「目薬/スクープ/かくれんぼ宝探し」 (Megusuri/Sukuupu/Kakurenbo/Takara sagashi)
“Eye Drops/Scoop/Hide and Seek/Treasure Hunting”
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san has barely put a foot wrong this season, and this episode is another in the series’ best run as an anime over the past month. The anime has managed to capture (and at times enhance) the simple charms of the manga, but that’s not to say this isn’t a deceptively complex series. Perhaps because there are so few anime (not quite so few manga) that look at early adolescent romantic relationships with any depth, Takagi-san stands out as more than just a gag comedy. It’s a series with an awful lot of insight in fact.
One of those insights is the way it observes and conveys a fundamental truth about middle school – this is the time when different rates of maturity assert themselves. What results are comically huge gaps between kids in the same grade – gaps in physical stature (especially among the boys), in self-awareness, in perceptiveness. Takagi clearly has Nishikata covered handily in the self-awareness department, but in some other respects I think the gap is narrower than one might think. The truth is that while Takagi has the wherewithal to constantly tease Nishikata by luring him right to the edge (and enjoys doing so) she’s had ample opportunities to do more than that and she’s always the one who pulls up in the end. It’s an interesting element of their relationship.
The eye drops chapter (those Japanese drops are really bad for your eyes actually, so be careful kids) is mostly an amusing teasing tease, but it has some interesting accessory elements going on too. The first comes when Yukari walks in on Nishikata just as he’s getting ready to (though he’d surely have chickened out) open Takagi-san’s eye and insert the drops. Yukari, of course, is the “mature” one in her trio of friends (and just why is Mina’s dad still growing, by the way?) – but what does that mean, really? “Mature” has to be taken in context here – she’s always looking for romantic behavior, but is also terrified at the thought of it and doesn’t have the nerve to actually sneak back in and see if she saw what she thought she did.
Houjou-san, by contrast, has no such hesitation. Among the girls she’s the most superficially mature, which makes her a bit of an object of awe among both the girls and boys. Hamaguchi-kun seems like the right match for her since he’s the most physically mature among the guys, but emotionally he’s no less a kid than the rest of them. Maybe a bit less, since he actually has the steel to tentatively court Houjou, but I’m not sure either of them quite knows where things go from there.
Between first Yukari-chan and then Houjou and Hamaguchi catching NishikaTakagi in “compromising” positions, one can assume the rumors about them will grow even more lurid – though I think most of their classmates already assume they’re an item. Surely even Takagi-san isn’t clairvoyant enough to see that’s going to be the result of their kakurenbo match (it was Nishi-kun that suggested it anyway), but one imagines she’s not disappointed. The more she normalizes their couple status, the more inevitable it seems that the reality will follow suit and the easier it will be for Nishikata (and herself, too) to give in to it.
As always we get the most intense chapter last – this time “Treasure Hunting”, which is another rather sweet entry that’s light on the teasing. I quite like the moments when Takagi-san lets her guard down like this – you can tell that she’s swept up in the moment and her implacable facade wavers just a bit. But once more she’s in a position where she could have taken things to the next level – Nishikata certainly wouldn’t or couldn’t have stopped her – but she pulls back into the comfort zone of turning it into a tease. For all that about maturity in truth, Takagi-san is very nearly still just as much a child as Nishikata-kun where matters of the heart are concerned.