My Look at the Spring 2019 Season

Hey hey! I didn’t think I’d be doing one of these again! Welp, an anime season just started, some shows seem kind of interesting, and I happen to have had some free time this past week. If my most recent review of Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san didn’t inform you, I have a terrible time at actually keeping up with seasons, and even for the shows that do capture my interest, it can still take me a while (well beyond when the show is done airing) to actually finish it.

But I’m curious about a few of them, and there may be some I want to keep around. So let’s get started, shall we?

Fruits Basket

Fruits_Basket_2019_Poster_3The original Fruits Basket anime from 2001 was a well-received (and award-winning) adaptation of the popular (and also award-winning) manga Fruits Basket. Even today, loads of people are still a huge fan of the franchise, and this show helped establish Funimation as a source for anime in the US. However… I’ve actually never seen anything beyond just the first few episodes. I honestly know very little about Fruits Basket, so for me, this is my first time experiencing this!

This show’s premise is interesting, that’s for sure: the main girl Tohru finds herself moving into the Soma household, a local wealthy family that not many seem to know much about; and for good reason, the Somas have a secret! If one gets sick or hugged by a member of the opposite sex (although the definition of “hugged” seems pretty lenient and inconsistent), they’ll turn into an animal! Only for a few minutes, but still, enough to bring some unwanted attention. Each member of the Soma family has their own animal they turn into, and it’s based upon the (Chinese) Zodiac… plus the Cat. So now all these boys have to deal with a girl living in their own house… so let the hijinks ensue!

I have to say, though, thus far… I’m not that hooked. It’s an interesting premise, but there really isn’t anything to keep me coming back. I’m not even sure what the plot is even setting up to be. So far, Fruits Basket seems to be a slice-of-life or sitcom-type situation with the undertones of romance and mystery, but it’s not slice-of-life enough nor is there enough mystery nor has the plot gained enough momentum yet, to really reach out and grab me and make me want that next episode right now. It may be a slow ramp-up, though, and given the franchise’s popularity, I’ll give it a bit of slack for right now.

On top of that, I feel the visuals and animation really have that potential for so much more, but yet they’re not doing it. I’m sorry, if I had the chance to have my award-winning manga re-adapted, I’d pull out all the stops this second time around. The character designs are great, but I expected some more fluid subtle animation as characters talk and react – I mean, they’re not not fluid, but they are a bit stiff at times. I’m also kind of put off by the texture work done on some of the backgrounds, such as the inside of the Soma house. I like the coloring, though, and like I said, the character designs really are great.

I’m not trying to sound negative about the show, I promise. A part of it definitely is that underutilized potential in the visuals department, but there’s also probably a part of me that was swept up in the hype and now I’m feeling underwhelmed that it isn’t matching some form of lofty expectations. I’ll keep going because I do want to experience the Fruits Basket story, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Sarazanmai

72dc50e78c6a6dff1d5dbcf86bbf449dBefore I even got around to delving into this show, I knew that it was going to be something… different. Not sure how it would, but it would. Sarazanmai has the name of Kunihiko Ikuhara attached to it (of Sailor Moon S and Revolutionary Girl Utena fame), and the small but ever-present Utena fandom on Twitter was excitedly awaiting its release.

Even as I saw people post onto social media that this show is just weird, though, I wasn’t really prepared for how weird it was. I’ve seen a lot more kappas and buttholes in that first episode than I think I would’ve ever willingly signed up for otherwise. But I do have to say… the weirdness intrigues me.

Sarazanmai is about three middle school boys – Kazuki, Toi, and Enta – who angered a kappa spirit by knocking over the Kappa Prince statue and calling the spirit a frog. So, the spirit does what any good kappa spirit should do and curses the three boys, transforming them into kappas and forcing them to fight large kappa-zombies and take each kappa-zombie’s soul ball (“shirikodama”) which is said to reside in their anus. (You read that right.) And this fighting seems to involve holding hands and spinning around in the air, a song-and-dance routine, and the “Sarazanmai”, a ritual where the three link consciousnesses and their innermost secrets come out. Each shirikodama the trio collect, they gain a wish they can use on anything they want. So even if they’ve been cursed, at least they get something out of it…

This show seems to pretty wholly incorporate the lore of the kappa creature (which does include the whole shirikodama in the butt thing), which I’ll admit is a creature… I never really had much interest in. This show doesn’t exactly make me more interested in kappas (in fact, if anything, it makes me less) but I’m fascinated at how far they went to include everything about the creature. However, to that extent, kappas are definitely everywhere in this show, including a kappa-loving idol named Sara Azuma that gives a daily Kappa Lucky Fortune. It’s honestly a bit much, and can at times leave Western audiences a tad puzzled.

