「林間学校」 (Rinkan Gakkou)
Now that was one hell of a cameo…
As I’ve noted in prior posts, repetitiveness can be an issue that works to the detriment of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san. When an entire series is built around the same basic joke playing out in only slightly different ways, that’s unavoidable. But as I’ve also noted, this series does not have a static narrative – even if the basic premise is consistent, the context changes. The characters change (and grow – to a point). There are certain chapters that readers of the manga were absolutely anxious to see animated – and without question, this was one of them.
Is what I could say, and new viewers would probably believe me without hesitation. Why wouldn’t they? This feels like one of Takagi-san’s landmark chapters – except it’s anime-original. I absolutely like this series best when it breaks from the usual format, and when Takagi-san (the character) gets serious. Everything takes on an additional weight, and the hook feels like the relatively lightweight silly gag that it is once its underlying roots are exposed. That the anime could do this with new material is pretty damn impressive. There definitely are landmark chapters I’m waiting to see – but those episodes will have a hard time topping this one.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to “Camping Trip” is that I almost can’t believe Yamamoto Souichirou (the mangaka) didn’t think of it himself. That’s how perfectly it both fits with and advances the story. The delicious awkwardness of a school trip for kids this age – the excitement, the nervousness, the opportunity for stolen moments of intimacy. Stolen moments of intimacy are what it’s all about for Takagi-san, really – her endgame – but we see in moments like this that as good as she is at teasing, even for her this sort of thing is hard. When we see Takagi-san (the character) blush, Takagi-san (the series) is on it’s A-game.
The first watershed (pun intended) moment comes when Takagi and Nishikata are on a hike with Nakai and Mano. Even Nishikata-kun gets the hint when Mano suggests a break and Nakai suggests she rest with Takagi-san, but his considerate gesture lands him stuck in a hut with Takagi-san in a sudden downpour. One could see the flaw in Nishi-kun’s “feeding game” immediately, and things follow a predictable course – this is certainly the most conventional part of the episode.
After that, the stakes get raised in a big way. Cooking dinner, then a campfire, then the dreaded folk dance. God, that folk dance – could there possibly have been a more gut-wrenchingly embarrassing spectacle in middle school? Naturally there are urban legends attached to it. In this case, that the last person you wind up holding hands with is the person you’ll fall in love with – as long as you have a crush on them already. There’s not much teasing to this, really, and for once Takagi is just as much at the mercy of the fates as Nishikata – the weight of the moment hangs heavy in the air as it rarely does in this series.
Fate, too, is at play when Nishikata wakes for a midnight stroll and finds Takagi-san stargazing from atop a boulder. She didn’t plan it, engineer it – it just happened. And when they’re forced to hide from
Scary-Tanabe-sensei, they get their moment of intimacy – but it wasn’t anything Takagi planned for, and she’s almost as nervous as Nishikata-kun. For once there’s no irony or condescension in her words when she compares him to Hikoboshi from the Tanabata legend – and you can tell that from the blush all over her cheeks. Moments of total sincerity are the rare gems in the crown of Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – but that just makes them stand out all the more.