Tada-kun Never Falls in Love was one of the stand-out animes of the Spring 2018 season. I mentioned in my First Impressions post that it was series I could see becoming one of the romances I would keep watching all season. It had some tough competitors last season, and while it didn’t necessarily come out on top, I did enjoy the time I spent watching. It is a series that managed to take a look at what it means for children to mature faster than perhaps they should, how regret can fester over the years, and how the people you meet only for a short time can have a huge impact on your life. It’s an anime that spoke to me in many ways, both through some stunning scenes and through the messages it tried to impart along the way. Tada-kun is definitely not a perfect anime, and I have problems with the way the show ended, but over the course of last season I found myself enjoying the time I spent with this series.
Tada-kun Never Falls in Love is a 13-episode romance anime that follows the life of Mitsuyoshi Tada, an aspiring photographer and member of his high school’s Photography Club. After a chance meeting with a captivating blond-haired girl while out taking photos, Tada finds his life getting turned upside down as he begins to run into her again and again including at school. This girl is Teresa Wagner, a foreign exchange student from the fictional European country of Larsenburg. She’s followed closely by her travel companion Alexandra Magritte. Both girls wind up joining the Photography Club, and the story continues to follow their new and building relationships with Tada and the other members of the club. This original anime was picked up by Studio Doga Kobo and licensed by Sentai Filmworks for US release.
[My reviews tend to have spoilers, so proceed with caution]
Doga Kobo’s work on the animation was pretty great even though there were noticeable differences in quality and style between some scenes and episodes, probably due to whoever was doing the key frames at the time. In general though, I though the show had some of the same kind of energy that a Studio Bones production might have in terms of its character animations and expressiveness. I think it’s the most recognizable with the character of Ijuin who reminds me somewhat of characters like Raj from Snow White with the Red Hair in the way he acts and expresses himself. The production definitely isn’t on par with the kind of energy that Bones can pull off, but I appreciated the kind of attention the director and crew paid the characters both through the animation and selection of voice actors.
I felt like there were a lot of moments where I noticed the directing and specific design choices in this series, with certain scenes standing out in my mind over others. Particularly I love episode three where it shifts in narrator from one of the main cast like Tada to his cat, Nyanko-big. It does shift back and forth occasionally depending on the action, but for the most part the whole episode is Nyanko-big commenting on the world and characters around him and falling in love with his own love interest. The episode seems like an effort to create an interesting way to display exposition of Tada and his family’s past without having Tada explain himself, which would have been out of character for him at the time. It also works well with the comedic tone of the show as Nyanko-big is voiced by the very deep Akio Otsuka who add a lot of great character to the chubby cat. Combined with some great animation with his expressions, it honestly made Nyanko-big one of the most amusing characters in the show, a great pair to his nemesis Ijuin.
But with almost every romantic comedy, there are moments where the comedy is contrasted with impactful serious moments, and Tada-kun is no different. I would say most of those moments are towards the end of the series, but we do see a few in the flashbacks we get of Tada’s father’s death and Teresa’s childhood. Most notably, the show likes to use color palettes to really get its point across and create the mood of any given scene, particularly scenes of deep introspection and sadness. We see it the most when Teresa leaves and Tada begins contemplating his feelings and attempting to ignore them. He’s shown laying in his room which is bathed in a deep blue light, giving rise to feelings of sadness and deep emotional turmoil in the viewer. We see it again when Tada confronts Teresa at a party and confesses his feelings. The hallway is again bathed in blue. It’s a nice easy way to create emotional impact for a director, and I found these episodes occasionally brought me to tears because of that directing.
And while I don’t necessarily agree with some of the narrative choices of the show, I do generally like the characters and plot of the series. I feel like there’s a lot of dualities to the characters in the show. Teresa is a cultured princess from Europe but is also a major Rainbow Shogun otaku who learned Japanese by watching old reruns of the Japanese drama and can quote specific episodes to a “T”. Alec/Alexandra is Teresa’s bodyguard, someone who is trained in combat and generally doesn’t take any shit from those around her, but she also has an eye for cute things like mugs with flowers on them or fancy chocolates. Ijuin is an outspoken, bordering on annoying friend to Tada, but we see in one episode the lengths he has gone to cheer up his friend on the anniversary of Tada’s parent’s death every year for 10 years straight. We also see him urge Tada to express his feelings and not live with regret, pushing him to chase after Teresa in the end.
I had some reservations with both Teresa and Tada’s characters, but I think in some ways their character development is balanced by the thematic elements of the show. Primarily the discussion of what it means to grow up and how soon should children mature. Both Tada and Teresa were forced from a young age to live more in the adult world than maybe other kids were. With Tada’s parents dying when he was young, he was forced to become an almost caretaker for his younger sister while trying to deal with their death any way he could. This meant closing off his feelings and not letting people get close. But I think it was their death and his connection with his late father that drove Tada to become the photographer that he is. Teresa was also forced to accept more responsibility than I think a normal child has, as she came to understand her place in Larsenburg and how her actions affected other people. She’s a child who knew from a young age who she would marry and where her future was headed, none of it her own choice. These backstories color the characters of Teresa and Tada, giving them an amount of depth that doesn’t necessarily make me feel like Teresa is another “manic pixie dream girl” character come to show Tada the benefits of love.
However, the biggest problem I had with the show was the ending. Teresa makes it a point throughout the show to say that she has made her choice and will go home to Larsenburg to marry and become the next Queen like she’s expected to. Because of this the show takes on a kind of finality to it, a story that has a concrete ending. But that wouldn’t make a satisfying romantic comedy I guess, so while I don’t have a problem with Tada chasing after her, I do have a problem with Teresa coming back to Japan to be with Tada. It honestly just left me with more questions than answers in terms of logic. What happens to Larsenburg? Does Teresa stay in Japan and forsake becoming Queen? She’s the King’s only daughter and heir, so what becomes of the monarchy? Is Tada going to become the next King in the future if he winds of marrying Teresa? Why didn’t Alec come back to Japan with her since she’s still her bodyguard and leaving a Princess without protection seems a little short-sighted? But then this is an anime and sometimes these kind of logical questions don’t necessarily get considered, which then ends up being a detriment to the world-building to leave these questions so open.
Maybe I’m just splitting hairs at this point. Let me know what you thought in the comments below. I’m slowly recovering from whatever motivational slump I was in, so I’m hoping to get some more new posts up this week. Let me know in the comments if there’s also any animes or manga you really want me to cover. I’m still deciding whether or not to bother to review 3D Kanojo. Anyways, keep an eye on my Twitter!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
Edit (7/25/18): Updated the intro, because apparently I’m terrible at remembering names.
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