There’s a strong meta quality to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, but it’s not quite the sort of thing we see in more traditional anime meta-satire. After two episodes it seems clear to me that the essence of this series is flipping things upside-down – genre, demographic, gender. Inside the plot and with the series as a whole, this theme plays itself out over and over – fittingly for a shounen manga with a shoujo female lead and a guy who writes shoujo manga.
Nozaki-kun’s (the title isn’t quite long enough to have earned an abbreviated version, I guess – Gesshounoku?) roots as a 4-koma manga are plain to see in the narrative style. While it manages to hold together as a cohesive episode more than some 4-koma adaptations, it’s definitely more “jokey” than a traditional situation or romantic comedy – relying heavily on characters delivering observational punch-lines to the camera as so many of these series do. That style often doesn’t work for me but so far, so good, largely because the humor is both smart and actually funny.
The first part of this episode focuses on Mikoshiba, and he proves to be quite amusing, thanks in no small part to a very funny performance by Okamoto Nobuhiko. As Gesshounoku utilizes him for comic purposes, so too does Nozaki-kun – who’s written Mikorin into “Let’s Fall in Love” as the tsundere heroine. He’s a patently absurd figure in a good way, saying ridiculous shoujo cool-guy lines and then going on “tilt” from the embarrassment of actually saying something so ridiculous. He’s desperate for Sakura to pamper his ego in any possible way, and incompetent at every aspect of drawing except providing trademark shoujo flowers and bubbles to “bring out a character’s charm”.
The B-part turns the focus onto an equally absurd character, Seo Yuzuki (Sawashiro Miyuki very much in her comfort zone). Nozaki is looking for models (otherwise all his characters look alike – so much truth and ruthless satire here) and Sakura introduces her (in concept) to him as a friend. He constructs an elaborate fantasy about how such opposites could become close, but the truth is Sakura just happens to sit next to her in class. Yuzuki is like the bad breakup guy from Seinfeld (“See ya around, Big Head”) in that she says and does the absolutely most annoying thing in any situation, though in her case she seems totally oblivious (the athletic clubs use her as an unwitting model for their members to know how not to behave). Nozaki ends up putting her in “LFiL” – as an annoying guy who always says and does the most annoying thing possible. The strange kicker is that Yuzuki is also, seemingly, blessed with a ridiculously beautiful soprano.
In a way, this series could be dismissed as a bit lightweight – though not in a bad way – but there’s more here than meets the eye. This is some pretty clever humor, and I really do love this constant focus on flipping expectations that exists both inside and outside the narrative. Next week, for example, we face the enticing prospect of meeting the “school prince” – who’s actually a girl, and played by the great Nakahara Mai no less. I don’t get big ROFL moments here, at least so far, but I’m chuckling and smiling pretty much non-stop at how likably silly these characters are and how on-point the satire is. This is definitely one of those that doesn’t comfortably fit in any demographic or genre box, and a show that meets that description and can also be solidly entertaining is definitely a keeper in my book.