Historically I haven’t blogged very many 4-koma gag manga adaptations, and I’m starting to remember why. Simply put, they’re damn hard series to write about. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou is about the funniest one I can remember – the first five episodes or so were legitimately brilliant – but even there it was often a struggle to try and communicate the experience of watching it through words (Kotoura-san is also a 4-koma, but not a gag manga – and the anime is conventionally story-driven). And while I’m enjoying Gesshounoku, it’s certainly no exception to the rule.
These sorts of series tend to share a comic style that’s almost Vaudevillian, a kind of stream-of-consciousness effect that sees the narrative bounce from one absurdity to the other, always ending with a punchline (often ironically delivered by the straight-man – or woman in this case – and often a double-entendre). Geshhounku is fascinating in that almost all of the humor is derived from the concept of roles – the expectations our social order places on them, and the disorder that arises when they’re subverted. This is a double-barreled attack, as the shoujo manga theme means the jokes are working inside and outside the narrative pretty much all the time. It also – so far at least – gives us two leads in Sakura and Nozaki-kun who are both basically straight men, which is an unusual comedic structure to say the least.
So we have the main couple acting as tsukkomi surrounded by a cast of boke, playing out against meta-satire of the shoujo manga universe. Interesting stuff, and the boke just keep on coming. This time around it’s Kashima Yuu (Nakahara Mai), the “Prince of the School” who happens to be a girl, and Hori Masayuki (Ono Yuuki) here sempai and president at the Drama Club. Kashima-kun is pretty much playing out the gender flip gag to the fullest here, especially when Mikorin is with her and slips neatly into the heroine role. Despite her constant flirting with the girls and their adoration of her, though, it’s clear she has eyes for Hori – and equally clear that he has eyes for her.
Hori is an interesting addition, arguably more so than Kashima because there’s more going on with him than comic relief. He’s a good actor who refuses to act, electing to stand in the wings designing sets and watching Kashima take all the male lead roles (she’s convinced it’s because he’s self-conscious about his height). He also works on backgrounds for Nozaki-kun’s manga, marking areas needing beta work with either a smiling cat or a pair of briefs. As for Kashima she’s another one like Yuzuki who has a gift for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, though in her case it comes down mostly to being highly opinionated about everything and having no boundaries whatsoever. Interestingly Hori tends to comically assault Kashima with pieces of his sets whenever she pisses him off (so, pretty much all the time) which is yet another gender trope subversion, as while it seems perfectly fine to most viewers to have girls assault boys, we rarely see anime guys do so to girls.
This is another one of those episodes that never got any huge laughs from me, but had me chuckling pretty much start to finish – which I guess is just my happy zone with this show. I don’t know if I’m going to continue blogging it, largely for the reasons enumerated above, but I’m certainly going to continue watching. I believe we still have a few more wacky ensemble members to be introduced, and I’m quite curious to see which demographic and genre clichés they flip on their heads.