Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 12 (End) and Series Review

Well, that’s one place in the Top 10 booked.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -1This has been a funny sort of season for me, because probably the two shows that most exceeded my expectations were based on manga I was already a big fan of.  Along with Shounen Maid, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge has been a truly superb adaptation – and maybe that’s really all there is to it.  It’s either that or the material in both cases simply lends itself to animation better than the page (that does happen sometimes), or  – and this is the one I’d rather not be the case – I was guilty of the same bias I worried about in others in selling these two series short based on the nature of the premise.  That seems more likely to be true with Shounen Maid, but I can’t totally dismiss it with Tanaka-kun either.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -2Thank goodness we have a couple of Blu-ray extra episodes coming (one of them today – hopefully they’ll get subbed), because it would be tough to say goodbye to this series altogether. The manga is ongoing, of course, and it was being scanlated before the anime was announced, but I’ve seen scanlations lose steam once an adaptation has finished airing.  The anime will probably do passably on disc (2-3,000 per volume) and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a bump the new manga volume on-sale this week gets, but the odds of any future anime being made after the OVAs seems pretty slim.  I guess this is one of these cases where we just have to be happy that we got one superb cour.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -4As a pure-blooded anime comedy, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge has earned a place at the table with the likes of Minami-ke, Mitsudomoe and Shinryaku Ika Musume at their strongest.  It doesn’t lean heavily on plot or romance the way the likes of Working does, so there’s no safety net – yet that doesn’t mean this series isn’t extremely clever in plotting and adept with teenage romantic comedy.  Of those three shows Tanaka-kun is definitely closest in character – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say style – to Minami-ke.  But it’s quite different in tone – I would even say unique.  Simply put, it’s irresistible – incredibly fun, relaxing and approachable.  This show was the mood-elevating champ of the spring season, there’s no doubt about that.  Some comedies are good at making you smile and others at making you laugh outright, but only the best are this good at both.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -5I did see some sentiment that the finale should either dedicate itself to pairing Tanaka-kun up either with Shiraishi or with Ohta, on the grounds that “he has to end up with someone”.  That’s wrong on so many levels (even in romcoms it doesn’t have to be true, which is one of the reasons I love Suna from Ore Monogatari so much), not least that with the manga ongoing the anime isn’t obliged to wrap everything up, and the fact that romance is hardly the point of this series.  It’s just one of many arrows in its comedic quiver, and one it uses to great effect – as indeed it did in the final episode.  The way Tanaka-kun observes teenage insecurity is extremely authentic and incisive, and not at all mean-spirited – and no character exemplifies that more than Shiraishi.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -6Given the nature of this series, ending it with something close to a normal episode with just a hint of totting up feels just right.  Then “seat change” chapter was classic Tanaka-kun – it only makes sense that this day would be of almost unimaginable importance to Tanaka.  Spells and horoscopes and death flags can’t prevent him from getting a dreaded front row seat, but fortune smiles on Tanaka when Miyano gets seated in back – behind Ohta (who she mistakes for the blackboard).  If you had any doubt that Tanaka-kun could move fast, it should be thoroughly dispelled by the speed with which he raced to offer a swap with Miyano.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -7Tanaka does indeed seem to be lucky, but in her mind it’s Shiraishi-san who’s the luckiest student in the class, because now Tanaka is sitting next to her.  But because this is Shiraishi she can’t simply take advantage of the situation by talking to him – she has to gnaw over every potential consequence of every potential gesture or word, as the days click by and she never moves a step closer to her dream.  And when fate seems to intervene on her behalf (like Tanaka forgetting his notes for Classical Japanese) Ohta-kun moves so quickly (like the world’s largest mother hen protecting her chick) that poor Shirashi never stands a chance.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -8The only thing that sets the wheels in motion is Tanaka-kun falling asleep at his desk and Shiraishi not realizing it as she’s monloguing about her feelings.  Tanaka sleeps through the most embarrassing bits (or so he says) but this does lead to something like a heart to heart.  That leads to a joint walk home, and that leads to Katou and Shimura mistaking the frumpy girl they see for Tanaka-kun’s new girlfriend.  Even Ohta buys into the story at first (he ends up asking Echizen if he can carry her under his arm as a substitute, but that wasn’t the question she was hoping to hear), but things get increasingly taihen for Tanaka as the myth spreads.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -9I must confess, watching Tanaka get increasingly annoyed with all the idiocy around him is some of the most hilarious material of the entire series.  But this is the subtle genius of both the source material and the animation, because just as it seamlessly slipped from the seat change into the finale-worthy Shiraishi subplot, it flows with Tanaka’s annoyance into an even more ending-appropriate musing on just how much Tanaka actually appreciates those around him.  No man is an island, not even Tanaka-kun – and while this series never fully gets to what I would call serious, this is a thoroughly meaningful notion to end on.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -10Silver Link has done it again here, that’s for certain.  There were flashes of director Kawatsura Shinya’s talent in Kokoro Connect and Non Non Biyori, but with Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge he finally has material worthy of it.  This studio has developed into one of the more interesting in the business, one with a signature style that shines through without overshadowing the source material they adapt.  When I dream of the High Score Girl anime finally becoming a reality, Silver LInk is the studio that’s producing it.

