Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 12 (Fin)

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Tanaka-kun ends pretty much the way it began: quietly, with neither too much flash or too much kookiness. Sure, we’ve never seen Tanaka more focused, intense, or quick on his feet, but when his precious classroom seat is being threatened, he makes sure he puts in the effort to preserve his ability to be listless in class.

Opportunities open up for him, but switching with Miyano (trapped behind the Great Wall of Ohta) means he’s also next to Shiraishi, who sees the switch as fate, and this week she turns on the effort afterburners to get Tanaka’s attention.

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Predictably, none of the classic girl moves work, save opening her shirt, and even then she’d get any teenage guy’s attention; she wan’ts Tanaka’s. But cracking the nut that is Tanaka isn’t something you can learn in a magazine, nor is it even something that can be achieve the way his cushy new seat was acquired, and how Shiraishi has accomplished so much to reinvent her image: hard work.

Indeed, all her hard work trying to get closer to Tanaka results in him very nearly crushing her dreams by telling her he prefers to be alone, even if it’s less about her specifically (which is its own problem) and more about him not wanting to trouble people other than Ohta.

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In the end, Shiraishi comes to an understanding and a way forward—basically, stop rushing and take your time—when her monologue in what she thought was an empty classroom at sundown is interrupted by Tanaka, who just so happened to be sleeping in there.

Tanaka isn’t sure what Shiraishi is up to, but he won’t let her accept failure as the end-all-be-all; to him, failure is a fact of life, and leads to lessons learned that can be used to overturn that failure. All it takes is time. If Shiraishi is meant to be with Tanaka, it will happen eventually, just not in this final episode. And that’s okay.

Of course, Shiraishi and Tanaka end up in a bit of a quandary when the latter’s friends see him walking home with her in glasses-and-braids mode, assuming she’s a different girl and his secret girlfriend. This leads to lots of teasing and unwanted attention, and Tanaka reacts by pushing everyone away.

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Despite Echizen’s desire for Ohta to sweep her off her feet, his offer to platonically carry her Tanaka-kun elicits only a swift punch to the gut. Just as there’s a proper, specific way to Tanaka’s heart, there’s a proper, specific way to Echizen’s, and that ain’t it.

As for Tanaka, while walking home alone he runs into all kinds of obstacles he wouldn’t have had to deal with had Ohta or another friend been with him. The whole system depends on the kindness of and proximity to others, a lesson he relays to a Rino who’d rather he only rely on her.

Just to drive that point home, the next morning all is cleared up thanks to Shiraishi talking with Ohta and creating a new, more plausible story for everyone that still preserves her secret alternate look. And while the ordeal has only made Tanaka dread having a real girlfriend, to Shiraishi’s dismay, I imagine given enough time that position will also soften.

Tanaka-kun was a hoot, and it did it by staying understated and consistent. It was head-and-shoulders above any other shows I watched this season, and the school-based rom-coms and slice-of-lifes that are coming this Summer have big shoes to fill. Naturally, I also wouldn’t mind another twelve episodes of this some day. But there’s no rush.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 11

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You’d think a pool episode would wear Tanaka out, but he can always float listlessly on the surface. When his normally relaxing, ordinary school life is infected by vigorous preparations for the cultural festival, we learn what is truly anathema to him.

In preparation for the bedlam, he tries to perfect his cloaking device, but to no avail: he has to perform some task, and the final ones available to him and Ohta turn out to be the role of haunted house ghosts.

Of course, initially, Tanaka doesn’t scare Shiraishi so much as surprise her when he so nonchalantly flashes her while switching how he wears his funeral robe (fortunately, he was wearing underwear).

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Ohta and Tanaka also have a sweet moment when they look on proudly as Echizen interacts with people other than the two of them and Miyano (though she resents their pride as somewhat mocking).

The haunted house turns out alright too, with a couple of little issues: Rather than a ghost in a well, Tanaka looks more like a leisurely bathing spa patron.

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As for Ohta, he’s far more scared of the house than anyone else, and so he must be replaced as star ghost. Miyano steps in, but ends up charming patrons rather than scaring them with her adorable demon catgirl get-up, even posing for pictures. Hey, it’s not what they were originally going for in a haunted house, but if the customers come away happy, who cares?

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During Tanaka’s break, he sees class 1-E has a Maid Cafe, and as a girl with very similar long black hair runs off to watch the drama club, I was all but convinced Tanaka would be forced into a maid outfit to substitute, with hilarious results. Instead, we got something even better: Echizen in a maid outfit, complete with bubbly welcome.

