Review/discussion about: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san
My uncle has a quote which not only has stuck with me my whole life ever since he first said it aloud but also perfectly captures the spirit of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san without any troubles.
“If we ain’t teasin’ ya, then we don’t like ya.”
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. Most people are not comfortable being playful with complete strangers, and even more people avoid interacting with those whom they dislike. So, teasing is, in a way, another term for caring.
My family and I tease each other all the time whenever we have get-togethers, yet Nishikata and especially Takagi take the medal for teasing champions as their relationship plays out in kindhearted fashion.
Karakai Jouzu sets itself up in a very simple manner. Each episode comprises multiple asides centered around everyday items or happenings. “Eraser”, “Calligraphy”, “Umbrella”. They provide the basis for the eventual pranks and slice-of-life events that form the core of the content. And the anime sticks with this format for nearly its entire run, rarely deviating (if at all) from the teases it cherishes.
What ensues is an anime rife with silliness yet swamped in repetition.
The silly component derives from the specific interactions Nishikata and Takagi normally uphold. More specifically, Takagi coerces Nishikata with the possibility of victory, of “beating her at her own game” per se. It leads to his oft ridiculous ploys, her own insatiable laughter, and the aftermath of what their relationship really entails. This trifecta of schemes, jubilation, and honesty creates for Karakai Jouzu not only a solid foundation to deliver its comedy but also a grounded approach in its overall storytelling mechanics.
However, the overwhelming amount of repetition bogs down the experience. Nishikata will almost always internally respond with “Damn you, Takagi-san!” and overthink almost every situation. And, when the dust settles, a grinning Takagi and a flustered Nishikata almost always appear at the outcome of their games.
Yes, setups change, so it’s never literally the same content over and over, but the show even stumbles here. For instance, the two protagonists play a near-identical game about guessing a just-purchased manga across separate episodes. Meaning, even with its pranks, the cornerstone of the whole show, Karakai Jouzu cannot stop repeating itself.
If the outcome is already (pretty much) predetermined no matter what, one must conclude that the before sections matter most. In fact, with the outcomes being so irrelevant, the rest of the anime takes on even greater importance because it now needs to carry that lost weight. Does it succeed, though?
Somewhat. The teasing that goes on isn’t loosely cobbled into place but rather has a neat guessing element to its direction. That is, despite knowing where it will head, the audience can play along with Nishikata and try to outwit Takagi’s forte. Plus, the show understands its major shortcoming, so several of the asides involve instead a group of three of their classmates. While they can inadvertently cross paths with the hero and the heroine, they mostly stick to themselves, creating a reprieve from the constant repetition.
It should be noted that Takagi does not bully Nishikata. He puts himself in a hole, and her intentions (as can be gleaned rather quickly) come from a heart full of flirtatious love. Vice versa, too. Nishikata is very aware of possibly countering overly so, making him regret or outright apologizing for his behavior. In turn, Takagi takes it all in stride and as yet another chance to work her teasing magic. This lighthearted, understanding mood between the two ensures that Karakai Jouzu avoids being labeled as mean or off-putting in its back-and-forth comedy and instead embraces these fun and forgiving exchanges.
Otherwise, the anime doesn’t reach for much else. Its straightforward ideas prevent a larger thematic presence, and the events themselves have a plainness to them that stop the extraordinary from surfacing. Not that the anime requires themes or flashiness, but its average simplicity leave it in a rather average spot.
ART & ANIMATION
The visuals within Karakai Jouzu remain in a passable spot as well for most of the season.
If nothing else, they fit the tone and the purpose of the show without striking for much (if anything) impressive. The local town, what with its side streets and homes, provide a quaint setting for Nishikita and Takagi as they use a nearby vending machine or hide behind some shrubbery. Same goes for the school building and the classroom they regularly goof off in.
It’s all rather unadventurous, though. The details are low, the backgrounds don’t exactly grab the audience’s attention, and the direction keeps a steady path. Still, a softer tone to the presentation aligns well with the slice-of-life nature of the anime, and everything remains consistent in quality as no major (i.e., notable) errors occur. The beginning of each mini-story also has a bit of imagination thrown in with different styles or ways of introducing the upcoming tease-related subject.
The designs for its main duo are another positive. For Nishikata, his unkempt hair, his scheming eyes, and his blocky frame capture a delinquent aura with ease while simultaneously giving him the look of one who is constantly on high alert for the shenanigans which unfold around and towards him. As for Takagi, her straight brown hair, her large eyes, and her commanding forehead afford her a cute and stalwart look to keep her crush on his toes. His grimace after losing and her beaming smile after winning further demonstrate their contrasting designs in a nice manner.
Actual animation follows that unadventurous trend instead, and so does the opening-track and ending-track visuals. In fact, they can come off as a little too uncreative, especially for the latter. The reel of pictures of Nishikata and Takagi having their usual fun together is cute as it depicts a plethora of stills (either to happen or have already happened in-between episodes), but the rest of it meanders along to an unexciting shot of her or them biking or walking.
There’s also the issue that some of the angles and the peering tend to come off as weird. Karakai Jouzu abides by its simplistic presentation almost everywhere else, so, these moments, while fleeting, have an uncomfortable, awkward edge to them. The show excuses this behavior by framing it from Nishikata’s perspective and his infatuation of her, but such context still does not remove the inherent weirdness.
Altogether, the artistry within this show neither impresses nor disappointments. It simply maintains a middle-of-the-road path for its entire run.
