written by Laurie Tom
I had considered watching Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun back when the summer season first started, but at the time I thought it was going to be a more straightforward romantic comedy and with everything else premiering that I wanted to check out, Nozaki-kun got pushed to the side.
Fortunately, I came back to Nozaki-kun and this is one of the few shows that actually made me laugh out loud. It starts out looking like a rom-com, but it’s really just a comedy. The characters are a bunch of screwballs who tend to play against type, which makes for hilarious scenes where nothing happens the way it should.
Chiyo Sakura is a second year high school student who finally works up the nerve to confess her feelings to her crush, a fellow second year called Umetarou Nozaki. But the words don’t come out right so he confuses her for a fan of his work, gives her an autograph, and invites her over for his place.
It turns out that under a pen name Nozaki is secretly the hugely popular shoujo (girls) manga artist behind the series Let’s Fall in Love. But Nozaki isn’t the typical romantic. In fact, he admits he’s never been in love at all (and he’s completely oblivious to the fact Sakura is crushing on him). He just happens to be really good at the shoujo style and has a feel for the tropes needed for a series to succeed.
The real reason he asked Sakura over is that he’s seen her work as part of the school art club and he needs someone to do the beta coloring for his manga. Sakura, just happy to get involved in his life, accepts, setting the stage for the rest of the series.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun runs a lot like a sitcom, with one or two plot lines per episode that may or may not be referenced later. There’s not much of an overarching story, with most of the episodes focusing on things like Nozaki doing research, but the supporting characters are what make it worthwhile.
Like many authors, Nozaki draws on things around him for inspiration. Everything turns into research for Nozaki, from visiting a toy store to an unexpected sleepover consisting entirely of male classmates, but the most fun is how Nozaki chooses to model his characters off the people he knows.
For instance, the protagonist of Let’s Fall in Love is a teenage girl who gets easily embarrassed by the opposite sex, discouraged at the drop of a hat, but ultimately gives her best.
She’s based on Nozaki’s classmate Mikoshiba, who is male, and in any other series he’s the guy with the good looks who would be the lead.
When Nozaki needs a rival character for his manga’s male love interest he ends up basing him on Sakura’s brash and unthinking classmate Seo, who is female.
The fun is in seeing how the characters transition from life to the page, and how Nozaki tries to craft ways in which he can research or observe what he has no experience in himself. The image I chose for this review is from the first episode where Nozaki wants to figure out how to do a romantic bike ride as a couple. (Hint: It doesn’t go over well.)
Being teenagers, most of the characters have no frame of reference for how relationships are supposed to work (both romantic and non), and nearly all of them draw on popular media to see how things are supposed to go, with unintended results. Some of the best scenes are when Nozaki will witness something that plays out completely wrong “in real life” and then transforms it into something that manga readers will eat up once it’s on the page.
Not every episode has every character, but the show manages to keep most of them engaged in some manner or another, and truthfully it’s a little crowded once they’re all introduced, with a primary cast of seven and then a few others.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun isn’t a show that demands to be devoured in large chunks, but it’s a great pick-me-up for when you need a laugh and reminder that it’s okay for real life to not be like fiction.
Number of Episodes: 12
Pluses: Lots of gender role reversals, hilarious insight into creative types, fantastic cast of characters
Minuses: Sitcom nature means that the series wraps up without actually resolving anything, lots of characters and not enough time to focus on all of them
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is currently streaming at Crunchyroll and is available subtitled. Sentai Filmworks has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.
Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Penumbra, and Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.