The confession of love in a shoujo romance usually doesn’t occur until partway through the show after the girl or boy has undergone sufficient agonizing and courage-building. So when Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun started with a face-to-face confession, I knew that this anime was going to have a completely different pacing and direction than most of its genre. I had no idea just how short I was falling from the actuality of the matter. Not only did Nozaki-kun start off in an uncharacteristic scene, it also threw back its shoujo wrapping and emerged as a shounen comedy. Now, I love fluffy romance shows–think Kimi ni Todoke, Bokura ga Ita, and Hana Yori Dango. I also happen to love series that poke fun at genre stereotypes and character archetypes, like Nichijou, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, and Minami-ke. This particular anime mostly stands in the second camp, though there are the occasional overtones from the first that make characters like Sakura and Mikoshiba so endearing.
Letters in shoe boxes, rooftops, and school backyards are all reminiscent of flag events in school romance. Classroom confrontations after school also happen from time to time. Sadly, Sakura lacks the grace and verbiage to make her feelings clear to the clearly dense Nozaki. Instead of interpreting her use of “fan” as romantic intent, he takes it literally–she is obviously a fan of his manga works. And Nozaki isn’t just any type of mangaka; he specializes in shoujo of the pink and sparkly kind. The fact that an artist with an imagination lively enough to make a living as a romance storyteller who can’t even perceive the feelings of real people around him is both comical and a bit sad. This combo of literal interpretations and Sakura’s roundabout attacks guarantee plenty of material for comedic travesty. Even more tormenting for Sakura is Nozaki’s tendency to act out his story boards. Sometimes the best way to imagine scenes and dialogue is to actually experience it–unfortunately, Sakura often becomes the stand-in and ends up enduring tandem bicycling, umbrella sharing, shopping at the mall, and movie watching. Anything is a go for story material!
Another interesting quirk of Nozaki is his character writing. Each of the characters in his manga, Let’s Fall in Love, are based on real people. This isn’t too odd for most fiction writers. But most surprising is the model for his emotional female lead, Mamiko. The real girl isn’t a popular classmate, or even a relative. Mamiko’s persona comes straight from Nozaki’s friend, Mikoshiba, a popular guy who drops pick-up lines on the fly and agonizes over the embarrassing phrasings in private. “Mikorin” imagines himself a stud among men, yet lacks the audacity to actually follow through on his flirtations. Mamiko fits him to a tee with her inner squealings whenever she’s around her love interest, as well as her mental vulnerability to misunderstandings and negativity. I’m sorry, Sakura, but Mikorin takes the role of shoujo lead in Nozaki-kun, no question.
Every shoujo has its female lead, and in turn often includes a “prince”-type role who may or may not be the love interest. Again, the person who fills this position in Nozaki-kun is not the expected male, but a handsome girl who rivals Mikoshiba for the wooing of the school’s female population. With her striking presence in the drama club and shameless posturing, she has secured every play’s lead male role and the hearts of impressionable young girls.
My favorite character doesn’t actually satirize any particular shoujo archetype, but seems to embody the sentiments of this anime’s staff with her frank statements and complete lack of tact no matter the situation. Seo stands tall as an example to all of how not to act–the basketball team even invites her to practice to demonstrate to the players just how bad ball hogging can be. She isn’t afraid to call it how she sees it, though that sight is frequently clouded by hilarious misinterpretations and assumptions. I found it even more perfect that this rowdy friend of Sakura’s is talented in the most unexpected of fields: singing. Her earned nickname, “Lorelai”, carries with it connotations of beauty and danger. When her voice is all you hear, you can’t help but be enchanted. It’s in this manner that another classmate who clashes with her in person actually falls in love with the unseen “Lorelai” he hears down the hallways.
Gekkan no Shoujo Nozaki-kun is incredibly re-watchable. The awkward character interactions and humor work great whether you watch it alone or as a group. If you haven’t seen this comedic gem, I suggest you get out of your chair and go watch it. Now!