C2C’s 2019 slice-of-life comedy is based on the manga series written and illustrated by Katsuwo. It concerns the exploits of middle-schooler Bocchi Hitori as she tries to overcome extreme shyness to befriend everyone in her class. That really is it in a nutshell, however its saving grace is that it is a very funny slice of Iyashikei that sits somewhere between “Komi Can’t Communicate” (OLM 2021) and “Asobi Asobase” (Lerche 2018). Sadly, it is nowhere near as good as either of them being neither as subtle, nor as touching, as Komi, nor quite as zany as Asobi. A girl as shy as Bocchi would, in reality, have a much harder time at school. The bullying of her would have been relentless. The coverage her extreme social anxiety is made palatable because she quickly comes under the protective cover of a circle of girls. Firstly, there is the girl who sits in front of her Nako Sunao who, despite her delinquent looks (even the teacher is scared of her), actually has a heart of gold. Then there is the class Vice President, the “unfortunate” Aru Honshou who sees caring for Bocchi as part of her role. Then there is the alleged foreigner Sotoka Rakita who thinks that Bocchi can teach her how to be a ninja.
As the show evolves Bocchi’s circle of friends grows yet her shyness never really abates. The high point occurs around episode eleven with the introduction of a new character, the rich girl Mayo Ojousa. This introduces the idea that even popular characters who are not shy can suffer from loneliness. Sadly, it is not a theme that is picked up upon as the show really struggles to make any profound points about Bocchi’s condition. For example, Bocchi suddenly feels the need to get a smart phone in order to fit in properly with her circle of friends. This sort of peer pressure is a genuine problem for young people and the new phone was totally unnecessary for her. Yet no lesson is learnt in the show from this. Lots of the comedy involves us laughing at Bocchi’s eccentric behaviour but not all of this should sit comfortably with the audience. Are we meant to be laughing with her or at her? This is all very heart-warming but vaguely dissatisfying. Despite its good nature this is not a show that is easy to get to like.