Anime Review | Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 26.08.2016

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Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (UK Rating: 12)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-Kun follows Chiyo Sakura, who finally drums up the courage to confess her love to the stoic and cool titular Umetaro Nozaki. "Nozaki-kun… I've… I've always been your fan!" she blurts, and so he hands her an autograph. She tries to explain with "No… I want to be close to you!" and gets invited to his place. She thinks this may be going too fast… he thinks she knows his secret! A genre-breaking, expectation-defying romantic comedy that actually delivers big laughs… Nozaki-Kun from MVM is due out 12th September, contains both English and Japanese dub options, along with the usual extras of trailers, adverts, and clean opening and closing, but also contains the six shorts that were included with Japanese individual volumes.
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Chiyo has always been attracted to the cool and mysterious Nozaki, but she finds out he's not anything like she imagined. Turns out he's actually the author of her favourite romantic shoujo manga, using the woman's pen name of Yumeno Sakiko. After a series of convenient misunderstandings, Sakura ends up becoming one of Nozaki's assistants and helps him to draw inspiration for the creation of his love stories.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-Kun initially seems like yet another shoujo romance, but this is so much more than it seems. Misunderstandings and misconceptions are the heart of the show, as it takes the tropes and clichés of shoujo and turns them on their head, continuously subverting the audience's expectations. The blooming friendship and romance between Sakura and Nozaki is the backdrop of the story and it develops slowly over the entirety of the show as Chiyo realises her initial perception of Nozaki is nothing like his real personality and instead finds the truth even better than her imagined ideal.

The cast is filled with highly likeable and original characters. Starting out with just Sakura and Nozaki, the ensemble grows across the course of the series, adding in more and more great personalities. Sakura may be smitten with Nozaki but isn't defined by this. Smart, independent, and funny, she seems like the usual generic shoujo protagonist at first, but she really grows. It's great to see her learn the truth about Nozaki, and watch her love transform as she finds out the real him. Nozaki comes across as deadpan and emotionless but the truth is he is just taking in the world around him and pulling influences from it for his writing. He has to, as it turns out that while Nozaki produces amazing love stories, he has no frame of reference as he's never been in a relationship and, in fact, has never been in love, so has to rely on his friends to inspire his stories.


 
The extended cast adds characters that continue to play with tropes and expectations: the smooth playboy, Mikoto Mikoshiba, who knows just what to say to seduce any woman, has abilities that greatly outweigh his confidence. While he throws out lines that get all the girls swooning, he practically blacks out from embarrassment afterward. Then there is the familiar "School Prince" archetype, represented by Yu Kashima, a girl. Kashima has a potential love interest, too, in her upper classman, Hori. He dotes on her and thinks she's perfect, but also sees fit to beat her up for having annoying habits in surprisingly violent encounters.

The quality of the show shows in the presentation, too. The voice actors in both English and Japanese are highly enjoyable. Even for sub only fanatics, this is a dub worth giving a shot. The art and animation are solid throughout - there isn't anything particularly special about it, but it manages to craft a personality and warmth to the episodes that perfectly fits with the story and setting; interlacing slice of life style, everyday design, with the occasional shoujo-esque art and flair.

Being a romantic comedy, the comedy has to really deliver, and it's an area in anime that often is difficult to translate. Anime comedy normally relies on Japanese wordplay and puns that don't land as well with an English audience. Thankfully, that's not the case here. There is plenty of the classic Japanese wordplay, but also tons of slapstick humour, sight gags, satire, and parody. Every episode is jam packed with funny moments, plenty of which genuinely elicit big laughs.

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Nozaki-kun is adapted from a 4Koma manga and is easily on par with some of the most famous 4Koma adaptations, like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star. This is undoubtedly a fresh and original take on the shoujo romance genre, which has a great cast, memorable scenes, and is filled with hilarious moments.

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