It is a long-standing trope in romance fiction to have an author protagonist whose own romantic inexperience drives them into the relationship that is the focus of the plot. Normally, the way this premise works is that the author has a degree of self-awareness of their own inexperience, in turn leading to them being self-conscious about it as they look for a partner. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, however, is not one of those stories. Oh, the male lead is inexperienced, but he’s also a grade-A Wholesome Himbo.
Indeed, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is a story about an assortment of goof-a-doofs and himbos, of which Nozaki is only one. Nozaki is a high-school boy who writes Shojo romance manga under a female pen name. His classmates don’t know this not because he’s keeping it a secret, but because nobody’s believed him when he tells them. The manga’s main lead – Sakura – has a crush on Nozaki, but when she tries to confess to him, the words that come out of her mouth are “I’m a huge fan!”. In response… Nozaki produces a shikishi and gives her his autograph. And then he asks her back to his apartment… to help with inking. And ultimately she ends up becoming one of his assistants.
This leads into a very well written slice of life gag comedy about the narrative tropes of shojo manga, and what goes into making shojo manga. With it comes skewering of gender roles – from Nozaki being a guy writing under a female pen name, to not only basing characters in his work on people around them, but also swapping genders in the process (a male classmate being the inspiration for a female character, for example).
Over the course of the 12 episodes, this leads to a nice cycle of hilarity, with life perceived by the characters and then reinterpreted through affectionate parodies of shojo manga, but in ways that – importantly – still work if you’re completely unfamiliar with the tropes. All of this is also animated gorgeously, with wonderfully done scenery – particularly a sequence in the rain later in the series, along with the general slapstick that fills the show. The reaction shots in particular are wonderful – and I’m legitimately surprised this show hasn’t been memed more.
Frankly, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is a wonderful romantic comedy, that also serves as a solid send-up of the genre, and one that provides a nice primer on how manga publication works (without getting into the problems that Bakuman has with depictions of women.
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