Tanaka-kun is Always Listless
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless ?
How did Tanaka-kun know my philosophy about hot versus cold weather? He practically used my exact words at the start of this episode where it is randomly summer, saying that while you can always put more clothes on in the cold, there comes a point in the heat where you just can't take anything else off. While I'm clearly not as clever as I thought I was (although to be fair, both Tanaka and I may have gotten the idea from this Shel Silverstein poem), the opening section of this week's episode is particularly good.
It's summer, Tanaka is hot, so he and Ohta go to the pool. This plot has been used at least one hundred times in anime, but the Tanaka-kun twist that his listlessness allows him to float like Eeyore playing a game of Pooh-Sticks is pretty great, especially since he announces that he can't swim just moments before he shows off this talent. The visual of him getting into the float is also good: he's standing, and his feet just sort of leave the pool floor without any effort or direction from him. He's upright, and then he's not. In fact, his floating is so impressive that the elementary school boys who were harassing him for not being able to swim immediately become his floating groupies, and all of them commence a swim session comprised of doing their best dead-thing-in-the-water impressions. I couldn't tell you precisely why this is funny, but it absolutely is. (It gets even better when the boys later find Tanaka and Ohta and tell them that this is now how their entire class spends swimming lessons at school. That poor teacher...)
This section of the episode is good for visuals in general. Not only will some viewers doubtlessly thrill at shirtless Ohta – who we also get to see with his hair down – but before he starts floating, Tanaka-kun shows up at the pool with an inner tube featuring a kitty face, which for some reason is highly amusing. He almost gives it up when he gets the bright idea to use Ohta as a flotation device, which makes for another very funny image. Add to this some of Ohta's dryer comments about how good Tanaka looks in an inner tube before nixing the Ohta-as-flotation-device idea and this summer segment is one of the show's better ones.
This isn't to say that the “Miyano wants a yukata” story that follows isn't also good; it just isn't quiteas funny. Poor Miyano doesn't want to look silly going to the fireworks festival with Ecchan, so she decides that she needs to grow ten centimeters in five days to look sexy in a yukata. When Ohta points out that's kind of ambitious, she instead tries to buy a yukata. This goes about as well as you'd expect and has some unintended consequences, like Tanaka deciding to wear a special girls' yukata that's easier to put on than normal ones or Shiraishi showing up to help, only to make Miyano feel inferior. I can't decide if the image of bouncing boobs in Miyano's eyes when she looks at Shiraishi is funny or kind of disturbing, because the trope of girls being jealous of one another's breasts has never sat well with me (or seemed at all real), but it's certainly a thing that happens. On the whole, this is just a more typical storyline than the show has indulged in, and while it has its moments, such as Tanaka utterly screwing up Ecchan's potential Moment with Ohta (who clearly isn't into it given the alacrity with which he heads for the shaved ice stand with free all-you-can-pour syrup), it just doesn't have the originality of the first part or the series as a whole.
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless doesn't always play to its strengths, but it does manage to do something fairly unique for its genre: hold the attention of people who might not otherwise watch this show. I can sit for three to four hours at a stretch reading an entire book, but my viewing attention span is considerably shorter. That's probably why I don't like the long pauses that other episodes have made use of, but it's also a testament to how well the series works. I'm definitely sorry that we don't have much more of it to go.
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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