Regular readers of our blog know that shoujo and comedy aren’t our favorite genres. The former category feels too “innocent” and “sugary” for our tastes, while many anime trying to provoke laughter usually end up relying on pretty cheap, often sexist, jokes. That’s why we were very careful before our first encounter with Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, a title claiming to combine the two genres on the surface (and I say surface because the manga is published in a shounen magazine, something that slipped our attention at first). What we weren’t expecting was just how much of a pleasant surprise this series would be.
What is good about this anime? The answer can be summed up in one word: everything. I can safely say that we’re dealing with a rare masterpiece. Let’s take things one by one. Nozaki-kun had one of the best, if not the best, openings of the year. It’s colorful and fun to watch and incorporates many manga elements like screentones and panels, even manga creating tools are included! The sequence where the racoon pops out of the page and explosions occur is certainly eye-catching. The thing I like the most is that you only need to watch it once and you’ll know just how much good work has been put into the opening. That effort is present in every moment. The animation, still designs and soundtrack are results of top-level production and the series shines from episode to episode. But what happens story-wise?
One of the main cons about shoujo is that they often treat their main protagonist as if she were Louis XIV of France. Everything seems to revolve around her, even the sun. Though I am no expert, I think that is one of the reasons why people view this genre as unrealistic. I would also suggest that it decreases the effectiveness of supposedly heart-breaking moments. That’s the first part where Nozaki-kun gracefully avoids the cliché trap. The series actually highlights how you can’t really get advice from shoujo and visual novels -fiction in general- or you’ll end up being a fool. Moreover it’s not just that we have a diverse cast, but that diversity is properly used. Each member of the cast has their own lives and worries, the things that excite or baffle them.
Let me try to emphasize this as strongly as possible. There are many shoujo parodies out there and comedies ridiculing anime clichés. Some of them, i.e. Ouran High School Host Club, are very good yet lack something in comparison to Nozaki-kun. That something is, in my opinion, Nozaki-kun‘s ability to treat its cast as real people who embody stereotypes but are not defined exclusively by them. Are you among those people whose close friends walk the thin line between brilliance and insanity? Are your friends -and yourself- among those who often prefer to just ignore that line and jump from side to side whenever they feel like? Then I am certain that you’ll relate to many moments of this series.
It’s worth mentioning how precious the reversal of gender stereotypes is in Nozaki. Girly and manly attitudes, emotion and reason (or the lack of it) have various different forms and combinations that create a distinct identity in each individual. That means that, like in real life, one can find all those characteristics in members of both genders and they are the traits that makes us more complete and more endearing. How can you not love the Mikorin-Mamiko and Kashima-prince?
Perhaps that’s the reason why I felt a wider range of emotions than I do for regular romance titles. Especially during the last episode, the bittersweet feeling of saying farewell to those crazy characters was pretty painful. I really didn’t want Nozaki-kun to end, because it’s one of those shows that could make a truly bad day much better. I could go on praising the anime, but since this article is written in a real hurry I will finish this mini-review by saying that Nozaki-kun isn’t recommended to shoujo or comedy fans exclusively. It’s a must for everyone out there.