Any day with Tanaka-kun in it is a good day.
I’m pretty much a convert to Silver Link at this point – they’re like the bizarro world version of Shaft, the light against their darkness. As I was reading High Score Girl this week, marveling as usual at what a superb manga it is and thinking what a travesty it would be if the anime adaptation is never realized, it struck me that Silver Link would be a perfect studio for it. Once a studio gets to the point where I have that thought, they’ve pretty much made it in my eyes. Two adaptations as good as Watamote and Tanaka-kun, both done in a recognizable house style and both superb realizations of compelling source material, are a tremendous centerpiece to build a portfolio around.
I don’t doubt that we’ll never see a sequel to Tanaka-kun (just as we didn’t with Watamote) but that doesn’t make me too sad, because this anime has done the manga a great service by opening eyes as to just how wonderful it is. The first chapter this week, “Wanting Refreshment”, is a kind of perfect embodiment of this series in its natural state. An experience I find I share with many fans is that Tanaka-kun expresses thoughts we’ve had too – there’s a kind of wisdom to his unfiltered impractical practicality. Many times in my life I’ve cursed the summer heat (certainly in Japan), with the thought “At least in winter you can always put on more layers when it gets cold. But there’s only so much you can take off in the summer.”
It’s certainly no surprise that Tanaka-kun can’t swim, but when you think about it floating is the perfect activity for him. And it becomes necessary when the two bozu at the pool puncture his “partner” (and find themselves unnecessarily pleading for their lives). I think the innocents of the world see Tanaka’s essential Buddha nature more clearly than the cynical normies, and the boys – like Miyano – take to him as their master of floating. Soon all the elementary school kids are floating their way through swim class – to the horror of their teacher. Can competitive swimming stand up to the force of Tanaka’s wisdom?
Speaking of that other innocent, she makes an appearance in the second chapter, seeking her shishou‘s help with a yukata-related problem. Namely she wants to wear one to the hanabitaikai she’s attending with Echizen, who figures to look tall and sexy in her summer kimono. Tanaka ones again gives a very Taoist answer that cuts through all the complication – stay home and watch it on TV in an air-conditioned room. But Miyano is determined, and it’s Ohta who suggests that she might just find a yukata that doesn’t have Sanrio characters on it if she really tries. She even convinces (she is a force of nature) the guys to come along on the hunt, but her best move of the day is asking Shiraishi too.
All sorts of things happen at the kimono shop. In the first place Myaano removes what doubt there could have been that she knows what’s going on between Shiraishi and Tanaka-kun, though the series takes a left turn and foils her efforts to turn the fireworks into a double-date. Then Shiraishi comes out of the changing room with her hair up, drawing a compliment from Tanaka which turns her legs to calamari. Then Miyano emerges from the changing room herself a truly sad sight (not even Ohta’s Tenguu geta would have saved her), but Shiraishi comes up big, offering to make her a yukata herself. The best part, though, is when Miyano comments on Shiraishi’s boob size, Tanaka-kun (in his own unique fashion) shows he is indeed aware of that particular sphere of interest, and Shiraishi pretty much blows her head gasket.
The dynamic with Echizen, Myaano and Ohta is an interesting one. Echizen as I see it basically has the mental approach of a sixth-grade boy, and the way she acts towards Ohta (who’s straight-up clueless in this area as far as I can tell) reflects that of a sixth-grade boy with a crush. She loves Miyano but I think it may be a reflection of her general love for cute things and her protectiveness. I don’t think Echizen herself knows what she wants, really, but there’s definitely something there with Ohta-kun. As for the hanabitaikai itself, it’s beautifully realized by Kawatsura-sensei. The Japanese really are crazy for fireworks festivals, and the ones in Tokyo especially do draw the staggering crowds you see here. Fireworks, food stalls, yukata – in Japan, it’s the absolute essence of summer and elemental to the national consciousness. What better way to appreciate that than with a series so brilliant at capturing the essence of daily life?