It also amuses (and confuses) me that the first half of the first episode is so slow and boring. People are randomly walking around with boxes while the whole Kappa Lucky Fortune thing plays out… but once the three boys meet the spirit, that’s when the story kicks it up to 11. Suddenly, they’re thrust in front of the Box Kappa-Zombie, and they’re somehow highly coordinated in battle (and dancing) despite it being their first time ever doing this together. It’s a highly surreal experience, but the visuals are flashy and well-done and it somehow manages to keep your eyes glued to the screen even if your mind is going “omg, is this really happening right now?” The first episode left me feeling bewildered, but also wondering what the hell is even going to come next. (It also left me with this awesome ending song!)

So I think I’ll stick around with Sarazanmai for at least a little bit. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on the concept yet, but the high production values and WTF factor may just be enough to keep me watching until the finish.

Demon Slayer

Demon_Slayer_2019Every time I write these “look at a season” posts, I usually end up looking at a show or two that’s outside my usual realm of anime experiences (drama, comedy, and romance). I try to find what seems to be the popular shows of the season as well, so I can share my thoughts on those too. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I’d ever bother with this show.

And, well, I kind of like Demon Slayer.

It focuses around a young man named Tanjiro who came back to his rural home (from a visit into the village) seeing his entire family dead, blood everywhere. The work of demons. Somehow, luckily, his sister Nezuko survived, but not without being transformed into a human-eating demon herself. After a run-in with the Demon Slayer named Giyo, Tanjiro learns of a master named Sakonji Urokodaki, who lives on a faraway mountain and who can help him train to become a Demon Slayer himself. So Tanjiro sets off with his neutralized sister to find this master – so that he can transform his sister back into a human, and take revenge on the demon that killed his family.

My biggest issue, I’ll admit, is that a lot of this is simply thrust onto Tanjiro, “this is what you must do”. Giyo said he must seek out the master, master Urokodaki told him he must keep his sister from eating humans, must do this, must do that. Tanjiro doesn’t seem to decide much for himself, only doing what the others tell him to do. Although this could be part of his personal arc if the author leans into this more… Beyond that, you hear the whole “you are weak, but I can sense something special in you” thing in regards to Tanjiro a lot too, which comes off a tad unoriginal.

Beyond these action tropes, though, you have an interesting show and premise. Tanjiro does have a personal stake in fighting these supernatural beings, and those same supernatural beings lead to some very fascinating battles and situations. The pacing is good, and I’m curious to see what kind of world this show will unfold before us. On top of that, the animation and visuals for this show are absolutely amazing (with ufotable being the main animation studio, this shouldn’t be surprising) and I hope they can keep up the quality. The music is also pretty nice, and fitting given the feudal-era Japan time period.

I’m interested in continuing this week-by-week, but since action shows generally aren’t my wheelhouse, I’m not sure how well I’ll stick on that! We’ll see how well I can do, but either way, like I said, I am interested. And if I know any friends looking for an action series right now, this’ll definitely be one I recommend.

Hitori Bocchi no Marumaruseikatsu

02c4bcdd4923f6683cb849e16f310a8b1554444760_fullI don’t know if I’ve swung so hard from “I’m really disliking this” to “this is a lot of fun” in a show’s first episode before.

Hitori Bocchi no… yadda yadda, has a pretty simple premise: Hitori Bocchi, who just started middle school, promised she would befriend everyone in her class. The biggest snag in that plan, is that Bocchi has absolutely no idea how to actually talk to people. At all.

The first few minutes of the first episode focus around her on the first day of middle school, as she imagines the idyllic world of having no one else in her class. No one in her class means no one to befriend. But this entire first section is written so extremely awkwardly and poorly-paced that it turned me off pretty quickly. I paused the show 8 minutes in and actually debated stopping right there. I don’t really feel like going back to analyze what it was that bothered me right now, but needless to say, I wasn’t having fun.

