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Manga / Waratte! Sotomura-san

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Look how evil she is.

Natsuki Sotomura is a high-school girl who is feared as a delinquent and avoided by most students. From her light-brown hair down to her long skirt and harsh manner of speaking, she completely seems the part.

But after Sotomura rescues a girl named Haruno from some bullies, Haruno decides to try to get to know her better. Haruno is surprised to find out that Sotomura isn't a delinquent at all and is, in fact, just a very socially awkward girl that's bad with words but wants to make friends. She enjoys cooking, handicrafts, and hitting the supermarket sales. Sotomura also loves cute and fancy things, but she hides these girly traits because she feels they don't suit how she looks.

Haruno's first step in helping Sotomura is to try to teach her how to smile, because whenever she tries, it ends up as a scary grin. Thus begins the story of Sotomura's attempts to make new friends.

Waratte! Sotomura-san ("Smile! Sotomura-san") is a Yonkoma slice of life manga by Minamo Minamori, which was serialized in Honubunsha's Manga Time Special magazine from 2009 to 2017 and compiled into 7 volumes. A spinoff set in the same universe called Hokenshitsu no Tsumuri-san ("Tsumuri-san from the Infirmary") was serialized from 2014 to 2017 and compiled into 2 volumes.

This manga contains examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: Sotomura's classmates are convinced she binds her breasts. Oh, how she wishes this were true. She experiences this when she shares a public bath with Haruno.
  • Always in Class One: Averted. Sotomura and Haruno are in separate classes, so no one in Sotomura's class gets to see how normal she acts with her only friend.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Haruno reacts this way when Sotomura shows up at school despite having a fever.
  • Bifauxnen: Sotomura's tendency to wear caps and hats, along with wearing long sleeved shirts and pants tends to give her this look and unintentionally further adds to her delinquent image. This is eventually pointed out to her by Hina, and Sotomura isn't too pleased.
  • Big Sister Bully: Touma's friends are convinced Sotomura bullies him. She adores him, and all those things she "forces" him to do, he in fact does voluntarily, because he adores her in return.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Sotomura-san's workmate Hina. She acts cordial and easygoing, but is actually evil, vain, and manipulative on the inside. However, Sotomura-san doesn't notice and takes her actions as being sincere and helpful.
    • Hina actually invokes this trope to be able to survive socially. She is very aware of her caustic personality and that she would be avoided if she were her true self, so she needs to wear sheep clothing to survive. Sotomura, being a really nice girl, accepts her even when she shows expressions that when done by Sotomura scare other people.
    • Becoming the Mask: After her true self was found out, Hina started to mellow a bit towards Sotomura, ending with the line:
    (Sotomura)'s always getting in people's business. She really is an idiot. She needs to start liking herself first...
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: When Sotomura tries to tell a joke, people think she's serious and get scared of her.
  • Cant Get Away With Nothing: Sotomura's classmates interpret everything she says and does as "proof" of her delinquency. That subtly threatening phone call? She was just asking her little brother to tape her favorite anime. Those scrapes, scratches and Clothing Damage that "prove" her fighting prowess? She got them rescuing a kitten from a tree.
  • Cassandra Truth: Assertions that Sotomura is really a nice person often fall on deaf ears, since the listeners are usually convinced that the speaker is being threatened.
  • Chick Magnet: Touma, at least as far as the three yankee girls are concerned.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: As much as she tries to help Sotomura, Haruno feels sad whenever Sotomura begins to succeed in gaining new friends.
  • Cool Big Sis: Touma certainly thinks Sotomura is this. Yukari also addresses Sotomura as this, though with a word that's yakuza slang for "Boss".
  • Crossover: Sotomura appears in a chapter of Sachiusu and Hokenshitsu no Tsumuri-san.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Mikumo, though he can't actually tell if what he's feeling is love or terror. His feelings eventually tilt more towards attraction.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Sotomura's mother wants to keep her past as a delinquent a secret. Likewise, Sotomura doesn't want her mother to know everyone thinks she's a delinquent.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: In a flashback from when the Sotomura siblings went to a store to buy yukatas, each one was given something for the other's gender. Even in the present, Touma is still sometimes seen as a girl.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Chapter 107 is an innocuous chapter in which Sotomura meets the school nurse Tsumuri, who is a friend of Haruno's. Tsumuri would later get a spinoff manga focusing on her.
  • Evil Laugh: Sotomura is melancholy over her lack of friends, and her forced laughs are just as disturbing as her forced smiles.
  • Exact Words: In the volume 2 omake (at the end of chapter 35.5), Haruno gave Sotomura a uniform with a short skirt and got her to promise not to lengthen it. She lengthened the shirt.
