I understand that the medium is supposed to be, in part, the suspension of reality. Certainly, things like TTGL or FLCL could never happen in real life. However, those stories don’t necessarily depend on the looks of their characters for the movement of the plot. Certainly, I may think differently of TTGL’s Simon if I knew he was a 2 (out of 10), however most of my thoughts would focus on how the hell he was able to pull a smoking hot babe like Nia. In sum, it doesn’t matter and no one ever really mentions it.
However, shows that are based on realistic scenarios don’t always have the same luxury. Point in case is the new anime Watamote (Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!). The first episode has made it somewhat clear that the protagonist, Tomoko, is not the most attractive person to walk the earth. As such, the methods used to show her physical appearance are decidedly important. Since anime is an escape and something I do with my free time, I don’t want to watch an eyesore for 25 minutes a week. Thus, Tomoko’s normal appearance is nothing we haven’t seen in an anime before (all animation being equal). Instead, the creators chose to emphasize certain points in which he can understand that Tomoko is not appealing.
To be honest, this approach was probably the best way to go. Displaying physical features in anime is a tricky business. How often have we seen fat characters grossly out of proportion and, as such, the show can lose many levels of credibility. On the opposite end of the spectrum, how am I supposed to buy that Sawako in Kimi ni Todoke doesn’t think she is beautiful one day, and the next everyone in her school thinks she is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Of course, each series can approach the issue in their own way, as what works in one case may not work in another. However, Watamote isn’t some Shoujo gateway to erotic teen fan fiction, and as such the heroine doesn’t need to be secretly attractive. This seems like a case study, and the happy medium used fits the bill properly.