This show seems to have left meta in the rear-view mirror some time ago, and is now immersed in some kind of ourobouros-like nirvana state few anime every aspire to. I’m hard-pressed to think of another anime (or manga) that so comprehensively flips gender stereotypes on their head – certainly of one that does it so successfully. In a medium that’s increasingly dominated by series focusing more and more narrowly on more and more specialized niche audiences, that’s something that should be celebrated.
The real-world and fictional sides of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun are hopelessly entangled, each a part of this subversion mentality that drives the series. It’s interesting that the series is written by a female shoujo mangaka because there are times when I feel it approaches its story from a distinctly male perspective – but then I suppose that’s fitting, given how there’s a kind of bizarro reality asserting itself where males assume traditionally female roles and vice-versa.
Given the kind of series this is, the world of galge is a glorious subject to be mined for humor, and it works every bit as well as you might expect. We have Mikoshiba – the boy who plays at real-life (inside the story) shoujo hero, while being depicted as shoujo heroine by Nozaki-kun – relating to 2D girls a lot better than 3D ones. When he badgers Nozaki into trying “Girls Princess 3” Nozaki first uses the name of his manga protagonist, then proceeds to torpedo all potential relationships because he “only has eyes” for his manga heroine (who, let’s remember, is Mikorin). Then, even better, he re-starts the game as himself, only to attack every situation using the logic perspective of shoujo manga – which leads to disastrous results at every fork in the road.
Seriously – the degree to which that’s pure genius is hard to overstate. It works satirically on so many levels, and it’s a hilarious commentary on the difference in expectation between guys and girls, and how the popular media that market to them exploit it. That’s not all, though – Nozaki-kun initially resists help from the games best friend character Tomoda – as in “Tomodachi” – (Satoshi Hino) because he’s sure it’s a trap (which it would be if this were a shoujo manga). But then he and Mikorin become so smitten with Tomoda’s relentless helpfulness in giving up his three years of school life to be supportive they decide to write a manga with him as the hero, so he can finally get his own relationship. And when they try and come up with the perfect mate they realize it has to be the male protagonist, so it ends up being a BL manga. I think my brain just exploded.
The cast of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a very good one indeed, but for my money there’s no doubt Mikoshiba is the best… whatever he is. His tortured consternation is the engine that powers the series’ funniest moments, and that continues as he tries to convince Sakura that he can relate to 3D girls, only to have to text her a plea for help when they won’t stop talking to him. Then he gets himself roped into attending a mixer and has to go to Nozaki and Sakura for advice, which gives the normally tsukkomi Nozaki a chance for some distinctly boke moments as he applies his own warped perspective to the notion and even role-plays as a girl for verisimilitude (though not before initially giving the girl’s role to Mikorin, as usual). Mikorin ends up bailing and getting the Prince, Kashima, to take his place – which the boys who invited him are initially happy about as it means less competition, but are in for a cruel surprise when Kashima’s true nature asserts itself.
All things considered this was probably my favorite episode of Nozaki-kun so far. It focused on what seem to me the strongest elements of the series – full-bore gender-flipping satire and Mikorin. I haven’t met a character here who I don’t like, but Mikorin is the one that really pops – Okamoto Nobuhiko is a fine seiyuu and underrated when it comes to comedy, but he’s absolutely murdering this role so far. Watching this series makes me want to check out Tsubaki Izumi’s “straight” shoujo manga, just to see how seriously she plays it – and that’s as high a compliment as you can pay to an anime adaptation, I think. This series is definitely a keeper.