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Friday, May 4, 2018

Anime Hajime Review: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

First-year middle schooler Nishikada (voiced by Yuki Kaji) has a bit of a problem. He has run into someone who he cannot beat no matter how hard he tries. In fact, the more he fights back, the more likely he will end up looking like a fool.

Nishikada is at the mercy of the master teaser, his classmate, Takagi (voiced by Rie Takahashi).

Unbeknownst to Nishikada, Takagi has a crush on him. Driven by her strong romantic feelings, Takagi loves making Nishikada’s adorable face turn red. For Nishikada, this makes the days just a little bit longer and all kinds of frustrating.

Except, despite not being a fan of the constant teasing, Nishikada has formed a close relationship with Takagi, and the two are almost inseparable. Nishikada would claim this is because he is looking for the opportunity to get his revenge. But if you look at it another way, perhaps Nishikada has feelings of his own that even he isn’t aware of. 

Whatever the case may be, Nishikada is always one slip of the tongue away from receiving the full brunt of Takagi’s playful roasting.

Series Positives

It’s not often when a series has me this torn.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san has the potential of being an interesting series. What will determine that is what kind of anime viewer you are. Are you a marathoner or a…one-episode-r (I’m not sure what to call this).

A marathon viewer is someone who likes to watch an entire series in as few sessions as possible. I, myself, am a marathoner. If a series is thirty episodes or less, I try to get through the whole thing in one sitting.

A one-episoder is a person who enjoys taking on a series a step at a time. These are the people most likely to follow a show during its original run; waiting each week for the next chapter.

How you watch anime is for you to decide. Whether a marathoner or a one-episoder, it doesn’t affect the positive or negative aspects of a given series. But depending on what you are, those positive and negative aspects might weigh on you differently. I have never seen a show drive this point home quite like Takagi-san.

There were many elements of this show I enjoyed. I won’t deny that. However, if I were a one-episoder, I think I would be much less harsh than I am about to be. This series had faults, but I doubt they would have bothered me as much as they did if I didn’t watch the whole thing in one go.

What I’m trying to say is, if you are a marathoner, maybe change your viewing style with Takagi-san. For everyone else, though, I’m still finding it hard to give this series a full recommendation. And if I do, I can guarantee it will be quite dejected.

I wanted to like Takagi-san, I really did. But unfortunately for me, I could never truly get into it.

That is a shame because I must admit, there was a charm that resided within this series. A large part of that charm came from the animation. Visually, this show was very appealing.

I’m finding it difficult to think of the best way to describe this series’ art style. The only thing I have come up with is that it reminded me of a children’s anime. And the more I have gone down this line of thinking, the more appropriate it becomes.

Takagi-san’s animation was a fitting match for its setting and characters. I can’t tell you how many casts I’ve seen that looked older than they actually were. This is a problematic, but no less real aspect of the anime medium. I have stopped trying to argue against this point, especially when there are way too many series that have fifteen-year-olds who look as though they should have been twenty-five.

This show didn’t have that issue.

Nishikada and Takagi looked, and to an extent, acted like middle schoolers. Other than a ton of in-series confirmations, these two being first-year students was sometimes up in the air. But that’s just me splitting hairs.

Moving back to my original point about this show’s charm: Takagi-san had plenty of moments that were a lot of fun. These instances also accentuated how much of a drag this series was. And now I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the surface, this should have been an enjoyable series. Having now seen it, I’m even more confident in that assertion. There were many elements to Takagi-san that should have allowed the whole thing to work. And that leads me to ask you, the reader, a question.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san has a quantity versus quality feel to it. If I were to list all the positives and negatives of this show side-by-side, the positives would have a clear, numerical advantage. The negative side would only have one major entry. Except that one entry was a bit overwhelming. So my question is this:

What leaves the more significant impression? Is it the many good qualities that, by themselves, don’t have much of an impact? Or, is it the one negative that is constantly being shoved into your face?

I believe I have made it clear what side of that question I’m on. But to give the credit that is due, let’s discuss Takagi-san’s major selling point.


I will explain in more detail later, but there is a huge caveat to this section, especially concerning Nishikada. Please keep this in mind when I bring him up here in a moment.