Of course, she realizes far too late who she’s welcoming, resulting in the longest—and best—comedic pause of the episode, ending with Echizen reverting to her usual brusque nature, demanding Tanaka go home and forget what he saw.

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Tanaka continues his quest for a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the festival, barging in on a kissing couple and coming up against a sign barring roof access. He settles on a cardboard box near the roof door, where he soon falls asleep. Ohta, who lost sight of him during the break from helping everyone who asked, searches desperately for his friend, stopping at nearly every food and sweet stall on the way—this is a cultural festival, after all, one must sample all they can!

When he does find him, Tanaka is so accidentally scary-looking that Ohta clean passes out. All Tanaka can do is sit by him and wait for him to come to, but of course he dozes off in the process. When they both come to, it’s time to clean up and celebrate a festival well done. But Ohta doesn’t forget the ghoul he spotted, and presents Tanaka with consecrated salt to ward it off…even though “it” was Tanaka himself.

Another wonderfully solid and hilarious Tanaka-kun, adding new life to a well-worn anime theme two weeks in a row with its uniquely bizarre and unexpected yet warm and charming comedy. I hope it gets a second season!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 10

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I never though it would be possible: a pool scene with no girls in bikinis flitting about! Just a shirtless Ohta and Tanaka, surveying a very nice public pool filled mostly with kids.

A couple of said kids discover Tanaka can’t swim, try to tease him, and incur the wrath of Ohta. They make peace, however, and Tanaka inadvertently teaches them how to float perfectly along the water, a talent he owes to his listlessness.

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It was fun to see Miss Wac at her other part-time job as pool lifeguard, criticizing Tanaka and Ohta from a place of ignorance, this time in aquatics.

It’s left to out imagination how exactly Tanaka gets home when Ohta reports he’s too tired and listless to carry him, but I loved the fact Tanaka’s floating method became a trend with grade schoolers, much to the dismay of their swim teacher.

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The second half is all about girls in yukatas, making up, if you will for a first half that was mostly ‘beefcake’. Miyano wants to attend the fireworks festival with Ecchan in a sexy yukata, but thinks she needs to grow 10cm to do so.

Tanaka and Ohta decide to help Miyano out: not with rapid growth, which ain’t gonna happen, but by helping her choose a cute yukata. Shiraishi also joins them, and we learn that, just like Tanaka, she’s more used to watching the fireworks on TV in an air-conditioned room. Frankly, part of me wanted to see these two doing just that at episode’s end.

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Instead, Shiraishi regrets to inform the others that her two girlfriends already invited her, but it’s no big deal. Shiraishi gets all the joy and satisfaction she desires when Tanaka heartily endorses her yukata.

Miyano…is a different story: even the smallest-size yukata off the rack fits…poorly. So Shiraishi, reciprocating all the good Miyano did for her, decides to dust off another one of her wrecklessly-perfected skills, in this case sewing, to make a custom yukata that wil fit Miyano properly.

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The result is…well, adorable, but also with an air of maturity. It’s a complete success, and Echizen is so charmed by the sight of her cute friend, she allows Tanaka and Ohta to join them.

Not moments after Echizen internally remembers when she and Ohta used to go see fireworks in matching yukatas, Ohta asks her if she remembers that very memory; and when she denies, he’s suspicious.

Ohta starts off well by properly complimenting Echizen’s yukata, which isn’t what he or Tanaka expected. But things take a turn for the worse when, in the middle of Echizen working up the courage to compliment his yukata, Ohta runs off at the mention of unlimited syrup at the water ice stall. But then, I guess we always knew Ohta’s priorities.

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Tensions lesson once the fireworks start, and we see Shiraishi with her two friends enjoying them in one spot, and Echizen, Ohta and Tanaka in another, united in their awe of the fireworks’ magnificence.

But wait…where’s Miyano? She’s so short she can barely see the fireworks over the taller masses around her. Someone put her on your shoulders, already!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 09

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Much of this week is spent in a McDonalds knockoff called “Wac”, where Tanaka’s disappointment at not getting the “Lucky Meal” toy he wanted (a mini-Roomba) is misconstrued as some kind of personal vendetta by the employee who served him.

We spend as much of the first segment with her worrying about Tanaka and Ohta “glaring” at her than we do with Tanaka and Ohta. She starts to go a little insane, though we know, of course, she’s totally mistaken and has no reason to fear our protagonists.

