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Review: ‘Teasing Master Takagi-san’ Vol.1

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Teasing Master Takagi-san, vol. 1
Writer/artist: Soichiro Yamamoto
Yen Press; $13
Rate T for Teen

Teasing Master Takagi-sanThe single joke of Teasing Master Takagi-san, which gets repeated in a different way in each of the nine stories in this first collection, doubles as its premise: Excitable middle-schooler Nishikata sits next to Takagi in just about every class, and the manipulative Takagi is forever teasing him with rhetorical traps and elaborate pranks. This only fuels Nishikata to try and get even with Takagi by teasing her back, but the harder he tries, the harder, more spectacularly he fails, fueling a seemingly endless, cartoon-like cycle in which he always comes up short. He is Charlie Brown to her football-holding Lucy, the Wile E. Coyote to her Road Runner.

Not only is Takagi always one—or 100—steps ahead of him, but Nishikata finds himself doubly-frustrated by the attention she pays him, as he’s not sure why, exactly, she teases him. The reasons she gives him are that he’s so easy to tease and that he makes the best faces. The latter is certainly, true; Yamamoto gives Nishikata a full range of explosive expressions, as melodramatic as those that could be found in any manga of any genre. As he tries to puzzle out her motives and think through traps he might lay for her, or why she might be behaving the way she is, his face runs a gamut of transformations, and when her trap is sprung or her reversal revealed, big, broad, operatic looks of shock or terror might appear.

The real reason she likely teases Nishikata, however, is that she likes him. That becomes apparent in the very first story, which ends with a glimpse of the first letter of the name of the boy she likes: N. And there’s only one named character in the book, and his name, of course, is Nishikata, so…

It’s probably importnat to note that Takagi isn’t bullying Nishikata through her constant abuse. As I said, it pretty obviously comes from a place of real affection—she delights in talking about kissing him, or sharing a “sweetheart umbrella” with him in the rain, which he considers more of her attempts to simply get a rise out of him—and her teasing is never so cruel as it part of a game of wits between the two of them. Takagi only rarely does anything overtly public that might humiliate Nishikata, save perhaps for one sequence in which she repeatedly gets him in trouble with the teacher.

This game they play is simply the way in which the pair communicates, and, as with a lot of very young people, it provides them with a convenient excuse to be near one another and engage with each other without having to be mature or honest about their feelings to one another.

While it’s hard to imagine the series going on for too many volumes without it ever growing overly repetitive, Yamamoto certainly keeps the stories in this first volume fresh and even exciting through their variations, and the characters do get out of their desks and interact with one another in other places; at the side of the pool in gym class, walking home from school, even at a book shop on a weekend.

Included in this volume is a “bonus” story featuring three of the chracters’ female classmates, who show up at the climax of an earlier story just to interrupt Nishikata as he is in the middle of asking Takagi if she likes him or not. That too is funny but in a completely different format, so perhaps future volumes will continue to expand the cast, and thus the variety of gags.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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