This post contains slight spoilers for the show Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san. Nothing major is talked about by any means, as just one of the many skits are explained, but if you’d like to go into the show while knowing as little as possible, you have been warned.
Middle school, to me, is an interesting setting in anime. When you choose this setting, or even just that age group for your characters with a modern setting, it feels unnecessarily restrictive. Schools in general feel like restrictive settings, but middle school especially seems like a difficult setting to write just because of how much further that point was in someone’s life than if they were to write a high school setting and how much less middle schoolers in general can do in their day to day lives, depending on where said school is located. Nonetheless, I usually don’t worry about this and instead get pleasantly surprised when a show like Non Non Biyori, that was set in elementary school, comes along and gives me something absolutely amazing to experience with the age range of their cast being used as an important narrative tool. After all, a school is a school and if every episode takes place in a classroom with various school-time shenanigans being what the production is focused around, the fact that these kids are a few years younger than usual makes little difference.
For example, if YuruYuri, Madoka Magica, or Mirai Nikki were set in high school instead of middle school I have a hard time believing that any of the plots would change. In fact, I commonly forget that any of these shows take place in middle school just because of how little that fact matters to the overall experience and is more of a random bit of trivia. When I was in middle school there weren’t any massively dramatic happenings, there weren’t any clubs that weren’t overseen by a teacher at all times, and flirting with someone else only included poking as much fun at them as possible without becoming cruel.
So, when I was piling up on anime to watch this season and saw that Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san was a skit-based comedy show like the aforementioned YuruYuri and another well known show I loved, Nichijou, and had a particularly cute girl in the spotlight, I was on board. At first I by default just assumed the age range of the characters wouldn’t matter like usual and enjoyed the show as it was. However, as the show went on and it slowly became my favourite show of this season, I realised that the age of Takagi and Nishikata, the two characters the show focuses most on, were important because the show wasn’t only about teasing, but also about flirting.
Due to me growing to love when romantic relationships of various age groups are represented well, when the show first played the card that revealed that Takagi was flirting with Nishikata, my appreciation for the show jumped, and every time they played the card again, the more I grew to like it. The jokes become less centred around how Takagi is teasing Nishikata and more around what excuses Takagi is taking to spend time with Nishikata. Any time that Nishikata is pushed into a corner where Takagi wouldn’t be able to spend time with him, she goes out of her way to make sure she’s there to tease him.
If Nishikata forgot his swimsuit, Takagi finds an excuse to sit out from swimming that day. If Nishikata needs to arrive at school early, Takagi finds an excuse to also arrive early. If Nishikata needs to stay after school as punishment for something, Takagi pretends like she got in trouble too to stay with him. The excuses for the two to be together and the way Takagi teases Nishikata eventually left me coming to the conclusion that rather than Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san being a comedy, it was a romance show first. This isn’t to say that shows told with the express purpose of being a comedy show can’t have romance elements in them, but there was a very specific scene that made me look at this show in a different light.
In the fourth episode there’s a skit titled “Cold” where Nishikata stayed up all night watching a shoujo anime with the air conditioner on and because of that caught a cold overnight. With his cold, Nishikata couldn’t come to school. Takagi, who sits next to him, looks at his seat during class and sighs to herself. Suddenly, Nishikata arrives to class and Takagi’s eyes light up with surprise. When Nishikata first sits next to Takagi she immediately begins her usual teasing but after realising that Nishikata is sick, she refrains herself from continuing — sighing, shaking her head, and hyper focusing in on the class. However, Nishikata had acquired the perfect tool to shoot back at her from watching shoujo anime all night; when Takagi would try to tease him, he’d fire back by complementing her and calling her cute.
While Nishikata sits there, waiting for Takagi’s attack in the perfect pose to get her to blush, he notices that she isn’t teasing him. Slowly it comes to him that when Takagi isn’t teasing him, she’s actually very cute and gets flustered over the idea of complementing her. It’s then that Takagi notices Nishikata is looking at her and asks him if he’s okay, also noticing that his face is red. She continues prodding him for a few questions, making sure that he is absolutely okay. So, after Nishikata saying that he’s completely fine enough times, Takagi takes that as her permission to tease him and the skit ends with just narration stating that she teased Nishikata more than usual that day.
While, sure, this is still pretty funny in a special way, this skit’s primary purpose without a doubt was not to be hilarious by any means. The main focus is on how Takagi responds to Nishikata being sick and her self-inflicted restraint whenever she thinks he needs to be left alone. It doesn’t at all take a genius to catch on to this being what the skit is trying to convey, but it did act as a confirmation for my feelings towards how the show was painting their relationship in the first place. While the show’s primary focus may be around the antics that come from Takagi teasing Nishikata as much as she does, and uses that as a comedic front, the show’s actual content to me is now about a middle school relationship between a boy and girl who aren’t official yet but who may as well be.
I say it that way because in middle school the labels of boyfriend and girlfriend may as well be worthless. In middle school, you can easily care more about teasing the person you like and getting to talk to them every chance you get at school than you would care about being in a relationship together, and even if you were the only thing that changed is that your relationship has an intimate title now. You still tease each other, you still come up with silly excuses to spend every moment at school together, and while you may do more intimate things from time to time, what’s holding the relationship together is still going to be those two things.
So, while Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san has it’s funny moments and use comedy as the main way to push the narrative forward in 9 out of 10 cases, the comedy is merely a means to an end. In the same way that shows like Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai use comedy as the main way to push the narrative forward, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san isn’t primarily a comedy show in my eyes. Now whenever I watch a new episode I smile in joy at the lives of a cute couple and amusing way they interact. Even in laughter, even in some pretty memorable jokes, the show no longer is about just teasing, and I’d wager that it never was.
In a lot of ways, I appreciate Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san for that. Unlike with YuruYuri, Madoka Magica, or Mirai Nikki, I can’t say that the production would be identical if the cast were in high school. In high school you start to worry about a lot more. Dates become a primary driving point in relationships, teasing gets tired fast, and spending an excess of time with someone for the sake of spending time with them at school usually drives you to notice their flaws and make you wish you spent less overall time with them. In middle school, teasing and talking is everything. While it’s a very minor detail, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san‘s characters are in the perfect age range for what they’re being to be absolutely adorable and leave me waiting for another episode every week as one of the shows this season that I’m actually managing to stay fairly caught up with. If you aren’t watching it, give it a shot not as a comedy, but as a funny and wholesome romance anime about middle schoolers.
With that the last editorial of February is finished! Two months down, ten to go. Thank you very much for reading this week’s post. If you have any thoughts on the topic that you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments, I promise I read every one. Additionally, if you’d like to see what I’m up to whenever I’m not writing for this blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter. Next week is Crunchyroll’s second shot at the anime awards and hopefully they have something better to present than last year’s — if so I may or may not have something to say about it. Just maybe. See you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by 姫宮爽