This is review number three hundred and seventy eight. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, or Monthly Girl Nozaki. It’s a twelve episode anime about handsome guys eating cake at the light music club. Oh wait, something’s not right here. Let’s read on.
The anime follows the popular Shoujo mangaka Sakiko Yumeno, who is actually a male high school student named Umetaro Nozaki. It was certainly a shock for Chiyo Sakura to discover that her crush is actually a popular Shoujo author. The show is about their time together making manga and hanging out with some equally quirky people at school.
Taking the Pants Off
I initially liked this anime, but only because I thought it was an actual Shoujo anime. The first few minutes of the anime really had me invested. The girl confessed, and the guy is too dumb to actually realize the situation. It’s a cute setup, and the first episode had a lot of wonderful things in it. The guy is a mangaka, and he uses cute scenarios with the girl to put in his manga. If this was a true Shoujo manga, then I would’ve gushed all over it. It’s a really clever premise, because it can go meta with different Shoujo manga tropes. Of course, this anime actually did that but in a different way. My heart actually sunk when I realized this is a four panel manga, and the entire anime is a marshmallow show. Marshmallow shows are basically just twenty minutes of cute fluff with no real semblance of a story. The main appeal is the cute characters and the situational gags they are in. Marshmallows are sweet and full of air. These shows are very much like that, and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki is one of these annoying shows. They’re all the gawd damn same, and it’s not fun reviewing the same thing over and over. This anime stands out in a special way though, because it’s actually borrowing elements from Shoujo then makes a Slice of Life/Comedy show out of it.
The anime is about a high school guy who is actually a mangaka, and he becomes friends with this ordinary high school girl. The show then mostly follows their time in school together hanging out with their friends and doing random sh*t together. Think of K-On, but the characters aren’t cute but more bishie than anything else. That’s basically the main gist of the show. Like a true marshmallow anime, this show has no story. There is a premise of the girl liking the guy, but you can’t expect it to develop in any reasonable manner. The show’s main goal is to present situational comedy, and it’ll use the quirkiness of the characters and their relationship to pull it off. I’m not going to lie, I actually like this anime for the very simple reason that its marshmallow fluff. The characters do bounce off each other really nicely, and some of the comedy is pretty fun to watch. Unfortunately, this show suffers from the same negative aspects that a lot of marshmallow anime falls under. In the end, after you finish the show, the entire thing is pretty much forgettable. Some of the scenarios are also pretty bland, since they’re really just gags designed to fit a four panel sheet of a manga. It’s kind of a shame, because I actually like the characters. I kinda wish this is just the OAD of the actual anime, and I just missed the real series by accident. Unfortunately, this is the actual show and it doesn’t really have a lot to offer in the long run. If you’ve been entertained by one marshmallow show, then the rest of them really just fall line afterwards. They rarely standout, and these shows are just a good way to kill twenty minutes of your time once a week. I should stop marathoning these kinds of anime. Geez, what the hell is wrong with me?
I’m not trying to discredit this anime though. I’ve been reviewing for so long, so let me just let out my complaints about marshmallow shows in one long paragraph. Now that it’s out of the way, let’s talk about the actual show. While it does have no semblance of an actual story that progresses overtime, this anime does have amazing characters. The brilliant part is that they’re a riff on certain shoujo staples, like the tsundere character, the handsome prince, the understanding supporting character, the athletic type and so on. Shove these characters in a shoujo anime and they’d fit in just fine. These shoujo staples though are actually in a K-On formatted show, so they are now forced to interact in a cute and bubbly manner. It’s a pretty brilliant setup, because half of the cast are male characters. The show creates cute situational gags with male characters interacting in a bubbly manner, and I absolutely love it. I am actually amazed because this is the first time I’ve seen such a thing done in anime. Who would’ve thought the medium still has some originality up its sleeve? It has the typical marshmallow setup, but it’s done by a cast of beautiful characters. It’s pretty great.
