「コーヒー / 空き缶 / 炭酸 / 筋トレ / アフレコ / 傘」 (Coffee / Akikan / Tansan / Kin Tore / Afureko / Kasa)
“Coffee/ Empty Can / Soda / Muscle Training / Dubbing / Umbrella”
Previous episodes of Takagi-san had small traces of Ashita no Doyoubi but this time around, their presence is prominent enough to justify combining the two manga. The segments with the three girls does a great service to the show considering that some viewers were skeptical about whether Takagi and Nishikata’s pranks could carry a half hour. The budding couples’ sections were strong and enjoyable, but they included some very funny chapters from Sanae, Mina, and Yukari’s exploits that not only prevent the show from sticking too long with Takagi’s side, but meshes well with one another to the point that the two stories feel like such a perfect pairing together.
Two of the trio’s segments are dedicated to Mina’s complicated relationship with vending machine drinks. While she must prove that she is getting older by drinking coffee drinks she doesn’t like in the first section, the second chapter they’re featured in has her braving through a bottle of Ramune that is too spicy for her taste. Not sure if the translation was spotty, but it seemed weird that “spicy” was the word she used when it was the fizz that was irritating her mouth, and the crux of the section’s conflict was Yukari suppressing a burp to save face. A burp wouldn’t exactly be an indication of something spicy, but if the word she used meant something else like “fizzy”, it’d be more imperative for Yukari to not look like she was affected by the soda when she mocked Mina for it.
But that’s beside the point because the trio had some hilarious chemistry with one another in their sides of the story. In Particular, Sanae had some good time to shine with her deadpan reaction to Mina’s childishness and the lengths Yukari would go to not lose in front of Mina, and the enthusiasm she had when she was acting out a relationship between two cats that were sitting around. The coffee segment was cute in how Mina does a poor job trying to look like she’s mature, but the timing of the soda and cat chapters were funny in how the jokes were executed. The situation settling in with Yukari feeling the effects of the soda fizz when she used Mina’s gagging as a way to disguise her burps was great, and reminded me of the technique where you knock on a desk or cough to mask the sound of passing gas. The cat segment was the funniest to me as it was reminiscent of the imagination that can come from improv, and how much joy Mina and Sanae get from camping out near the bushes to act out a falling relationship scenario with these cats that do a better job at looking relaxed.
One magical thing about the trio’s segments is how most of which transitioned well between their perspective and the Takagi-san parts as the empty can and umbrella sections start out as part of the trio’s point-of-view. It was able to naturalistically merge the two together without feeling out-of-place or jarring. It helps that both of those sections ended up being absolutely adorable with Takagi’s teasing taking on an affectionate side to it. While the trio handled the show’s humor with grace, Takagi was effective in pulling heart-strings as she took Nishikata aback when she promised him his first kiss if he could shoot an empty can into a trash can. You can almost feel the disappointment from him when he finds out that she doesn’t want to make him do anything for his punishment.
Thinking back to it, none of what Takagi did this time around wasn’t so much to get him in trouble as it was for him to slowly fall for her. The training part where Nishikata works off his frustration about getting teased ends with her saying how she likes how training has been making him look lately. The umbrella chapter was easily the cutest as Nishikata’s attempts to freak her out are thwarted when she outright flirts with him, trying to get him to spill any feelings he might have for her while they’re huddled up under an umbrella. There were even times in the episode where Nishikata had the upper advantage as he did have her indirectly kiss the can he drank from, was proficient enough in throwing cans in the trash that it pushed Takagi to work for her victory, rubbed in her lack of umbrella in her face, and got her to admit she can be a little airheaded at times. It wasn’t a direct win for Nishikata, and many of those moments eventually backfired on him, but it’s looking like Takagi has been willing to give Nishikata a little slack lately, even if it means she’ll get him back tenfold seconds later.
What pushes Takagi and Nishikata’s chemistry to its highest heights is the voice actors’ performances. Rie Takahashi knows exactly which buttons to press when she’s shifting from mischievous plotting and pretending to be ignorant to the endearing voice she uses as she acts affectionate towards Nishikata. I’d be lying if I said my jaw didn’t drop when she was teasing him with the wordplay that goes into terms of endearment under the umbrella. You could feel the heat and tension when she slowly tries to get him to say “I love you” in English. Yuki Kaji is in everything nowadays, but that doesn’t hinder his performance as Nishikata. He pulls off anger, surprise, and joy as well as you’d expect, but this is the first time I’ve heard him being noticeably shy and timid. Kaji makes Nishikata’s embarrassment convincing as he lets his voice tremble and murmur when Takagi pries at him to tell her romantic expressions in the rain. The casting brings out so much of the humor and blushiness of the anime that pushes it beyond the expectations of merely being a rom-com that could’ve been regulated to a shorter length.