi are not currently credited by Funimation, they both did a fantastic job and bounced off of the rest of the cast exceptionally well.

If you need an entertaining slice-of-life anime that acts as a sort of deep dive into self-growth and interpersonal relationships, then Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki might be the perfect anime for you. The first season is currently available subbed and dubbed on Funimation, along with two OVA’s that have yet to be dubbed. There is currently no confirmation that a second season is in production.

Rating: 9/10

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