Love is in the air even though Valentine’s Day has long passed.
What They Say:
Final Issue: “If This Feeling Isn’t Love, Then There Is No Love in the World”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
By this point, you all know the drill: Chiyo’s romantic yearnings will be explored but there will be no furthering of the romance since this work from the start has been more about playfully skewering the girls’ romance genre than sincerely following through on the formulas and expectations.
We start with Chiyo recounting to her female classmates, who were discussing the types of things boys might give to them and any hidden meanings those objects might have, her attempts to give chocolates to the boy she likes (Nozaki, though none of them know that) back on Valentine’s Day, which has already passed. None of her chances panned out well (of course). That’s because Nozaki was constantly being distracted by rumors and reports of people being involved in romantic situations that day, which he wanted to witness for his manga. The objects of affection get progressively stranger as the day progresses, naturally.
For hilarious contrast, we see Valentine’s from Nozaki’s perspective, as he is overjoyed at all the color and excitement…which he can put into his manga. But it’s also the day where he makes the mistake of knocking White Day (the boys’ return present day) since it feels bland in comparison to him. The mistake is that the girls in his class overhear him and put him on the blacklist of those not to be given “obligation” chocolate, the consolation (not romantic) chocolate girls will give to male classmates on the day. His male classmates also get the wrong idea from all his excitement, as the next they ask Nozaki about the chocolates he received and he received…none.
In the second part, we come to what is taking shape to be a mini-climax of sorts from the preview last week: the festival. Summer festivals are a common setting for romantic events in manga, though the show starts it off by playing things straight as Chiyo, Yuzuki and Kashima intend to go together, just the girls. While Yuzuki and Kashima opt for casual modern wear, Chiyo goes with the traditional yukata. They’re joined by Mikorin who also is in a yukata and happily acts a “girl’s” part by engaging in mutual admiration with Chiyo on their clothing choice. If anything, Mikorin feels that something is off with Yuzuki and Kashima looking like boys and the lack of other men in traditional summer garb, but his opinions seems shaped more by what he sees in dating sims than reality, so of course we know whose perspective is actually flawed.
As can be easily guessed, the rest of the main cast will show up at this festival, Nozaki and Hori separately having the same exact thought: this would be a good place to get reference shots and ideas for the manga. People meet and separate, as is natural at such an event and it was inevitable that Chiyo and Nozaki would cross paths. Here perhaps is the big romantic moment, but Chiyo has finally realized that Nozaki is all about the manga and oblivious to the real live girl in front of him so she doesn’t get her hopes up…only to be surprised by Nozaki and wonder if she still can’t quite read his thoughts.
As the two go off to an area where there’s a better view of the fireworks, Chiyo is suddenly reminded of how the two first met, which we’ve not been show up to this point except in a single shot lacking all context. In the opening animation to the show, we’ve seen Nozaki lifting up Chiyo every time but it’s only now that we learn that this was a real event, not just a random opening animation shot. On the day of the Entrance Ceremony, Chiyo mistakenly took the wrong train and was late to school, finding the locked and barred gate in front of her. But atop the gate was a sleeping Nozaki (with muscle relaxing pads on his hands and neck). As Chiyo is rather small and unable to climb over the gate herself, Nozaki had lifted her up and over it that day. What brings this to mind is the callback we get here as Nozaki again lifts Chiyo up, this time atop of a jungle gym which the two use as a perch to watch the fireworks.
In a scene that builds to a romantic climax, with the season closing montage and ending credits rolling in-between, Chiyo winds up inadvertently confessing her feelings to Nozaki. This time she gets it right, not calling herself a fan, but saying straight out that she likes him. But this is Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. I need not say anything about the eventual response which comes after the end credits have finished.
For my tastes, there were basically two consistently funny comedies this entire season. One of them was Barakamon, the gentle slice-of-life comedy about an uptight calligraphy master from Tokyo learning to unwind and re-engage with life in a backwater island town. The other was this show, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, a loving send up of pretty much the entire shoujo romance genre. Izumi Tsubaki, the author of the long-running shoujo manga Oresama Teacher, has revisited the landscape with a satirical eye but a warm heart as this is not meant to be a nasty or mean-spirited deconstruction of the genre.
From our stalwart and clueless male lead to the cast of increasingly strange eccentrics who populate the school and the larger world, the show offers a fun and cheerful perspective on the limits of girlish romance and the way that the real world operates very differently. That so many male high school students would be so intensely involved with a girls’ romance manga beggars belief, but then that’s part of the point: the image that readers have of the origin of their favorite stories can be quite different from the reality (note: a good many real world manga authors publish under pseudonyms, as Nozaki does, so while it’s hard to say it has already happened, it’s not utterly impossible that some popular shoujo manga out there may well have been started by a high school boy writing under a woman’s name).
One of the keys, of course, to any show is the power and presence of the main focus character, which in this case is Chiyo Sakura, the ostensible shoujo heroine in this work. She has many of the traits of common sincere girls’ romance heroines, being plucky and cheerful while being neither outrageously proportioned (if anything Chiyo is underdeveloped physically) nor beautiful in a vampy manner. While she might appear to be a regular shoujo heroine, Chiyo is not just a “straight man” in a bizarro-version of a normal girls’ romance world commenting on the ludicrous action going on around her. Her futile attempts to engage Nozaki (who acts like a “straight man” but is anything but one in practice) in real life romance are part of the longest-running joke of the series, what sets this apart from a more straightforward girls’ romance. While at times a foil to the strangeness of Nozaki or cluelessness of her friend Yuzuki, Chiyo herself was central to the show’s visual humor as she was given many of the best “spit takes” in response to the lunacy of the others.
What perhaps sets this apart from “boys” comedies is that there was not much in the way of mean-spirited or detracting humor (humor created at the expense of one of the characters). It’s not that the characters do not come in for criticism from others for humorous effect at all, but there was in general a lack of meanness or malice (except towards Maeno, which was quite well deserved). It worked best when it was looking at this lunatic asylum of shoujo tropes and effectively highlighting their absurdity in comparison to reality. Perhaps the only criticism is that toward the end of the run, there was a bit of repetition occurring, as the same gags appeared for the same characters, even if the exact framing of the gag was new.
It will be interesting to see in the future if the humor plays well again upon a rewatch, but as a show viewed on a weekly basis it was one of the most consistently entertaining this season.
Season Grade: A
Episode Grade: A-
Streamed by: Crunchyroll
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