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She finally realizes at the end of Tanaka and Ohta’s visit to Wac that they’re actually nice people who thank her and call her amazing. Of course, that only makes her more confused and suspicious.

That brings us to Saya, Ohta’s little sister, who just happens to be Tanaka’s little sister’s best friend. Unlike Rino, Saya isn’t a perfect opposite-sex doppelganger of her brother, though she is blonde and tall. She’s also voiced by Touyama Nao, who for once voices a painfully shy, not boisterous, character.

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Saya is at first scared of Tanaka, but once Rino assures her there’s nothing to fear, Saya relaxes a little. She’s even able to carry on a convo with Tanaka when Rino is off ordering a drink, albeit talking about her own brother’s “Gorilla Level” on a scale of 1 to 5, which is apparently how both Tanaka and Saya gauge the effectiveness of a brother to protect his little sister.

When Ohta arrives and the cat comes out of the bag that he’s Saya’s big sister, it’s a big blow to Rino, who considers Saya her best friend but still can’t abide Saya’s big brother’s existence, at least in terms of his near-constant proximity to Tanaka.

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Saya at first thinks she’s an eyesore to Tanaka, causing him to be in a bad mood by sitting with him, but Rino can tell he’s actually in an uncommonly good mood. Saya chalks that up to the unique perspective of a little sister.

Then the opposite happens when Saya walks home with Ohta, and he can tell she had a good time hanging out with Tanaka, even though she doesn’t think she shows it on her face. Basically, Ohta shows the power of a big brother, which like a big sister, can tell things non-sisters and non-brothers simply can’t, due to their extensive experience living with each other.

I enjoyed the long-expected introduction of Saya, but also the little portrait of the McDonalds part-timer, and how books shouldn’t be judged by their covers, especially in the case of Tanaka and Ohta. They’re exceedingly nice guys; just give ’em a chance!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 08

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Ohta is injured, so Tanaka must fend for himself! In theory, of course. In reality, Tanaka can’t quit his dependance on help cold turkey, and asks (kinda demands?) Echizen help him instead.

Because Echizen is a kind and decent person, she agrees to direct Tanaka to her neighbor Ohta’s house, and while she carries her usual unpleasant demeanor, it doesn’t change the fact that she helps him nonetheless.

She’s clearly also helped out a bunch of other people, as evidenced by the numerous times she’s stopped on the way home by people thanking her for helping them.

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Even when Echizen successfully gets Tanaka to Ohta’s, she sees how happy Ohta is that Tanaka made it there “himself” that she hides so Tanaka can take the credit. This begs the question, for Tanaka as well as me: Why exactly is Echizen a delinquent? Does she, in fact, only dress like one? It sure seems like it, but that contradiction makes her only more endearing.

The next day Ohta returns to school, but is limited due to an injured foot. Tanaka tries to abandon his listlessness that he might be Ohta’s “conveyance” the way Ohta is his most of the time, but to no avail. He has the will; he just doesn’t have the way.

That being said, Tanaka does let Ohta put some of his weight on him on the walks to classes, where Ohta imagines how great it would be if the floors, stairs, and doors were all automatic. With his injury, Ohta is being given a taste of the difficulties moving Tanaka deals with everyday, so it’s only logical that he’d start thinking of ways to make life easier.

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Tanaka seems to do Ohta a solid by purchasing his usual sweet pan for lunch, but he gets tired on the way back, remembers that sugar can help with energy, and eat’s Ohta’s pan, leaving Ohta with Tanaka’s savory sandwich. Tanaka’s “various reasons” rationale (complete with face covered in crumbs) is hilarious. And who’s there to bail both out but but Echizen, adding to the mystery of why she’s a delinquent.

The day is more energy-draining than usual, making it hard for Tanaka to stay awake during unsupervised self-study, during which he must complete an English worksheet. He half-assedly puts down answers in Romaji letters (not English), then wonders why, if only about 80 countries speak English, they couldn’t “reform” them and make Japanese a global language.

Note there’s no megalomaniacal ambitions or malice here; Tanaka is just thinking of the most complicated way possible of eliminating English classwork so he can sleep more. The cut to the various people he could potentially ask for help was a wonderful sequence of unique personalities, none of them useful to his immediate needs.