  • Face of a Thug: Sotomura is feared by all, primarily because she can't seem to smile without somehow looking like she's about to shank you. The plethora of misunderstandings that follow her around don't help, either.
  • The Faceless: Sotomura's father, even in the chapter where he interacts with her. His first current time appearance is standing behind a banner with her name on it. Averted in the flashback chapter 67.5, which focused on Sotomura's mother's meeting with him during their earlier years.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: All of Sotomura-san's attempts to make friends backfire, in large part because she's so socially awkward and bad with words she keeps unintentionally reinforcing her delinquent image. In contrast, Himeki's attempts at delinquency and imperfection never work (even when failing tests deliberately).
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Sotomura loves cooking and crafts, which is a sign that she's more feminine than she appears to most characters.
  • Foil:
    • Two for Sotomura:
      • The first is Himeki, a demure and modest girl from a rich family who originally seeks out Sotomura in order to be a delinquent. Unfortunately for her, most of her intentions are mistaken for benign ones and she's treated as a saint, and it's not helped by the fact that deep down she actually is a very nice person.
      • The second is Hina, who is seen as a sweet and kind girl, but on the inside has a nasty attitude. Ironically, because of her inner nature she knows the real Sotomura and is unafraid of her, making her practically Sotomura's friend.
    • Hina can also be considered a foil to Haruno. Both are teaching Sotomura to smile, both know her true nature and some of their interactions with Sotomura were mirrored (both saw Sotomura's cute panties, they also watched the Sakura flowers with her). But their personalities are completely different.
    • Later chapters give Mikumo a foil in Gian. Both have extroverted personalities (Gian's a smooth talker while Mikumo's a class clown) and both are in love with Sotomura. However, Gian is unafraid of professing his attraction to Sotomura due to his flirting tendencies and also seeing some of her true self while they were in Italy. Mikumo on the other hand, struggles to do the same because he still believes that Sotomura is a delinquent and is afraid that he'll get beaten up if he does.
  • First-Name Basis:
    • An in-universe example in Chapter 61, where Haruno has Sotomura start calling her by her first name. Just as she feared, people think that she is now Sotomura's underling.
    • Since Sotomura is referred to by her last name, Touma is referred to by his first name to make things easy.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Sotomura-san is late to school several times and arrives dirty due to her various animal and plant rescues. Averted with bugs, of which she is terrified of.
  • Funny Foreigner: Gian, the Italian who the Sotomura siblings meet during their trip. Downplayed in that he's not so much funny in terms of mannerisms but in that he's really passionate about everything, including Sotomura... but it all goes over her head.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Time and time again Mikumo wavers on whether he's attracted to Sotomura or frightened by her, but when Gian comes to visit Sotomura in Japan to sightsee he makes Mikumo considerably insecure due to how freely he interacts with Sotomura despite of her unintentionally intimidating appearances. When Gian asks Mikumo how he truly feels about Sotomura, it's the first time he convincingly says that he loves her to anyone.
  • Handsome Lech: Gian again. Downplayed in that he keeps his shameless flirting to be (mostly) Sotomura-centric. Strangely this actually helps despite Sotomura being pretty oblivious to his feelings: his fearless flirting makes him undeterred by her "smiles" and he gets to see her softer expressions. This actually makes him one of the few characters not related to Sotomura who can converse with her freely and knows that she's not a bad person.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Sotomura-san tends to put herself down a lot, usually when it comes to her femininity.
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
    • Nearly everybody regarding Sotomura, but Satou is probably the worst offender. Even when Sotomura does actually kind things regardless of how she actually looks, like bandaging Satou's leg when she got injured at the sports festival, or says innocuous things to Satou such as wanting to be friends with people with a fairly neutral face (especially for someone like Sotomura), Satou inexplicably misinterprets it for more cynical things like Sotomura having experience with injuries from fights and Sotomura wanting to join a bigger gang. It says a lot that Satou thinking that Sotomura is extremely misguided and resolving to try and firmly show her the right path is considered a major improvement to her judgement of Sotomura.
    • Everybody around him thinks Touma has this regarding Sotomura. However a straighter example would be mistaking the trio of delinquents for being both regular girls and for being Sotomura's friends.
    • Sotomura herself falls into this due to her desire to make friends and rather naive nature due to said desire, as her interactions with the three delinquents trying to "overthrow" her and her initial "friendship" with Hina shows.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Sotomura. She's so self-conscious about it that she leans down to speak to most people - combined with her unnatural grin, she tends to look terrifying. Unfortunately, even when she maintains good posture it frightens people, so she can't win.