I’d knock a few points off the characters though, because there are a lot of them. A weak comedy anime stuffs a lot of characters to bulk up the content, and this show is guilty of that. I think the anime is still introducing new characters up until the sixth episode, and it’s a really lazy approach to a comedy show. It’s fairly easy to just cram new characters and focus on their quirks, but it leaves the show pretty bloated afterwards. It started out with a guy and a girl, but the show balloons into a character ensemble with their own things going on. This initially started off as a situational comedy between two cute characters walking home together, but it exploded into stories involving the sports club, drama club and some more side characters with their own situations the anime can exploit. It’s pretty lazy, because you can avoid developing characters. Instead, you can just go to a different location with a bunch of different characters and make comedy out of that. Even K-On is pretty contained, and I can’t believe I’m talking about that show as a basis for this anime. K-On did the marshmallow genre perfectly though, so it can’t be helped. I wanted certain relationships to blossom, and I wanted certain situations to get more intense. Sadly, the show never really takes the effort to do anything with its established characters. They just roll the dice, and then make comedy out of the pairings that come out.
I do understand the importance of the bloated cast though. In shoujo, there is always a main couple. They’re heavily featured for the most part, and they’re the main focus of the story. Shoujo always have two side couples though, and they always serve as an in-between to buildup suspense for the main couple. The side couples also develop late to not take focus away from the main couple. It’s a general rule in Shoujo. Ao Haru Ride has three couples, Maid-sama has three couples and so does Kare Kano. This anime is also lightly ripping on the bloated cast of certain Shoujo anime. This is what I like about this show. It understands the shoujo genre, and it tries to poke fun of it as much as it can. Every situational gag in this show references certain staples in shoujo, and it tries to make a comedy out of it. Certain clichés, like attending a mixer, going to the movies, sharing an umbrella, confessing to another character, getting jealous over someone else and so on, are starting points for the comedy in this anime. The show tries to point out the ridiculous-ness of certain scenes, and it also just tries to make the characters shine in the situational gags it can pull out of the clichéd scene. It manages to make a really solid comedy anime out of a genre that feeds off the fantasy of the readers. The anime does this as well. Certain pairings are pure fan service, and certain jokes are meant to entice romance. While the scenes should bring out love, the comedy comes in and just gives us something refreshingly new out of the concepts. Everything is setup smartly, and every gag is done by design. This show understands the shoujo and comedy genre fully, and it combines into a really wonderful anime experience. It does have some weak parts, but it also shines in a few areas.
Speaking of weak parts, this anime is also about a guy making a manga. I do believe this part of the show is pretty unnecessary. While I do understand that the mangaka aspect of the character gives certain situational gags a chance to connect to clichéd shoujo, I think it’s really just clutter on the anime’s part. There are some scenes where the characters would draw manga, but it’s not really explored properly. Some of the quirks of certain characters also relate to the contributions they make to the serialized manga, but it still feels a little crowded. They already have a smart setup with the three couples, so having them write a mangaka just adds confusion to the entire thing. It feels to me like a lazy well the author can draw water from when it’s tired of focusing on the school life of the characters. When the clichéd shoujo staples are done, the show can just feature the editors or Nozaki’s fellow mangaka to bulk up the content of the show. Are they really needed in the anime? No, not really. If you cut them out, the show can still deliver solid comedy with no problem. I think the original intention of having Nozaki as a mangaka is to setup certain technical manga scenarios for the characters to poke fun of. Things like the flowery backgrounds and such, which provide for the classic feel of a manga, were supposed to be a topic for the show as well. I understand that, but the anime could’ve connected those technical aspects without really making the characters draw manga. It just feels a bit off to me, and kinda forced. The anime is already all over the place, so it really needed to cut back on a few of its scenarios.