Tanaka-kun - 12 -11The only thing Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge has done that hasn’t made me smile is come to an end.  Resolutely upbeat, smart and quirky and fearless and never in a rush to work it’s magic – that’s the formula this show has used to become one of the best anime comedies we’ve seen in a long time.  If we get a couple of comedies of this caliber I consider it a good year for them, and there have been years when we haven’t gotten a one – so as easy as it is to enjoy this show and as unassuming a manner as presents, don’t ever take it for granted.  Treasure the fact that Tanaka-kun exists, because we may not see another show like it for a long time.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

9 comments

  1. Comedies rarely work for me, but this was one that kept me grinning throughout. Is there enough material in the manga for a second season?

  2. There is (just), but unless the manga shows a huge bump or the anime a huge storefront effect, I doubt we’ll see one.

  3. Z

    It cracked me up that Echizen was imagining a kabe don.

    Have you been watching the Tanaka-kun wa Kyou mo Kedaruge shorts? They have also put a smile on my face each time, even if I had to have one of them explained to me. I was too American to understand the Corn Soup joke.

    This was definitely a good season of “quiet happy” anime. I’ll miss Shounen Maid, Flying Witch, and Tanaka-kun.

  4. I watch them slowly – they’re so very short and I want them to last.

  5. r

    Ah, yes, the shorts.
    I still have some Tanaka-kun left to see…. 🙂
    While I never expected Tanaka-kun to tie any loose threads (unless somebody is Working!!! on a miracle), this series made me root for Shiraishi so hard I couldn’t help but feel for her in that last scene. That girl has one looooong road ahead of her. At least she has one of the few effective weapons that work on Tanaka-kun – sex appeal – if only she was good at handling it. Come on, sales, suprise me!

  6. Definite agreement with your review. Sad to see the long version go. I haven’t viewed any of the shorts yet, so there still a little more. Writing this, I still have 2 episodes of Flying Witch left. That’s a pure opiate anime, a different strain of delightful fluff. Being a slice-of-life viewer, both Tanaka and FW have made this season work watching, as good as having Miname-Ke or Rurumo around.

    One disjointed aside: recently having marathoned bits of the very first Dragon Ball, I see all the roots of Hunter x Hunter and One Piece trailing back to the mid-80s. Odd anime deja vu.

  7. * season worth watching

  8. I don’t put it in the same class as Tanaka-kun, but I enjoyed Flying Witch as well. A very committed slice-of-life that’s worthy of the term.

  9. Oh, I meant same slice of life category, not same quality class. FW is generic when generic is at its very best. It’s all atmosphere, but not rarefied atmosphere. In some sense, think rarefied atmosphere like the Russian novel “A Hero of Our Time.”

Leave a Comment