「テスト勉強 / テスト / テスト返却 / 本屋 / 雨宿り」 (Test Benkyou / Test / Test Henkyaku / Hon`ya / Amayadori)
“Studying for the Test / Test / Test Results / Bookstore / Shelter from the Rain”
With Episode 5 of Takagi-san, we’ve returned to the mind games that make Takagi the author of all of Nishikata’s pain. There were a few moments in the episode that I would’ve loved to see edited with the music and shot structure of Death Note‘s psychological battle sequences. In particular, one part that stood out was the test that the episode had been centered around. After Nishikata gets a failing score, Takagi takes it upon herself to make it a guessing game to see what scores they each got. While Nishikata had been trying to throw her off, it was Takagi’s score that put an immense amount of pressure on him. He guessed the right score right away, but her shocked expression caught him off-guard, assuming it was a bluff. After she tricked him into studying for the wrong material by acting earnest, who’s to say that she wasn’t faking her surprise?
It was a great long con on Takagi’s behalf for her to continuously mix up her genuine responses with her fake-outs. The mind game that went into finding out Nishikata’s secret love for shoujo manga is where this is at its most ingenious. Although it didn’t take much for Takagi to find out that Nishikata was lying about buying sports manga, Takagi’s lie was her at her most devious as she told him that she liked him only to take it back as a lie in response to Nishikata’s truth-stretching. However, where it gets devious is the fact that her statement had an untruth in there, but her fib could either be “I like you” or “That was a lie”. As a result, you have a situation where the possibility of her lying about liking him and the chance that she’s lying about lying are one in the same. It was a similar bait-and-switch that came with the desire to help him study only to turn around and tell him none of the material she assisted him with was on the test. The inconsistency of her deception makes it tricky to tell what exactly she’s truthful about when her only M.O. is to get a response out of Nishikata.
That isn’t to say that this episode was entirely focused on Takagi’s trickery as there was some well-played consistency within the first half. The test’s focal point allows us to see how both Nishikata and his classmates react to the upcoming exam, and the anxieties that come from their struggles in getting just the right score. Nishikata’s main motivation for doing well is to not get his video games taken away, but that isn’t too different from Yukari’s determination to get the score she would need to get her mom to buy her a video game. The only difference is how Yukari’s overachiever status causes her to throw her friends under the bus for the express purpose of focusing on her own scores. In a similar twist of fate, they both receive lackluster scores that prevent them from getting their way. It was a funny way of blending the two series’ together with how classmates as fundamentally different as Nishikata and Yukari have their desire to brush their friends off in favor of getting high test scores in common.
The romantic element of the series wasn’t as prominent in this episode, but we saw shades of it when the two were taking cover from a rain storm. Takagi wasn’t trying to pry the words out of Nishikata’s mouth, but it was easy to tell from how flustered he got about sharing gym clothes that his mind did shift towards seeing her in a different light. It was too brief of a segment to get much of his thoughts about swapping into each other’s dry clothes, but it was reminiscent of the last rain scene where Takagi had kept planting a bug in Nishikata’s ear about catching feelings for her. How much of a chance does he have for letting his hidden feelings for her out? Will she express them before him? It’ll be interesting to see what developments are made from here.