However, the episode picks up once Bocchi sets her sights on trying to befriend the girl sitting in front of her: Nako. The writing, rather than being awkward itself, shifted to being able to skillfully portray an awkward character, as Bocchi tried her best and stumbled her way through trying to have a conversation and trying to gain Nako’s affection, leading up to asking Nako to be her friend in a love-confession-esque way. It was charming, as well as painfully accurate and hit close to home in a lot of ways. At one point, Bocchi had a list of conversation points on her hand, and when Nako gave an answer that Bocchi didn’t prepare a response to, she simply asked Nako to skip over to the next topic. I honestly can relate pretty well in the almost-formulaic and cut-and-dry ways that Bocchi approached friendships and achieving them.

Luckily, the show has continued to stay amusing and fun since that point. The visuals and character designs are serviceable, although I wish they added some more detail to the backgrounds, as it feels pretty plain.

I’ll be a tad disappointed if this show doesn’t end with Bocchi actually making friends with everyone in her class. I’ll also be curious about how they’ll handle the “foreigner” girl in her class, as she appears in the OP… I’m expecting stereotypes. But either way, I suppose I’m having enough fun with this to be curious about where it goes next. So I’ll stick with it; I just wish the first few minutes weren’t so off putting.

Ao-chan Can’t Study

946a165bc3a7eacfe7812363ef841eec1555109861_fullI’m a big fan of short-length shows, and even though Ao-chan Can’t Study is half the length of a full episode (only 13 minutes), it’s paced well enough to still feel like a full episode.

So who is Ao-chan and why can’t she study? Well, there’s a certain guy that has her attention… WINK, WINK. Those are not subtle tiny little *wink, wink*’s, oh no, those are big-chested WINK, WINK’s. The guy in question is Kijima, who seems like a well-meaning soft-spoken guy, or “King of the Normies” as Ao refers to him. But the issue is, high schooler Ao doesn’t have time to worry about some stupid guy, she has books to study, classwork to do, a university to apply to, an adult life she can’t wait to get started on. All Kijima-kun is going to do is just get in her way and waste her time.

And yet, she can’t stop herself from thinking about him. I mean, the guy literally confessed to her in the nurse’s office, just before she was going to tell him to get lost. So now, she’s overhearing people talk about his *ahem* assets, her lewd father is helping out with some “training” books, and it doesn’t help that every time the two of them talk, the double-entendres and euphemisms really mess with her head. So what is this poor girl to do?

I’m surprised that I’m enjoying Ao-chan Can’t Study so much. Conversations being misunderstood and characters hiding their feelings are annoying tropes of anime shows, but yet somehow, I’m having fun while this show does the same thing. I think the differences is that while conversations are being misunderstood, she’s not committing herself to anything she doesn’t want – although she originally just wanted to be rid of him, so it is surprising that she’s continuing to let him in. And, well, there is the fact that everything they talk about takes on a more sexual meaning in Ao’s mind.

I think we all know where this show is headed (2 tickets for the next train to Lovebirds-Town), but I think the fun is going to be in the journey, not the destination. And it is helped along by a killer opening theme, I want to get that full song right now! Visuals and pacing are also pretty good, so all in all, yep, I’m curious to see what happens next.

Joshi Kausei

fa1ecb900e0aba66d36e861897c54d091554507891_fullJoshi Kausei follows the high school girl Momoko, who lives her life day by day with her friends Shibumi and Mayumi. It’s a slice-of-life anime through and through, but the big difference with this one is that the only (intelligible) words you’ll hear is the ending theme. Everything else, no one actually says a word. It’s an interesting idea, but they failed the execution due to one major thing.

See, the characters don’t say words, but they do make noises. A lot of them. Grunting, giggling, growling, gasping, other mouth sounds that may also start with the letter “g”. They seem to do everything but talk, and at that point, it kind of makes me wonder why they even bother. In fact, in the second episode, we see characters on-screen (like Momoko’s mom) actually doing lip movements – as in, actually talking – but we just hear absolutely no dialogue. As if they’re just mouthing their words. It’s just strange and kind of self-defeating to have the characters make noises and to animate them talking (but not have us hear any words), rather than simply having them all be mute and letting the music and visuals carry the story and emotions.

