Some time ago, I started reading this romantic comedy manga about middle school students – Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san by Souichirou Yamamoto. You may have noticed its recent anime adaptation. It is a little weird that, even though I don’t read that much manga, it is the second time I start reading a series before it gets adopted into an anime.
But anyhow, my experience with Takagi-san is limited to the manga, and specifically to the beautiful translation by ziM and Anni from manga-tube.me. It was also my first time reading scanlators’ talk in a chat as new chapters get released. I always knew there were real people standing behind any manga scanlation release, but it was Takagi-san and its team that made me feel it.
It is a story about two students, Takagi and Nishikata; and the gist of it is that Takagi pesters Nishikata, makes fun of him and makes him embarrassed in a variety of ways. Sounds malicious, but it really isn’t; Takagi clearly likes Nishikata in a very clear and direct way (no inner conflicts and other tsundere shenanigans) and her picking on him often does good for both of them. I’ll talk about it in a sec. Nishikata almost always falls prey to Takagi’s schemes, even though he tries his best not to.
If you have watched/read Tonari no Seki-kun you may find the setup to be somewhat similar. And it is kinda true, in both series there are two students, and a stronger one constantly “defeats” the weaker one in a funny way. Except Seki-kun is mostly just a comedy, there is no romance there. But it is not the main difference, I’d say. When watching Seki-kun you are tempted to ask yourself “is Seki going to be alright? Is Yokoi going to be alright?” They are always wasting their time at school, and Yokoi getting into small troubles is almost a theme there. You can safely say that Yokoi would have been better off if she never saw Seki, at least from the pragmatic perspective. I know this is a comedy and all, but still, it is tempting to think along these lines. In Takagi-san, this aspect is completely different.
For one thing, most of the Takagi’s jokes are aimed at Nishikata’s childish ways, like him being embarrassed to say certain words, being embarrassed to admit he secretly reads a romantic manga and so on. On the other hand, when it is something that could be good for Nishikata, Takagi would encourage it. When Nishikata started athletic training, Takagi made fun of his muscle soreness and said, “It would be good if you don’t quit after three days”. When he didn’t quit she praised him for it. Of course, she turned it into a taunt as well, but you get the picture; Takagi wasn’t just having fun at Nishikata’s expense, she was trying to make him a better person as well.