Crunchyroll, which has long underpaid its employees, has currently declared its intent to recast the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 rather than even consider meeting with SAG-AFTRA representatives to discuss unionizing their dubs—this would help actors gain access to things like health insurance, and help make up for lack of residuals. People continue to pressure Crunchyroll to change their stance on social media; we encourage readers who are able to take part.
What’s it about? Anxious Hitori learns the guitar so she can join a band and make friends… but never plucks up the courage to ask anyone to play music with her, or even play in front of other people. Now beginning high school, Hitori is determined that things will be different, but no one seems to want to be her friend and she still can’t make herself reach out to others. Until, that is, a girl sees her guitar case and asks for her help.
Depictions of shyness and social anxiety in anime—particularly “cute girls doing stuff” anime—can be hit or miss for many people. What one viewer finds to be cloying and artificially cutesy, others might find genuine, relatable, and even empowering. Whether BOCCHI THE ROCK! feels like constructed moeblob or authentic portrayal of anxiety may depend on personal taste and personal experience, is what I’m saying. For me, at least, I think the series makes a valiant effort to thread the needle and end up with a balance of the two.
Hitori is very cute, yes, but not too saccharine. Her vocal performance really helps this, swinging in all sorts of zany directions and giving us an unflattering and comedic delivery of Hitori’s inner monologue. Hitori also feels, in a lot of ways, pretty real, albeit dialed up a little. Her memories hit close to home in places: she always wanted to join schoolyard games, but never raised her hand in time, and was left hanging out with a sweet and generous teacher for most of elementary school.
As she got older, she came to assume that no one cared about her because no one would ever make the first move to say hello—not out of malice or deliberate bullying, just as a simple fact of the universe. Why would anyone care about her? And so she drifts through her childhood, always going straight home because she was never brave enough to sign up for a club.
She does attempt to make friends in high school—not actual attempts at communication, mind you, but attempts to make herself look interesting enough that people might come and talk to her. Laying CDs out on her desk, for example, or conspicuously covering herself in band merch to try and attract a fellow fan. Something about this rang so true to the anxious teen experience that I cringed all the way through these scenes, and felt my heart go crack at the montage of Hitori awkwardly taking off her “cool rocker chick” accessories as her oblivious classmates move around her, going off with the friends they already have and leaving her alone.
Call me a sap—or call me a former shy nerd who didn’t have a steady friend group for half of secondary school—but this hit pretty hard. The delivery is, again, dialed up for comedy’s sake, but it lets the quiet moments sit so Hitori’s sadness really sinks in. She wants to communicate, she really does. But her brain gets in the way, tying her tongue in a knot and making her drop eye contact. Elaborate schemes to make herself look cool from a distance seem convoluted, but when she can’t overcome the hurdle that is social interaction, they really do seem more appealing. If only they worked.
Well, they kind of work: a girl sees Hitori’s guitar case and enlists her help for a rock show she’s putting on, as their guitarist just left and they need a replacement now. It’s in theory what Hitori wanted, but it’s also an absolute nightmare scenario.
The execution is silly (the show goes terribly and Hitori is only comfortable playing if she’s inside a box) but honestly I kind of enjoyed that there wasn’t a magic moment here where Hitori suddenly overcomes her fears when she’s under the bright lights of the stage. It’s another quirk of realism that makes the zaniness of the other character interactions stick. No matter how much she loves playing the guitar, no matter how much of a thrill music brings her, Hitori can’t expect her social anxiety to simply melt away, and neither can the audience. This is going to be a source of genuine conflict, something she has to work at.
Again, even if it’s silly (I reiterate that she plays from inside a cardboard box) I kind of loved that her new bandmates were so immediately willing to try and accommodate her needs, recognizing her mental blocks and searching for a way to make the experience easier. Here’s hoping they can all work together to help her find her feet on a stage—and more importantly, in a friend group!
Your mileage may vary with this one, and whether Hitori feels overly twee or relatable will depend. But I say give it a shot: I found her unexpectedly funny and relatable, and am genuinely rooting for her to follow her dreams and get up the strength to play her guitar somewhere other than the secluded darkness of her room. Let’s rock!
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