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The day ends with a fire drill that demonstrates how Tanaka’s dependence on Ohta could be hazardous to his health, as two classmates help Ohta out but Tanaka gets lost in the school during the evacuation, so used to being carried by Ohta that he is. It’s a similar problem as taking the bus or taxi or Uber someplace all the time, but never driving or walking there yourself – writ small.

When the day ends (with scenes of the town at sunset as gorgeous and tranquil as any show airing today), Tanaka thanks Ohta for everything, even going so far as to name a day after him, which, combined with his “Tanaka Antoinette” line, suggests he considers listlessness a kind of oblesse noblige or higher calling.

The next morning, he gives Ohta an Ohta’s Day gift: a booklet of coupons enabling Tanaka to walk by himself between classes. Tanaka’s attempts to be magnanimous again goes awry because his ability can’t quite match up to his good intentions, and Ohta must swoop Tanaka up and dash to class before the bell rings.

Clearly, Ohta needs to find a more useful way of reciprocating Ohta’s kindness, but at the end of the day, Ohta is simply happy that Tanaka is trying. It’s the thought that counts…but hey, some light physical training wouldn’t hurt, right?

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 07

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Valentine’s Day arrives unheralded,  and the specific nature of Tanaka’s chocolate—fancy and homemade with love—and Ohta’s—obligatory, cheap, and bitter—leave the two scratching their heads as to who it could be, while the ransom-style note gives it a sinister aura.

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Valentines ends up coming as much as a surprise for Tanaka and Ohta as it does for all their female friends. Miyano didn’t think of them as the opposite sex, Shiraishi forgot because she was a loner for so long such holidays were always meaningless, and Echizen…for some reason she’s not in the running as a culprit.

That leaves…well, no one Tanaka and Ohta know. The show teases us with cuts to other girls. Tanaka has a very frank talk with Ohta about how he’s interested in girls, but waiting for someone to inspire him to make the effort to act. Then, not long after a pocket voice recorder (which is recording) falls out of Tanaka’s bag, his sister Rino appears.

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Is Rino the culprit? Yes she is; the boys just don’t know it yet. At last we meet, Tanaka’s sister! I would not have guessed Valentines would be the vehicle in which she’d be introduced, but it’s clear she cares for her brother a great deal and sees Ohta as not only an enabler for his listlessness, but a rival for his time and attention.

Like all things in Tanaka, she’s not some awful crazed brocon little sister, but something a lot subtler. Giving Ohta dark chocolate and refusing to let him put milk or sugar in his coffee were inspired tactics; the voice recorder and ransom note…less so.

Rino was no revelation, but I liked her well enough and hope to see more of her as she works to be more present in Tanaka’s life outside of home, meeting more of his friends in the process. And knowing that Tanaka is at least romantically aware, if not particularly active, was another nice nugget in his character.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 06

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This week Tanaka catches cold from getting soaked several times by the rain, even though he had an umbrella. He thought the rain wasn’t heavy enough to justify opening it, and by the time it was it was too late. He also tries to develop a rain barrier by standing out in the rain, but that doesn’t go so well.

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Shiraishi looks at the rainy day and sees an opportunity for the cliched but still desirable experience of walking with a loved one while sharing an umbrella. When she actually gets her wish, she’s a bit frazzled by how suddenly it happened.

She’s also a bit to excited for Tanaka to get any closer to her, and she’s content she’s as close as she is. Unfortunately, that means half of Tanaka is exposed to the rain, and the next day he comes in with a hoarse throat, a bad cough, and a mask.

Shiraishi sees this as another opportunity to take care of Tanaka, but he doesn’t want her to catch his cold, so asks her to stay away in a manner that could be construed as cold if we didn’t know who was saying it. The thing is, we don’t see Shiraishi again the rest of the episode, so she obeyed his wishes!

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Instead, the second half of the episode is dominated by Echizen, who is an awesome delinquent with a gentle heart and old-fashioned notion of romance. In one of Sick Tanaka’s numerous attempts to communicate wordlessly to save his voice, he is loath to write Echizen’s name in Kanji, and instead writes a note asking if she could change her surname to Ohta or Tanaka.

Echizen sees this as nothing less than a proposal and a demand for her to choose one of the two guys, and she stresses over it immensely. Indeed, she shows her more tender, vulnerable, bashful side, one previously only seen when interacting with Miyano.

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She weighs the pros and cons of marrying Ohta and Tanaka, and almost cuts her long skirt. She worries about being too tall for Tanaka, but then he says he likes her height. She worries about not being able to see Ohta as a man, but then he saves her from tripping and carries her when she falls down the steps.