On top of that, I’ll also admit that the writing and visuals… just aren’t very good. The gag for the entire first episode was that Momoko had her legs splayed out on a school desk and she and her friends played with them. Really strange thing to start your series off with, and I think it turned away a lot of prospective fans. The second episode was about Momoko just having an unlucky day, but the slightly-underwhelming visuals ended up hindering that episode. (The animation and drawings would’ve been good a decade ago, but not now.)

All in all, we’re left with a pretty underwhelming series. I think they just made the wrong decisions when figuring out how to adapt the manga, and as a result, the show is just going to suffer. So like other reviewers have done, I’m going to skip out on this one too.

Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher?

2a48c0fc5205a27b2352b5aeca9f5dab1555113949_fullThis is, uhhhh, a show. That’s for sure.

At Ichiro’s high school, there’s a young female teacher that’s known as “Kojiro the Demon” – she’s extremely strict, uptight, and can get anyone to fall in line. But somehow, Ichiro keeps running into her in all sorts of unexpected places – even in her own family’s home – and ending up in compromising positions.

Ichiro walks into the bathroom, and he finds her sitting on the toilet. He goes to the school nurse’s office, and he finds her lying in bed. Even if these situations don’t start off compromising, they somehow turn that way (buttons snapping off a shirt is not uncommon) as Kojiro’s private parts become exposed. It’s the same kind of joke and scenario, over and over again, the big difference being the weird places the two keep running into each other. On top of that, the show somewhat hints Kojiro is falling for her student now, and she acts very tsundere towards him as a result.

I’m gonna be honest, there’s not really much that makes this show intriguing to me. The unrealistic-ness of it all set aside, this is obviously just a bunch of setups to show off a woman in risqué situations – if this is something you want, I don’t understand why you don’t just go the rest of the way and find a hentai to watch? I just don’t fully understand what point there is for this show, unless you just want to get people’s minds racing.

At the very least, the visuals are nice? Character designs are good (I enjoy Ichiro’s friend, Suzuki a lot), animation is fluid, and it has a surprisingly good soundtrack as well. But, still, not something I’m going to be continuing with…

Wrap-Up

If you notice that I didn’t cover One Punch Man’s 2nd season, there’s two reasons for that: 1) it’s not available on VRV or Netflix in the US (right now, at least) and 2) I honestly felt “meh” about the first season, and so I don’t have much interest in the 2nd one. One Punch Man is not bad, but I’ll leave the 2nd season for those who enjoy it more.

All in all, though, there’s some interesting shows. I felt like I had a lot of criticisms to level at all of them, and I don’t want to sound negative and seem like “nothing new is ever good”, but I don’t want to come across as disingenuous either. Truth is, I wasn’t blown away by any of them, but there are some good ones. Demon Slayer is shaping up pretty nicely, Ao-chan Can’t Study is somehow a lot of fun, and Sarazanmai is a flashy, but strange, ride. I’ll also be holding out to see if Fruits Basket can hook me in the next few weeks.

The big question is going to be if I can keep up with these shows weekly. My money is on me falling behind around mid-May.

Is there any shows you watched that I didn’t mention? Or do you have differing thoughts on the shows I talked about here? Let me know what you think below, and until next time, have a good week!

Review: Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san

Editor’s note: I swear, I proofread these things! Please believe me lol… (fixed a lot of embarrassing grammatical errors. Like, how do I not even notice… ugh, whatever…)

When the Winter 2018 season began, I was excited to see what new cool anime shows were coming out, and this was one that caught my eye with it’s fascinating name: Master Teaser Takagi-san. I was watching this week by week as it was coming out, but (unsurprisingly to me) I ended up falling behind at some point. A full year later, I finally finished it!

I wonder if I’ll finish any of the other shows in that season… (minus Pop Team Epic, which I stayed on top of every week somehow).

An Introduction

In some undisclosed city of Japan, we see two middle schoolers sitting next to each other in the back row of a classroom: a boy and a girl.

The boy, Nishikata, tries to come up with a plan for a joke he can play on the girl next to him. Maybe some folding paper toy that pops out and scares her, a funny face he can pull to throw her off, something… you may think this is a bit mean or unkind, but the reality is, that girl is Takagi, the master of teasing.

No matter what Nishikata tries to do, she seems to always be a step ahead. Pop out scary toy, she’s made a better one. Funny face, she has a funnier one. Takagi teases him constantly, day in day out, and now Nishikata is just waiting for his chance to get back to her.

