Hitoribocchi No Marumaruseikatsu has not really changed since we first checked in on it several weeks ago. That shouldn’t be taken as a complaint, however. The series is extremely well-crafted. It is, at this point, possibly a standout in its genre for the year so far.
However, one of the tricky things with a school life comedy is explaining why it works. The genre is built primarily on dialogue and gag timing. Things that don’t lend themselves all that well to a text-based explanation. It is still though worth looking at what Hitoribocchi does and trying to break it down, because the show is nothing short of a small marvel in its best moments.
Let’s hunt through the most recent episode, 6, for examples. This story starts with Bocchi in her room late at night. She’s anxious because she has a poem reading (specifically, haiku) to do at school tomorrow. This is a scenario that’s going to be immediately familiar to anyone who grew up with anxiety. The show is not content to stop there with the sheer relatability though, because what Bocchi does next is this.
This is is another pretty universal experience, I think. Hoping to get sick so you don’t have to do your presentation / speech / whatever the next day? Her little ritual here might well be the single most universal thing Bocchi’s ever done.
She’s unable to magically give herself a fever, and thus sits down to jot out a haiku. Interestingly, she actually comes up with two very solid ones in just a few minutes. This resolved, she goes to bed, still hoping she’ll get a sore throat or something in the morning.
She does not.
How About A Haiku?
Bocchi is consigned to her fate, and goes to school anyway. There, we run into a character we’ve been introduced to before, but this episode is her effective introduction as a main cast member.
This is Teruyo Oshie. Bocchi’s homeroom teacher. Teruyo’s character is an interesting one, because for the most part, she simply has Bocchi’s own anxious personality grafted onto a working adult. The running gag here is Teruyo mistaking Nako for a delinquent, based on the latter’s looks. This has transformed into an irrational fear of Nako herself, and as such Teruyo often bows before her ostensible student, much to Nako’s own confusion. At one point she even bows so hard that this happens.
Bocchi herself, meanwhile, attempts to read her haiku. She relies on an old “get over your anxiousness” trick.
This doesn’t work either.
The episode’s second half revolves instead around Nako. Who ends up getting a failing grade on a math test. Wordplay is the order of the day here, as both Bocchi herself and Sotoka (a recently-introduced, ninja-obsessed foreigner girl) make the same observation. This being that Nako got a 29% on her test, instead of nako% (“nako” being “75” in Japanese). This is, absolutely, sort of a thin joke on its own. The delivery and timing is as usual what pushes it along into genuinely funny territory.
Bocchi volunteers to help Nako out with studying, by making it fun. It turns out that Bocchi’s idea of “fun studying” is to monotonely insert “wa ha ha” after much of what she says. Again, the sort of joke that is more or less completely carried by its delivery. Yet later in the episode, Teruyo sees Bocchi and Nako getting along and comes to the conclusion that Bocchi must be some kind of secret gang leader.
Going Home Together
These jokes are all, on their own, good. Hitoribocchi is really tied together though by one thing, which is that the characters clearly genuinely care for each other. A series in this genre that is funny but has no character-to-character chemistry is generally mildly amusing at best. The sweetness offsets the fact that the comedy primarily comes from awkwardness and misunderstanding. Hitoribocchi is in fact, probably the sweetest series of the season, in a season sorely lacking in much of the sort.