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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
My Deer Friend Nokotan

How would you rate episode 1 of
My Deer Friend Nokotan ?
Community score: 3.9

What is this?


Torako thought she had successfully buried a wild past to become a normal high school honors student, with none of her classmates aware of her delinquent roots. But that all changes when she discovers Nokotan, a new transfer student with antlers, tangled up in power lines and being attacked by birds. Whatever she is, Torako may regret helping her since Nokotan can smell the former delinquent on her. Now, a punky past and a monster girl have crashed into Torako's life in this hilarious (and chaotic) high school comedy.

My Deer Friend Nokotan is based on the manga series by Oshioshio. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime Video, ADN, Anime Onegai, and other streaming services on Sundays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

Of all anime, pure comedy shows are often the hardest ones to review. After all, comedy is notoriously subjective. What one person finds hilarious, another person will find insulting or just plain boring. So all I can really do here is explain the kinds of humor used and tell you if it worked for me or not.

Basically, My Deer Friend Nokotan has three types of humor. The first is pun-based humor. There is a ton of deer-centric wordplay—I mean, our secondary protagonist, Noko Shikanoko, has a name that could literally be translated as “The child of the child of the deer.” Then there's the recurring joke that the word “shika” (which means “deer”) is sung over and over again in the background music. It's good stuff if you like puns and the like, though I'm not sure how well it translates into English.

The next type of humor used is the weakest, in my opinion: conversation humor. Torako, desperate to keep her secret safe, is constantly trying to steer the conversation away from her dark past. But Nokotan keeps bringing it up. There are also humorous conversations that either end up with Torako exposing her true personality or being conned into doing something due to her own ego. Honestly, these didn't work for me. They seemed very predictable and that really lessened the effect of the humor.

Lastly, we have the best part of the episode: the surrealist humor. I legitimately guffawed at the scene of Nokotan entering the classroom for the first time. The joke was obvious from the moment you could see she wouldn't fit through the door (and was not smart enough to turn sideways). Yet, what made it so funny was that it was taken to the most insane extreme: glass shattering, walls breaking, debris flying—people smiling as they receive bloody injuries. And to top things off, we had the endless chanting of the word “shika” in the background. It was perfect. The other surreal jokes are funny as well: from Nokotan hanging from the power lines to the hyper-realistic deer that appear randomly throughout the episode.

All in all, I found that this episode was incredibly hit or miss with me. I was either laughing or mind-numbingly bored, nothing in between. Based on the nature of this show, I recommend that everyone give it a watch if they can. If the humor works for you, I'm sure you'll have a great time in the weeks to come. If not, well, at least it's only 24 minutes long.

Caitlin Moore

My Deer Friend Nokotan's marketing team did a fantastic job. Well before this episode came out, it was already the most memeable show of the summer. A catchy song, photorealistic deer juxtaposed with cartoony backgrounds and humans, a lot of exaggerated reaction faces—they had captured an audience weeks before the first episode came out.

And now that the episode is out? Ehhhhhhhhhhh.

Maybe part of the problem was in Studio WIT's adaptation, but I sensed a profound lack of confidence in the material. Every single joke over the course of the episode was in slow motion, practically screaming, “LAUGH AT ME! LOOK AT HOW FUNNY THIS IS! ARE YOU LAUGHING YET?” Anime tropes were called out and lampshaded but they didn't actually do anything with them. If you point out the conveniently empty desk with a Dezaki-style postcard shot, that doesn't make it any less convenient. Self-awareness isn't comedy; in fact, being too self-aware is often the enemy of comedy.

It's not that I dislike absurdist comedy! Asobi Asobase and The Little Lies We All Tell are two of the funniest anime of the last decade. But there's almost no actual originality to the humor here—it's all bokke and tsukomi dynamics mixed with some references. The overuse of slow-motion brutally murders the comedic timing, stretching absurd situations long past the point where the shock has worn off, and surprise is a huge factor in what makes jokes funny.

It's also hampered by a truly awful translation. Maybe there were some funny dialogue-based jokes in there but they sure didn't make it through to English! There's some discussion about whether the English subs are machine translated—apparently the French ones are incoherent, and other European languages aren't looking great either—but either way, they're bad. They're loaded with spelling and mechanics errors—and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a number of linguistic jokes that got translated literally instead of an equivalent joke being written in English.

My Deer Friend Nokotan will probably still be popular because marketing is powerful—and when 50 anime are being made each season, you've won the battle the moment you get people to pay attention. But if you want a madcap comedy, there are other, much funnier options out there.

Rebecca Silverman

There is an art to absurdist comedy – it needs to be just the right flavor of insane, rely on jokes that are bizarre but not mean, and tap into a sense of how the world really is in spite of how we convince ourselves it makes sense. My Deer Friend Nokotan does manage to hit a lot of these notes; probably my favorite gag is the way that Nokotan herself only sometimes acknowledges her weird existence somewhere between human and deer. The antlers come off, the antlers are rooted so deeply in her head that her entire skull comes off, she can't fit through doors, her antlers are weird unicorn-like sensors…it's not quite Ionesco, but then, nothing really is.

Two distinct things keep me from fully embracing this. The first are the snot and drool jokes; for whatever reason, those are my gross-out barrier, and I just feel sick every time they're used for gag fodder. The preternaturally long string of snot that Nokotan uses to hook Torako would have had me turning this off were it not my job to watch it. The other dealbreaker is the repeated joke about Torako's virginity and everyone's ridiculous investment in it. I get it, the entire opening is about how ludicrous notions of pure girlhood are, with the implication that Torako's shift from shonen manga-poisoned delinquent to the epitome of girlhood (or Girlhood) is her going from one ridiculous stereotype to another. But the whole thing is both nobody's business and decidedly not funny, especially when compared to some of the other gags in the episode. Why fall back on something as hoary as a virgin joke when you could show more weird CG deer spying on Nokotan's class?