Sometime, somewhere… walking to school, in the classroom, at a store together, Nishikata always has a new plan in mind and he won’t quit until he succeeds…

The Plot and Characters

Takagi-san is another example of a sketch comedy, slice-of-life type show, something I haven’t touched in a little while. This genre is honestly something I’m usually a big fan of, loving shows like Nichijou and Squid Girl. Takagi-san falls pretty much right in line with them on paper, but there’s some dissimilarities that do make this a different experience. As is normal with a sketch comedy, each episode is divided into a handful of smaller segments/parts, with each part usually focusing around a distinct topic. The parts can often times blend together or feature some transition from one to the next, but they generally stand on their own without any additional context needed.

Almost every part in Takagi-san (we’ll discuss the outliers shortly), though, feature one of two premises: either Takagi is teasing or flustering Nishikata, or Nishikata is trying to get back at Takagi but fails at the critical moment (often times by being flustered or overthinking things). When boiled down, every single segment fits into one of those two categories, all the way from episode 1 to episode 12.

In fact, we see exactly the same structure used three times in completely different occasions: episode 5 (“Bookstore”), episode 8 (“Typhoon”), and episode 11 (“Cat”). There may be more, I don’t recall, but they all go as such: Takagi comes across Nishikata doing something he finds embarrassing, she tries to get him to admit the embarrassing thing, and after he finally admits or Takagi drops the subject, she nonchalantly reveals that she knew all along. This is the same story being told 3 separate times, the only difference being the “embarrassing thing” in question (ooh, Nishikata likes cats, how scandalous!). There are some minute variations, if you really want to be pedantic, but since they’re spaced apart in different episodes, it makes those variations even harder to notice and thus makes the sketches feel even more repetitive.

This show is pretty much the definition of “formulaic”.

In my experience with slice-of-life shows, I usually see them do a couple things to break up the monotony and keep things from feeling stale. Most shows have multiple characters to split their attention across, and you’ll see the characters (and their varying personalities) in different combinations throughout the show’s run – Daily Lives of High School Boys takes this idea in particular to the extreme, by introducing a handful of new characters every other episode. You’ll see shows introduce more traits or twists to a character’s personality partway through the series, such as Kyoya brushing the girls’ hair in GJ Club, or Seo in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. These twists and additions keep it from being the same setup-punchline over and over with a particular character (sadly, I wish this was something they applied to the rest of Nozaki-kun). Lastly, some shows will put in some sketches with differing tones to help keep things fresh, such as Squid Girl’s highly effective dramatic segments, or a number of various recurring segments in Nichijou (such as Like Love). Even with the same characters, the same personalities, it’s enjoyable to see them painted in a slightly different light.

Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san, however, lacks most of that. 80% of the show’s sketches are just Takagi and Nishikata, with Takagi teasing Nishikata or Nishikata being flustered. It’s the same setup and punchline, over and over again; sure, there’s variation in the setting and topic of the sketch (from calligraphy to playing with smartphones to making a game around throwing cans in the garbage), but there’s no changes in how the two interact, and it’s always presented in the same light comedic tone. A few sketches (as in, once per 2 episodes) have the rare heart-string pluck, but those come at the end of the usual comedic banter. Takagi does have feelings for Nishikata, which she isn’t subtle at sharing in those rare moments, but – as you’d expect – these feelings go nowhere (in the original series).

The other 20% (the aforementioned “outlier” segments) is focused around 3 other girls: Mina, Yukari, and Sanae – so the show does try to break up the monotony in one form, at the very least. These are actually the main three characters from Ashita no Doyobi, a spinoff that takes place in the same school/classroom. Especially with Mina, these three are best described as comic relief; their sketches show them light-heartedly explore various topics in school life and early teenage years, and with the three different personalities, you’re bound to relate to at least one of them. They’re a fun distraction, but unfortunately, they’re not enough to really break up the otherwise incessant march of repetitive Takagi/Nishikata sketches.

