The perfect anime before bedtime.
Tanaka-kun is one of those blogging regrets. I had heard positive things about the manga, but my expectations were mild and I was having a busy life outside of anime, so I was only able to commit to two anime rather than my usual three last season. But if I had the time, Tanaka-kun would have been my third pick. Comedies and slice of life shows are both difficult and easy to blog, but I think there was enough charm and amusement with Tanaka-kun that I would never have been lost for what to say. The best word I can think of to describe how I feel about this little gem is enamoured. The gags are good here, but its the characters that elevate it to the next level. It’s not quite Nozaki-kun (which I’d consider the best pure-comedy high school anime in the past 5 years), but it’s certainly not far behind.
At the centre of it all is Tanaka and Ohta. If the first episode was anything to go by, I would have been content if these two were the only recurring characters. Their friendship is sweet and consistently funny – and often drops hints of romantic tendencies. They’re like husband and wife, except Ohta is both the husband and the wife depending on the level of Tanaka’s listlessness and whether he requires to be carried or fed some cute sweets. They make for a great pair, but it only gets better once we’re introduced to the rest of the cast. There are so many likeable, endearing characters to get behind that none feel like bad additions.
If I were to have one nitpick, however, it would be that once we got into the habit of introducing the rest of the cast, it felt like each new “girl” got their own episodes. Some stuck around and got plenty of screentime (Miyano), but others got their time in the spotlight before fading away and only returning when necessary (Shiraishi). None of them are especially original, but originality isn’t the key to a good comedy. What Tanaka-kun has going for it is endearment and likeability. I could imagine being friends with all these characters and being part of their group. Each provides their own gags that come with their expected archetype, and never once did it feel tired or overdone. Miraculously, Tanaka-kun played with a bunch of tropes that could have been annoying, yet it never crossed that line. For that it deserves credit.
Not only were the characters impressive and the jokes funny, but the direction, tone, and pace felt perfect for what sort of show we were getting. I’ve still not touched the manga, but I expect this is as close to a perfect adaptation as it could be. The light, airy atmosphere, the pale colour palette, the slow beats, the lack of backgrounds when the focus was on Tanaka’s listlessness, and the timing of the gags – all on point. Of course, some episodes were better than others (the Miyano and McDonalds episodes were my favourites), but that’s what you’d expect from a comedy. It’s all subjective, so it’s unlikely every person is going to agree on what joke was the funniest or which character was the best (I’d argue Miyano is hard to beat, but Tanaka is also great).
In the end, I wish I could have talked about Tanaka-kun for the past twelve weeks, but there’s always the one that got away. I probably would have just gushed over how adorable and hilarious everyone is, but at least we’d all gush in unison. I can’t imagine how someone wouldn’t love at least some part of Tanaka, as there’s plenty on offer in terms of its aesthetic, its characters, and its slow pace that you don’t see too often in anime. Thankfully, I happened to appreciate all of those things, so I’ll be sad to see this go. Perhaps now would be a good time to pick up the manga!