Tanaka-kun is Always Listless
Episode 12

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless ?

In this final episode of Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, Tanaka proves that he can move quickly when it really matters – like when he sees an opportunity to get out of his new front-and-center seat in the classroom. This week's episode opens with the mid-year seating lottery we've seen so often in anime, where everyone is randomly assigned a new seat. Tanaka desperately doesn't want to get the front row center seat, to the point where he's cast some sort of spell on himself by drawing runes on his fingers, so of course that's where he winds up…briefly. When he realizes that teeny tiny Miyano has been seated behind Ohta, he literally flies into action – seriously, he's pretty much The Flash when he oh-so-gallantly offers to switch seats with his self-proclaimed disciple. He even sounds more awake as he talks to her about trading seats. And when it's all over, he's where he wants to be: in the back of the classroom behind Ohta.

Of course, he's also right next to Shiraishi now, who sees this as an opportunity to further her romantic interests. This leads to the joke in the episode title, “Tanaka-kun's Happiness.” Generally speaking, a “happy” ending to a story is one that results in the formation of a solid romantic couple, and while romance really hasn't been a theme in this series, there are moments when it looks like that might be the direction the ending will take, especially when Shimura and Kato mistake Shiraishi for Tanaka's girlfriend - she's in her “disguise” of braided hair and old glasses, another nice rom-com joke about how beauty can be utterly masked by a lame hairstyle and eyewear. Since Tanaka promised not to reveal Shiraishi's secret appearance, he doesn't have a way to refute their conviction convincingly, and even Ohta ends up thinking that he's got a girlfriend. Of course, before all of that, we once again see that Ohta is a more perfect girlfriend than Shiraishi could ever be, much to her annoyance. Pay attention to her face in the background of early scenes – it's pretty great.

In any event, this misunderstanding leaves Tanaka both annoyed at all three of the guys and also completely on his own. At first that seems perfect, but he soon realizes that his happiness depends on his friends more than he thought – now that he has them, being entirely alone isn't all that palatable. Of course, this is Tanaka we're talking about, so this is at least partly because he has to do things on his own, like run away from a vicious puppy or talk to people, but that only furthers the joke: Tanaka-kun's happiness relies on his friends to protect him from life rather than the conventional romance. In fact, one of his last lines is that he's never getting a girlfriend because that's way too much trouble. I'd say “poor Shiraishi,” except that also seems like part of the romance joke here; she admits that she really doesn't know Tanaka-kun at all, which implies that her crush is just that, an attachment that will eventually fade instead of the usual all-consuming love that high school stories usually like to imply.

I'm sorry to see this show come to an end. It may not always have worked for my attention span, but it has been consistently entertaining, a combination of funny and kind of soothing to watch. Apart from convincing me that everybody ought to have an Ohta, this has been a fun spin on the usual school comedy, lacking the frantic action even as it hits on all of the standard moments, from the school festival to the lunch line. Hopefully someone will license the source manga so that we can keep hanging out with Tanaka and the others, but for now we have to wave goodbye as Ohta carries Tanaka's limp body off into the sunset.

Rating: B+

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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