What They Say:
You know how the story goes: girl crushes on guy, girl confesses feelings to guy, guy mistakes confession for a job application. Okay, maybe that’s not how it usually goes, but that’s what happens when Chiyo Sakura finally gets up the nerve to tell her classroom crush Nozaki how she feels. Since she doesn’t know that he’s secretly a manga artist who publishes under a female pen name, and he doesn’t know that she doesn’t know, he misunderstands and offers her a chance to work as his assistant instead of a date! But while it’s not flowers and dancing, it is a chance to get closer to him, so Chiyo gamely accepts. And when Nozaki realizes how useful Chiyo can be in figuring out what girls find romantic, he’ll be spending even more time with her “researching” while remaining completely clueless. Could Chiyo’s romantic frustration possibly get any more drawn out of proportion? The answer will be profusely illustrated in MONTHLY GIRL’S NOZAKI-KUN!
Japanese and English language audio are encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. The sound has a delightful balance where dialog never seems constrained by the background music, and many sound effects have a naturalistic or at least painterly detailing of a scene. Overall, the sound production offers both restraint and surprises beyond many of the releases in the last year.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. Color depth and quality have been maintained throughout the series. The protagonist’s orange hair and the vibrant settings all offer an immersive experience for the viewer. While watching from a normal distance, no visual artifacts interrupted the viewing.
The standard size keepcase holds three discs. Two hubs are located on a hinged leaf and one hub is on the inside of the back cover. The front cover has been sectioned off like manga panels with all of the main characters posed in ways that demonstrate their personalities. The spine has a picture of a tanuki at the top, the title in the center, and a knee up image of Sakura in her school uniform appearing to talk to someone walking beside her. The back has many details with polka dot and checkerboard fields. At the top appear chibi versions of characters on a three-seat bicycle. Below that are seven images from the series. The summary appears on black font on a white field, and Nozaki and Sakura stand beside it looking at the viewer. Each disc is printed with panels that include close-ups of the characters.
Each disc offers an image of the characters on the right side, and on the left, the menu on graph paper with cartoon numbers and the title written in black font. Disc 1 has an image of Nozaki and Sakura with episodes 1 through 4, Languages, and Special features listed on the menu. Those special features are the clean opening and closing. Disc 2 includes an image of Nozaki with his assistants and props from the series around them. Episodes 5 through 8 and Languages are on the menu. Disc 3 has an image of the other manga professionals and a tanuki. The menu includes episodes 9 through 12, Languages, and Special features. The special features menu includes chibis of the manga professionals. The Nozaki-kun shorts has an image of tanukis with Nozaki and Sakura in tanuki costumes.
Nozaki-kun shorts: This series of six shorts tells a story that follows the final episode, Japanese Promos, Japanese Commercials, and Clean Open and Closing
A good slice of life requires characters who you want to watch as they go through the mundane life and find challenges and rewards in the ups and downs. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun operates on many levels as the characters expose their true selves in the apartment of a high school manga artist.
Our central heroine is Chiyo Sakura. She paints in the art club and has a crush on Nozaki, a tall, emotionless classmate. With a stoic face and an inability to understand the actions of the people right in front of him, he misunderstands when Sakura struggles to tell him she has a romantic interest in him. Nozaki knows Sakura’s work in the art club, and misinterprets her compliment as she likes his work. He gives her an autograph, and after another failed attempt to communicate, asks her to come home with him where he puts her to work doing beta on his drawings.
While this could be a sappy romantic comedy focused on one misunderstanding after another, what we have equates to a much more realistic portrayal of personalities in a group of school friends and acquaintances. Not only does Nozaki keep his profession a secret, he has several others who covertly lend their talents to the art and their personalities to his stories. As each is introduced, the web of Nozaki’s life becomes more complex. Each character plays off others, and through the show, these interactions demonstrate a high level of character development for a 12 episode series.
One of the series most remarkable features is the deconstruction of gender. Nozaki copies his heroine’s personality from Mikoshiba, a fashionable guy who seems very popular, but as we quickly learn, he has very low self-esteem and requires constant flattery or he tends to hide from attention. Nozaki patterns his male protagonist on Kashima, a tall, masculine girl who is the “prince” of the school and has all the girls fawning over her. Other gender bending occurs when he patterns a male character on the obnoxious and aggressive Seo and a female character on Wakamatsu. Strangely, even Nozaki can see these characteristics and develop stories around them, but he remains functionally limited in understanding how girls and boys really interact with each other and together as he sees life as possibilities based on tropes in shojo mangas.
Unique in the relationships, Nozaki sees Sakura as a girl who would be a good heterosexual model for him to gain understanding. While she spends most of her time working for Nozaki, she also becomes the target of Nozaki’s unrealistic view of romance as he tries out story ideas. Most of these are failures that leave Sakura frustrated. Sakura becomes not only his work partner but his practice date.
Nozaki’s apartment becomes the epicenter for many of the characters learning about themselves and how to interact in the world. Mikoshiba plays girl games with Nozaki to learn how to communicate with girls, but Nozaki becomes frustrated that his shojo manga tropes don’t apply to the relationships in the game. To help with the manga, Mikoshiba draws flourishes to highlight the characters. Masayuki Hori directs plays, and he secretly draws backgrounds for Nozaki. He interacts with Kashima as directs her play of the lead hero, and he seems to have tensions and antagonisms about how he feels toward his female prince. Easy going Wakamatsu finds himself the target of the aggressive Seo, but he also begins an informal relationship with her. Unknown to him, she sings beautifully, and he falls for the voice that can sing him to sleep. While happy to have Wakamatsu apply screentones, Nozaki’s knowing Seo can sing wreck’s his ability to write the character he created based on her. When Nozaki tried to tell people he was a manga artist, they laughed at him, so he hides under his pseudonym. The apartment and the workspace they share have become a safe place where, by playing with manga, they can learn more about people in the greater world, each other, and themselves.
This is the space where Sakura finds herself sitting and shading Nozaki’s drawings. She looks up and mentally questions both him and her perception of him. She grows as a part of this creative world while learning how to be with Nozaki and how to see a person beyond her romantic desires.
Colorful character designs, vibrant backgrounds, and appropriate music create a world where romantic feelings can easily get confused with the tropes of shojo romance manga. Through 12 episodes, all of the featured characters grow and develop in believable scenes of their own failures and successes. It is easy to like our protagonist, Sakura. She never acts naive to the point of blindness and always evaluates herself and the actions of others in a way that always gives her agency in her interactions. As a romance, the series has moments, but the focus really is on the relationships of all the primary characters as they interact. The person who watched this with me spontaneously said she liked the characters. For me, those characters become fully realized as they create a manga that caricatures their own personalities. To see people understand their own traits as meta behaviors offers a rich depth of meaning that saturates the entire series.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, English 2.0 language, Nozaki-kun shorts, Japanese promos, Japanese commercials, Clean Open and Closing, and Sentai trailers.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 29th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.