“Life on Anime” issue #5: NOZAKI-KUN

Welcome to issue #5 of Jade Woodruff’s “Life on Anime” – a new column here at Nerd Nation dedicated to reviewing all of the great anime titles out there (of which there are many – as most of you reading this already know!) from the perspective of a life-long anime fan.

For this installment, we will be tackling Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun a 12-episode anime series based on the 4-panel romantic comedy manga written and illustrated by Izumi Tsubaki and serialized in Gangan Online.

Here’s the premise:
Chiyo Sakura, your average high school student, has a crush on schoolmate Umetarou Nozaki. Little does she know that he’s the world-renowned shoujo manga artist Sakiko Yumeno, best known for Let’s Fall in Love. Sakura attempts to confess to him and Nozaki mistakes her confession for a request for an autograph. In order to get closer to him and hopefully properly convey her feelings, Sakura agrees to help Nozaki with his manga. Along the way, she meets other schoolmates who assist him and oftentimes serve as references and inspirations for Nozaki’s characters.

Nozaki-kun is a fun, lighthearted take on the shoujo genre. It introduces a host of memorable characters who make the show entertaining. It even has a reverse trap. I found her character especially humorous.

As an indie graphic novelist, I could really appreciate some of the artist humor in Nozaki-kun. Each episode, Nozaki was diligently on the lookout for references, ideas, and scenarios that he could adapt into his manga. Most of the cast of Fall in Love is based on people he met at school so he enjoys pairing them up with other “cast members” and monitoring their behavior. What makes it more interesting is that he’s basing female characters on his male friends and male characters on his female friends. Each of these said friends also helps him with his manga whether it’s applying tone (beta), drawing backgrounds, or inking. Initially, I was bothered by this, but the cast grew on me and I came to enjoy the parallel existences of each character.

What’s nice about this series is that it focuses on a fairly volatile cast and doesn’t spend too much time on any one character. When the characters have the opportunity to interact with their foil, you never know what’s going to happen – especially if Nozaki is involved.

Each character feels like he/she should fit into a specific archetype. They don’t. Even when everything starts to add up, there’s one little flaw or gigantic nuance to them that prevents them from being cookie cutter and flat. Compared to other shoujo titles, I found this refreshing.

There are a lot of anime that fall into the “let’s make manga” category as well. To name a few, Comic Party, The Daily Life of a Manga Artist and His Assistants, and Bakugan. Nozaki-kun covers a side of the genre that these titles don’t come close to touching: what female readers want in a manga. Most of the other titles focus on either action or ecchi. In this regard, Nozaki-Kun sets itself apart and manages to appeal to a more diverse audience without isolating another. In balancing several attractive male characters for the ladies but are also strong, independent, and relatable to male viewers, Nozaki-kun is able to successfully appeal to more demographics than what other shows in this genre have. Though it’s labeled as a romantic comedy, I’d say Nozaki-kun is more of a slice-of-life comedy than anything else.

It would have been nice to have some closure in the end. But the series comes full circle from one misunderstanding to another.

There isn’t much else to say about the series other than it’s full of fun antics and comedy. It’s not side-splittingly hilarious, but I found myself smiling and laughing every episode. Sentai Filmworks is licensing this in the United States. I will probably be purchasing this on Blu-Ray once it’s available and on sale. It’s not a show I’d wait around for a limited edition, but it’s good enough to buy. Definitely worth watching.



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