Yeah, I’m going to complain, believe it or not. But just a little…
You know my policy – when I write mostly positive posts with a bit of criticism, I generally like to put the negative first and get it out of the way. But because Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is so new and because my overall reaction is overwhelming positive, I want to preface even that just a bit. So that preface is this: Tanaka-kun is an excellent adaptation of the manga so far. It’s one of the most enjoyable shows of the season, and maybe the most cleverly directed. The parts of the manga it’s adapted straight-up have been faultless, and the stuff it’s tweaked has generally been very smartly presented.
Here, then, is my only real criticism. What Kawatsura Shinya and Silver Link seem to be doing is making this a more plot-heavy version of the manga. All the secondary characters we’ve met exist in the manga, but they certainly didn’t get starring roles in their own “episodes” right out of the gate, girl-of-the-week style (and clearly this is going to continue next time with Shiraishi). I’m not sure if the intent here is front-loading, but so far Echizen (Suwa Ayaka) and Miyano’s into chapters have certainly been fluffed out.
The net impact of this is that the tone of the series has somewhat flipped. What I would consider the primary mode of Tanaka-kun is stuff like the lunchroom fish chapter, with stuff like the challenge letter and the Miyano apprenticeship as occasional change-of-pace chapters, but in the anime it’s reversed. Maybe this is a necessary toll to pay in order to get the series adapted, or at least adapted as a full-length series – much like the larger focus on Saya in Dagashi Kashi, though I would argue what’s being downplayed here is better than the Hotaru candy trivia in that series. All of it has been good, but there is a kind of bittersweet irony to the fact that this of all series should feel the need to try a little too hard.
Now, I recognize that’s something only a serious fan of the manga would ever notice. And it’s possible that things will start to even out over the course of the season. I do hope so, because I truly believe this series is at its best with the really offbeat minutiae chapters (like the aforementioned “foods that make Tanaka-kun tired“) and that the relationship between Tanaka and Ohta is the best one in the series. They really are, as Tanaka says, like a fufu – though if anything Ohta acts more like a grandmother. The chapters that focus on Tanaka-kun’s relentless pursuit of ideal listlessness really are the essence of the series by definition, and I think it’s better served when bursts of plot are the change-up, and not the other way around.
As for Echizen, it so happens she’s probably my least favorite of the four girls (stay tuned) who play substantial roles in the series, largely because she’s the most conventional. The violent girl obsessed with cute things (including the tiny girl) is certainly a template we’ve seen lots of, though Echizen is at least a fairly amusing take on it. The puzzling part of this episode (as Tanaka points out) is that Myaano should have convinced herself that mimicking Tanaka-kun’s personality would make her a better match for Echizen – Ohta may purport to get that, but I sure don’t.
For me the funniest parts of this episode are the really quirky bits, some of which are taken from the manga and some of which are anime-original. Like the extraneous gust of wind that blows through Tanaka and Ohta’s bangs as the camera holds on them silently, or Tanaka spelling “Shiro” on the Go board rather than trying to win the match. Or the shortest-ever Shratori game on the eyecatch, or the reaction of the cop to the two banchou walking with Tanaka (the bullies are actually watching a cute cat video), or Miyano’s non-cute cookies (and the guys’ reaction). It’s all been good so far, definitely – a very solid adaptation. I’m just hoping for one that showcases the manga’s very best side as much as possible.