  • Humanizing Tears: Sotomura sometimes bickers with her mother and always treats her more like her daughter than her mother, but when her mom leaves on business, which she apparently does a lot, Sotomura breaks down crying.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: If it weren't for the fact this is a gag manga, it would be even more heartbreaking than it's presented. Though she does eventually start making friends, starting with Haruno.
  • Irony:
    • Haruno's "smile lessons" don't seem to be helping much, but Haruno's genuine friendship elicits most of Sotomura's genuine smiles.
    • Sotomura admires Hina for appearing so sweet and being able to get along so easily with others. While walking home with her, Sotomura compliments Hina for having so many friends. After a beat, Hina privately and glumly notes that she has no real friends (since she doesn't actually like anyone else and nobody knows her true nature). Sotomura actually has a better social life than Hina because she actually has a friend.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Sotomura's unintentional expressions and rough form of speech come from her mother, who is a genuinely nice person but can and will use them to terrifying effect if needs be.
    • While not as bad as his older sister, Touma shares some of Sotomura's odd thinking patterns and is still considerably dense when it comes to picking up social cues. Despite also wanting people to know that Sotomura's not a bad person, he doesn't really understand how or why he contributes to the misunderstandings people have about his sister, such as his tendency to speak so formally to her (while sweet in intentions because he does it to show how much he looks up to her, it just makes people around them think that he's her underling).
  • Japanese Delinquents: Sotomura is wrongfully believed to be one. Back in her days as a student, her mother really was one.
  • Last-Name Basis: Excluding the Sotomura family this is the case for everyone; it's not until chapter 44 that we learn Haruno's given name is Mika.
  • Less Disturbing in Context: A lot of what Sotomura says or does is pretty unnerving if you don't know the full details.
  • Lethal Chef:
    • Sotomura's mother. When Sotomura let her make dinner for a short period in time, poor Touma's reaction said all that was needed to be said about it.
    • Haruno's baking falls squarely into this, considering that taste-testing her food makes Sotomura force herself to smile.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Poor Sotomura is so bad with words she can make the most innocent phone call sound like a crime boss giving veiled commands to his minions. Her plan for her little brother's surprise birthday party reads like an assassination plot. And the less said about her brief experiment with Twitter the better.
  • Mistaken for Badass: The manga in it's entirety of course, but it's taken to extreme hilarity when Touma's birthday is near and Sotomura starts being secretive in order to hide the fact that she's planning a surprise for him. He starts thinking that she's engaging in delinquent activity which shocks his classmates... mostly because they're convinced that Sotomura is a delinquent and are amazed that Touma is just figuring it out.
  • Morality Pet: Sotomura for Hina, much to the latter's surprise and frustration.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Touma adopts this stance when the Sotomura children take a trip to Italy and Gian takes fancy to her. He adopts her 'angry' face at the end of chapter 77.
  • No Name Given: We never learn the names of the three delinquents who want to overthrow Sotomura.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Sotomura and her little brother are, but most people who see them together are convinced they're not and that he's just an underling.
  • Not Helping Your Case: A lot of Sotomura's problems stem from simple social awkwardness or misunderstandings. However, once in a while she does things that reinforce her image yet make perfect sense to her. Examples include getting an actual chain for a cell phone strap or refusing to dye her brown hair because that's something delinquents do.
    • There's also the fact that Sotomura deliberately hides many of her feminine traits out of embarrassment, such as concealing her love of cute things and avoiding wearing cute outfits. Much of the misunderstandings surrounding her would likely clear up if Sotamura was more honest with her true self in public.
  • Not So Above It All: Haruno doesn't have any of the misunderstandings or quirks that almost every other character has, unless you count the misunderstanding that she is a normal girl.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A frequent source of humor. Everything Sotomura says is misinterpreted as a threat or implications of violence, her Huge Schoolgirl appearance makes her look menacing, and her forced smiles scare everyone even though they're forced because she's as nervous of other people as they are of her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • A two-for-one in Chapter 97. Sotomura often comes to school while ill, but this time she's suffering from a very high fever and decides to put on a smiling face as it worsens. While she's unable to chat with her during the school day, Haruno suspects something is wrong from how stiff Sotomura's expression is throughout when compared to how she naturally smiles when they're alone. It's only apparent to Haruno just how badly Sotomura is suffering when she comes up to the rooftop after school and is pretending to smile in front of her. When Haruno asks why Sotomura came to school with such a high fever and Sotomura responds that she didn't want to miss their "smiling lessons", Haruno doesn't react in amazement like she normally does: she actually gets mad at Sotomura and leaves to go home. Haruno then explains she's mad because she is worried about Sotomura hiding her pain and wants her to take better care of herself. This is enough for Sotomura to tearfully realize how foolish it was to push her body so far while unwell, as well as how much Haruno cares about her as a friend.
