First Impressions – Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

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The search for perfection never ends.

OP: “Utatane Sunshine (うたたねサンシャイン)” by Unlimited tone

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Tanaka-kun - 01 -1Perhaps the highest praise one could pay an anime adaptation is to say that if one loves the source material, they couldn’t ask for anything more from the anime.  I think that applies to Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge, yet another Spring ’16 adaptation of a manga I follow.  So far they’ve all lived up to my hopes and expectations, but I’m not sure an anime could be more functionally faithful to a manga than Tanaka-kun.  It really felt as if I was watching the manga pages come alive on-screen.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -2As has often been the case, I picked up Tanaka-kun after the cover art caught my eye as I was browsing the manga section at a Japanese bookshop (in this case the Maruzen at Tokyo Station, my favorite Tokyo shoten).  Uda Nozomi’s art is very transportive – it has a bit of the fantastical about it in an almost E.H. Shepard way.  It sounds funny to note that Uda’s art matches the writing – I mean, wouldn’t a mangaka’s own style always be in synch?  But there are plenty of occasions where that’s not the case, as any manga editor could tell you.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -3Taking that a step further, I think this series ending up at Silver Link is a classic case of “horses for courses”.  Silver Link has matured into a studio that has a distinct style, much as does the studio that obviously inspired it, Shaft.  But Silver Link has proved itself better able to adapt that style to the material at-hand.  It obviously worked splendidly with Watamote and it does to here as well.  The humor in Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is definitely of the wistful variety, but it’s kind of cheeky too.  The little stylish touches director Kawatsura Shinya has added here (like the eyecatches and wipes) just fit with the tone of the series.  That’s the art of taking what’s static on the page and making it dynamic on the screen without losing the essence of it.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -5Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge can be viewed through many lenses.  It’s obviously the story of Tanaka (Ono Kensho) and Ohta (Hosoya Yoshimasa) so in that sense it’s like a buddy picture.  It’s obviously a comedy, and a slice-of-life.  But I think it’s also a satire of the listless teenaged-boy in manga/anime trope, and a kind of philosophical musing as well.  For me at least, when I read and now watch Tanaka-kun the feeling that stays with me is a kind of nostalgia for the days of youth – an appreciation for what a pleasure it is to just wile away the day without having to worry about a job or family responsibilities.  Yes, Tanaka is always listless – and pretty irresponsible – but he’s also very pure in his way.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -12There’s something very Buddhist about that and this is a series that does venture into that realm a lot in its own unassuming way.  The main joke here, as I think the premiere makes clear, is that Tanaka-kun is serious about being listless.  It’s almost like a Koan that makes more sense the more you think about it.  For Tanaka, kedaruge is a pursuit, a vocation – and life is a search for perfecting in achieving it.  That means a lot of false starts (like trying to get physically strong so he can successfully do nothing) but the quest for enlightenment is a perpetual quest.  And Ohta is his perpetual companion on the journey.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -13Tanaka-kun is the forever paradoxical main character who sees being the M.C. as far too much trouble, and Ohta the eternal best friend.  It’s a great manga bromance, one of the best – one might say Ohta is an enabler because he certainly enables Tanaka-kun to be as listless as he can.  Ohta literally carries Tanaka through life but Ohta is such a caregiver that I think it’d drive him crazy if he couldn’t do stuff like that.  The rest of the cast is very strong (we’ve just barely started to meet them, but they’re coming) but Tanaka and Ohta are the heart and soul of this series, the fellow travelers on this journey through life.

Tanaka-kun - 01 -14The humor, as humor always is wont to do, will either click with you or it won’t.  I do think it’s great to have two comedies with such radically different approaches as Tanaka-kun and Sakamoto desu ga airing at the same time, and each anime is very faithful to their respective styles.  There were some moments of real comic genius in this premiere, but my favorite was the way Kawatsura depicted the scene in the music room – Tanaka-kun switching to a minor key and the entire panorama going dark and sinister.  I also thought the way he did the preview was seriously clever, and right in line with the spirit of the material.  He’s the right director and this is the right studio to bring this quietly wonderful manga to life, and that’s another reason for anime fans to be happy with this season so far.

ED: “BON-BON” by CooRie

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6 comments

  1. Ayup … in terms of material consistently being enjoyable regarding your comparison between Sakamoto and Tanaka, I find Tanaka wins the day, so I enjoyed this episode and also felt it was very well done.

    As to the effectiveness of the humor itself, neither one makes me laugh uproariously, so to speak (one would have to go to Acchi Kocchi for that), but in both cases the source material is faithfully reflected by the adaptation – in other words, as with the source so with the anime, which is actually kind of impressive in my book.

    Kudos to both studios for giving us such adaptations that are not just faithful to the content, but especially faithful to the spirit of their sources. We have gotten a fair share of such adaptations this season! 🙂

  2. g

    It was for me such a relaxed and peaceful, but not dull, episode. But I’ve thought its style will suit my taste. It was funny too, not in laugh out loud style but it generated many chuckles.
    Actually it surprised me in couples moments. Tanaka-kun like Tanaka-kun, let’s say he’s a cat in human form but I thought Ohta will always be annoyed at his friend and play a straight man’s role so moments when he was so earnest in supporting Tanaka-kun’s listlessness, that he was carried away by the friend’s antics, were aww-inducing and funny at the same time.

  3. D

    I really liked this show, and agree that the music segment was particularly good. I’d been expecting the music to get slower and slower like a music box that’s winding down, but going into a minor key and making the atmosphere all creepy was much funnier.

  4. Z

    I agree, the anime is so close to the source material that is is pure pleasure for me, and honestly the “Skree!” right after the music scene was funnier than when I read it myself.

  5. T

    The attraction of Sakamoto for me is its over-the-topness and while I find it hilarious, it’s not the type I’ll watch over and over again. Tanaka-kun already feels like a blanket I’d always want to curl up with. I enjoyed the piano scene, but those short little punchlines really hooked me: Tanaka enjoying the water fountain, the badminton racket flying off his hand, him falling off his chair (because God knows this really happens in classrooms), the interaction between Ohta and the other two, him wanting to be a minor character in his own life…I could go on.

  6. G

    I’n still wondering why the shuttlecocks were stuck in Tanaka-kun’s hair like nekomimi ears. And the flying racket was hilarious, how lazy could he be to not grip the handle properly.

    The bromance is adorable, especially when Tanaka-kun keeps trying to get Ohta to take responsibility for him in an awfully misleading way and Ohta just willingly babies him. I think the lazy song just fits Tanaka-kun to a T. Anyway, the skreeh almost made me believe i was seeing Iyami there (withdrawal symptoms from lack of Osomatsu episodes).

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