Takahashi-san is Listening Volume 1 Manga Review

Takahashi-san is Listening:

 Volume 1

Reviewed by: Linny

Nobody’s buying your excuse.

Synopsis: Takahashi-san is an aspiring idol with a somewhat un-idol-like hobby: She likes to eavesdrop on the conversations between two of her classmates, class representative Nara-kun and plain boy, Mikage-kun. She would like to stop doing this as she knows it’s not a healthy hobby but this seems to be the best way to deal with all the stress of being an idol. Read on as she tries her best to keep eavesdropping while making sure she doesn’t accidentally retort to their bizarre conversations and avoid getting caught at all costs to preserve her pure idol image and career.

Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Takahashi-san is Listening is a gag manga that relies heavily on rather strange conversations between its two male characters, and Takahashi’s reaction to their conversations. The unfortunate news is that a fair number of the chapters and gags in volume 1 rely on wordplay and Japanese culture centric topics that have a high chance of failing to land or be understood by the average non- Japanese reader. If you are fortunate or learned enough to be fully familiar with all the wordplay and culture jokes being tossed about, the appeal of the series should drastically improve for you. There are of course jokes and chapters that should appeal to just about anyone but since they are often interrupted by the aforementioned alienating chapters, it becomes a challenge to fully immerse yourself in the comedy of the series. You’ll end up finding yourself either bored or lost and wanting to drop the series every time you come across a chapter that just drags on and on with its particular humour. Also, in Volume 1, there’s a lot of focus on the three characters mentioned in the synopsis, and the way the story plays out gives you a sense that they’ll be the only ones to ever get any major exposition. Thus, if you do not take to any of them, the chances of finding a new character to get attached to seems low.

One of those sports is not like the others.

The other potentially annoying factor about the series is just how ridiculously often Takahashi keeps harping on and on about what a terrible person she is for eavesdropping or how she needs to stop doing it, and then immediately justifies it in the next panel or so. After a while, she sounds like a broken and shallow record with no actual substance behind her words and self declared feelings of shame or remorse. It doesn’t help that the manga sometimes seems to try to force its punchline in your face through her reactions. It’s like having that annoying friend or stranger next to you in a move theatre who keeps pointing out or repeating punchlines in the movie to you as  soon as it happens onscreen as if you aren’t there watching it yourself or too dumb to comprehend it on your own. It becomes all the more frustrating when the gags she’s highlighting and reacting to aren’t that funny or refer to something you are unfamiliar with, so you’re left all the more annoyed and confused.

If only it were that easy.

That said, the series does have some merit. For one, when it does play off topics that are more universal, the humour can be pretty rib tickling especially if you are a fan of absurd comedy juxtaposed with completely serious characters. It’s extremely amusing to watch Nara-kun and Mikage-kun discuss the topic of getting a haircut and turn it into the most bizarre and dangerous activity. Not only that, some of the spoofing they do in Volume 1 is pretty on point, such as making fun of sports anime and manga that have their characters shouting ridiculous lines with their signature moves. In fact, Takahashi-san is Listening even tackles the one show that everyone loves to parody, Yu-Gi-Oh and manages to makes it just as funny as everyone else.

Sweetie, I know you’re shocked but you better straighten your gun out or you’ll get another unpleasant surprise.

Also, something the series descriptions don’t mention is that almost every chapter ends with Takahashi applying something she heard or learned through her eavesdropping into her idol career to better herself or it. It’s not a huge draw but could potentially be considered a minor plus to read or try to guess how today’s ludicrous conversation gets turned into an educational opportunity for our aspiring idol. Also, the last chapter of the volume ends on a somewhat heartwarming note which helps to give the series some depth besides just being a random gag manga but it might not be enough to really elicit any deep reaction in the readers due to its minuscule presence.

If you insist..

Takahashi-kun is Listening feels like one of the weaker comedy offerings on Crunchyroll for me, though I will acknowledge that part of my problem with the series is its more obscure Japanese culture centric gags going over my head. There’s also always the fact that taste is subjective and what is boring to me could be pure gold to others. However, I do still strongly feel that unless you are pretty well versed with Japanese culture, or are willing to plow through disappointing chapters for the potential promise of a hilarious and absurd one every so often, this is a series best left alone or on the bottom of your reading list. For those who do still want to take that chance, the good news is that Takahashi-san is Listening is a completed series and all of it is available for reading on Crunchyroll meaning no dreaded waiting for the next chapter to be released.

 Takahashi-san is Listening is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.

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