The characters of Takagi-san were likable. I realize when I write something like that I make it sound as if there were a lot of people in this cast. That was not at all the case.

This show was ninety-five percent Nishikada and Takagi. The remaining five percent were support characters. But if I may, I want to focus on that support for a second. And by support characters for Takagi-san, I am referring to this series’ reoccurring trio of Sanae, Yukari, and Mina (voiced by Yui Ogura, M.A.O, and Konomi Kohara).

These three usually had nothing to do with whatever Nishikada and Takagi were doing. They were, for the most part, there own separate entity. This makes sense since Sanae, Yukari, and Mina were the main characters of their own manga, Ashita wa Doyoubi; a spin-off title to Takagi-san.

I can’t say I am going to go out of my way to pick up this trio’s story. Nor can I claim I know much, if anything, about these three as characters. I’m serious: their role in this show was unremarkable and I doubt I will remember who they are in a few weeks.

Nevertheless, whenever Sanae, Yukari, and Mina were on screen, they were a lot of fun. They were a pleasant distraction to break up the show’s usual flow.

The comedy during these three’s sections was nothing special. I chuckled, don’t get me wrong. However, the show set itself up in such a way where I wasn’t just laughing -- I wanted nothing more than to laugh. It didn’t matter if the jokes were funny or not.

I will leave that there for now.

It doesn’t matter what the support characters were like. As I mentioned, they were only a small part of this show. Takagi-san wouldn’t have been what it was without Nishikada and Takagi. And these two, as a pair, I liked. Or at least, I liked the type of relationship this series was trying for.

It may only be my thing, but if I’m giving you a hard time to your face, that means I like you quite a bit. To me, this is a sign of familiarity that I don’t share with a lot of people. 

One of the reasons I got a kick out of Nishikada and Takagi’s relationship was because Takagi’s style of goading was very similar to mine.

I have plenty I will say about Takagi, but before doing that, what of the receiver? What of Nishikada?

Let me make this known: I think Nishikada was a good kid. Also, I believe there can be an important difference between a character and how a story uses that character.

With that said, personality-wise, Nishikada had a lot of things going for him. For starters, he was someone who kept his promises. When he made plans with someone, he did what he could to ensure he stuck to those plans. Although he didn’t like how much Takagi teased him, if he agreed to walk home with her, he never went back on his word.

Coming off that, and this is something I can’t respect enough, Nishikada took his punishments. It didn’t matter if he or Takagi proposed a competition, if Nishikada lost, which was always, he paid up without unnecessary complaints.

There was another thing concerning Nishikada I am shocked and impressed became a recurring element. For every one instance where Takagi teased him during the day, Nishikada would do three pushups. And given how skilled Takagi was at getting the upper hand on Nishikada, he never had less than fifty pushups a night. This easily could have been a one-off gag, but Nishikada kept at it throughout the series.

Also, I have to bring up Nishikada’s awkwardness around Takagi. It had a place, and I get where it was coming from. To go along with that, I’m not the least bit surprised why Takagi would have a massive crush on Nishikada. Him stumbling about as he did was endearing. So when she said she thought it was cute, I believed her.

But like all things, moderation is key.

This finally brings me to Takagi herself. She was, without question, the best thing about this show.

I already brought up how similar Takagi’s style was to mine. Except, my favorite aspect about Takagi was her knowing how to be an effective teaser. Her reputation wasn’t in name only.

First, Takagi knew she couldn’t afford to be more bashful than Nishikada. She enjoyed it whenever Nishikada grew embarrassed, so that meant she had to be willing to push the joke. Otherwise, what would have been the point?

A great example of this was when Takagi’s class was at the pool. She saw Nishikada wasn't getting in the water and went to meet him. After successfully guessing why Nishikada was sitting off to the side, Takagi dared Nishikada to figure out why she was doing the same.

Takagi knew that Nishikada knew of a reason why a girl may not want to go swimming. Takagi also knew that reason was something Nishikada wouldn’t say without hesitation. Watching him squirm and struggle was precisely the reaction that Takagi was after.

After Nishikada whispered his guess, Takagi, without missing a beat, threw the response right back at him. Whatever the reason was, it had nothing to do with Takagi possibly being on her period. Takagi had no problem with touchy subjects that would make your average middle school boy turn bright red.

