Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

MONTHLY GIRLS’ NOZAKI-KUN

Watched via Crunchyroll

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun may initially seem anti-shoujo, but if anything it is a pleasant reimagining of the genre. In a time where girls’ manga series are all about an ugly girl falling in love with a dreamy heart throb, it is refreshing to find a series which pokes fun at the whole genre while maintaining the aspects which make the genre so appealing like well-placed humor and rewarding friendships. Like many series that have come before it, MGN begins with a love confession. Chiyo has adored Nozaki from afar ever since the first day of school together. When she finally confesses her feelings to him, he misconstrues her feelings for fan adoration. He is, after all, a highly successful manga-ka.

Giving her his autograph, Nozaki offers for her to join him in his apartment. Hoping to fuel a relationship with Nozaki, Chiyo follows him to his apartment, only to find herself employed as his newest manga assistant. While Nozaki remains oblivious to her feelings, Chiyo never lets this get her down. Over the course of the series she continues to aimlessly pursue Nozaki, while in the meantime making new and interesting friendships with a whole cast of his assistants.

Typically, the postponed relationship development would drive me crazy, but I actually enjoy the lack of all romance in this series. It helps highlight the humor and friendships developed within the story while demonstrating how ridiculous shoujo manga and love triangles really are. While episodes are rather episodic, they stand as a means of contrasting the differences between the “real world” and fantasy. The writer really found a way to play up these aspects of long-running shoujo without wearing out its welcome.

I agree, I think the best thing about Nozaki-kun is how it delays any romantic satisfaction while playing around with “potential” relationships between people who are completely unsuited for a relationship. Shoujo manga tend to pair together people for the hell of it, and Nozaki-kun makes me actually think about how various characters would fare in a relationship (the answer: horribly) instead of accepting them like a blind fangirl.

PLOT: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun opens with the hopeful Chiyo getting up the nerve to ask out the tall, stoic Nozaki, a boy she likes, and failing miserably. To be more specific, Chiyo tells him she’s his fan, and he whips out a sign board, writing her a message from “Sakiko Yumeno” complete with a giant heart. Turns out, Nozaki’s a shoujo manga-ka, and Chiyo’s in for the time of her life convincing him to see her in a romantic light.

To wit, once Chiyo’s confession has been misunderstood, Nozaki invites her to his apartment, and she eagerly follows, hoping that he might just be asking her out on a date anyway. Instead, Nozaki asks Chiyo to begin filling in black sections of his manga (she’s in the art club), and she agrees to be his manga assistant for the chance to spend more time with him. Nozaki-kun is rife with these kinds of misunderstandings and Chiyo getting her hopes up, despite the fact that she knows better.

Throughout the rest of the show, Chiyo meets Nozaki’s other assistants, who also serve as sources of inspiration for his manga. The show has some of the day-to-day experience of working on a manga, such as figuring out where certain scenes are meant to be set, as well as Nozaki doing misguided research on storylines. The format plays out as very gimmick-of-the-week, but Nozaki-kun manages to keep the jokes humorous throughout the show and ends before anything feels overused, which I think is a great blessing with a comedy series like this. Comedy series can overstay their welcomes pretty easily, especially when there isn’t much character development, but Nozaki-kun manages to keep things fresh all while skewering every aspect of shoujo manga in a lighthearted way.

I don’t know how the manga turns out, but I think this series is well paced out and is set up in such a way that it can still end up with the happily ever after, all the while postponing enjoyment for humor in the present.

SETTING: Just like every other shoujo series out there, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun has an impossible premise. Nozaki-kun is a famous shoujo manga-ka, despite having no real world relationship experience and being absolutely clueless and lacking total empathy. Somehow he is able to reimagine the world of crazy antics around him and turn them into the perfect idealization of every young-hearted girl aspiring to be loved.

Taking it to the next level of modernity, Nozaki of course attends high school, where a girl falls madly in love with him after misidentifying his personality at the entrance ceremony. The two end up in an odd relationship-of-sorts where she lingers around him trying to become noticed while helping him make manga. This setting couldn’t get any more mundane or stereotypical, but somehow that is what makes it so perfect. Every joke made at the expense of the setting and plot just adds to the validity of this series and its mockery of shoujo.

Since I have seen a couple of shows about making manga (and Crystal mentioned it) I’ll just say I enjoyed this aspect of worldbuilding the most in this series. Rather than talk about the boring technical aspects, this series explores influences and how ideas come to be. As an artist, I find a lot of humor in seeing how something beautiful can come out of a total mishap. There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing how Nozaki lucks his way through his career by sheer power of BS (believe me, I know very good artists exactly like that).