And those CG deer are weird, which is absolutely part of their charm. This is one of those cases where it feels like they're deliberately a little uncanny, especially when you pair them with the ominous background chanting of “shiiiiika shiiiiika” that forms some very memorable background music. The best thing about this episode is its total commitment to its deer-ness, from deer crackers to antlers, to Torako being forced to be the president of the Deer Club with Nokotan as the “resident deer.” It delights in its own fourth wall breaking, mystery manga referencing zaniness. It's not really my thing, but it really needs to be seen to be believed, so I'd still encourage you to check it out.

Nicholas Dupree

Call me cynical, but I was skeptical of this show when it first started picking up steam online. For one, I'd read the first volume of the manga and been underwhelmed by what seemed like a pretty mediocre gag manga. For two, everything just felt designed to purposefully go viral in ways that felt inorganic. I'm sorry guys, you don't get to make the “10 hour loop of this catchy part of the OP” video. Fans are supposed to do that themselves! You never saw Kill Me Baby posting pseudo-ironic remixes of its ED, now did you? Suffice to say, despite how hard the show's marketing wanted me to think it was the next big Shitpost Anime, I needed this first episode to actually convince me of it. It did not.

First and foremost, this just isn't that funny. While there are a couple of solid gags, or moments that are so out of left field they elicit a shock-chuckle, most of this premiere is identical to any other gag comedy. Nokotan does something weird or random or absurd, Koshitan reacts incredulously and usually yells at her. Repeat for roughly 20 minutes with little variation in cadence or tone. Added on top of that is some weak fourth-wall breaking humor where the characters or narrator reference that this is an anime. Alternatively, they'll make references to a bunch of other media, from Drifting Classroom and Fist of the North Star to Detective Conan and Danganronpa. They don't actually do anything clever with those references, but they might remind you of something else that you like, and I guess that's good enough.

I can at least say the production is giving its all on this adaptation, even if I think some of the shortfalls of the episode can be blamed on it. Every joke is taken to 11, with multiple gags from the manga amped up, such as Nokotan's already viral entrance, which originally ended with her crashing through the wall but now features slow-motion shots of the debris injuring her classmates. I'd say that sort of intensity is a good thing, except that the added bits are a subtly different sense of humor from the original, and they don't really mesh. When adaptations like 100 Girlfriends or Bocchi the Rock! went off-script, it was still always in the spirit of enhancing the material that was already there. Here, all the slow-motion gags, random shots of purposefully crude CG deer, and copious outside references just make the show feel desperate. Rather than having confidence in its own sense of humor, it's reaching for any and every kind of gag it can in the hopes of something, anything landing.

Maybe I'm reading too much into that last part, but it doesn't change the fact that this episode just didn't make me laugh much. None of its jokes have much staying power, and the ones that did land were mostly through sheer shock value. The characters have a simple, repetitive chemistry that doesn't offer much to care about, and there's nowhere near enough variety in the material to keep it feeling fresh. If you just want a bunch of gags thrown at your face with the force of an RPG, then this will do it, but that's about it.

The ED did have some cute videos of real deer though, so it gets an extra ½ star.

James Beckett

My Deer Friend Nokotan is a show that has clearly learned that most important lesson taught by shows such as Nichijou and Asobi Asobase: When it comes to animated comedy, there is a direct correlation between the stupidity of a joke and the unreasonable amount of time and effort you spend committing to it. In the case of My Deer Friend Nokotan, it is already pretty funny that poor Torako has woken up to find herself in a world gone mad, where she is seemingly the only one who thinks it is just a little strange that there is a new girl at school with deer-antlers on her head. What makes this show often downright hilarious is that the deer-girl, Nokotan, behaves like a borderline malevolent demigod who uses her power to violently disrupt the laws of physics and basic anatomy to become Torako's new best friend (aka “Ruin her life by shattering the carefully crafted illusion of perfection that Torako has so meticulously established since abandoning her life as a crazed delinquent”).

Now, being an off-the-wall comedy starring a belligerently cutesy deer-girl, My Deer Friend Nokotan doesn't stick the landing of every single joke. The giant wad of snot that sticks to Torako's head when she first encounters Nokotan, for example, is more gross than anything, and there are plenty of manzai routines that revolve a little too much on Torako loudly exclaiming the punchline of the joke in a very literal way. Still, those small misfires are usually offset by a beat of gloriously over-animated visual spectacle that sells a joke so much better than simply explaining why Nokotan is weird over and over. The bit where Nokotan makes a grand entrance that ends up shattering the skulls and faces of several obliviously grinning classmates is easily the highlight of the episode, but I don't want to overlook the smaller but equally funny gags. My favorite joke of the episode might just have been the way that Nokotan's head warps and rubber-bands when Torako reluctantly brushes it, complete with utterly charming boi-oi-oinng sound effects from Megumi Han.

I will admit that I might have let myself fall for the hype of My Deer Friend Nokotan a bit too much, as I was expecting to laugh more than I ultimately did with this premiere. I was certainly always have a great time, though, and I'm definitely going to be checking in on this show throughout the rest of the summer. Now that we've gotten the setup out of the way, I imagine that My Deer Friend Nokotan will only get funnier once it is able to compound on its zaniness and really cut loose.

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