    • Due to his goal to make everyone laugh, Mikumo's a pretty cheerful and happy-go-lucky guy. But whenever it even looks like someone's showing interest in Sotomura, he's a lot less friendly. When his friend joins Sotomura on a walk during a study session in Chapter 102 (he actually saw one of her natural smiles by chance in and just wanted to clear things up) Mikumo interrupts him with a glare that doesn't look too dissimilar from one of Sotomura's forced smiles. And when Gian comes to visit Sotomura, his flirting and lack of fear towards Sotomura makes Mikumo very jealous and attempts to compete with Gian for Sotomura's affection, going so far as being ready to fistfight Gian despite normally being terrified of physical confrontation.
  • Oblivious to Love:
    • Due to the aforementioned issue with her struggling to find friends in the first place, Sotomura doesn't realise Mikumo may want to venture into romantic territory. The beginning of chapter 65 makes probably the most convincing case.
    • Happens again when the siblings go to Italy. Gian becomes smitten with her during the trip. First she thinks he thinks her face is scary (mistaking 'kawaii' for 'kowai'). After that, his feelings go right over her head.
  • Older Than They Look: Sotomura's mother looks so young, people at first think she's Sotomura's elder sister.
  • Only Sane Man: This is Haruno's role for the most part, as she's the only major character who is both normal and is able to figure out Sotomura's quirks, not to mention other people's misunderstandings about/with Sotomura.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Haruno and Sotomura quickly fall into this. Haruno is one of the few non-family members that know the real Sotomura and Sotomura is genuinely happy just being around Haruno.
  • Rescue Romance: This is how Sotomura's parents met. Sotomura believes that her father saved her mother from delinquents, when in actuality, it was the other way around.
  • Red String of Fate: Mikumo imagines having this with Sotomura, only to be shot down by his friend who retorts that she'd try to strangle him with it instead.
  • Running Gag: Two methods in which Sotomura is misunderstood that pop up regularly:
    • Sotomura shows up to school with a bandage while people assume she was fighting. In actuality she's doing anything but, e.g. pricking herself while gardening.
    • Sotomura talks on the phone, sometimes with The Unsmile. People assume she's up to no good but again it's anything but, e.g. discussing with Touma about taping a show at home.
  • Sensei-chan: Yoshinaga-sensei, though only Sotomura really knows how unreliable she is, though to offset this Yoshinaga is one of the few people who know the real Sotomura.
  • Show Within a Show: Sotomura is a fan of fictional rabbit character Usa-Maru.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • Sotomura-san and her father regarding long skirts.
    • Haruno is getting so good at knowing what Sotomura is thinking, mainly the loopholes she tries to use to avoid Haruno's fashion advice, that Sotomura accuses her of mind reading.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Sotomura looks exactly like her mother did during the latter's high school days. Their tense expressions at the same age are identical but their reasons are different: The daughter being nervous around people and the mother being extremely hostile.
  • Supreme Chef: In contrast to her mother, Sotomura is this. Her cooking skills are so good that she's actually incapable of cooking badly on purpose — one time she tried to deliberately botch cooking miso soup in a misguided attempt to look cuter...only to end up make a delicious curry dish.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Sotomura's self-proclaimed underling once asked Sotomura where she could buy Sarashi to bind her chest. When Sotomura asked why she was being asked that, the girl said she believes that's what Sotomura does. Sotomura decided to allow the girl to believe that.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: The whole manga basically runs on this and Sotomura isn't the only one everyone misunderstands; she herself misunderstands several people. Haruno is about the only one who understands what's going on.
  • Tsundere: Sotomura-san's mother was a solid Type-A at her age after she met her future husband.
    • Despite her initial contempt for Sotomura, Hina of all people starts showing shades of this around her and Haruno once they actually start conversing with her seriously.
  • Unknown Rival: A trio of genuine delinquents who try (and fail) to "overthrow" Sotomura-san.
  • The Unsmile: One third of the reason people misunderstand Sotomura — her forced smiles are downright scary.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So far two characters, Ozawa and Yukari, were slowly moved out of the manga, replaced by characters with similar motivations, Mikumo and Himeki. Possibly lampshaded in a chapter when Yukari sees Sotomura hanging out with Himeki, which results in her tearfully calling Sotomura a traitor.
  • When She Smiles: Normally Sotomura is seen as an oppressive delinquent due to her problems with smiling and other misunderstandings. However, when she smiles genuinely it's quite literally stunning, often causing other characters to pause and wonder who she is. Towards the end of the manga she figures out how to smile that way normally, which completely changes the public perception of her.