Many of us know what it is like to transition to a new school with few to no friends in a new environment, going through the arduous process of getting to know people again. Bocchi Hitori knows this struggle all too well, having just graduated from elementary school and thrown into middle school. Unfortunately, she suffers from extreme social anxiety: she faints when overwhelmed, vomits when nervous, and draws up ridiculously convoluted plans to avoid social contact. It does not help that her only friend from elementary school, Kai Yawara, will not be attending the same middle school as Bocchi. However, wanting to help her, Kai severs ties with Bocchi and promises to reconcile with her when she befriends all of her classmates in her new middle school class. Even though Bocchi has no faith in herself, she is determined to be friends with Kai again. Summoning all of her courage, Bocchi takes on the daunting challenge of making friends with her entire class, starting with the delinquent-looking girl sitting in front of her... [Written by MAL Rewrite]
I know many people that suffer from social anxiety, and my immediate concern going into Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu was whether the show was going to mine its heroine’s psychological anguish for mean-spirited comedy. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be a mean bone in this show’s body, and from minute one it was clear that we are meant to empathize with Bocchi Hitori and find comfort in seeing her overcome the impossibly intimidating minefield of everyday conversation. The writing is sharp enough that there were several reactions and mini-crises that Bocchi exhibits that bore uncanny similarities to how my students and loved ones have expressed their own anxieties.
This could have easily made for the kind of cringe comedy that would hit too close to home for me, but Hitoribocchi’s unceasingly bright and optimistic tone won me over in the end. The specific gag that got me on board was when Bocchi’s desperate attempt to literally shut down her class and force her classmates to relocate ended up making them more social and excited. It’s a cute and funny gag that explores how Bocchi’s anxieties lead her to either shrink down too small or take things further than might be socially acceptable, but she’s never framed as foolish or weak for it. She’s just a kid who really hates talking to strangers, but little by little Bocchi gets better at it, which makes all of her missteps and false starts bearable to watch.
Her friendship with Nako was also a treat, because it felt realistic to that kind of dynamic. Nako is very blunt, and she makes no bones about when Bocchi is being too extra, but she’s never fake either. She might call Bocchi “Barf” to her face, on account of Bocchi throwing up in her mouth after being asked to introduce herself to the class, but it’s never intended to be hurtful. When Nako walks home with Bocchi in the rain and teaches her how to use emojis and text like a pro, there’s no doubt that it’s because of a genuinely growing affection between the two.
If I had one minor nitpick to mention, it’d be in regard to the show’s character designs. I’m specifically put off by how the characters’ eyes are drawn—the iris and pupils both contain numerous multi-colored shadows and reflections, and the result was distracting in a way that’s hard to define. To me, it always seemed like characters were on the verge of rolling their eyes back into their sockets, or like each eye was constantly looking upward at a slightly different angle. I’m sure I’ll grow accustomed to it with time, but I’m rarely distracted by such design features, so I thought it might be worth mentioning. It isn’t enough to keep me from recommending the show, and if you were put off by the idea of a comedy revolving around a girl with social anxiety, I’d still encourage you to give Hitoribocchi a chance. I suspect it might be one of my go to slice-of-life comedies for the spring season. You can also free Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu anime watch online and free anime download.