Series Review: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (“Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun”)

Yep – still great.

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I don’t think it’s any secret that I love this show. Heck, I wrote an entire essay on why it’s freaking amazing. Hilarious and subversive, progressive and approachable, with one of the most lovable casts in recent anime/manga memory, I truly can’t think of a single thing to criticize about this series. Well… except maybe the fact that it’s only 12 episodes long (for now). I was really hoping for a Season 2 Announcement, but alas. Fingers crossed it could still happen. Until then, there’s always the manga…

Since I did already spend 2500 words talking excitedly about what the series does in terms of challenging the way male/female characters are portrayed in fiction (and since, thanks to The Mary Sue, I’m pretty sure the entire English-speaking Nozaki-kun fandom has READ that article, heh), I’ll try to keep this to general impressions. I’ll even try to NOT sound like a broken record.

Really, there are two things I haven’t properly gushed over that I’d like to do here. The first is a small point, but one I never got to talk about in The Big Essay: Just how spot-on hilarious I find the humor surrounding Nozaki himself. While it seemed at the beginning of the series that he and Sakura were going to take turns being “the straight men” surrounded by eccentrics, Nozaki (and Sakura, though in a different way) turned out to be just as eccentric as any of the people around him.

The guy truly never stopped working, constantly shoving his friends into situations that could lead to good storylines, and never missing an opportunity to do shoujo research, whether that was taking photos of food at a fancy restaurant, plaguing Sakura with “exciting” surprises at school, or forcing his guy friends into a sleepover.

Even better was how he managed to twist his real-life experiences to fit into the expected mold of the shoujo genre while still maintaining a kernel of truth (and, in the process, the series was able to expose the conventions of shoujo AND point out that guys and girls may not be as different as we like to believe). I suspect these scenes are funny for everyone, but as an aspiring writer, they struck me as downright golden, and served as perhaps the longest running gag of the series: Being a writer is hard. But being a writer’s friend? That’s downright brutal.

The second point that’s very much worth mentioning is the incredible consistency of this series. It’s rare to find a comedy that’s funny or at least enjoyable 100% of the time, but there you have it: Nozaki-kun was never not good. Heck – I’d argue that it was always great. While I’m sure a lot of the credit for this goes to some excellent source material (I haven’t actually read the manga yet, although that’s guaranteed to change soon), the anime staff also did a positively bang-up job of adapting the material.

The animation was never jaw-dropping but it always fit the story and mood: Vibrant and colorful, full of chibis and sparkles and glorious facial expressions, with appropriate music and terrific voice work from the entire cast. Scene selection was also excellent, as the staff took a series of 4-panel comics and wove them together into small stories and, in some ways, into a larger story, as characters gradually met one another and story lines from earlier episodes were worked into later ones.

Again, mangaka Izumi Tsubaki crafted a group of wonderful characters and a smart, hilarious premise, but plenty of anime adaptations fail even WITH great source material, so hats off to director Yamazaki Mitsue, writer Nakamura Yoshiko, and the whole team at Dogakobo for knocking this one out of the park.

In a summer season full of surprises both positive and negative, Nozaki-kun remained funny, charming, and pleasantly subversive (and a total troll about romance) from the first minute of its premiere to the last scene of its finale. During premiere week I tagged three shows as “gold nugget” alerts, meaning I thought they could be something truly special. Two of the three took a sharp dive in quality (and other shows appeared out of nowhere to take their places), but I’m happy to say that Nozaki-kun lived up to and in many ways surpassed my expectations. I suspected it was going to be a fun series. But I never would have guessed that it would be a brilliant one, too.

Series Grade: A

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