The fact that Echizen becomes a completely uncoordinated klutz when worrying about these things further deepens her character into something far more than your run-of-the-mill Yankee. But the show smartly doesn’t let the misunderstanding extend beyond this week, as Echizen comes out and explains her bizarre behavior as the result of Tanaka’s note.

Tanaka and Ohta explain he was sick and only suggested the name change because he was too lazy to write “Echizen.” But they both decide it’s easier anyway to simply address her as Miyano does, as “Ecchan,” thereby perpetuating her smittenness.

While Shiraishi+Tanaka and Echizen+Ohta make the most sense, it was fun to see the doors open for other possibilities, even if they were one-sided and the result of a misunderstanding. And I’m never going to complain about the occasional doe-eyed Echizen!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 05

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After expertly establishing Shiraishi as a rounded, rootable, easily-to-empathize-with character, this week’s Tanaka-kun begins with a supermarket mystery: what did Tanaka’s sister want him to buy?

This initial segment accomplishes and reiterates so much with such a simple premise. Ohta is the kind of dependable all-rounder every woman in the store wants in their family or for their daughter’s (or their) husband…and he’s all Tanaka’s. 

Thanks to the process of elimination and a clue in the form of a single letter Past Tanaka sent as a reminder, they narrow the mystery items down to things starting with “P”, including pancakes. Ohta glows with maternal pride as Tanaka shuffles off into the sunset, shopping mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, Tanaka’s choices were wrong on all counts: his sister wanted pipe (i.e. drain) cleaner, and if he was going to get her pancakes, she wanted the ones from the specific place in the TV ad. Nevertheless, she made him dinner out of all of the (strong-smelling) ingredients he brought home.

We’ve yet to meet Tanaka or Ohta’s sisters, but there’s much that can be gleaned from just this indirect contact with her: she tries to push Tanaka beyond his boundaries of listlessness and uselessness.

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With that segment to open, I expected to finally meet a sister or two, but again the show demonstrated its penchant for restraint: why not spend more time with Shiraishi, since she’s fresh in our minds from last week?

Now that she’s more comfortable in her own skin, Shiraishi is coming to notice other things beyond what people think of her. Specifically, she’s pretty sure she’s fallen for Tanaka, as the lovely watercolor prologue to her segment aptly shows (Ohta showing up just when she’s about to place her hand on Tanaka’s sleeping shoulder).

Mind you, she’s still Shiraishi, and considers a “former dweeb” and loner such as herself falling in love to be the height of arrogance. We spend most of the balance of the episode in her churning head space, and are thus treated to the best kind of rom-com inner mon.

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Shiraishi wants to carry Tanaka on piggyback, but knows she can’t do that without getting a little closer to him. But how? She informs her two best girlfriends of her predicament, and they throw their moral support behind her.

Her initial idea is to learn more about Tanaka through Ohta’s interactions with him, since Tanaka hardly has interactions with anyone else (and no one is closer). At first I thought this was a classic recipe for Ohta mistaking her crush as for him, but the show wisely avoids that kind of trouble.

Instead, Ohta proves useful to her, clearing the path for her that much more by asserting that it’s unlikely Tanaka has a girlfriend or someone he likes at the moment.

But then Shiraishi hits an apparent roadblock when she enters the classroom to find Miyano is already there by Tanaka’s desk (where she wants to be) having a spirited conversation about…something (a conversation she doesn’t think she’d ever be able to have with him.)

It’s a scene with few important words (Miyano is just rambling as Tanaka nods) but so much runs across Shiraishi’s face as the camera draws in closer to it, and her and Miyano’s eyes meet.

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Of course, Shiraishi has the wrong idea: Miyano isn’t Tanaka’s girlfriend or anything like that. After retreating, Miyano pulls her back, seemingly knowing what’s up, and presents her to Tanaka as another new apprentice (one she can call kohai).

This is a misunderstanding, and it could have easily stayed that way, but again, Tanaka-kun isn’t a show that always goes the easy or predictable route. Shiraishi recognizes this opportunity for what it is, and pulls the trigger: She wants to be Tanaka’s friend, not an apprentice.

After Tanaka’s response—sure…and anyway, we already are friends—you can feel all the stress and worry melt away for Shiraishi, replaced by relief and joy. She didn’t take the first step—that was already taken—but now she recognizes that she took it, and the pressure is off, for now.