With much of its focus strictly on the comedy, Karakai Jouzu lacks a lot of depth regarding its cast members. Nevertheless, it goes about crafting its two starring teenagers in believable fashion, allowing this comedy to flourish to the best of its ability.
Starting with Nishikata, he’s a kindhearted dude who enjoys video games and hanging out with his friends. However, he spends most of his time with Takagi. He may outwardly despair her antics, but he inwardly values his bond with her. As such, he desperately wants to get back at Takagi with the ripostes he has concocted while remembering not to cross the gentlemanly line. He accepts his losses, performing pushups as “punishment” to strengthen his resolve with a physical edge, and he also likes his shoujo anime, too, much to the amusement of Takagi.
Takagi herself has actually very little known about her. The anime follows Nishikata’s viewpoint at almost all points, so what can be guessed at is mostly through his lens. She’s extremely clever, has a knack for being correct with her hunches, and exudes confidence. Takagi is the ultimate rival of Nishikata, and she revels in his awkwardness and embarrassment directly due to her expert teasing.
Their relationship, then, stems from a source of trust. They’re comfortable enough messing with one another on a daily basis, and they continue to be friends even after the teasing subsides. Plus, Karakai Jouzu reveals the origin of their relationship, how it spawned the romantic potential they share to this day. And the anime highlights their growing crushes, too. Nishikata will verbalize his subconscious thoughts in accidental form, and Takagi will be bolder and bolder in getting the message across.
Unfortunately, despite how much time they spend together, the status quo stays locked. Tandem bike riding and the near cracking of Takagi’s unfazed armor both spark romance opportunities galore, but these sadly do not amount to tangible progress for their relationship. Instead, Nishikata will run away or amend his statements, and she would rather tease than reveal her true feelings. In a way, it’s a deliberate meta trait of Karakai Jouzu itself. Just as Nishikata and Takagi tease, the anime teases the audience with the romance that should be but apparently won’t be.
Besides the almost-lovebirds, the show tags along a bunch of other characters for different personalities. Mina is very energetic and loud; Sanae is very cool and reserved; Yukari is very mindful and curious. Similarly to the main leads, these three play off each other quite well. There’s also Nishikata’s two guy friends who “support” him with a male viewpoint, and the girl half of the side couple who pops up now and again reads the situation better than anyone.
These characters are not nearly as important as Takagi or Nishikata, so their reduced presence and impact makes sense. However, they contextualize the protagonists’ own ideas and draw parallels to their own relationship. Meaning, on top of including their own silliness here and there, they likewise elevate the anime in their own fashion.
Again, the characters aren’t the pinnacle of any technical metric, but they dodge any glaring faults, too.
MUSIC & SOUND
Karakai Jouzu earns a few points here and there with its music and sound decisions, but, like most everything else in the anime, it amounts mostly to a collection without much in the way of pizzazz.
Its opening track, “Iwanai kedo ne.”, contains a lot of meandering in the middle as the vocals and the instrumentation attempt to establish a lighthearted mood. It has a couple of flourishes here and there, such as a warping guitar or a tiny piano medley, but it sticks with the unadventurous style to its production values for the most part. To its credit, though, the start and near-finish have a nice catchiness that brings in a bunch of fun.
The voice-acting ends up on both sides. Yuki Kaji as Nishikata does well as he gets all quiet whenever he suspects that Takagi is onto his antics, and his upset responses make his frustrations known and relatable. Surprisingly, though, Rie Takahashi as Takagi doesn’t quite nail down her own role. She tends to deliver her lines with too much maturity for the mischievous girl, and the laugh she lets out on a common basis almost comes out as forced at times.
And again, the original soundtrack and the ending track are a mixture of execution. The OST, while it may not have anything too stand-out, uses its various wind instruments and slice-of-life tunes to supplement the anime with more of that simple atmosphere. As for the ending track, Karakai Jouzu misses the mark. While a new offering every other episode or so brings about variety, the songs themselves are rather forgettable, lacking much in the way of creative instrumentation or vocal delivery.
Thus, the audio gets the same average treatment.
I had a fun enough time with this one.
Nishikata is a nice dude who deserves some happiness, Takagi was cute in her antics, and the spark of romance which surfaced now and again between them had me smiling and rooting for them whenever possible. They’re a wholesome duo who look out for each other in the best (and maybe only) way that they know how, so I liked the fun they created.
Perhaps my favorite character, though, was someone I didn’t expect to be so: the side character Mina. She was just as hilarious and fun, too, sometimes even more so than those leading two. In any case, whenever she arrived, I knew a chuckle about food or phones waited nearby.
Otherwise, the anime didn’t offer much else, and it didn’t need to. It knows what it is and where it could go, so its outcome remains easy to see unfold. Although that also means it lacks anything extra. There weren’t other takeaways on a thematic or emotional level, and I wasn’t exactly invested in the series either. As such, I walk away from this show feeling rather ambivalent overall.
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san boxes up an average showing. It sticks to its structure and almost never wavers, letting the nominal production values and the likable yet middling characters to push it along without too much fanfare. So, in turn, it only receives a bit of teasing itself.
Story: Fine, a simple slice-of-life tale whose comedy counterbalances the overbearing repetition
Art & Animation: Fine, the straightforward visuals pass but also float at an unadventurous level
Characters: Fine, plain and without too much intrigue, Nishikata and Takagi are two peas in a pod, while the side cast members add a nice diversion now and again
Music & Sound: Fine, the OP, the ED, the OST, and the VA performances each have their strengths and their weaknesses
Enjoyment: Fine, the blushing and the happiness and the romance in general were gleeful, the cast members were a lot of fun too, but that’s about it
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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