I thought Nazo no Kanojo X was just slightly off its game last week. It was still a very good episode, but the first one that didn’t quite “wow” me. Well, not so this week as things were back in high gear all-around. In a way this might have been the most “normal” episode of the series thus far, but MGX actually does normal quite well when it sets about it. That’s what makes all the bizarre and gross stuff so effective – there are a few shows that are going the contrast route this season (Sankarea comes to mind) but in this series, rather than discordant the contrast seems quite natural and seamless.
Fundamentally I think the real genius of this show is giving us a genuinely innocent teen romance, featuring two inexperienced protagonists, and packaging it with some of the oddest fetishes (you can add sweat-licking to the list of bodily-fluid tasting) in anime. In a sense MGX is all about teens doing totally normal stuff in completely abnormal ways, and that makes for a fascinating viewing experience. And as we’re getting to know these characters, I’m learning a couple of things about them that stand out in my mind.
First revelation: Tsubaki seems totally normal, but is actually weirder than he lets on. And Urabe seems unbelievably (insert adverb of your choice) weird to say the least, but she’s actually a lot more normal than you think. I feel as if the mangaka is slowly peeling the layers away from each of them, showing us something quirky about Tsubaki and something refreshingly ordinary about Urabe every week. And this has the impact of making them more interesting and more sympathetic characters. Let’s be honest – it was Tsubaki who started this crazy train in the first place by tasting Urabe’s drool. How many guys would do that?
Urabe’s normalcy is showing itself in many ways, like her obvious penchant for speed (she runs fast, she bikes fast, she swims fast). And this ties into the other revelation, which is that when push comes to shove, I don’t think Urabe really understands the impact her physicality has on Tsubaki. Sure, she’s a high schooler and she knows Tsubaki thinks she’s hot – neither she or I are that naïve. But despite the air of control she projects, seeming to be the directive one in the relationship, I think she’s genuinely surprised to find Tsubaki staring at her when she wears a bikini, or by the strength of his desire for more closeness between them. She understands that her physicality has a power, but she doesn’t really understand the power itself – how it works, and the extent of the way Tsubaki is buffeted by it. That’s where the innocence in their relationship comes from, and why it feels so genuine.
Of course all this ties into the notion that the symbolism of the drool is the power that girls have over boys, and how it’s a natural and sometimes wonderful thing but also causes problems between couples, as well as a manifestation of how a girl’s emotions are a tangible force in a boy’s life. And it seems that Urabe is learning how this power works, slowly, and she’s quite deliberately keeping Tsuabki on a limited diet. She understands that Tsubaki’s desires are perfectly natural, but also the dangers to their relationship if she lets him in on all her secrets. It’s a kind of dance these two are engaged in, superficially weird but actually not so much as you’d think.
There’s certainly no doubt that Urabe is as beautiful as she is strange, and it’s no wonder that Tsubaki is as obsessed with her as he is. I’ve never seen any fanservice quite like the panty-scissor tan lines, but I’m with Tsubaki on this one – tanned Urabe and panty-scissor tan lines are nosebleed city. It might be significant that the tables were turned this week, and Urabe got a taste (literally and figuratively) of exactly what Tsubaki feels when his ardor for her is inspired. I think her surprise when her nose bled was quite genuine – like I said, she knows he’s attracted to her – but knowing it a actually feeling what he feels are very different things. Perhaps this bit of fancifully realized empathy (if only it were so easy in real life to understand our partner’s feelings) will giver her some added sensitivity when it comes to their relationship, and Tsubaki’s needs.
One last thing I want to comment on, and that’s the music. It’s obviously excellent but what stands out to me is the sheer variety – it seems that every episode brings at least a couple of new BGM tracks – and how perfectly it fits the mood of the scene. There’s quite a bit of BGM here as opposed to some anime, and that can be intrusive if not done well – but it’s done well here, and veteran Hasegawa Tomoki has certainly earned his paycheck with this soundtrack. The overall sound is retro – as befits the look of the series – but Hasegawa uses a wide range of musical styles to match the mood of the moment. Usually when I notice BGM it’s not a good thing, but here, it just adds to the experience.