Greetings to all you wonderful readers of the Mind of the Hybrid One; let me introduce myself. My name is Scott_PJ or “Scojo,” and I have offered to help the creator as he has been working on some original content. As our blog likes to cover as many current anime as possible, I’d like to cover a few forgotten gems, personal favorites, and some fun retrospectives of shows that made a statement.
A few years ago, I got burned out on Japan’s sense of style, comedy, and romance that put me in a real negative funk against the medium. Part of that happened when I helped The Hybrid One write some blurbs against the travesty of humanity known as Kanokon. However, thanks to anime titles such as Madoka Magica, Space Dandy, and Kill La Kill, I have come back to the genre with a revived sense of splendor. Now as I’d like to go back on anime I’ve really come to appreciate throughout the years; I’d like to focus on a really good show that just came out last season. And many people I’ve talked to consider it to be the funniest anime to come out in years.
So let’s start off this new author by reviewing Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-Kun or Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun!
Series Director: Mitsue Yamazaki
Series Composition: Yoshiko Nakamura
Screenwriter: Yoshiko Nakamura
Original Author: Izumi Tsubaki
Character Design: Junichiro Taniguchi
Art Director: Jirou Kouno
Animation Production: Doga Kobo
Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks
Synopsis: High school student Chiyo Sakura has a crush on schoolmate Umetarō Nozaki, but when she confesses her love to him, he mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. When she says that she always wants to be with him, he invites her to his house and has her work as an inker. Chiyo discovers that Nozaki is actually the renowned shōjo manga artist named Sakiko Yumeno. She then agrees to be his assistant in order to get closer to him. As they work on his manga, they encounter other schoolmates who assist them to make his manga “Let’s Fall in Love” a success.
You can feel the comedic, 4koma atmosphere as many episodes set up and transition through jokes like Lucky Star or Seitokai Yaukuindomo. What gives Nozaki-kun the edge is that not every joke is pushed along only through humdrum conversations. Some of the best gags come from funny flashbacks or revealing a critical flaw of being a bad writer. There are lots of funny moments of Nozaki trying to re-imagine a romantic plot device to expand to different audiences, but he never quite succeeds. Many of the inspirations for the written manga come from watching the protagonists’ circle of friends with a careful balance of friendship and parodied investigation. The show not only succeeds at being a funny send-up of shōjo themes, but works as a strong romantic-comedy in its own right.
The friends, as they are shown in the really catchy opening song, are a decently diverse set of characters with their own charms and quirks. The best is probably Nozaki’s best friend Mikoshiba, who comes off as being suave and cool, but is secretly very aloof and embarrassed of his attempts to attract women. With these traits, Nozaki based the female protagonist in his manga off of him. The list continues on with Chiyo’s best friend, Seo, who is not only a punk girl with a mean streak and voice like a goddess but also the duo of Kashima and Hori from the drama club who often get involved with the mangaka’s shenanigans.
As funny as those two are, they have one of my few, big issues with the show that’s just a weak trend of comedic anime in general. Hori often attacks Kashima when her princely appearance and attitude disrupts the drama club, despite being a woman. I’m not a fan when this more commonly happens with the genders reversed, but it’s somehow even more uncomfortable here with Kashima’s not-so-subtle crush on Hori. Especially when most of the time, it isn’t her fault as her female “followers” tend to ruin most things. Why yell at Kashima instead of the actual problem of the obnoxious fan-girls?
Thankfully this is made up for with more of the funny side characters that bring out Nozaki’s strong feelings. His editor, an overweight, no-nonsense man named Ken, is the most serious character in the show. All he wants to do is publish the manga despite Nozaki’s weird ideas and surprisingly doting attitude to him. That really comes into play as Nozaki’s former editor, Maeno, is constantly driving fellow mangaka/neighbor Yukari mad from his narcissistic, aloof ideas and obsession to insert Tanukis into everything. Although these side characters don’t contribute that much to the show, they are really great at fleshing out the main protagonist’s emotional depth.
Gag-heavy animes are incredibly hit or miss when it comes to the humor as they often go too broadly or stay too closely within the genre’s comfortably clichéd bosom. These characters feel real for the most part, despite clashing a bit too often. The only fanservice comes from the (what I assume was intentional) character designs and Chiyo’s high expectations for romantic conquest. The fact that it trends this line so carefully is what has made it so such successful parody, similar to what was great about Ouran High School Host Club.
One of the best examples of this is the 4th episode, where Mikoshiba and Nozaki get advice for talking to girls by playing Dating Sims. But wait, it gets better than that, as Nozaki tries to push his own manga plot-line into the dating game to Mikoshiba’s frustration. The best part is as they play through the entire game, they realize the best character for the protagonist romantically is his ever-supportive male best friend. It makes them want to create fan-fiction regarding that flaw in the video game and it’s glorious.
In the second half, the plot starts to move into giving the characters specific arcs. Hori and Kashima are trying to script and act out a play, while Seo and Nozaki’s basketball kohai Wakamatsu are slowly creating a romantic friendship. These play out decently as the others get comfortably wrapped into subplots such as Kashima learning to sing or Wakamatsu trying to find ways to counter his insomnia. Around this point, the humor does slightly stale as the characters are almost blissfully unaware of how everyone feels for the one another, but it isn’t the central focus. The friendship really grows into different teams as it goes along. One of the funniest moments is when Nozaki has a sleepover with the guys, but is secretly using all of their hobbies as inspiration for a girls’ slumber party in his manga. The later half is filled with great potential and mostly succeeds.
That’s what makes Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun so wonderfully fun. Nozaki isn’t just the straight-faced, ever-oblivious male character, he’s incredibly confident and wants to do whatever he can to make the best shōjo series. Chiyo isn’t just a romantic cipher, she cares for all of her friends and still wants to be grounded even with her obsessive flaws. There’s some good satire too, as they explore in a few scenes how Nozaki is a better housewife than Chiyo could be. It goes to show that you can make a really funny anime that isn’t so painfully dependent on everyone’s shortcomings.
Going back to the negatives, some critics have debated about the ending of the anime feeling as a copout or lacking progression. I really loved the ending though because it really encapsulates what the series is all about with the humor and the blossoming relationships. And this is the type of show that could easily continue on into a second season with more jokes, more characters, and more ways to skewer the country’s depiction of romantic comedies. And as much as I like the opening theme, the ending theme is too fluffy and sappy for the theme of the show. This might sound like a nitpick, but there are often additional scenes past the credits you need to see as build-up for the next episode.
Final Verdict: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is a delight to watch and really delivers on some needed comedy within modern anime. It might stick too closely to some obnoxious conventions, but it’s going to remembered as being one of the best laugh-out-loud shows to come out in a while. No matter how things may look, Chiyo and Nozaki are ever entertaining, grounded duo that you genuinely root for and hope they become close later on.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is currently available on Crunchyroll and is licensed by Sentai Filmworks. The original manga is ongoing, written by Izumi Tsubaki and published by Gangan Online/Square Enix.
For more of his work, you can find it on the site One of Us.