“Ice/Appearance/Bangs /Valentine’s Day”
I must confess that it’s hard for me to get through an episode of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san without smiling most of the way through it. Of course one is aware they’re being manipulated but somehow I don’t mind. I chalk it up not to inelegance but indifference – this is a series that’s perfectly at ease with what it is and makes no pretense at being anything else. And I’m not nearly hard-hearted enough to watch (and read) the situations this series presents and not find them adorable most of the time.
The first chapter this week gives us “Ice” – along with the revelation that Nishikata is on a regimen of three pushups for every time Takagai-san successfully teases him (he’ll look like JoJo by graduation day). One of Takagi’s many talents is to take nearly any situation and turn it into a sort of chaste(ish) double entendre – and the whole “warming of the hands” batsu game threat is a perfect example of this. I never did that picking up frozen puddles and carrying them routine as a kid in Chicago, though – maybe it’s a Japan thing?
As for “Appearance”, this is almost too easy for Takagi. But one can’t help but be struck by how brazen she is in using it as an opportunity to get up close and personal with Nishikata-kun. I don’t think there can be any question she knows exactly what she’s doing here – Nishikata is the guy she’s attracted to, and this is a free pass for checking him out in ways she could never under normal circumstances. The interesting question for me is, does she want Nishikata to have the nerve to go through with returning the favor tomorrow (hint: yes, though she knows he won’t)?
Then, of course, we have “Valentine’s Day” – the epicentre of the adolescent trauma calendar. I guess in middle school they don’t let the kids exchange chocolate, which seems pretty harsh, but maybe isn’t such a bad idea. Of course banning exchange is not going to stop it (I was pleased sweatsuit-sensei at least gave Mina hers back at the end of the day, and pretended to believe Nakai’s “book” story). And maybe this is about as soft as we’ve ever seen Takagi, as she actually goes through an entire school day without teasing Nishikata. Almost.
The whole business with the candy in the shoe cubby is another fascinating look at this somewhat twisted relationship. Takagi uses the shoe locker thing as a pretense to tease Nishikata, but I think she’s actually too she to give him her honmei choco directly, given what a loaded gesture that is in Japan. Not that she doesn’t in fact seize on this as a teasing opportunity – though I think she pretty much lets Nishikata-kun off the hook at the end by saying “this one” when she gives him the giri choco. Even though he can’t admit it for obvious reasons, there can’t be any doubt in his mind about the honmei choco after that. But while he may not have to ponder the question of who it was from, he now has to ponder the even-more unsetting question of what it means to receive honmei choco from Takagi-san.