Second, Takagi kept her teasing localized. Although Nishikada often ended up looking like a fool, that was always his doing. Takagi never needed to deliver the final blow. Along with that, whenever Nishikada did something he didn’t want people to know about, Takagi would never tell a soul. She would not let Nishikada off the hook, but no one ever learned of the secret.

And third, Takagi was just a teaser. She was ruthless in how hard she went after Nishikada, except she never went beyond what he could handle. That is the key. There is a huge difference between a bit of light teasing and straight up bullying.

Despite everything that happened in this show, Takagi was never once a bully.

The last thing I have to say about Takagi is, this series established her motivations early on and in a powerful way. This moment was Takagi at her most vulnerable, coming down to a mere 50/50 chance of Nishikada getting an edge on her. Takagi took a gamble, and it paid off.

Too bad this scene came in the first episode, and it set a standard this series never managed to meet again.

Series Negatives

As I said, the list of negatives to Takagi-san isn't long. Therefore, this part of the review will be considerably shorter than the positives section. But again, this one fault was impossible to ignore.

Kakari Jouzu no Takagi-san was boring. This series was dull and super one-note.

I can recommend the first episode to everyone. Here, the show established its main joke; no matter what he did, Nishikada could never find a way to tease Takagi. What you will soon learn, though, Takagi-san’s main joke was actually its only joke. 

This show took its concept and beat it into the ground. And after that, there were still ten episodes left to go.

Why do you think I cared at all about three forgettable side characters? They were something different. When the show focused on Sanae, Yukari, and Mina, we got a break from the same shtick that the show had been doing over and over and over again.

Takagi-san might work if you are a one-episoder because you don’t feel the urge to watch an entire series from beginning to end in one sitting. If you are a marathoner, strap yourself in because you’re in for twelve episodes that do the same exact thing.

I think it’s about time I explain what I meant when I was being wishy-washy about Nishikada. Again, I do think he was a good kid and a fine enough character. But he also never learned his lesson. Him struggling against Takagi would make sense if Takagi changed up her tactics. Except, she never needed to.

Almost without fail, Nishikada would fall for the same trick. He got to the point where he was so paranoid that Takagi was scheming something, Takagi didn’t need to put in any effort. She could have only asked what the weather was like, and Nishikada would have talked himself into doing something silly because he read too deep into what Takagi was asking.

There was barely an instance where the simplest answer was not the right one. Going back to the pool example I used before, why would Takagi want to sit out during pool time? There was no need for Nishikada to contemplate for as long as he did. Takagi sat out because she wanted to mess with Nishikada. There was nothing wrong with her.

She saw an opportunity and took it.

I will admit, I didn’t want Nishikada to beat Takagi in a battle of wits. It would have destroyed the entire meaning of the show. But there were ways Nishikada could have gotten to Takagi, and he wouldn’t have even needed to know about it.

In episode eleven, Nishikada accidentally let slip he preferred walking home with Takagi over hanging out with his guy friends. While he was too busy trying to convince Takagi he didn't mean what he said, he failed to notice the one thing he had been seeking throughout this series: he had at last gotten the upper hand. Nishikada had succeeded in shooting an arrow right through Takagi's heart.

I know Nishikada could get the win he desired. This was possible because the show actually did this. The problem was, Takagi-san only did this three times. 

For every other encounter though, the formula was the same. Takagi would say something and Nishikada would take five minutes to piece together any and all possible meanings while ignoring the most straightforward answers.

Like I said, give the first episode a try. Takagi-san doesn’t get any better, nor does it get any different than that.

Final Thoughts

I am astonished by how impossible it was for me to get into this show. Everything about it seemed right up my alley.

The animation was nice. The characters were interesting. There was a lot of charm residing just below the surface. And on occasion, this series even managed to dip its toes into that potential.

Too bad for most of the show, it never ventured into anything different. This was a one trick pony that tired itself out in the first act.

I have been saying this throughout the review. If you take Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san slow, you may be able to accept its monotony. Try anything else though, and you will feel yourself falling asleep. Although I wanted to, this is a series I can’t recommend.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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