Maybe if the mangaka aspect of the show served as a main storyline for the anime, then it wouldn’t be a problem. As it is though, it just serves as another place to hold the situational gags. We have hallways, the drama club, the gym and an apartment to draw manga in. This anime just scatters all over. The manga Nozaki makes also feels a bit of a clutter. It serves as Nozaki’s quirk, but it also restricts him a bit. His personality is that he draws manga, and that’s about it. If the show used the manga as a story to tie it all together, then the characters could’ve all used the manga as a starting point. Since most of them are based on characters in Nozaki’s manga, then it could’ve been great to see them work on the creation of the manga together. Having Nozaki just do it on his own feels like a bit of a stretch, and it makes him a bit uninteresting. He could still be obsessed with working on the manga, but having others share a bit off the identity makes for a more meaningful experience, in my opinion. Then again, maybe I’m the only one bothered by Nozaki’s lack of identity outside of his manga. He kinda looks like Doumeki from XXXholic, so I honestly wanted him to do so much more. I like Doumeki, and I wanted to like Nozaki as well.
Anyways, the characters really make this show special. We have three couples here, but my favorite character actually stands on his own. I’m taking about this guy:
He is a handsome tsundere character, and I absolutely love him. I don’t think I’ve seen a tsundere male character as well. Maybe I have, but not as pronounced as this guy. He blushes and acts all distant like the classic stereotype, and I just love all the scenes he is in. He is gullible and adorable. He also embodies the anime nicely, because he is a bishie from head to toe but his personality also captures the appeal of a marshmallow anime. He is both handsome and cute, and I wish we get more characters like this. He really just steals the show whenever he appears. He is also not forced, like a lot of cute male characters out there. Trust me, there are a lot of shows that force cuteness out of male characters. This one just feels right though, and I would seriously watch another season of this anime just to see more of him.
The three couples are pretty cute in their own special way. Each one is different, and I’ll skip describing them. I’ll just say that this is my favorite couple:
They’re my fave mostly because they have a lot more time than the other pairings. The main pairing is actually the least interesting among the three. Again, it’s because of Nozaki. He doesn’t bring much to the table, and the girl is left carrying the couple. I like her by herself though, because she is just extremely likeable. She plays the comedy man to Nozaki’s straight man, and she really brings out the best of the bland pairing. With her colorful personality and bright disposition, she is actually the sole reason why the main pairing even works. Give her bigger breasts, and she’d beat the main couple in Mikakunin de Shinkoukei easily. Ok, that’s a pretty obscure reference, but just google the show.
This anime is brought to us by Doga Kobo, and they actually worked on Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. It’s a show I rated a nine, despite being marshmallow fluff. I do think it’s because Doga Kobo knows how to pace a marshmallow show. They did a lot of marshmallow show before Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, so it’s nice to know they actually have a good grasp of how to handle shows like this one. The quality of their shows is also steadily improving, so I’m sensing great things from this studio. This is a 2014 show, so I can only wonder how they’re doing now. From the way they handled this one, I do think the studio is being steered by competent people. I can’t wait to watch Umaru-chan. I already saw the OP, and I am in love with it. Mitsue Yamazaki directed this anime. She is also known for the Hakkenden series, and she did a great job with this anime. I’m a big fan of a director that can capture the appeal of the original source, and she did that amazingly in this show. Granted, the original source is a four panel manga but I have seen marshmallow shows fumble at the simplest things. Have you guys seen GJ-bu? It’s an awkward mess. I hope to see more from this director, because she does have talent. Marshmallow shows are often a lazy affair, but you can tell effort is certainly applied to make this anime shine.
