First Impressions – Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

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The summer season’s top tier is already weighing in – now the sleepers start to make their case.

I had fairly high hopes for Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun heading into the season.  There was some material reason to be optimistic – a very good cast, a decent staff, a pretty well thought-of source material that’s a manga and not a LN.  Above and beyond that, though, this one simply looked interesting.  It’s very rare to see a non-shoujo or josei school manga with a female lead – this one is published in the nominally shounen Gangan Online, a veritable treasure trove of good manga that blur demographic lines in a most appealing way.

Based on the first episode, it seems as if that optimism was mostly warranted.  While the premiere wasn’t side-splittingly funny or anything, it was quite artfully done on every level.  The art and animation from Dogakobo are sneaky good, that aforementioned cast (including a newbie as the lead) excellent, and the music from the under-appreciated Hashimoto Yukari is unusually effective.  The comic timing is good as well.  Even if there’s nothing that I love here yet, there’s a lot to like.

The conceit of the story is that Sakura Chiyo (a winning performance by newcomer Ozawa Ari) is in-love with fellow student Nozaki Umetarou (Nakamura Yuuichi) – the twist being that Nozaki-kun is also famous shouju mangaka Sakuko Yumeno.  When she finally works up the nerve to confess Sakura – unaware of that fact – does so by saying “I’ve always been your fan!” (which sounds strange to my American ears as a confession, but apparently isn’t an unusual way for schoolgirls to “pop the question” in Japan).  The rather dense Nozaki-kun misunderstands and takes her literally, offering Sakura an autograph as a token.  One thing leads to another and Art Club member Sakura ends up going to Nozaki’s apartment to do beta (the manga equivalent of code monkey) work on his manga, “Let’s Fall in Love”.

That’s one of those silly premises that isn’t so silly that you can’t buy it in a comedy, and it works well here.  The deadpan Nozaki and the genki and neurotic Sakura make an excellent couple by nature of their utter contrast, and Nozaki himself is an interesting study in contrasts – he looks and sounds like an adult but his behavior drops many hints that his maturity level is very much that of a 16 year-old boy.  Nozaki immediately sees the value in having a member of his target demographic – indeed, a reader of his own manga – as a sounding board, and much of the humor springs from that premise.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a 4-koma manga and that’s evident in the humor, which plays more as a series of vignettes than a traditional full-length episode.  There are very funny bits involving bikes (and their manga tropes) and cats, and regular cut-ins from “Let’s Fall in Love“, whose leads are voiced by Mamoru Miyano and Miyake Marie.  We also meet another character destined to be Nozaki’s assistant, Mikoshiba Mikoto (Okamoto Nobuhiko).  There’s a lot of potential humor to be mined from the crossover of school life and romance and a manga about school life and romance, and the overall quality of the production is a very good sign of things to come.  This is a very solid start, and I see potential for even better things from this series going forward.

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10 comments

  1. K

    those face plant cats xD

  2. t

    it was really good. way better than I expected.
    it was so hilarious and funny throughout the entire episode. the way Nozaki reacts might seem indifference but it's actually funny considering Sakura's actions and expressions. I have to say that Sakura's VA is doing really a fantastic job getting into the character and everything. well done.

    I had a little hope that Sakura would find the courage to confess but it didn't happen. I don't know how deep this series will take us in terms of romance (my guess is not so deep but something. like Servant X Service did), but it sure is a romcom. I can't wait to see interactions with others.

    I also very much like the manga art visuals. it's not just a black and white paper on the screen, it's a storage of the characters' thoughts and feeling and is very refreshing.

    so far, really good. I think this show is a real sleeper potential to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. but we'll have to see.

  3. G

    I liked the 1st episode as well. I do admit I found it difficult to believe that he can write romantic manga aimed at schoolgirls and be oblivious to one standing right there confessing to him.

  4. f

    dogakobo recently has a trend of making solid work consistently, it's one of the reason i have good expectation waiting for this, and i'm not disappointed. i also like the fact that they continue the traditon to use new seiyuu as the lead as we've seen in their previous works, it's like what kyoani did, hopefully this can kickstart the career of the new seiyuu.

  5. S

    Hilarious shoujo that makes fun of shoujo tropes. It kind of reminds me of Ouran that did the same thing with the reverse harem genre, though I think this one will be purely comedy. I especially liked the joke that Nozaki doesn’t try to hide he’s a shoujo manga artist, yet it’s simply that nobody believes him. Along with Survival Game Club, it seems there are great comedy shows this season.

  6. w

    This strikes me as one of those series that gets much funnier once the supporting cast all arrive. One of those series where everyone's dumb in different ways, I'll be looking forward to it.

    This was pretty alright though, I liked the gag where Chiyo was describing the guy she liked to Nozaki and he thought that sounded completely unappealing. Very much enjoying the OP and Ozawa Ari's performance; it's very charming.

    Also, on your assessment of Gangan Online: I think as a general thing Square Enix (who run all Gangan publications) tend towards more varied and less genre-trapped manga than their competitors. Also tends to be an awful more western-appeal in the publications. This does apply especially to Gangan Online, which in my eyes seems to be a place where they publish non-commercial manga that they just happen to think are good.

  7. A

    This was one of the shows I'd not really looked into in any way so had no expectations one way or the other. But it was great fun!
    The thing that sealed the deal for me was the bike scene.
    "I bet he's brought a tandem", I thought. And he had. That whole tandem sequence for me established this show as one of my comedy highlights of the season.
    If it keeps up this standard, it'll be great.

  8. D

    Oh wow, Chiyo's voice is a newcomer? You really wouldn't say, because she just nails it.

    Didn't think this was a shounen show either, as it does resemble shoujo in some ways. Kind of reminds me of Inu X Boku SS in that way, which also had a female lead.

    Anyway, this was a pretty fun show. Our main characters are appealing, there's a lot of energy in the show and it did get some laughs out of me (which is enough to consider a comedy show successful in my book). I'll most likely follow this one too.

    This is shaping up to be a pretty good summer if this keeps up.

  9. Inu x Boku is an excellent comparison – not so much thematically, no, but that was likewise a series that blurred demographic lines as well as any in the last few years.

  10. E

    The first anime of current season that I am going to call very good.
    Everything is perfectly well done.
    The other assistants seem to be mostly yankee.
    I am looking forward for their arrivals.
    😀

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