When Chiyo confesses to the boy of her dreams, she gets a little more than she bargained for when she finds out he’s secretly a girls’ manga artist in this new series from the creator of Oresama Teacher!
Chiyo Sakura finally works up the courage to confess to the tall and manly Umetarou Nozaki, but things don’t go quite the way she expects when he gives her his autograph after taking her for a fan. Discovering that Nozaki is secretly the author of one of her favourite shojo manga series, she somehow ends up as his assistant. Despite the extra time she gets to spend with him, Nozaki is utterly oblivious to her feelings and uses her as a sounding board for creating his manga. Will Chiyo be able to overcome the wacky cast of characters he surrounds himself with to get him to notice her?
If you’re somewhat aware of shojo manga or the manga industry in general, you’ll love this series.
In one sense, Monthly-Girls’ Nozaki-kun could be summed up as the story of a young girl valiantly navigating her wacky high-school as she tries to get her crush to notice her. This set up is sure to evoke a certain set of associated tropes in the mind of most manga fans, but Nozaki makes its trade on continually subverting these to hilarious effect. The main story centres around Chiyo as she frantically tries to make good on her feeling for Nozaki, but this is told through a series of vignettes played up to the most ridiculous degree as Chiyo ends up working as Nozaki’s assistant.
Much of the humour is based on Nozaki’s attempts to figure out where to take his manga next, inadvertently using Chiyo as a guinea-pig for his outlandish ideas. These subvert Chiyo (as well as the reader’s) expectations to great effect, as the story of Nozaki’s wildly cliche “Let’s Fall in Love” manga becomes a hilarious meta story thanks to his attempts to dream up new scenarios for it. For example, Nozaki decides to create a scenario where his protagonist Mamiko is taken home by her crush Suzuki via bicycle. To brainstorm ideas, Nozaki asks Chiyo for advice which eventually culminates in them riding a double-bicycle in a distinctly unromantic take on the trope to her hilarious incredulity. While Nozaki’s overwhelming lack of perception could have become boring quickly in less deft hands, this trait is used to perfection for laughs and Chiyo’s excitable personality plays off this excellently.
While I enjoyed Chiyo and Nozaki’s interactions greatly, the rest of the supporting cast each play their roles admirably, providing plenty of laughs thanks to their wonderfully distinct personalities. I enjoyed how their interactions linked in to Nozaki’s creative process while creating his manga, leading to some interest situation. For example, Nozaki is taught about dating sims by his friend Mikoshiba to brainstorm how to portray female characters in his manga. This leads to an incredible scene where Nozaki tries to play the dating sim too literally which is almost worth the price of admission alone because of how funny and well done it is. Since the large majority of humour is in reference or plays off of established manga tropes, a cursory knowledge of manga is definitely required to get the most out of this volume, although those coming in uninitiated should still find plenty to like.
Adding to the effectiveness of Nozaki’s humour is the exaggerated expressiveness Tsubaki’s art imbues in all of the characters. They all react in over the top ways that never get old, fitting each of the scenes perfectly. However, the 4 panel layout that Tsubaki utilizes is hit and miss, as it limits her ability to portray certain scenes as effectively as possible, removing any real flair the art might have otherwise had. While this accentuates the gag based format of the manga, the format also interrupts the flow of each chapter to a degree, giving them a choppier feel than would be ideal. While this constrains the story to a degree, the inventiveness with which Tsubaki continually subverted my expectations to hilarious effect more than made up for this.
If you’ve ever read shojo manga and chuckled at the tropes frequently employed, you’ll find Nozaki to be a hysterical subversion that makes full use of its wacky-cast of characters. I was left continually surprised with the direction each gag took with excellent effect, and I couldn’t put the volume down for wanting to see what would happen next. Although the 4 panel layout constrains the art and story flow to a degree and a basic knowledge of general manga tropes is necessary to get the most out of the series, the comedy still remains accessible in this hilarious volume.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 1 was published by Yen Press on November 17th, 2015. Authored by Izumi Tsubaki, the series is currently ongoing and published by Square Enix’s Gangan Online. Volume 2 will be published in English on February 23rd, 2016.
Here’s our review of volume 2!
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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher.
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