I would’ve been interested to see the show delve more into some of the other supporting characters that otherwise only get a few lines throughout the whole series. Seeing something like Nishikata hanging out with his male friends, or that other couple Nakai and Mano… heck, even just seeing Takagi by herself, showing us what kind of “cute anime girl” things she does without having a Nishikata to tease… these things would’ve added some great variety. Maybe they could’ve gone somewhere with Takagi’s feelings for Nishikata, something genuinely sweet or fluffy, or at least a side of their friendship that is more than just teasing/being teased – some form of actual, genuine acts of friendship and connection between the two of them. There has to be some reason why Nishikata continues to subject himself to her teasing (minus simply “because he likes her too”). The show hints at and implies these things, but I feel they could’ve really gone much further to show us this; they had the perfect situation too with the tandem biking segments, but most of that happened off-screen. Just… any form of variety like this would’ve really helped this show a lot.

And so, you’re probably thinking I don’t like this anime a whole lot. We’re almost done with this section of the review, and all I’ve done so far is share a lot of negatives and complaints. … But at the same time, I did manage to stick with it all the way to episode 12 (albeit over the course of a full year), so what kept me coming back? Was it simply sheer willpower, so that I could write this review?

The truth is… Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san was still enjoyable. At the core of it, even beyond Takagi teasing a lot and Nishikata being flustered a lot… it shows kids just being kids. They’re middle schoolers, walking to/from school together, hanging out, eventually even texting each other. They have these ridiculous little games and challenges they do; it’s their unique laid-back way to add some levity and spice in their usual routine of going to school every day, dealing with chores and homework and tests. On top of that, they’re awkwardly trying to explore their friendship, themselves, each other, and the world around them. There’s an overall sense of innocence and basic joy that does come from this series, almost to the point of longing for those bygone childhood days of my own. Takagi-san is simply just a fun, relaxing ride; you can put on an episode, lean back, and have a chill alright time for the next 22-ish minutes. This show definitely won’t give you the highest highs you can get from other shows (in fact, it may not even come close), but it also never reaches the lowest lows either… again, not even close. It’s consistent, it’s relaxing, and it’s friends hanging out.

I don’t think the show was truly intended for me, or anyone, to delve so deeply into how the plots are structured, or even how one-note the characters are; it aimed to deliver a consistently light-hearted fun time, and that’s precisely what it does. But that doesn’t invalidate my criticisms either: as it is, I have a hard time recommending this show to my friends or really anyone. There’s other shows out there that deliver the exact same things, but with more variety and fun. Takagi-san is a good time despite the criticisms I’ve leveled at it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a better time to be had elsewhere.

I am still looking forward to the second season coming out later this year though. I’m hoping there will be something in it that wows me, but I’m not expecting anything except “more of the same”.

The Atmosphere

Although you wouldn’t think it at first, there’s some nicely-done visuals on display here.

The animation is fluid, the characters are expressive and have a sense of liveliness to them. The colors on display are good too; they all stand out, but yet stay subtle enough to not draw attention away from what needs the focus. The backgrounds are also good, with a decent amount of detail and the aforementioned good color (although the quality of detail can vary a bit). But on top of it all, there’s a surprisingly good display of camera usage and shot composition. A lot of scenes will have the camera in a fascinating position, or it’ll quickly focus in on a small detail (a hand moving, the eye of a character) when appropriate, sometimes effects like a wide-angle distortion or Dutch angle will be utlized at times too. The overall quality caught me off guard, they didn’t have to go the extra mile, but I’m soooo glad they spent the thought and time to do it.

This is very well exemplified in episode 9. The first segment, “Cell Phone”, implements a lot of the nice camera work and good background design I just mentioned. One of the middle sections, “Horror”, starts with Nishikata and Takagi erasing drawings on a chalkboard, and the drawing they’re rubbing the eraser over slowly gets blurrier and then disappears as they pass over it again and again. It’s a little detail that surprised me and it stuck with me for a while after that.

If I had to complain at all about the visuals, it would be that there are times the characters are drawn a tad funny or off. It’s not enough to be distracting (most of the time), but it’s enough to be noticeable. Also, strangely, the visuals seemed to have gotten better as the episodes went on, rather than worse. It’s as if the artists/animators needed a few episodes to figure out how to best draw these characters.

The character designs, at least for the main two, are great. Nishikata’s eyes are large with really tiny pupils, they add to his expressiveness, although they can definitely contribute to those off-looking drawings at times. Takagi has a distinctive head shape, with which she looks pretty cute at times – something the animators are very aware of and utilize well. I also like the designs for Mina and Yukari, with Mina’s bushy eyebrows and Yukari’s head shape and eye design. The remaining characters, by comparison, more look like your standard anime high schooler designs, there’s not as much to comment about. Hatching is used for some designs though, and that’s pretty neat.

