Teasing Master Takagi-san, Vol. 1

By Soichiro Yamamoto. Released in Japan as “Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Gessan. Released in North America by Yen Press.

It’s a cliche, and a controversial one these days: “Boys just tease the girls because they like them”. And so naturally some enterprising young manga artist wondered, “what would happen if the genders were reversed?”. Well, as it turns out, it’s adorable. The premise here is that Nishikata is a desperately over-earnest young man with a propensity for blushing at anything who is trying desperately to prank his classmate Takagi-san, who sits next to him in class. The trouble is, he’s pretty easy to read. Also, he can’t keep his emotions in check. He’s also far too nice to seriously prank anyone. But mostly he fails because Takagi-san is simply too good at it. In a contest of who can make the over blush first, she wins every single time. Fortunately, all she asks for (mostly) is that he react the way he does. What we have here is My Neighbor Seki if there actually was any romantic tension between the two leads.

There is a certain risk here, which I think the author knows. Takagi-san’s teasing has to go so far and no farther, i.e. she can’t just be mean. You can argue she gets Nishikata in trouble with the teacher, but honestly that’s mostly his own inability to keep himself grounded. We also see her lay off when she thinks that he’s genuinely sick – something which actually seems to bother him. The reason that this sort of thing is all acceptable is that it’s clear that Takagi-san is over the moon for Nishikata. Indeed, her teasing in the final chapter of this volume relies on her being able to lie when she tells him “secretly” that she likes him – because the lie is that’s it’s secret. Others in the classroom wonder if they’re a couple already, and were this a traditional romance manga I bet the guys would be jealous of the “lucky bastard”. We’re meant to see this as courtship – and yes, it does work mostly because the genders are reserved.

The manga ran for about three years in “Gessan Mini” before moving to the main magazine, and the first volume’s chapters do seem to be the sort that can be enjoyed in any order and whether you know the characters or not. The teasing ranges from typical middle-school stuff (making funny faces, tossing aluminum cans) to more personal things (why Takagi-san isn’t swimming in PE today, sharing an umbrella in the rain). Throughout it all, Nishikata remains 100% oblivious to any affection that Takagi-san may have for him, and the one time that he does seem to get it when she tells him directly, she backs off. You get the sense she wants him to figure his feelings out first. You also get the sense there’s no real rush. They’re only middle-schoolers, so she has all the time in the world to watch his face.

The series had a recent anime (which is likely why it moved to the main magazine), so readers may go in knowing what’s going to happen to a degree. Don’t let that stop you from getting this. The pacing is excellent, and the characters are cute. Nishikata is the hero, but you get the sense that if he ever won the manga would end, so you’re rooting for Takagi-san. Mostly as those faces ARE pretty adorable.

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Comments

  1. For the record, the Takagi-san anime is fantastic! Funny and utterly charming, easily one of the best shows of the year.


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