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Anime Review: Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless

English Title: Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless

Japanese Title: 田中くんはいつもけだるげ

Director(s): Kawatsura Shinya

Screenwriter(s): Omode Akemi

Studio: Silver Link

Released: 2016

Runtime: 12 episodes, ~24m each.

Starring: Ono Kensho, Hosoya Yoshimasa

Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless

Based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Uda Nozomi released between 2013 and 2019, the series follows the titular Tanaka as he aims to optimize his listlessness. I have not read the manga so the review is purely of the anime.

The opening introduces Tanaka sleeping at the foot of a tree in the schoolyard in perfect weather. He is not merely tired or lazy in the usual sense for he wishes to enjoy such perfect conditions—it would be a waste to not do so. His friend Ohta wakes him up as it is time for class but in the end has to carry him. Indeed, Ohta often carries Tanaka.

It is immediately apparent that this is an absurdist comedy and it does it well. As with any good slice-of-life comedy, it plays on the relatable. What makes Tanaka relatable and likable is that he is not lazy in the usual way. He always appears to be disinterested and he wants to do the least possible. However, he also realizes, in an apparent contradiction, that also requires effort which he is willing to think about and act on.

Ohta and Tanaka
Ohta and Tanaka

For example, he ponders how to best sleep in class so he does not end up with sore arms. More realistically, he somehow gets his homework done so he doesn’t have to worry about it. He can play the piano (and is quite skilled) and presumably does not resist being told to play for the class. He obviously values friendships and actually does notice and respond to other people, albeit in his peculiar way.

Consistent to the genre, there isn’t a particularly strong arc for the series. Perhaps it could use one but this would then contradict the apparent aimlessness of the titular character.

Overall, it is a solidly produced series. The animation is crisp and clean, and the voice acting is a perfect fit. Ultimately, it examines not only how Tanaka goes about his quest to do as little as possible. It looks at the impact that mentality has on others, it is a comparison to those who are not like him, and, of course, the importance of friendship.

Tanaka’s introduction…
Tanaka’s introduction…

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