Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 08

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Boxes!

It’s certainly a comedy of misunderstandings, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, though it’s a pretty versatile series on the whole.  The good ones can usually make you laugh in many different ways that are all still somehow inherently true to the essence of the show (Minami-ke comes to mind), and that’s true here.  As with Minami-ke this series effectively has several different mini-casts through which the main characters move back and forth, and each of them has their own signature style of humor.  Among other things, I think that’s very helpful in keeping things from ever feeling stale.

The focus this week was on Hori and Kashima, who can’t quite rank at the top of the comic pyramid for me but are pretty close.  Hori especially is an unsung comedy hero, and it’s interesting (if not particularly surprising) that he seems more popular with Japanese fans (#2 in the official character poll and part of the #1 pairing) than with Western ones.  What comes across more clearly than ever this week is that Kashima is genuinely and truly dense (like most male leads, so I guess it’s fitting) in addition to the fact that she truly is smitten with Sempai.

There’s a lot of quirkiness to this relationship, starting with the fact that it’s the guy who dishes out the physical abuse to the girl (who looks and acts like a guy).  This time around Kashima – thanks to his carrying a copy of Nozaki’s manga in his bag (which he throws at her head) – convinces herself that Hori dreams of being a princess with her as his prince, carrying him in her arms.  The more she pushes – leaving articles of girls clothing in his locker, for example – the more pissed off he gets.  And Hori is running on fumes anyway, as Nozaki-kun is running him ragged with background work on “Let’s Fall in Love”.

The stuff with Hori and Kashima is very funny, the clear comic highlight of the episode comes from Nozaki (as seems to be happening more and more).  This is where the satire of shoujo manga kicks in, and it’s perhaps the series’ most pointed and sure-footed element.  It’s all about Nozaki’s incompetence when it comes to backgrounds, which extends to his writing directions like “whatever” for poor Hori-sempai to try and work with.  The joke, of course, is that shoujo manga is pretty legendary for inconsistent and indistinct backgrounds – and things gets even funnier when Hori tries to go about “fixing” Nozaki’s background skills.

Nozaki is good at faking it – he’s worked hard at hiding his incompetence with backgrounds and been successful enough to win rising star awards and a serialization.  When Hori-sempai forces him to try and practice, he ends up with Suzuki “floating” in midair – so to correct this Nozaki draws a completely incongruous box under him.  And as the characters continue to suffer from funhouse proportions and suspend the laws of physics with further Nozaki backgrounds he continues to place them on boxes until finally drawing a scene where everyone but Mimori is standing on a box.  When Hori confronts him about just how dumb this is, Nozaki’s solution is to write a justification into the plot where boxes are the new high school fad.  Even better, when as a last resort it’s decided Nozaki will take photographs for reference, he ends up placing models Chiyo and Hori on boxes to suit his skewed worldview.

I mean really, that’s pure gold – what else can you say?  But there’s one more payoff yet to come for the box affair, and that’s when an exhausted Hori falls asleep during rehearsal and wakes up to see Kashima standing on a box to get a bull’s head (which she thinks is a horse’s head) off a high shelf, and goes postal on her before passing out.  Naturally she sees this as her opportunity to carry her princess to the nurse’s office, but when a sympathetic male drama club member shoots that down, she don’s the bull’s head and proceeds to be Hori’s steed – which gives him quite a start when he wakes up.  And as all good straight-man characters sooner or later do in good comedies, Hori gets to reveal his quirky side in his request to Nozaki-kun for his next story…

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20 comments

  1. P

    It is interesting to see you mention that Hori is much more popular among Japanese fans in comparison to the western ones. Right after Mikorin, Hori is my 2nd most favourite character in the story. While I am Asian (not Japanese though), I spent my entire teenage years in the US, so my cultural preference and political correctness usually lean toward the western side. Because of this, I am actually a bit surprise to hear that the western fans don't dig Hori all that much in comparison to the local audiences. Any speculation on why this happened? Is it the whole 'violence against women' thing?

  2. S

    I did read someone having problems with that some days ago (which is silly because how would the opposite be more okay? It's slapstick comedy anyway, and it's played exactly for the sake of subverting conventional manga gender stereotypes…). However I think this may be also because of him not being especially quirky/funny. Maybe his tribulations inspire more sympathy in eastern audiences, while for western ones in comedies it's more about who's funnier than who's more relatable. I know I have basically everyone else before him in my list – Mikorin, Nozaki and his eternal deadpan, Seo, Kashima… which doesn't mean I dislike him, I just don't especially look forward to his moments.

  3. I find Hiro very funny – it's just a different sort of funny than the rest of the cast, which is one reason I really like him.

  4. C

    Where is this poll anyways? I'm curious.

  5. b

    It's from the fanbook. It came out recently along with an anthology. I agree with Japan's taste this time, no surprise Mikorin is first because he is the character who has very good chemistry with everyone from the cast and shines by himself while Hori is one of my favorites too.

