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Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Review: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is really funny and really cute. There's not much more to say about it than that, but that's worth a lot in a genre rife with homogeneous forced-in fanservice, screeching overreactions, and easy otaku references masquerading as "comedy," for those of us who are a little exhausted with those things. Nozaki-kun specifically is a shojo comedy of sorts, a little "will they, won't they" odd coupling mixed with G-rated chuckles and an occasional PG one. The odd couple in question is Chiyo, a shy and romantic girl who overthinks everything to death, and Nozaki, a shojo manga author with a dull personality on the outside but the heart of an innocent girl dreaming of her first love beating in his chest, which makes his work very popular. Nozaki is the object of Chiyo's affections, but unfortunately he's dense as a brick, and Chiyo is horribly unclear in her confessions, so he assumes she's just a big fan of his work and makes her his assistant. There are other characters on the sidelines waiting to be introduced, (as made clear by the witty and wonderful OP theme,) but Nozaki and Chiyo are clearly going to be the main focus and source of gags. That's fine, because their chemistry is already strong and soul-warming.
It's hard to describe exactly what makes the show so funny, but most of it is in the production and the timing. Nozaki-kun doesn't fall back on many tired visual ideas for its gags, and prefers to make up a few of its own, and the punchlines are seldom predictable. (When you can see the twist coming a mile away, they're still really cute.) The music is also a huge plus, and really adds to the atmosphere of every gag with its bouncy building melodies filling the space between jokes in a way that's funny all by itself, especially during "the bicycle scene."
About the worst thing I can say for the show is that the 4-panel nature of the comedic vignettes is a little too obvious. Scenes stop and start immediately after punchlines, whereupon the setting often changes drastically, and the whole experience feels a little meandering and disjunct. But every second spent watching it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, the visual gags are unique and funny, and the cute cats that are nearly a staple of this genre are even uniquely adorable with their drooping blobby faces. (The "eeeeoooouuuu" noise they make will melt your heart like butter.) If you're looking for a lightweight summer comedy, (not counting the brazen Space Dandy) this is easily the funniest so far.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: Okay, I'm a sucker for shojo romance. Idiotically enamored. So Nozaki-kun is a twofer for me: a comedy about a shojo manga artist, and a shojo romance in its own right. And it's great at both, immensely enjoyable either as a very funny look at the black box that is an artist or as a sweetly humorous portrait of a girl in love with a deceptively cool boy. Chiyo is a classic shojo heroine: sunny, sweet, and desperately insecure about her feelings. Nozaki is a classic shojo hero: tall, handsome, and brusquely forbidding. Feeling leery? Don't. The fun is in how the pair systematically undermines those impressions. The more comfortable Chiyo gets, the stronger, funnier, and wittier she gets. Nozaki's job puts a big crack in his ikemen mask—he's a shojo manga artist, as Chiyo uncovers when her confession of love is mistaken as a request to be his assistant—and he pretty much pulverizes what remains as Chiyo gets to know him. Behind his impassive face and intimidating glare lays a boy with no romantic experience, blunt and dense, with a hilariously incongruous streak of idiocy. His and Chiyo's tsukkomi/boke rapport is often priceless (the thing with the two-seated bike will just kill you), and their romantic chemistry is excellent, if nascent—helped immensely by the aching delicacy of Yukari Hashimoto's expert romantic score and by a late-coming bit of sight gaggery that sweetly informs us of why Chiyo loves Nozaki. As for the clash of Nozaki's personality and his profession, its humor is fueled by a surprisingly trenchant question: By what alchemy does the world's input enter that taciturn, pathologically straight-shooting, deeply odd skull of his and come out the other side as stories that touch the hearts of gentle maidens? The same alchemy, I assume, that went on in creator Izumi Tsubaki's skull when this charmer came out. Alchemy banzai!
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Review: Chiyo Sakura has had a crush on tall, manly Umetaro Nozaki ever since the opening ceremony day of high school, but her attempt to confess to him instead comes across as a proclamation that she's a big fan. Nonetheless, she still gets invited back to his home, where she is invited to help him work on his serialized manga, something that she was not aware he was involved with. To her shock and dismay, she discovers that his pen name is Sakiko Yumeno and thus he is the manga-ka behind a shojo manga highly popular with her classmates, a fact that he has had a tough time convincing his classmates of since Yumeno is widely-presumed to be a woman. She further discovers that Nozaki has had his eye on her for some time because of her artistic talents, so she finds herself both assisting him in his art and participating in experiments to determine what would fly in a shojo manga.
The rhythm and delivery of the first episode bears the hallmark of being based on a 4-koma manga, which is exactly the case (a web manga, actually). The set-up is basic and straightforward: pair a short, excitable girl with a tall guy with an incongruous level of cluelessness, deadpan delivery, and improbable profession and watch the sparks fly. And my, do they fly! The result is a sweet little series which is hardly artistically sophisticated but is often very, very funny. Few jokes completely miss the mark, even when they sometimes feel a little retread, and a protracted but inspired sequence in the middle involving efforts to reimagine a romantic bicycle-riding scene is a classic, one that doesn't content itself with delivering just one good laugh but keeps on serving them up. (And be sure to look for the priceless reactions of the bystanders during the actual riding parts.) Jokes even fly when you might not expect them, and the after-credits scene promises a new bishonen cast member to provide a fresh batch of new complications.
If you're looking for a simple, low-commitment comedic diversion this season then this series is definitely worth checking out.
Monthy Girls’ Nozaki-kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chiyo Sakura is getting ready to confess her love to the boy of her dreams, tall, manly Nozaki-kun. After gearing herself up, she confronts him in the classroom, tells him that she's his fan...and gets an autograph. Undeterred, she tells him that she always wants to be with him. This gets her invited to his house, and she's thinking that things are going really well. Then he hands her some pages of manga and tells her to ink in the black parts. It's about then that Chiyo realizes that maybe her confession didn't quite get through to him. She looks more closely at the autograph and sees that it's from “Yumeno Sakiko,” a popular shoujo mangaka. That's when it hits her – Nozaki-kun is Yumeno-sensei, and he thought that her confession of love was a fan's pledge of devotion to her favorite author. Well, at least she gets to be with him a lot...
Based on a manga from Izumi Tsubaki (Ore-sama Teacher, The Magic Touch), Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is surprisingly delightful. I say “surprisingly” because neither of her manga published in English have been especially good or consistently funny, so the moment I recognized her character designs, I was concerned. Luckily this is a lot of fun. Nozaki-kun's almost deadpan drawl is the antithesis of what you'd expect from a bestselling author of teen love stories, and Chiyo's mobile expressions and internal freak-outs are very good counterpoints to his one expression of stoic manliness. Once we find out that Nozaki is a manga artist, the episode gives us panels of his work with voice-overs, a conceit that works quite well and is pretty funny in some cases, such as his attempts to work a bicycle into the plotline. He also seems to be using Chiyo as a sounding board for his ideas, if not an outright experiment, as he tests out the feasibility of working a tandem bike into the story. (They aren't as romantic as “A Bicycle Built for Two” would suggest.) Visually the show is brightly colored with some pop art elements that make it stand out from its shoujo brethren. Animation is pretty limited – something the manga panel trick lets them get away with very neatly – but it doesn't feel like a cop out in this case. Simply put this was a very fun, genuinely amusing first episode. It isn't spectacular and it could get stale fast, but if you just want a chuckle or you find the idea of the world's most tactless high school boy as a talented and sensitive shoujo mangaka funny, this is worth checking out.
Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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