“Ah, youth”, a phrase that harkens back to a simpler time without adult responsibilities like taxes, work, or complicated interpersonal relationships, and everything can be summed up with having fun with friends or having an innocent crush on the girl sitting next to you. Ooo, I’ve been waiting for this one.
Our story starts between the two middle schoolers who sit next to each other in class, Nishikata and Takagi. It’s become glaringly clear for Nishikata that Takagi enjoys seeing his flustered reactions and teasing him at every opportunity she can get, leading this boy down the rocky path to get back at this girl for all of the light torture he goes through, persevering day after day to get his first win unbeknownst to the fact that he has already stolen her heart.
Wholesome. That’s the word I would use to describe this show in a word. Throughout its twelve episode run, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san paints a picture of youth and moments of childhood fun as each episode compiles several mini stories, chapters from two of Yamamoto-sensei’s works, primarily focusing on the school mishaps of the titular character outwitting and teasing Nishikata despite the boy’s desperate attempts at getting back at her. While the concept at first appears stale, much of its presentation varies after the initial few takes of Nishikata failing to outwit the girl who’s always two/three steps ahead of him, creating different scenarios in how he gets teased rather than him having his plans fail ninety five percent of the time. All the while, the story manages to make slow, but noticeable progress on the relationship between these two that creates something of an ideal ‘youth romance’ that feels warm and fuzzy to watch.
Quite often, the story will also switch from its main focus to adapt chapters from “Ashita wa Doyoubi”, a different manga series from the same author that follows the adventures of three girls who are canonically take place in the same town and school as Karakai Jouzu, providing a change of pace that still manages to emulate the same air to it as the casual and lax nature of these girls is nearly identical to the tone that we’re normally used to. Personally though, I feel these stories generally have a lot less weight to them compared to the show’s main story, as the unlike Takagi and Nishikata, the three girls Mina, Yukari, and Sanae don’t have a developing relationship that creates personal investment, and instead emulates more of the ‘slice of life’ with girls story we’re used to.
Overall however, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is a show that does a solid example of a slice of life show with a slow but positive impacting romance element that gradually grows to fruition with each passing episode. It’s a fun and relaxing school comedy that’s just a blast to watch trying to see the various things Nishikata tries to do in order to get back at Takagi, blissfully unaware that he has in a sense already claimed the biggest victory of them all. Personally I would’ve liked the show to have ended on a different chapter (Chapter 31), as it would’ve given the show a more definitive end, but if Shin-Ei decides to do a second season, I wouldn’t mind.
+ Well-paced development
+ Wholesome. Very wholesome.
– Ashita wa Doyoubi sections feel lackluster in comparison
As with any slice of life show, the most important parts to take into consideration are the characters, and how good they are as characters since they do carry the show.
Takagi-san as the titular character is a mischievous girl who always manages to triumph over Nishikata despite his vain attempts to tease her for all the teasing he gets, and Nishikata is the boy who tirelessly and fervently desires to be the one standing over Takagi-san, even if it’s for one time. The duo is an inseparable aspect of the show that gives the show its charm, their interactions acting as both the heart and soul of this series. While from a story standpoint, it seems like as characters they can’t function without each other, much of the series dedicates to various their various quirks and interests, filling in blanks like their relationships with other members of the cast, favorite manga, and what they do without the other around, which helps to expand this show to be more of a slice of life on youth rather than just a school slice of life, as is what is commonly seen with much of the genre’s school examples. As a result, these characters feel a lot more believable and leads the show into many other situations outside of school which for how often they’re seen at school, is really refreshing to watch.
And as mentioned before, we get the girls Mina, Yukari, and Sanae who spend much of their screentime creating character dynamics within each other; Mina is the kind of dumb energetic one, Sanae is the blunt and deadpan one, and Yukari is the levelheaded, almost sensible one of the group. Apart from them, the few characters we do see don’t get explored much if at all, and really only serve to fill up cast slots and make it so that Nishikata doesn’t just spend all of his free time with the girl he sits next to (even though that is totally the case). Everyone but the main protagonists are pretty bare in characteristics, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker in this case.
+ Well rounded (and very entertaining) main characters
– Side cast is lacking in comparison
Produced by Shin-Ei Animation, a studio who is noticeable for being the studio responsible for the Doraemon series, the quality of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is not…great. While I will give the show credit for being very reminiscent of Yamamoto-sensei’s style and doing an excellent job at all of the closeups that help emphasize the psychological warfare going between two seventh graders, the art is not all that impressive.
The art wavers in quality and background frames look slightly off and different from scene to another, making the overall style quite inconsistent and not that amazing to look at. The color palette used is indeed bright and gives a nice shiny coat over everything to give the show its bright atmosphere, but really nothing to me stands out as ‘amazing’ from this style. Which is a shame too considering how much I like this series.
+/- Average art
On the flipside, the sound is almost an inverse of quality. “Iwanai kedo ne.” by Oohara Yuiko is the song that really emulates the kind of ride you’re in for when you’re watching this show. It’s bright, it’s cheerful, and its light tone really hammers in how lax and fuzzy the series feels while watching it. One of my absolute favorite parts of the OST comes with a woodwind version of the OP, which comes appears very often in the series to give each scene the extra push it needed to make it from just a normal teasing scene to a really fun to watch teasing scene.
ED’s are a bit of a different story, as we have seven different songs all sung by the voice of Takagi-san, Takahashi Rie. Most of the songs fall under the same category of being relaxing and cheery songs, each of the seven falling into a spectrum between energetic to calming, which is honestly a nice variety that I didn’t expect from the series, but is something that’s quite welcoming. My personal favorite is “Chiisana Koi no Uta“, or the fifth ED in the series, as it falls in the midway of that spectrum so you sort of get the best of both worlds that way.
+ Bright and energetic OP
+ Varying but all very good EDs
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is bar none one of my favorite romance series, both to read and to watch. As someone who has followed and loved the original manga to the extent that I drop everything I’m doing just to read the next translated chapter, seeing that it was getting an anime was like euphoria. And I’m so happy that the show fulfilled everything I as a fan could’ve ever wanted. Seeing my favorite chapter get animated was so great to see, and I feel embarrassed to say just how excited I got every Monday just to see the next episode. I love the gradual pacing, I think the show is wholesome to a fault, and Takahashi Rie while at first I was apprehensive at her casting, is now something I’m so glad they did.
While I admit that I didn’t do much but spout just how much love I have for this series, it’s genuinely nice to see an adaptation get the amount of care and attention that the show got. The chapters were adapted almost 1:1, the accurateness of the characters blew my expectations, and the music was so much better than I ever thought it would be. While my recommendation is heavily biased, if you enjoy a good slice of life romance without any melodrama, watch this show. It’s cute, it’s fun, and most of all, it’s wholesome.