Following my enjoyable experience with the first volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, I decided to continue my journey through this series to see how it develops over time. The concept of the series seemed sound — but as with many aspirational manga, anime and light novels, I wondered if it would be able to maintain the momentum going forward.
It’s a reasonable question. The first volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki was very much about establishing the core characters and relationships that would go on to form the basis of the series — and from the aspirational angle, it was also effectively an “instruction manual” for both the protagonist and the reader.
During volume 1, Tomozaki learns the basics of how to make everyday conversation and at least put across the impression of being a “normie”, as he calls it. The justification for this is that he is Japan’s top gamer in the popular definitely-not-Smash-Bros. game Attack Families (aka Atafami), but his biggest online rival — who turns out to be the school’s idol Aoi Hinami — believes that real life is a superior “game”.
Unconvinced, Tomozaki agrees to accept Hinami’s tutelage — and over the course of that first volume, he starts to learn some of the rules by which he is “supposed” to play — at least according to Hinami.
As we discussed last time around, though, there are a number of ways in which you can interpret Hinami’s philosophy of life as a “game” — some of which aren’t altogether flattering. And volume 2 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki starts to explore some of those ideas, shifting somewhat away from the “aspirational life advice” angle of the first volume and more towards a sense of unfolding, developing narrative.
A number of things happen throughout the course of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki volume 2, but probably the most important event is the school council election. Everyone is, by this point, conditioned to believe that Hinami is an absolute shoe-in for the position of school council president, and as such no-one seems willing to stand against her.
Except one girl: Nanami Minami, or “Mimimi” as she is typically referred to. Mimimi is determined to stand against Hinami — not necessarily because she believes she can win against this seemingly unassailable opponent, but because she relishes the idea of the challenge that she presents.
Mimimi was introduced in the first volume of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, and it was clear from the outset that she’s a charming, energetic and determined young woman with an endearingly ditzy side to her. She’s no bimbo, though Tomozaki is quick to notice that she is an attractive young woman with a striking, distinctive appearance and energy about her.
The interesting thing about Mimimi is something that Tomozaki doesn’t comment on directly, but which it’s nonetheless clear that he’s aware of: the fact that she finds behaving like a “normie” pretty effortless and natural. While he knows first-hand that Hinami’s behaviour is the result of a rigorous routine of what she believes is self-improvement and an attempt to master the game of life, we get no such sense from Mimimi; she just is who she is, and who she is is a thoroughly pleasant young woman.
With this in mind, the competition for student council president definitely has the potential to be an interesting one; Hinami’s carefully cultivated public image versus Mimimi’s natural charisma sets the stage for an intriguing conflict. And, interestingly, Tomozaki finds himself not on the side of Hinami, but working alongside Mimimi instead.
There are a number of reasons for this, but probably chief among them is something that Tomozaki and Mimimi have in common: a desire to defeat Hinami. Tomozaki knows very well that he can beat Hinami at their shared interest of Atafami, but in the game of life she has been consistently winning for as long as he has been aware of her existence.
That said, although he recognises her skill, it becomes increasingly clear over the course of volume 2 — and this is explored further in volume 3 — that Tomozaki isn’t entirely comfortable with the way in which Hinami approaches the game of life. Consequently, he finds himself somewhat curious about whether or not he is able to perhaps use some of her own strategies against her — or even, as he does in Atafami, develop some appropriate counter-strategies for their battle.
By teaming up with Mimimi — someone who, it transpires, has her own eminently understandable reasons for wanting to try her best against Hinami — he puts himself in a much stronger position than he would otherwise be in.
As someone who believes himself to be a “bottom-tier character” — though someone who, it’s made clear over the course of the first two volumes, is actually someone that quite a few people are aware of and even appreciate having around — he would stand no chance against Hinami in the student council elections. But by acting as Mimimi’s “Brain” — a nickname she adopts for Tomozaki with great enthusiasm — he has the opportunity to make a real difference.
For the sake of those yet to read volume 2 of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki — or indeed see the anime, which encompassed this arc as part of its runtime — I’ll refrain from spoiling the details of their confrontation. But it certainly makes for a very interesting major “story battle” in Tomozaki’s quest to master the game of life.
And, from a narrative perspective, it is very interesting to see a character that, up until this point, had been established as the “main heroine” pushed into the role of adversary and even antagonist. Mimimi makes for a good temporary replacement main heroine, too, and the way in which her relationship develops with Tomozaki as a result of them working together is heartwarming and encouraging.
Notably, when we witness Tomozaki and Mimimi interacting, it feels very genuine; there’s no sense of the manipulativeness and bitterness that comes across when Hinami and Tomozaki are spending time together. But at the same time, it can be argued that Tomozaki is putting up a front in order to successfully interact with Mimimi, just as Hinami does in her daily life — so is it really all that natural?
These are things that continue to be pondered in the subsequent volumes of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki — for now, suffice it to say that the second volume does a good job of moving things along from the initial set up and aspirational life advice angle established in the first, and makes the series feel very much like there are some interesting stories to be told with this cast of characters.
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