    Character poll:
    1. Mikoshiba Mikoto
    2. Masayuki Hori
    3. Chiyo Sakura
    4. Kashima Yuu
    5. Yuzuki Seo
    6. Nozaki Umetaro
    7. Wakamatsu Horitaka
    8. Miyamae Ken
    9. Tanuki
    10. Nozaki Mayu
    11. Yukari Miyako
    12. Mamiko
    13. Mitsuya Maeno
    14. Tomoda
    15. Suzuki

    Pairing poll:
    1. Hori and Kashima
    2. Seo and Wakamatsu
    3. Nozaki and Sakura
    4. Sakura and Mikorin
    5. Nozaki and Mikorin
    6. Mikorin and Kashima
    7. Mikorin and Hori
    8. Nozaki and Ken
    9. Ken and Maeno
    10. Sakura and Seo

    The anime has been adapting random chapters without following manga's order, due to the nature of the series this isn't a problem and they adapt chapters which share characters or theme. There's 2 chapters about Hori lecturing Nozaki about backgrounds but the anime adapted one and a half of the other, which is a shame because there's a great moment related to Nozaki's sense of perspective and a Mikorin/Hori scene not adapted.

    I hope you check out the manga because it's one of the few series where in 53 chapters the comedy stays fresh as always and the characters are a blast to see. The ones where most of the cast interact in the same place are the best and there's many things I wish to see animated, which won't for the time being.

  6. P

    I am not surprise to see that the Seo and Waka pairing is much popular than the characters as an individual. While their characters are quite entertaining by themselves, their quirks become a hell lot more entertaining when they are together.

  7. w

    I can't help but giggle at the Tanuki ranking 9. S/he's a full-fledged character.

  8. r

    As an author myself, Nozaki's quirks are really damn funny to me. While I may not necessarily portray the exact same eccentricities, I sure as heck recognize the mindsets that would drive one to write in an excuse for boxes to show up everywhere rather than address another, more wide-spread problem.

  9. K

    Mikorin is my favorite but I adore Hori & Kashima as a pair more so than as individual characters if that makes sense.

    I am a huge fan of classic screwball comedies Iike Bringing up Baby where the guy is the straight character and the girl is the screwy one. You don't really see it as much in Western comedies anymore but I love it. This was also the set-up in Nodame Cantabile.

  10. e

    @Kim: you know I adore BUP to bits. You might have just persuaded me to check out this series sooner than I had planned :,D.

  11. K

    Wouldn't say it is exactly like Bringing Up Baby but that was the first one that popped in my head. But I would still highly recommend the series, it's great fun (and always good to meet another classic film fan). :)

  12. Funnily enough the anime that most reminds me of a Sturges comedy is Steins;Gate, because of the patter of the dialogue. I wouldn't necessarily have made the association here, but I can see a tiny bit of it.

  13. K

    I can kind of see the screwball association with Steins Gate (at least in the relationship between Kurisu and Okabe).

    Although I am not necessarily talking dialog here but more with the male character being the straight character and the female one being the more "screwy" one. It is a very classic set up which you don't really see as much in Western comedy anymore. Today the comedy tends to be the man is the "stupid one" or if the comedy is centered around the girl than she is usually the "pixie character". Neither which appeals to me as much.

    But if you look at classic comedy it would often be the woman who was driving the guy screwy. Bringing Up Baby is a really classic example with Katharine Hepburn driving Cary Grant's character nuts but then you have something like I Love Lucy as well. I just personally really love that set up in romantic comedy and this is why Kashima and Hori have a huge appeal to me (it's also why I was a big fan of Nodame and Chiaki).

  14. But… Isn't that pretty much the scenario in most anime romcom these days?

    I see your point, but that never really seemed like the dominant dynamic in the screwball era to me (and it's actually a Hawks film, The Philadelphia Story, that's my favorite). The guys could be pretty wacky in those movies – Cary Grant certainly was in those two examples. For me it was more about the give and take on equal footing.

  15. K

    Bringing up Baby is Howard Hawks, Philadelphia Story is actually George Cukor

    "The guys could be pretty wacky in those movies – Cary Grant certainly was in those two examples."

    Sure but it was usually the woman in the role driving the guy crazy in screwball comedies. Usually but not a rule. Cary Grant usually did play the screwy role as well but this was somewhat unique & special to his persona. Not common for the screwballs at the time. How about something like My Man Godfrey or Nothing Sacred. Maybe those are closer to the set-ups I mean.

    "But… Isn't that pretty much the scenario in most anime romcom these days?"

    Well a lot of times it is the girl being a Tsundere which I guess is similar but not exactly the same. But in general I do feel a lot of anime relationships have a more classic feel to them than modern western romcoms

  16. I'm utterly abashed that I misremembered that.

  17. R

    I love it when Mikoshiba describe the plot of Let's Fall in Love, "A mediocre girl falls for a popular guy and wins him over through sheer willpower." Shoujo manga in a nutshell.

  18. m

    I'm surprised Nozaki didn't rank higher, for me he's right after Mikorin in favourite character and they come very close. The rest I'm pretty neutral with…

  19. v

    I personally think Hori and Kashimas relationship is the weak point of the show. Maybe It's the violence toward women (but why would this be any different in Japan?) but I think its a case of fall-on-your-ass physical humour being more appreciated by Asian than western audiences.

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