Sight and Sound
Izumi Tsubaki is a pretty talented mangaka. Her first work is Oresama Teacher, and it is a full on shoujo affair. I love her clean line work, but her expressive panels draw me in the most. In Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, I am amazed at how expressive the characters are. Chiyo has a wide range of expressions from being fully in loved to being totally dumb founded, and she just comes to life in the manga. Certain punchlines and gags are delivered more effectively with the reactions from other characters, and Izumi spares no expense at making them look absolutely gorgeous. She takes the handsome and cool design of her characters in Oresama Teacher, and she spins it to create the bubbly characters in this anime. Her design is classic Shoujo, but it’s still undeniably great. She knows how to create effeminate male characters, and she puts a graceful touch in every panel she makes. Nozaki’s manga in the anime is actually Izumi’s design as well, and you can tell her style from it. The expressive heroine and the cool male character comes alive in this anime adaptation. I love that small detail in this anime. Izumi’s design actually shines most in the way she draws her female characters. The close ups, the scenes where they’re in deep thought and those shoujo scope scenes just ooze with charisma that you’ll be instantly drawn to them. Again, just look at Chiyo. She embodies Izumi’s manga characters to a tee, and I think that little detail makes Chiyo all the more special. To be fair though, some characters really only standout by their personality and not by their visuals. Of the three couples in the anime, three of the characters are designed pretty blandly. Izumi makes up for that with some nice panel work though. Highlighting their faces and giving them clean bold lines makes up for the bland designs. Chiyo also occupies most of the panels, so the bland characters are rarely the highlight.
The animation is pretty outstanding. It’s not really high quality, but it captures the intention of the original source wonderfully. I understand most studios don’t have the budget of Production IG, so I really just love how they put effort in simply making sure the adaptation does justice to the originl. The way the animation captures Izumi’s expressive faces and handsome close ups really makes the animation standout. The director fully understands what the author wanted to achieve, and she really puts effort on the things that matters the most. She took good care of Chiyo and the way the character anchored the show. She also made sure the other characters are given time to shine. I personally admire how she is able to establish a legitimate Shoujo atmosphere for the show. The animation is able to be raunchy for the comedy, but it can also go mellow for the Shoujo. Mitsue understands that the Shoujo isn’t really a main component of the anime, but she still finds time to slow the scenes down to capture Izumi’s intention. You can’t make fun of Shoujo if you don’t make it a big part of the show. Even the manga only uses it as a base for the comedy. In this anime, it’s a really established thing to make the adaptation work well. Some few seconds to bring out the soft side of the characters is really enough to make each scene as effective as possible. I admire that attention to detail, and it really made the experience a lot more special.
The anime’s OP is “Kimi ja Nakya Dame Mitai” by Masayoshi Ooishi. I love this song. It’s upbeat, and it’s really catchy. The build up to the chorus is just fun to listen to, and the chorus itself is such an earworm. I have it on repeat as I write this review. The singer’s voice is really cool, and the lyrics nicely capture the spirit of the anime. The OP sequence is also pretty special. It introduces all the characters, and I love the manga opening with the characters. You can also tell the scattered mess of the show in the OP. I think you can consider it a strength for this anime, but it really puts me off. I do commend them for showing that mess in the OP itself. I also love the Shoujo atmosphere of the show actually being represented in the opening as well.
The anime’s ED is “Ura Omote Fortune” by Chiyo Sakura (CV: Ari Ozawa). I am a big fan of Ari’s voice work in this anime. She gave Chiyo a distinct Shoujo girl personality with her wavering voice, and it really made an impact on me. I want Ari to star on actual Shoujo anime, and give more fluffy characters life. In this song though, I really hate it. Grating is the main reason why the song is unlikeable, but the lyrics itself really makes me cringe. It’s a pretty clichéd song about being in love, but I just personally don’t like it. I do love the ED sequence though, because it features Chiyo acting all cute in some impressive animation. I love the way they animate her hair bouncing, and that animation is full on service in the ED sequence.
6/10 “It’s a nice marriage of Shoujo and marshmallow to deliver a satisfying anime experience.”
The way this anime captures the appeal of Shoujo, to make the situational gags work, is pretty original. I rarely say that, because originality is really uncommon in anime, but this show succeeds in doing that. It did have the same weak aspects most marshmallow shows have, but the positives still shined brightly. The characters also made the whole thing pretty fun to watch. It might have a tiresome setup, but the brilliance never stops. The beauty of Shoujo is nicely presented in this anime, and it’s delivered in a smart comedic way. It might lag at some points, but it’s still an interesting anime to enjoy. I recommend it.