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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Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 7

Yune and Claude hit a bit of a rough patch, and for a while there, in the midst of all the latter’s yelling, I was starting to fear their relationship was going downhill. This week proves that cultural differences aren’t just a matter of comic relief or whimsy, but can be hazardous to your health…and for business. Yune has taken ill, and it’s revealed very subtly at first, with a stumble here and a cough there.

Meanwhile, the little kid who stole a candlestick is back, and this time Claude is there to shoo him off and scold Yune. Yune doesn’t blame the kid for having to steal to eat, but Claude takes a harder line; give Parisian kids an inch and they’ll walk all over you and clean you out. I respect Yune’s basic decency, but she needs to learn more European pragmatism As for concealing her illness…well, if I was a turn-of-the century Parisian like Claude or Oscar, living with a Japanese person could be potentially infuriating

To Yune, not troubling them with her illness is more important than her personal health. Even after Claude has said multiple times her well-being is more important than anything else in the store. Luckily it was just a cold, and thanks to Alice, Claude makes her some Japanese-style rice porridge, but what if it was something worse, and by the time she collapsed it was too late to help her? Speak up, Yune! Oh, I’d also be remiss if I neglected to mention Claude gives Yune a kiss this week…albeit on the cheek, and as the traditional French greeting.


Rating: 3.5