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Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Episodes #01-02 Anime Review

6 min read
Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun Episodes 1-2
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Episodes 1-2

Girl meets boy. Girl confesses to boy. Boy is oblivious. Boy is a manga artist…of girls’ manga. Hilarity ensues. Actually, it does.

What They Say:
First Issue: “This Love…Is Being Turned Into a Shoujo Manga
Second Issue: “Say Hello to the New Heroine”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Chiyo Sakurai is a high school girl in love with her classmate Nozaki, who looks like he should be the classic tall, dark and handsome love interest for the heroine of a shoujo manga. But he isn’t your normal high school boy, as he’s a top shoujo manga author, whose serial “Let’s Fall in Love,” written under the pen name Sakiko Yumeno, is one of the stars of the manga magazine Monthly Girls’ Romance. Sadly for Chiyo, when she makes her move to confess her feelings to him, she does so in such a comically laughable way that he mistakes her for a fan of his manga, giving her an autographed signboard.

Chiyo confesses her love…
Chiyo confesses her love…

She further mistakes his offer to go back to his place for a rapidly advancing romance. Instead, once there he asks her to help him with the “beta” for his manga‚ the filling in of shadows and dark areas in the manuscript. She does very good work, by the way. It takes Chiyo forever, but she finally realizes that Nozaki is a manga author. So begins this comic look at shoujo romance and shoujo comics written by Izumi Tsubaki, the author of the long-running shoujo manga Oresama Teacher.

As Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is based on an ongoing four-panel comic started in 2011 that runs in Gangan Online, the material is naturally much more humorous in tone and provides the setups for quick, punchline-driven segments. While that’s very apparent from the very first scenes, there is a natural flow to the show which reflects well on the team animation studio Dogakobo put together for the adaptation: director Mitsue Yamazaki and series composition supervisor Yoshiko Nakamura.

…and things go rapidly downhill from there for her love life.
…and things go rapidly downhill from there for her love life.

One of the highlights of the first episode is seeing the contrast between Nozaki’s utter obliviousness to the real world (and Chiyo’s real feelings) and his nuanced and deft handling of his characters’ emotions, especially his female characters, in his manga. Nozaki has a deep understanding of shoujo manga, but not as much of a grasp of real life.

The real draw of the show, at least for me however, is the heroine Chiyo. There is just something very appealing about her and I’m not talking about this from a purely physical standpoint. Her design is adorable and the range of facial expressions she makes during the show does a lot of good work to give the comedy the right timing and force, but it’s the wide-eyed optimism paired with a common sense that leads her to personal disappointment when reality does not match up to desire in her character that just somehow makes for a winning combination. You can’t help but want to root for Chiyo, even if it dawns upon the viewer that Nozaki will have to remain perpetually dense in order for the story to continue.

Mikoshiba a.k.a. "Mikorin"
Mikoshiba a.k.a. “Mikorin”

The second episode begins the task of fleshing out the cast as we get introduced to two new characters: Nozaki’s assistant Mikoshiba and Chiyo’s friend Yuzuki Seo. The two of them are…well, frankly, they’re eccentric exaggerations each in their own way. “Mikorin,” as Nozaki calls his friend/assistant, is a somewhat gaudy handsome boy who is very popular with the girls at school and says things you would expect “a player” to say…but then winds up embarrassed by how stupid he sounds. The upshot to all of it is that Mikorin is the model for one of Nozaki’s characters. Chiyo doesn’t believe Nozaki when he tells her that Mikoshiba is the model for Mamiko, the heroine. But then Chiyo starts reading the manga more closely…and it becomes all too apparent.

Yuzuki Seo…not that she'd notice
Yuzuki Seo…not that she’d notice

Chiyo’s friend Yuzuki Seo enters the frame when Nozaki asks if she knows anyone who might work as a model for a character in a shoujo manga. While Yuzuki is tall, athletic and for some reason popular (in sharp contrast to short and sweet and largely unknown Chiyo), she is also completely oblivious to the annoying and tactless things she says and does to others all the time. While this isn’t the reason why Chiyo introduced her to Nozaki, this is the personality trait he focuses on the most in order to create a new character for his manga…an oblivious boy. The fact that Yuzuki does have one genuine shoujo heroine trait—she is an amazing singer, dubbed the “Lorelei of the Glee Club”—only prompts Nozaki to declare that she’s a fraud.

In a way, this show is both a celebration and a send-up of shoujo manga at the same time. The characters and situations are deliberately cliche on many levels, intentionally so in order to heighten the comedy. Some of the insights it provides into the shoujo world (no cigarettes and alcohol need apply) are both interesting (and fairly well known by most manga/anime fans) and presented in a natural way. For a new fan who does not know the conventions and standard cliches of the audience demographic, this show could be something of a primer, even though it is a comedy the is intentionally aiming at laughter, not instruction.

Our heroine, Chiyo Sakura, getting her hopes (and sparkles) up
Our heroine, Chiyo Sakura, getting her hopes (and sparkles) up

What makes this show work most of all is the cast of characters. I’ve already mentioned how Chiyo just has a winning cheerfulness to her. Nozaki is dense while at the same time very knowledgeable about what makes for good shoujo story content, offering a good foil to Chiyo. Mikoshiba and Seo provide weird friends to highlight the basic sensibility and more grounded nature of Chiyo and Nozaki. Their transformation into characters inside of Nozaki’s manga also provides a good deal of humor.

Fortunately, the animation is up to the task of bringing out the comedic focus of the show. Especially good is the range of expressions on the characters’ faces, notably the wide range of spit-takes given to both Chiyo and Nozaki in reaction to some of the more odd or surprising events which pop up. There is real emotion that can be seen on the characters.

A very good pair of opening episodes for a sweet and funny look at the world of shoujo.

In Summary:
Chiyo Sakura loves her classmate Nozaki, unaware that he’s actually a talented shoujo manga author and artist. When she tries to confess her love for him to him, she makes a mess of it, but winds up being taken on as his manga assistant. What follows is a comedic look at the world of shoujo manga, both the world of its creation and the idealized, fantasy school worlds that shoujo manga are often set within. This is a fun ride so far. Highly recommended.

Episode Grade: A-

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

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