「腕ずもう／大人っぽく／にがみ／自転車」 (Udezumou/Otonappoku/Niga mi/Jitensha)
It’s a funny thing about this series. While there’s undeniably a certain “sameyness” to a lot of the material (let’s be honest, the same gag is basically repeated ad nauseam every chapter), sometimes it works better than others. There are subtle differences here, obviously – differences in tone and for lack of a better word, attitude – that seem to make a world of difference. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see Nishikata-kun win once in a goddam while, but not all of his losses feel the same.
First off this week is arm wrestling, always a popular time-waster among middle-school boys. Nishikata finally sees some benefits from his self-flagellating push-up regimen, as he’s become one of the strongest among the boys, but that strength isn’t the sort he needs to best Takagi-san in arm wrestling. Let’s be honest, this is a rough scenario for the guy to begin with – valid or not, most teenage boys would have a hard going going all out against a girl in this situation, never mind one he was basically going steady with.
There’s a general “otona-poi” theme running through this episode, starting with Mina’s rather childish attempt to wax poetical on mono no aware using the theme of bananas and store-bought cakes. Chuuni kids are way too obsessed with this topic generally but I guess it’s understandable – they have the example of “childish” first-years to look down on now, and they’re constantly being scolded to act more mature. But what does it mean to act mature, anyway? That’s what the boys – including Nishikata – want to know (if they figure it out, I hope they let me know).
Sadly for Nishikata, coffee isn’t really it – though I applaud him for thinking and planning in advance here by drinking his mom’s coffee at breakfast. The big mistake Nishikata makes here is “taking the black“, when milk coffee of various shadings is eponymous in pretty much every jihanki in Japan. He’s a trooper and gets through it (I worked in the coffee business for many years and even I find Japanese black canned coffee unpleasantly bitter), but proves no match for the prospect of the dreaded indirect kiss, no matter how unpleasant the aftertaste might be.
Finally, there’s the bike story – and as usual, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san saves the chapter with real movement for last. Nishikata is weak against cats (among other things) and Takagi playing hopscotch, but he stuck with his guns and trusted his gut with his answer. Once again we hear Takagi repeat her mantra about never lying to him, which as always rings a bit hollow to me. But it’s her “second reason” that’s the real point of this episode – and in this case, there’s no question she was being truthful even if Nishikata once again manages to limbo underneath it…