When Sakura tries confessing her feelings for Nozaki, she mistakenly blurts out that she is his fan not knowing that he is actually the famous shoujo manga author Yumeno Sakiko. With autograph in hand, Sakura decides to use this new knowledge to get closer to Nozaki even if he might never see her as anything other than a friend. But Nozaki has also had his eye on her as well, and enlists her to be his assistant as he goes through the process of researching, creating, and publishing his manga while being generally clueless about love.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun wound up being one of my favorite animes of the summer 2014 season when it aired. It is both hilarious and touching in equal strides as it looks at all the facets of developing a shoujo manga from the creation of a scenario to the development of a manuscript. This anime takes a look at those common romance scenes we see over and over again in manga and puts a twist on them to create some seriously laugh-out-loud moments. While there may not be great follow-through on the romantic moments, in the end, that was never really the point of this series to begin with.
I think this anime is probably one of the firsts outside of music-focused series that really made me aware of the great backing music playing throughout. For one, the opening is great, choosing to go with a more jazzy and up-beat song over a stereotypical J-Pop one that we see in so many other animes in this genre. It’s one of those openings that really sets the tone for the rest of the episodes and honestly got stuck in my head more times than I’d like to admit. But the opening song isn’t the only great music in this show, the backing music makes great use of horns, piano, and string instruments that really help highlight those serious moments in an anime that relies a lot on comedy.
I’m also going to give Studio Doga Kobo, who went on to make New Game! this season, a lot of props for their handling of the animation for this series. Considering that the original comic is only four-panels, what they managed to pull off in both expressions and fluidity of movement makes this all the more enjoyable to watch. Not to mention that the voice actors who were found for each character managed to bring out a wide array of emotions that prompted a lot of great comedic moments.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun uses parody as a way to talk about various aspects of shoujo manga culture. From the classic sharing of an umbrella in the rain scene to double-riding a bike on the way home, Nozaki and Sakura come together in some strange ways to create gags that make you rethink these classics and give new life to them in the process. Nozaki’s general lack of understanding about conventional love and interest in finding new inspirations for his manga lead to scenes filled with action and slap-stick moments that are reminiscent of School Rumble. Each episode explores two of these events, culminating in the creation of Nozaki’s next big chapter. But aside from parodying these moments, what drew me to this anime initially was also the fact that it is essentially an anime about making manga. After her failed confession, Sakura becomes Nozaki’s assistant by helping with the beta work (filling in the flat blacks) on his manuscript. Through this interaction, we get to see how a manuscript is developed and even how an artist would interact with their editor. This kind of behind-the-scenes look at the creative process almost always interests me as an artist myself. While I don’t think it has as much of an in-depth look as say Shirobako, it still provides enough of a peak to keep me interested.
While making great use of parody is one of this anime’s strengths, it also holds a lot of great secondary aspects such as a look at male femininity. Mikorin is a character that is introduced early on as this interesting take on the popular, playboy type with the twist that he is constantly unsure of himself and gets embarrassed really easily. Nozaki ends up using his personality as the basis for the heroine in his manga. To many, Mikorin’s actions of looking for compliments from others, becoming embarrassed or depressed easily, and his shyness around new people can be seen as reminiscent of feminine qualities. When Kashima is then introduced, we see a contrast that really cements this idea in place. Kashima is a tom-boy type who is called Prince by all the girls in school. She uses her boyish charms to win the hearts of pretty much every girl she encounters, but rather than going the yuri route, she holds deep admiration bordering on love for her drama club senpai Hori. Even though Mikorin is used as the basis for a classic heroine, I don’t think anyone thinks less of him for how he acts either as he becomes a central member of the group. Though at times it almost seems that they take his characteristics a little too far and he winds up being more cat than human, but it’s cute nonetheless.
This is also another series where love becomes secondary to friendship in general. While Sakura makes genuine efforts to gain Nozaki’s affections and other characters play with the idea of dating, just wanting to spend time with the person you love becomes paramount. I think after a while of getting to know who Nozaki actually is, she comes to realize that for all his boasting about knowing love, he actually has no concept of what conventional love actually is. He makes it perfectly clear that Sakura would have to explicitly say that she loves him to actually get some form of a real response. There are some genuinely touching moments though that through all the parody really struck a chord with me and made me want to keep watching just to see if they do in fact get together in the end. Besides this, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun plays with the idea of real life versus 2-D life much like Kiss Him, Not Me did. Both Mikorin and Nozaki rely on their knowledge of manga and dating games to be the backdrop for their interactions and understanding of the opposite sex. Like always, this doesn’t work out well and fuels many of the misunderstandings and slap-stick humor that makes this series so great.
If you haven’t had the chance to watch this series yet, I highly recommend it. You can find all 12 episodes on Crunchyroll with full subs. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!
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