You can find a lot of anime that exploits the awkwardness of young love for the entertainment of the audience. There’s something very nostalgic about the innocence and purity of these stories. Teasing Master Takagi-san 2 (and season 1) focuses on the more lighthearted side of young love. After all, sometimes it’s easier to relentlessly tease the person you love than it is to openly expose your feelings. Spoilers ahead.
I have a bit of a beef with Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited that they are starting to really curate an anime library. Because of them, I’ve been able to watch some older anime that is absent on the dedicated anime platforms. But I have a beef with them: they’re putting a bunch of exciting new seasonal anime behind wait-walls. And by that I mean Netflix Japan is airing new seasonal anime as it airs for the Japanese audience, but here in the United States we have to wait until the end of the season and then some before these new shows become available. And the number of these shows is increasing.
But enough about my beef with Netflix. We’re here to talk about middle schoolers teasing one another. And here I can introduce you to my brand new and very experimental summary card for those of you who want a TLDR. You don’t even have to scroll for the score. I’m so generous!
If you watched and enjoyed the first season of Teasing Master Takagi-san, I have good new for you: season 2 is more of the same things that made season 1 good and then some. Same great humor, characters, premise and execution. On top of that, we’re treated to a sprinkling of more intimate moments between Takagi and Nishikata, giving us hints of the life to come for these two characters.
For those of you who know nothing about the series, it mainly follows the relationship of two middle school students, a boy named Nishikata and a girl name Takagi. These two classmates form a special bond, and eventually a little competition of teasing and games forms between the two of them (with Takagi typically coming out on top thanks to her cunning and exploitation of the fact that Nishikata is easily flustered). It’s all in lighthearted good fun; there’s no bullying here.
For the most part, the series consists of episodes containing two or three shorter “skits” of these games and teasings, occasionally focusing on a small cast of side characters as well. These games are both mental and physical, and there are always consequences for the loser (such as loser buys drinks). There are a surprising number of competitive mini games that middle schoolers can come up with.
But there are a few moments where the teasing stops and the games are forgotten. They can sense when the other is truly upset and in need of special attention. You can sense genuine concern between the two of them despite their bickering. The friendly rivalry is just that; it’s no fun when they can’t both happily participate. By the end of the second season, you can see they are teetering on the line between the friendly rivals they have always been and a more romantic relationship.
As you can imagine, the formula of smaller skits can begin to feel repetitive. Filling the episodes with moments of teasing and games doesn’t give a lot of room for real character growth. Aside from those few moments of deeper connection between Takagi and Nishikata, I began to feel impatient. You know where this friendship is supposed to lead, but by the end of the season you feel like they have made very little actual progress.
Of course, we are talking about a couple of eighth graders, here. As much as I want to complain that nothing serious is happening, I can’t fault the lack of progress simply because of how young they are. They’re just starting to figure out who they are as people, so it feels a little ridiculous to expect any sort of romantic progress. And I can say that their friendship definitely feels stronger at the end of the season. Baby steps.
As repetitive as the formula can get, the variety of games kept it enjoyable. Sure, it may not feel like there’s a ton of character progress in the story by the end, but honestly, that isn’t what this show is about. I think we as the audience are meant to simply enjoy witnessing the budding friendship happening before our eyes, with the knowledge that this will eventually lead to a romantic relationship being our little secret.