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…