Takagi-san’s soundtrack tends to rely mostly on woodwinds, which I found interesting. It worked out well for the show overall, as they were able to get emotions across surprisingly well with them. A bassoon (or something like that) is used for when Nishikata is trying a plan to tease Takagi, and it is pretty iconic. Strings and some other instruments do come into play at various points too, but it’s still definitely a lot of woodwinds. The show’s soundtrack isn’t exactly distinct and experimental enough to really become that memorable for me, but it’s still a decently-done job.

I don’t have too much an opinion in regards to the opening animation. It’s pleasant, but doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself at all from other comedy/slice-of-life style anime shows, unfortunately. I think that may be to the show’s detriment because I would’ve enjoyed something a bit more special for this show. Honestly, it’s kind of a pity too, because the show’s opening theme, “Iwanai Kedo ne.” sung by Yuiko Ohara, is actually quite nice and I enjoy it a decent amount.

The show ends up using a lot of ending themes and animations, though. There’s a total of 7 songs, each one is sung by Rie Takahashi, the voice actor for Takagi herself, and the animation is slightly changed for each song as well. The changes aren’t too significant, the ending animation is still primarily just Takagi biking alongside a river or a field or something (with or without Nishikata), and to be honest, the ending songs in particular aren’t that different either. It took me a few episodes to even notice the songs and animations were even changing at the end, and even when I did notice “hey, this sounds/looks different”, I still wasn’t 100% sure. While the opening animation has a hard time distinguishing itself from other anime in the same genre, the various ending animations have a hard time distinguishing themselves from each other. Crunchyroll doesn’t provide subtitles for the songs, but I’d fathom the lyrics are general fluffy love stuff. I’m definitely not opposed to having the different songs and animations and stuff, I genuinely welcome it, but how similar they ended up being, part of me wonders if maybe this time and effort could’ve been put into making one or two killer opening and ending animations.

I’m honestly not really going to complain that much, though. All the songs sound nice, the animations do their job and feel in place with the show. I love shows giving 110% into something, and since the visual quality of the episodes themselves is definitely where the animators did give that 110%, that’s really the most I can ask for.

Voice acting-wise, I was obviously stuck with the Japanese cast on Crunchyroll, but I quite liked it. Rie Takahashi does a pretty nice job as Takagi, although at times the laugh sounded a bit strange and forced to me. (Different people have different laughs, though, so I won’t discriminate.) Nishikata was played by Yuuki Kaji, and he also did a pretty nice job. It’s amusing to hear the same voice actor for Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan take on this role in a relatively low-stakes setting, but there’s a distinct enough difference in how he voices the characters that you don’t immediately notice.

One thing I did notice though, with Yuuki Kaji playing Nishikata, is when he yelled or exclaimed something, you could definitely tell that he was in a recording studio. The shape and size of the room you’re recording in definitely makes a difference into how the final result sounds (as your voice echoes and different materials absorb or reflect sounds in different ways), and so I could tell this was the sound of an indoor room. It was amusing and a tad immersion-breaking when this happened, though, as it often happened while Nishikata and Takagi were outside or in a larger space, but I can’t imagine there was much they could do about it (probably cost more money that it’d be worth to rectify).

Final Remarks / TL;DR

As far as sketch comedies I’ve watched go, Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san (Master Teaser Takagi-san) fails to place among my favorites. It has a single joke, Takagi teases her friend Nishikata, and it does it over and over again; the differences between the various situations and the attempts to break it up with cameo segments from Ashita no Doyobi don’t do enough to break the repetitiveness either. However, the show was still a nice watch for me, because at the end of the day, it’s kids being kids and there’s a pure simple joy in that.

However, due to that repetitiveness, it makes this show a hard one to recommend. I did ultimately enjoy my time with it, but if someone came to me and asked for a show in this genre, I would’ve pointed them towards something else first (like GJ Club).

Rating: Good
Recommendation: Don’t Watch
+++ great animation, simple joy seeing kids being kids, Takagi’s design
— same premise over and over again, didn’t explore Takagi alone or side characters much, multiple ending themes but they all sound the same