SETTING: Nozaki-kun takes place in a typical Japanese high school, like many of the shoujo manga it makes fun of. The show follows around both Chiyo and Nozaki so as to make the most jokes about its premise—there are jokes about Chiyo’s hopes for a stereotypical shoujo romance and jokes about Nozaki’s inability to understand normal high school girls’ emotions. Furthermore, the show introduces characters of the standard types and explores all of the basic scenarios (Valentine’s Day, etc.), always using the twist of Nozaki’s profession to make it funny and new instead of just retreading the same old ground.

As far as the manga production side of the show, I haven’t watched enough anime about making manga to say anything other than I was entertained and interested to see the process at work. It’s also fun to see how easily things can fall apart or how much sway the editors have over the authors, especially when Nozaki-kun pursues those ideas pretty far in order to make good jokes. Considering that I’ve avoided all of the other anime about making manga, it’s pretty nice to find one that’s up my alley, since it’s it gives me more insight into one of my favorite media.

CHARACTERS: I’ve been dying to talk about the cast. I think this is the strongest aspect of the series. Each character manages to be a “type” while reveling in flaws. Nozaki-kun may be the light of Chiyo’s life, but he is rather cold and unobservant. Even when she describes her crush to him, he notices how she has bad taste in men and tells her whoever she likes sounds like a loser.

Chiyo herself isn’t quite the stereotypical heroine. While she is adorable and sweet and wants to get swept away in romance, she is able to notice the reality in every situation. Slowly, throughout the series Chiyo begins to envision her relationship developing but is constantly, and humorously, disappointed time and again by Nozaki’s lack of acknowledgement. Soon she begins to realize it is all in her head and is able to pin-point when she is getting her hopes up. This is the perfect character development, as it keeps the series lively (after all, that’s the best time for real development to happen).

The rest of the cast plays a bit with tropes and gender roles. I like that Nozaki observes those around him but filters them into shoujo types. Women and men switch roles and become their idealized selves in the pages but remain flawed and interesting in real life. I especially love the relationship between super star Kashima and her sempai from the drama club, Hori. While his short stature and bad temper keep him from being a star on the stage, he uses his energy to keep those around him in line. Both are an unlikely duo, but they manage to demonstrate how sometimes bad fits are better than glamorous ones.

In addition to these two, I really enjoy the antics of Mikoshiba, who is the model for Nozaki’s main shoujo heroine. While he comes across as a slick womanizer, he actually gets embarrassed easily and knows nothing about relationships. Nozaki and Chiyo become his good friends and help him feel comfortable accepting himself for who he really is. Not to get too into it, but I like how this series demonstrates that it is okay to be a delicate young man, unsure of himself, and to be a powerful and charismatic young woman. People become more than their shoujo types and demonstrate how friendships, honesty, and devotion can go further than love, which in all honesty is what shoujo is all about.

CHARACTERS: Nozaki-kun is full of good characters who all fit into basic types (the cheerful girl, the stoic guy) but are made entertaining in their own right through the show. Chiyo, in particular, is more compelling than I’d initially suspected, primarily because she so desperately wants her life to work out like a shoujo manga but runs into Nozaki’s idiocy at every step of the way. As someone who’s read shoujo manga since middle school, I understand the genre’s pull, and I totally get Chiyo’s disappointment at every turn with Nozaki. Despite myself, I kept getting my hopes up, desperately wanting something to trigger that nice shoujo waffiness within their relationship. Alas, this is not a shoujo anime, and I was constantly (and humorously) let down.

Externally, Nozaki is a perfect shoujo hero, as he’s tall and stoic like Mori-senpai from Ouran High School Host Club and voiced by the voice actor of Ryu from Kimi ni Todoke. However, this is actually a perfect bait-and-switch, as in reality Nozaki’s incredibly interested in the ideas behind shoujo manga (even if he isn’t romantic at all) and not at all a cool guy. I thought this juxtaposition in appearance and personality stayed funny throughout the show, and the show gives enough hints about Nozaki’s thoughts outside of shoujo manga (and maybe romantically!) to keep things interesting.

The remainder of the cast is filled out by Nozaki’s other assistants, a few classmates who serve as manga inspiration, and others working within the manga world. Surprisingly, no one feels like a boring stereotype, and the jokes behind every character don’t get old, either. Nozaki-kun does an excellent job of balancing and developing its secondary characters in a way that’s both meaningful and funny. My favorite may be Mikoshiba, who acts like a playboy but gets insanely embarrassed about it later (and who is also the basis for Nozaki’s manga heroine), but each character’s likable in their own right. I wish all anime had such pleasant casts, because I would’ve loved to spend more time with Nozaki-kun’s crew.