Miyano tells Shiraishi they’re friends too, and when the three exchange emails, covertly offers her support in what she now knows Shiraishi’s goal to be.

There’s no competition or rivalry here: Shiraishi wants to be Tanaka’s, she can be. She just has to keep taking things one step at a time, while believing in her own worth.

Tanaka doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of his words to Shiraishi yet, but nor is he the kind of guy who’d ignorantly deny or dismiss out of hand someone liking him. I wonder what his sister would say about this development!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 04

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Tanaka-kun has done a wonderful job establishing its cast so far, starting out with just Tanaka and Ohta and a bento box of small skits that gradually, hilariously paint the picture of what makes ’em tick.

Then it’s branched out with more in-depth, emotionally satisfying stories, introducing one new character at a time, until eventually the full group we see in the OP and ED will be fully assembled. It’s something Marvel does well with its movies.

This week Miyano and Echizen take the week off so that the show can focus methodically on someone new, namely the class rep Shiraishi. She truly takes center stage, as the episode shifts to her perspective the more we learn about her.

It’s icing on the cake that the official start of the development of her friendship with the boys starts out with two classic anime images: running to class (or in Tanaka’s case being carried by Ohta) with toast in the mouth, and (almost) bumping into the pretty girl. And because it’s been well-established Tanaka and Ohta are nice guys, they help her out with replacing the printouts they accidentally ruined.

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Everyone knows Shiraishi; she’s damn near perfect, and every guy wants a wife like her someday. Smart, kind, beautiful, she inspires jocks depicted as bears to protect her every move. She literally sparkles, and yet has such an easy, down-to-earth manner with everyone, no one envies or resents that perfection, they simply bask in it.

But as the episode title indicates, Shiraishi has a secret: that secret is that the idol-like school princess she portrays at school is naught but a carefully-wrought fiction; a mirage; a skin she puts on and maintains with great difficulty. When the day is done and she sends Tanaka and Ohta off, it’s not just because she’s being nice: her contacts hurt, her skirt’s too short, and her hair isn’t comfortable.

She’s cultivated her Matrix-like reverse-“residual self-image” so long, when her “resting-dweeb-mode” is finally found out—by Ohta and Tanaka, who forgot his bag—she panics, because she believes her idol skin is the only thing allowing her to have a beautiful high school life.

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Of course she’s wrong. Not just wrong about needing to doll herself up so obsessively, but wrong to stress out and stalk the boys to make sure they don’t spread the word of her secret. In fact, Ohta and Tanaka have nothing but nice things to say about her, even behind her back, and Ohta mistook her dweeb mode for another girl altogether, so her secret is safe.

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A wave of relief washes over her, and that relief makes her bold and ‘reckless’ enough to try to walk around school looking like herself. Most everyone doesn’t take notice of her non-sparkly self, until she passes Tanaka, who recognizes her—of all things—due to her bust size (something Ohta hilariously warns him never to tell her).

She’s initially devastated and ready to be mocked and laughed at, but of course Tanaka and Ohta don’t think that way at all. In fact, knowing Shiraishi has flaws is a relief to Tanaka, who wasn’t sure how such a perfect person could exist, and admires the effort to change herself; an effort he’d never bother with.

Tanaka doesn’t get away with calling himself worthless scum, however. Neither Ohta or Shiraishi (or even Echizen) genuinely believe that, because through all his unapologetic listlessness, he’s a kind, perceptive, supportive friend to them all.

The next day, Shiraishi wears her glasses to school, eschewing painful contacts, and to her surprise her friends don’t abandon her. She’s learned a valuable lesson about what it is to be loved and admired and be a friend to others, and it’s about far more than just surface. The real sparkling comes from within.

Shiraishi is a wonderful addition to the circle of friends, and I look forward both to her interactions with the others, and the addition of yet more members of that circle.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 03

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Tanaka may be always listless, but I’ll tellya what else he’s becoming: popular. After a very filling meal makes him more listless than usual, the person who left a letter of challenge in his shoe cubby confronts him.

This week marks the introduction of Echizen, a blonde Yankee sporting a super-long skirt, slipped-on school shoes, and multiple piercings. She wants to fight Tanaka, to find out what kind of person he is.

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Fortunately, Echizan is far more than a delinquent, and the show quickly molds her into a three-dimensional character I truly wish to root for, even if she’s hassling Tanaka…nay, because she is. She’s also Ohta’s childhood friend, so he knows her from before she became…this way. She also doesn’t overdo it, and her manner of speaking is actually quite refreshing.

