What They Say:
Tired of being mercilessly teased by his classmate Takagi, Nishikata vows to get back at the girl that’s made him blush countless times. After all, if you blush, you lose! But getting vengeance isn’t so easy when every attempt blows up in his face. Will Nishikata ever make Takagi blush, or will he gain something more fulfilling from his bumbling attempts?
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has its outlandish moments along the way but the bulk of it is filled with basic dialogue. There are some areas where it shines a bit more in how it works with thoughts and levels, but most of it is pretty standard school and slice of life fair about it. It’s often kept to just two people at a time so it has a nice and small feeling to it that serves the material well and it all hits a good stride quickly. I flipped between the two language tracks regularly and they both come across clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread between two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by Shin-Ei Animation, the show captures the look of the manga really well, especially when it comes to the character designs, and there’s a kind of simpler approach to the whole design based on that, but it has a neat richness of color to it that works really well. It spends a lot of time outdoors with some good use of green that makes the show feel distinctive but it also handles the interior scenes well with good color definition and solidity across the board. I like the look of this overall but there’s just something a little to the side when it comes to the animation design that makes me look at it twice and a little funny. It’s a good looking encode that handles everything well and should please the majority of fans.
The packaging for the show is pretty standard in that we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The front cover uses the main key visual we had for the series with re two together walking in their school outfits. It’s a simple piece but you get a sense of the relationship dynamic well but also the non-standard character designs, which can make or break a show for some. The setting is pretty standard stuff as well but the whole thing has a nice and inviting look to it when you get down to it. The back cover uses the greens and blues to nice effect for the background but it lets the top half work a visual from the show and several small shots that are bigger than usual, letting you get a good idea of the design aesthetic. The summary of the premise is straightforward and easy to read and we get a good technical breakdown that handles everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included but we do get a reverse side cover with the right featuring another key visual and the left breaking down the episodes by number and title.
The menu design for this release goes for a kind of simple approach with its static menus but it works well. It goes with the usual split where the right third has the key visual artwork of the leads with the colors looking great with a lot of vibrancy and it’s an interesting offset to the large white section to the left. It’s there that we get the logo in the middle with its black and green looking surprisingly good while below it we get the block of navigation in green with black and white text. It’s all got a kind of minimalist approach to it that works better than I expected, especially having seen this key artwork for a couple of years now since the series was first announced and being a little tired of it. Yet it looks good here and fits right in setting the tone for a menu that works smoothly and without any problems as both a main menu and as a pop-up menu.
Based on the manga Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san, the twelve episode series aired during the winter 2018 season. The original manga has been running since 2013 and has ten volumes and the anime got a second season announcement along the way as well, which was something of a surprise. The original work is mirrored well in anime form when it comes to the character designs and I like that it mixes multiple stories into each episode that while they do carry over to some degree avoid having it being a long drawn out joke or concept for each episode. That lets more of the slice of life aspect play through since it deals pretty heavily with just our lead characters and a few others that pop in from time to time. Slice of life shows where it has a very narrow focus can be tough sells but they can also really explore the character dynamic well.
On average, each episode has about five stories to it that deals with the life of these two characters and their middle school adventures during their first year. It works it a little in reverse as the end brings us to the beginning of the year while we start somewhere in the middle. Takagi and Nishikata both sit in the back of the classroom and she teases and torments him quite a lot. Now, I’m no fan of the whole “if they tease you/are mean to you, they like you” mindset because it’s just full of problems. But there are those that engage with that and if you can nudge that just to the side for the show you can enjoy something very fun in how she teases and torments him. It doesn’t get to mean or cruel but it’s almost like psychological warfare as she works him over during the course of the school year. And you can go a decent bit of it thinking that she may not actually be into him but just enjoys messing with him in this way, though the reality is that she definitely does like him and it is pretty clear.
Takagi works a lot of gags on him that made me feel like I was watching more of romantic comedy version of Tonari as she comes up with ways to distract him during class, causing him to act out and draw attention to himself. The teacher suffers through this and calls him out regularly but he’s one to react easily, such as when he tries to get back at her for making funny faces by making a bigger and weirder one himself in order to get her in trouble. Which, of course, lands him in more trouble. Nishikata also tries to embarrass her as a sort of revenge, such as the whole indirect kiss thing by letting her drink from the can that he had and making her think of that. Which, of course, she doesn’t really let get to her in the slightest. But that, in turn, causes him to overthink what he did and now he’s embarrassed himself by a second-indirect kiss. More often than not, Nishikata simply makes things worse for himself and Takagi simply smiles.
That sense of meanness does permeate at times but it’s played in a way where if you’re in the rhythm of the show it works out well. When we get Nishikata getting help studying in the library for a test because he’s going to lose stuff from his parents, Takagi’s help is just that, a big help. But it’s a cruel help as she only works on things for the test that won’t be on the test, essentially costing him a lot of time. But the whole thing about this is that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, it’s supposed to have that cruel edge to it coming from the sweet and innocent smile that she has. The original designs really reinforce this and having the animation replicate it as well as it does helps. It’s easy to understand why this show may not click for people because of the spirit it operates in, but even noting all of these little aspects of it there’s still that edge of engagement that works. Nishikata struggles with the idea that she might actually like him because of all of this but it doesn’t stop him from trying to get back at her. And as we learn toward the end of the events from the beginning of the school year that really put them together, it does come together and click well, enough so that I think there’s just enough heart to make it really connect.
I had been kind of wary of this show since the first visuals arrived because they are distinctive looking. Add in that it’s about middle school kids, a group that I’m glad to be done with, and that feeling multiplies. What we get is a show that uses the shorter story form well with multiple stories per episode to build up a good slice of life concept. The way it works the relationship between Takagi and Nishikata could be a complicated one for some and may not like that it basically reinforces a bad concept, but as a comedy, it’s pretty damn solid. Takagi has a lot of creative ways of getting into Nishikata’s head and does that with such skill. Watching as Nishikata deals with it is like waiting for someone to explode and getting some little steam valve releases at times that are definitely amusing. The release is one that’s put together well with a good look, a clean presentation, and a solid little package, but is one that I wish had a little more to it since there aren’t any extras.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 19th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.