Whatever Tanaka-kun is doing, I think it’s doing so about as close to perfectly as it’s possible to do. This is as good as this sort of show gets.
It’s always kind of fun to be right, not least when it comes to anime and the manga that often give birth to them. This is the best time, too – when people really start to catch on to what you were talking about when you were heaping praise on a series. This is a great season for that as far as I’m concerned, with so many of “my” manga finding their way to the screen. I think Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is oddball enough that a lot of viewers new to the material weren’t quite sure what to make of it at first, but there’s been a definite shift in reaction over the last couple of weeks – people are realizing that this series is actually pretty special.
I’ve said from the beginning that Silver Link seemed like a really good fit for Tanaka-kun, and especially with quirky material like this the studio fit is important. As much as any series this season Tanaka-kun is really making hay around the margins – the transitions, the eyecatches, the OP and ED, the BGM. The accents if you will are doing a wonderful job of creating the right tone, and things are flowing beautifully within the episodes themselves. I would describe the mix with this series at about 80-20% deadpan and slapstick, and all the distorted faces and sparkles amplify the effect.
In the end, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is just plain fun and very funny – the sort of show it’s very difficult to watch and not feel better than you did before it started. It’s something of a slightly more grounded and sincere and less story-driven Minami-ke with male leads – the humor isn’t exactly the same by any means, but the sort of laughs it elicits feel a lot like the best laughs one gets from Minami-ke. It’s sweeter and less absurdist to be sure, but if the two series had dinner together I bet they’d get along great.
One thing I really admire about the work Kawatsura Shinya and staff are doing here is the way they have managed to make Tanaka-kun a bit more story-driven without losing the essence of it. I’ve been a skeptic, but they’re starting to win me over – this works too, even if it’s not quite the same as the source material. Of course the first chapter this time is about as classic a non-story story as this series has, much more like the manga – Tanaka-kun trying to figure out what his little sister has asked him to pick up from the supermarket. He knows it’s not anything that could melt or go bad, because she’d never trust him to make it home in time. And he “knows” it’s not rice or water, because he’d never carry anything that heavy even if she’d asked.
This is pure comedy, this first part, full of great Tanaka-Ohta moments. Ohta being as at home in the suupaa as he is can be no surprise, but it’s still a hoot to see the housewives slaver over the possibility of this responsible high school boy marrying their daughter. Tanaka managed to send himself a reminder the day before so he wouldn’t forget what to buy, but never got past “pa” – which leads to a disastrously impractical cart before the sight of a pancake stand outside the market calls Ohta to inspiration (though not correct inspiration).
If the anime had to elevate one of the manga girls into a co-lead role (which is debatable, but never mind) I’m at last glad they picked the right one – no doubt Shiraishi is the best character of the bunch. And she shows off why in this second chapter, where she’s at her neurotic yet fundamentally sweet best. Of course she’s in love with Tanaka (really, it was obvious last week), and while that notion presents challenges way too monumental to be solved in a week, this ep does get that plotline off to a great start. It’s really funny and charming, full of great moments like Ohta’s “Me!” reaction when Shiraishi asks if Tanaka-kun has someone he likes. But it’s also quite sincere, like when Shiraishi frets that it would be “arrogant” for her to let herself fall in love. High school really is a tough time (even in a country club like this).
Shiraishi frets pretty hard about trying to get close to Tanaka-kun, and Miyano slides into the picture when Shiraishi spies her chatting away at (I can’t really say “with”) Tanaka. Miyano catches her in the act of staring down Tanaka, and not unexpectedly takes the wrong bit in her teeth and assumes Shiraishi wants to be Disciple #2. Whether Miyano knew the truth all along and only used the apprentice thing as a ruse – or only figured it out later – I’m not sure (I suspect the latter), but her mail to Shiraishi at the end of the episode can leave no doubt Miyano has fully caught on. That Shirashi know has an ally is not in doubt – whether it’s the sort of ally she’d want is another question altogether…