「あっちむいてほい/特技/お悩み/メール」 (Acchi muite hoi/Tokugi/O nayami/Meeru)
“Acchi Muite Hoi/Talents/Worries/Messages”
I have to say, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san has really upped its game this season. Part of it is undoubtedly because the manga does improve as it progresses, because the story within it progresses. There’s just more to Takagi-san in later chapters than early ones, because the narrative builds on itself. But more than that I think the execution has been absolutely top-notch. Not only has the anime adapted a really strong selection of chapters, it’s added bits and pieces of original material that’s on par with the manga’s best, and even stitched them in with existing material.
It just so happen that this week adapts three of my favorite chapters. It starts with “Acchi, Muite, Hoi“, which while certainly the least of them, is still one of the stronger straight-up teasing chapters from the manga. It would be hard to overstate how eponymous Janken is among schoolkids in Japan, but A-M-H – a deceptively simple variation that seems dumb but is actually kind of intense – has gained a lot of traction in recent years. The notable thing here I suppose is that this is a perfect example of Takagi-san’s mystical ability to take any situation and tweak it into a double entendre of sorts.
“Worries” by contrast has no teasing in it whatsoever. And what’s notable here, I think, is that it’s a reminder that Nishikata’s essential nature is at the heart of both Takagi’s crush on him and her mastery of him in gamesmanship. Remember the nature of their first encounter – Nishikata went out of his way to return her handkerchief, getting himself in trouble (on his first day in junior high) as thanks for his trouble. He’s simply too kind for his own good, this kid – and it makes him an easy mark for Takagi in every sense of the word.
Normally we see this manifesting itself in her taking advantage of him in borderline cruel fashion, but here what’s striking is how impacted he is by the notion that something is off with her. In the final analysis it really isn’t any big deal – a petty fight between Takagi and her mom – but Nishi-kun basically can’t rest until he gets to the bottom of it. That whole business with the “surprise box” was a cute addition, but the real surprise for Takagi was that Nishikata tracked her down at the shrine just to make sure she was OK. Nishikata musing that there’s been some worth to making that surprise box even though it failed in teasing is one his most self-aware moments in the series.
Finally, we have “Messages” – which would definitely be on my shortlist for my favorite chapters in the manga. This is one of those “gossamer” scenarios where you can’t really explain why something is great, you just have to experience it and you’ll either get it or not. For me the charm level in this chapter is absolutely off the charts – the two of them are beyond adorable here as they play cat and mouse (that “steak/hearts/kiss” sequence had me ROFL from the moment I read it in the manga, and the anime improved on it) and flirt at the same time. I also love Kimura’s little dumbass interjections (and how Nishikata-kun looks up to him for his bakayarocity). And remember what I said a couple of week’s ago – when Takagi-san the character is blushing, you know Takagi-san the series is on its A-game…