When Tanaka discourages her from starting a physical fight she’d easily win, she challenges him to Othello (AKA Reversi) instead.  She wins handily, but hold on: Tanaka was playing by different rules, and because he spelled out the character for “white” on the board with his white pieces, it stands to reason he won a game in which the winner had to do just that.

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An attempt to beat him at cards also fails, as he’s so intent on showing off his mad shuffling skillz, the wind on the rooftop blows all the cards away and they’re left one card short of a deck. It’s as if nature itself is allied with Tanaka against engaging in a serious challenge with Echizen.

But then the person on whose behalf Echizen is fighting appears: Miyano, or “Myaano” as “Ecchan” calls her. We learn both from her reluctantance to eat Osha’s bunny-shaped bread to her friendship with the tiny, cute Miyano that Echizen loves cute things.

The Skirt swap bumper was hilarious.

Exhizen’s love of cute things, and inability to eat them, gets her in trouble in the next segment, which results in a row with Miyano. She can’t eat the cute bunny cookie Miyano baked for her, so it gets old and grows white fluffy mold.

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Miyano is PISSED (in an adorably similar way to Popura in Working!!)—as is Ohta, who shares Miyano’s love of sweets and belief that wasting them is sacrilege.

Interestingly, Echizen enlists Tanaka of all people to help her, first acting as a shield (which fails when Miyano goes cold when peaking out from behind him) then writing a letter to express her feelings (which Miyano misinterprets as a challenge).

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Throughout Echizen’s crisis (which is really just an honest misunderstanding), she forms a nice rapport Tanaka, depending on his open ear and honest responses as she bounces ideas off him. He comes up with things she’s too wound up to consider, and comforts her when she suspects Miyano never wanted to be friends.

Tanaka, rightly, believes it’s a waste of time to let things fester with a friend (he considers himself and Ohta to be as steady as an old married couple…which they are!), while Miyano is listening in while they talk (it’s a school, there’s only so much privacy).

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Miyano is still angry about her cookie going to waste, but she doesn’t want to make it any bigger than it is; it’s certainly not as important a matter as the fact that she is deeply in love with Echizen (She has good taste!). Yes, Echizen is the one Miyano wanted to train with Tanaka to become more listless and mature.

The thing is, Echizen likes her the way she is, as Tanaka said, and upon hearing such wonderful news, the two make up nicely. The next time Miyano makes sweets for Echizen (as well as for Tanaka and Ohta), the makes them “not cute at all”, resulting in chocolate bodybuilders. Ecchan has no problem wolfing them down, but now the boys are the ones with a thing about eating things that look like certain things.

As they converse, now a genial quartet, Shiraishi, the cutest girl in class, walks by. I presume she’ll be the next likable, rootable, well-rounded character to make it a cool quintet. I look forward to whatever distinct quirkiness she’ll bring to the show.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 02

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I thought messing with the golden goose that is the Tanaka/Ohta dynamic so soon by adding a tiny, annoying-looking girl would upset the serene magic of the opening episode, but I worried needlessly: Miyano isn’t annoying, she’s adorable, whether it’s while trying hard in vain to become just like Tanaka, or becoming even more Tanaka than Tanaka by accident.

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Miyano may be tiny, but she has more energy (and can put away more donuts) than Tanaka and Ohta combined…and that’s the problem. When he reluctantly takes her on for a day as his apprentice (believing it the best way to be rid of her quickly), Tanaka corrects her not to “do her best” but to just do whatever.

Whether its observing and mimicking Tanaka’s listless face, or attempting to hide her emotions, or getting upset over how little Tanaka enjoys strawberry milk, or preparing an exhaustive research paper on listlessness, Miyano just can’t fight her natural instinct to do her best and work as hard as possible.

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When Tanaka tells her this probably isn’t going to work out, Miyano is disheartened and morose, but it’s not his intent to hurt her, just to express his opinion that he, Ohta, and whoever this boy she likes prefer it when Miyano is just being herself, not trying to be him.

As long as she keeps being her, she’ll be fine. As for Tanaka, he wants to take the train to the main temple to complain about praying and paying for a peaceful day…and ending up with Miyano.

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If Tanaka was truly annoyed or put out by the addition of Miyano to his life, further complicating what was to his mind already too complicated a life (he’d prefer being able to tend to all primitive human needs in one room…like a prison cell!), he has a funny way of showing it the next day.

