Thinking back to when I was a kid, one of the things that I learnt was how if a boy teased a girl, it was because they liked them. I don’t exactly remember the context leading to my knowledge of this little piece of information and its relevance in my life as a second grader, but I thought the idea was stupid.
Thinking on this idea now, I suppose there’s some truth in it. It’s fun playing tricks on people you’re close to and are comfortable around. And it’d be weird to tease a complete stranger for no good reason unless you were really that much of an utter asshole.
Moving on from that nice introduction to this review, Yamamoto Souichirou’s Karakai Jouzu No Takagi-San (Skilled Teaser Takagi) takes this idea and reverses the concept. This comedic slice-of-life manga revolves around the relationship between a young boy, Nishikata, and a young girl, Takagi. Nishikata is the unfortunate victim of Takagi’s pranks and tricks. Despite all his attempts to get back at her, he fails miserably.
Yamamoto’s work was first released in June 2012 within the pages of Gessan magazine. It has been nominated for the 10th Manga Taisho Award (or The Cartoon Grand Prize in English) for this year. As the name implies, the award recognizes the outstanding quality of a particular story in the manga industry. Nominees for this award are chosen by mainly bookstore staffers. There are two important criteria which need to be met in order to be nominated: The work has to have been released in 2016 and/or has eight volumes or less.
I find that the comedic relationship between Nishikata and Takagi works because their relationship is unbalanced. Takagi always succeeds in making her pranks a success because Nishikata is too gullible or rather too wrapped up in his own insecurities that he overthinks situations, which forces him to react according to how Takagi wants him to. In the first chapter, it is clear that the two students have a history. We see Nishikata attempting to scare Takagi with his “Jack-In-The-Box” prank.
However, due to his unsuspecting gullible nature, Nishikata unknowingly accepts to look inside of Takagi’s “defective” pencil case and falls into her own “Jack-In-The-Box” trick.
The first chapter explores Takagi’s strategy for teasing Nishikata where she instigates an innocent action and follows it with an anecdote, which in this case is about the eraser love charm. According to Takagi, if you write the name of someone you like on your eraser and use it all up, your love will become mutual. Her actions prompt a reaction from Nishikata which she revels in. She also pushes Nishikata to action, leading him to overthink his movements and overreact, which is not only humorous for Takagi, but for the reader as well.
I can understand the appeal of this funny manga in that it’s at the same time, a cute charming love story between two people who won’t verbalize their feelings for one another because they feel they’re too young to push past the boundary of “classmate” and “acquaintance” and become something more. Or, you know, it’s embarrassing to talk about romance and relationships at their age.
Their relationship seems as if it is based on the rules of “tit-for-tat” but that is how the two are able to communicate and feel comfortable with one another.
I mean, for Takagi’s case, it’s smart of her to keep the attention of someone she likes by making it a game/competition between Nishikata and herself. And of course, it’s always fun to see the female character having an advantage over the male character.
My concluding thoughts?
This one is definitely a keeper.