Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anime Review: Monthly Girl's Nozaki-kun

These days I get most of my manga recommendations from tumblr, although "recommendation" makes it sound as if people are specifically telling me to read them. This time around I was following a blog for another series altogether, saw them posting a group of strips from this series and fell head over heels for it, I had to make sure I didn't just reblog every single one I came across! I immediately started hoping for an anime since I knew it would be a tough sell to convince my friends to read scanlated 4koma and thankfully one was announced quite soon after I first discovered it and I then proceeded to hope that I wasn't hyping up the series too much. Fortunately it seems like my friends have all fallen harder for this show than I did and I'm still seeing new people every week, people who don't even watch a lot of anime, picking up the show and falling in love.

Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun)

Sakura Chiyo has admired her classmate Nozaki-kun ever since their high school entrance ceremony but when she finally works up the courage to confess she can only blurt out that she's his fan. While this is a real way to confess in Japan, Nozaki is a bit, dense, he instead gives her his autograph and invites her back to his apartment where it takes Sakura a while to realize that his autograph is of a famous shojo manga-ka and she's doing assistant work for him! But she's not opposed to hanging out with her crush this way and soon enough they're introducing each other to their friends and finding out just what an odd group of people they seem to know.

This is a pitch perfect adaptation, for once I have no major or even moderate quibbles with the show and I actually now prefer many of it's segments to the original 4koma. The source material really is great (and I've peeked at the manga-ka's other major work, Oresama Teacher, published in the US by Viz, and it also seems to have the same madcap, out-there style of humor) but the anime did an amazing job at translating sections of four square images into full fledged scenes and all of the sound effects, music, acting, and even the color and more detailed backgrounds add to it. Plus, if you mention any of those things you'll invertible be reminded of a gag or two from the series, I was initially afraid that people who didn't read as much shojo wouldn't get all the jokes but it's remarkably accessible and if you've been an anime/manga fan for a couple of years you'll have no trouble seeing what ideas they're playing with and parodying.

Unlike some other humor shows, the gags in Nozaki-kun come almost exclusively from character actions and interactions with each other, not from the characters noticing and interacting with something in their setting (unlike Haikyuu!! from last week or G.A. Art Design Class which have both kinds). It does all of this without being mean-spirited, we're not laughing that Kashima gets mistaken for being a prince (a guy) more often than people realize she's a girl but at how she's completely charmed her classmates to the point that they would rather flirt with her than actual guys at a mixer!* Josei Next Door talks even more about the gender-bending that goes on in the show (stereotype-wise anyway) and this seems like a good point to mention a detail that many people didn't know going into the show, despite how much it lampoons shojo manga tropes this is from a shonen manga. Abet one that has a bit of a wider readership to start with but I think this is also a sign of just how solidly Izumi Tsubaki gets the humor and not just that. Not only does the story flow easily when neither Nozaki nor Sakura are on screen but none of the situations would work if you replaced one character with another, every character has a well-defined personality and faults that lend themselves better to some situations than others, although if you match up any two characters you'll be sure to get something funny.

In short, if you are a regular reader of this blog then this series will be right up your alley and even if you aren't I recommend giving the series a shot, it's only 12 episodes, streaming on crunchyroll and hulu, and Sentai Filmworks has picked it up for a physical release in the US. The manga isn't licensed yet and while there hasn't been a second season announcement for the anime yet I'm optimistic, the anime has sold well and given the manga sales in Japan a nice bump which is always a good sign. And I do highly recommend G.A. Art Design Class and think that a lot of Nozaki-kun fans who liked the art gags would really enjoy, it's also only 12 episodes and on crunchyroll so that can help fill the gap for a little bit at least!

*I saw someone, I've forgotten who, propose that the reason we see so many of the girls going along with Kashima and Mikorin's flirtations, and so happily, is because of how "safe" these two characters are, Kashima clearly doesn't have any intention to seduce these girls into a real romantic relationship and there have got to be other people than the Nozaki-assistant-gang that have noticed that Mikorin turns into a puddle of embarrassment each time he says something cool. And I rather like that idea since it fits into one of the general themes of Nozaki-kun, real life isn't very romantic and rather silly to boot, and these silly friend-flirtations certainly match up with what I've seen some of my mostly-straight groups of girl-friends do before (I would say I've seen some of my guy friends do this as well and then I remember just how queer my group of friends is).

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