Rather than Miyano the student following Tanaka the master, the opposite transpires, as Tanaka and Ohta notice Miyano seems to have mastered listlessness, and even surpasses Tanaka, blowing a hole in his book and writing a whole new one on woozy, detached fugue state of listlessness.

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That seems plausible on some level—both guys suspect she culd be feeling this way because the boy she liked rejected her—but the real reason she’s this way is ever more inventive and crazy: Miyano simply got to thinking about mascots on TV, how they’ve gotten smaller, who or what’s inside them, whether they intend to take over the world, and whether she’s the only one who can stop them.

All that stressing made it hard for her to get good sleep, hence her listless state. When she suddenly snaps out of her ‘stress cycle’ (realizing it’s probably just small people like her inside), she’s back to her old energetic self.

But when Ohta and Tanaka tell her how they thought she’d reached listless Nirvana, she doesn’t know what they’re talking about. She was so busy worrying about imminent mascot hegemony, she never noticed how listless she was acting! So what does she do? Well, try to think of something else to stress out about so she can return to that state. This girl’s a riot, and I hope to see more of her.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 01 (First Impressions)

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Who would have thought watching variations on the theme of somebody being always listless could be so engaging? That’s partially due to the fact that the titular Tanaka isn’t just listless; he’s a black hole of listlessness. He’s a listlessness enthusiast. He’s an artist who hones his craft everyday, always trying to innovate or to make his life more relaxing.

The magic of this episode is that Tanaka never comes off as a dick, or self-absorbed. This is simply his nature, his calling, and his passion, and if his best friend Ohta, who is one of those super-nice do-it-all perfect dudes can not only tolerate but embrace it, well, so can I. And I did.

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That idea of listlessness-as-art is carried throughout the various isolated skits that explore Tanaka’s listlessness in novel ways, including using sometimes long spans of silence or whiting out a scene for comedic effect.

There’s also a wonderful tension going on between stillness and sudden bursts of action, whether that action is violent like falling out of a desk, or an accidentally-thrown racquet, or subtle like the unseen injury of French bread cutting the inside of Tanaka’s mouth.

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No one other than Ohta, his almost constant companion (and straight man to Tanaka’s quiet gags) this episode, understands just how much workgoes into being as listless as Tanaka is. He truly works at it and thinks about it; it’s not just narcolepsy.

Unlike most people, Tanaka neither sees nor wants to see himself as the main character in his own story; rather, he’d prefer to be one of the background characters who may not be filled in or even have a face; a wonderful meta nod to a common anime money-saving technique that also features Tanaka trying it out by engaging his personal cloaking device!

As for who the main character should be, Tanaka is convinced it should be Ohta, who is almost as effortlessly active and reliable and popular as Tanaka is listless. What’s so funny is that Tanaka admires Ohta for being Ohta and vice versa, yet neither wants to be the other at all.

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While the episode almost drags on listlessly (likely semi-intentional!), the isolated skits give way to a slower-burn story that is built up by a fresh series of little events, all of which lead Ohta to believe Tanaka is having an uncommonly double-listless day.

That is, until Tanaka turns the normally upbeat song “Hometown” into a durge in minor key, then screeches at the teacher when she tries to brush something off his chin.

Then Ohta gets the idea Tanaka could be in love, a theory he tests when he enters the classroom during sunset; the kind of scene where many a love confession has been made throughout anime history (a fact the show knows we know full well).

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All it takes is a quick glance at Tanaka’s copybook to see all the reminders for him to go to the dentist to turn Ohta’s theory upside-down and explani all of Tanaka’s stranger behavior: kid’s got a cavity,and he desperately doesn’t want to interrupt his serene everyday life for an invasive dental procedure. But that’s tough; and Ohta carries him to the dentist to take his proverbial medicine.

At the end of the day, Tanaka is grateful to have Ohta as a friend, and Tanaka continues to respect Tanaka’s dedication to nothing less than the perfection of listlessness, and furthermore devotes himself to continuing to support him any way he can. And there are a lot of ways, many of them involving carrying him to and from places!

Finally, the episode closes with what seems to be an admirer of Tanakas, which is confirmed in the preview, in which this girl begs him to become his apprentice. Which is awesome, because Tanaka would make the perfect listless master!

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless was a slow-building and sometimes repetitive but always clever, witty, entertaining, and creative. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap…I need to practice!

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