I keep mentioning “flaws”, but I think this is a good time to point out that these characters aren’t flawed by some deep dark secret. They are just normal everyday people, and the show demonstrates that being normal is still something to be happy about.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The animation for this show was rather standard. Being located in a high school/apartment helps cut down on the costs of animation. The backgrounds are all simple enough that the budget could go to other areas. What was great about the humor of the show was that the writers pointed these facts out and made the most of it. There was even an episode devoted to backgrounds and how manga-ka cut corners or don’t know how to draw perspective. Having taught several drawing classes, including perspective drawing, I couldn’t help but bust a gut laughing at how ridiculous the artists were being with their lack of technical ability.

The characters weren’t anything new, but what I liked most about them was seeing how they were transcribed into Nozaki’s manga. There are even hints at how Chiyo’s character becomes adapted into various characters, showing her connection both to his manga and to Mikoshiba’s dating games. Another aspect of the character designs that I appreciate is how the designs don’t always match the type associated with it. By all means Nozaki should be the silent, tall, devoted type, but instead he is completely absent-minded.

Oh man, the boxes Nozaki has characters stand on to fix the perspective! He even wants them to become a popular shoujo accessory! We should get one to carry around and stand on whenever we need to add some dramatic perspective to our lives.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: To be honest, I don’t remember many particulars about the animation of Nozaki-kun. I’m sure it was perfectly fine, as most anime are right now, but no scenes stand out in my memory as being particularly good or bad. On the other hand, the show does have an excellent sense of comic timing, using it to bolster the innate humor of the scenarios it uses and making this one of the funnier shows I’ve seen lately. Nozaki-kun regularly had me laughing out loud and pausing the show to explain jokes to my fiancé, which is as much the job of the animators as it is of the writers.

Nozaki-kun also has very attractive characters in a standard shoujo way, befitting its nature, to the point where I can draw lines between the appearances of every character in this show and a character in another show. Most importantly, all of the characters are attractive in the appropriate ways for a shoujo-esque series. Chiyo’s cute but nondescript, while Nozaki and Mikoshiba are typical bishounen of various sorts. There’s a princely female à la Takarazuka, as well as Chiyo’s best friend who’s pretty but in a tomboy-ish, non-threatening way. All of the basic shoujo visual types are here, ready to play together and make havoc while looking appropriately nice and bright for this joyride of a show.

OVERALL: I can’t really agree with Crystal on the fact that non-shoujo fans will like this series, but I do think it is a definite watch for fans who regularly devour the genre. It is nice to see a new twist on the genre which shakes things up a bit while still giving us all the parts we enjoy. Believe me, I have read my fair share of shoujo manga, both good and bad, mostly bad, and this series highlights all the ups and downs while leaving out nothing.

I feel like I’m continually pointing out the obvious, so I’ll just keep it short and say, this is definitely a shoujo series and it is definitely a comedy. With those two aspects together, it is perhaps the best comedy shoujo series that I’ve enjoyed, at least in the last year or two. I can’t say it’s the best, but it sure fits at the top of my list. If you like comedy or shoujo you should do yourself a favor, stop reading this review and just watch the show. It’s not too often you get to see real comedy in a shoujo series and get a laugh out of it.

OVERALL: As someone who’s been unironically devouring shoujo manga for most of my life, watching Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun feels like having my cake and eating it, too. The show brings in all of the basics of shoujo manga, from the cute moments to the character designs, while also intelligently lampooning the genre and its tropes. Considering how difficult it is to find worthy shoujo manga as an adult, this show’s gentle mockery of shoujo storylines is wholly welcome, bringing new life and enjoyment to something that’s increasingly difficult for me to mindlessly enjoy. That said, Nozaki-kun is also just plain funny, to the extent that I don’t think you’d need to be a shoujo fan to enjoy it. Sure, liking shoujo manga and knowing the tropes will increase your enjoyment of it, but I think anyone could get into this show based on its essential strengths. It’s a great slice of lighthearted fun that’s just long enough without overstaying its welcome and dulling the jokes, so if you like comedy anime, go ahead and watch this. And if you like shoujo manga, …why haven’t you watched this already?!

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)
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2 thoughts on “Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

  1. Actually this series is technically a shounen, since its manga is published through a medium that is directed at the shounen demographic. But as it’s a shounen series ABOUT shoujo manga, it draws in an audience of all genders fairly equally, which is reflected in polling, at least in Japan.

    Nice review, I liked getting to read all the comments from two different people on the same series. It’s always nice to see what different people have to say, especially for a show like this with an eclectic cast.

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