Sakura has a crush on her classmate Nozaki. She finally works up the courage to tell him how she feels, and what she manages to get out of her mouth is “I’ve always been your fan!” Nozaki, secretly a shojo manga artist, takers her comment at face value and gives Sakura his autograph. Unable to express her true feelings, Sakura agrees to becomes Nozaki’s assistant to spend more time with him. Thus begins Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun: the oblivious shojo manga artist and his doting helper. A cast of friends are introduced, and each helps out the couple in their own unique way. The series follows the day-to-day life and slowly deepening relationship between our two romantic leads.

This is not a formal review, but rather a more intimate look at what the two of us found enjoyable or otherwise, collaboratively written from both our viewpoints. Neither of us had watched this anime prior to us watching it together.

For Us: A Show for ‘Shippers’

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My wife is an unabashed ‘shipper’ and I’m a closet ‘shipper’: meaning we both like it in a series when two characters end up in a relationship. My wife’s ‘shipping’ goes all the way back to Scully and Mulder in X-Files, so she’s been on board with ‘shipping’ for a while. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a show built for people like us. The cast is large, varied, likeable and… ALL PAIRS. There aren’t any love triangles to be found. There aren’t any characters stepping in on another’s budding romance. There aren’t any characters where who they like is ambiguous. The show lays out who the potential couples are, and then it lets you root for them to end up admitting their feelings for one another with the ultimate goal of them starting a relationship. The structural format of the relationship pairings is a welcome change from the harem and reverse-harem shows that seem to pop up everywhere in anime.

For Him: Go Team Nozaki!

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My wife and I watched Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun together, and I have followed it up with Shirobako by myself… and I’ve learned something about myself from these two shows: I love it when people team up, have very distinct roles, and create/accomplish something together. In Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun the characters create shojo manga, while in Shirobako the characters create anime. In both, I knew next to nothing about the process of what the characters were creating, and appreciated that the series would take the time to enlighten the viewer on what exactly goes into creating the finished product (granted, the creation of manga is much less of a focus in Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun than the creation of anime in Shirobako).

I enjoyed that most of the characters have some distinct and vital role in the process of creating manga. I especially liked the portrayal of Nozaki as a creator absorbed in his work. He sees the people in his life as co-workers. He reflects on the situations he experiences as templates for stories. His obsession with his work even blinds him to the potential for real-life romance. The series mines the comedy well of Sakura’s crush on Nozaki playing out in typical romantic tropes that Nozaki is only setting up as research… and I found it funny every time. Nozaki’s single-mindedness and drive as a creator made me glad that he had a team to support him. Perhaps it’s because I work in a team-oriented creative field… but I liked the dynamic of a united ‘office’ that Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun presents.

For Him: Dissection of Tropes

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I know there are a lot of series that dissect the tropes of the genre they are couched in. However, I think Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun does this better than most. The series repeatedly performs a two step process for breaking the trope down and making it a joke. First, it establishes the trope by explaining it openly using Nozaki’s dialogue. Sometimes Nozaki will even offer some visual examples through his manga drawings. Secondly, Nozaki and Sakura will act out the trope and in the process demonstrate how ridiculous it can be. The entire first episode is built around one such dissection: having a girl ride home with a boy on his bike… and I loved every minute of it.

I think Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun’s dissection is great because it first takes the time to explain the trope to the viewer, bringing even the uninitiated into the joke. Because of Nozaki’s hobby as a manga artist and Sakura’s inexperience, the explanations and iterations don’t feel forced or out of place. It’s unlike how most other series try to bring in meta-humor. A good example of the counterpoint would be Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, which uses the trope while winking at the audience as if to say, “You see what we’re doing here right? Right?” Saekano wants you to feel proud for recognizing the trope and then to snicker at how they subvert it… the joke becomes a superfluous dig for the insider. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun brings every viewer along for the ride and makes its dissection part of the plot… the joke becomes an integral tool to examine the characters’ relationships. There’s no wrong way to use meta-humor, but I feel that Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun is a better implementation.

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For Her: Adorable Naivete

Nozaki is pretty much the embodiment of that feeling you get when you look at a bulldog puppy. You just watch him stumble around and think, “Aww... How sweet.” Nozaki is a blissfully unaware young manga writer who is always looking for his next inspiration in order to create another fan favorite. Our leading lady, Sakura, has a secret love for Nozaki, and it is a joy to watch these two navigate their developing friendship. It is clear to everyone but Nozaki that Sakura has feelings for him. You can’t help but to laugh watching Nozaki write these hilarious romantic mangas when he has romance staring him in the face. Just ADORABLE.

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For Us: No Resolution

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Ugh… We hate to keep running into this time and again, but this is another series that stops just when things are picking up. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun suffers from a common problem among anime, the insufficient end. Granted, the series is a slice-of-life comedy that adapts a manga series… so the anime writers don’t want to radically shift the paradigm in case they get picked up for a second season. But as it stands, this is another anime that will leave you wanting more.

For Him: I Got Confused

I really have very few complaints when it comes to Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Tropes that would normally bother me didn’t have the same effect within this show. The optimism and humor are really that effective. Perhaps because I was so enthralled with the overall package, I didn’t pick away at things that bothered me along the fringes.

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I did, however, experience a genuine sense of confusion due to character design. Two male characters (Wakamatsu and Hori) look very similar, are introduced in separate episodes, and have different love interests. And… I thought they were the same person. I was getting very confused why this one particular character was expressing completely different traits and romantic inclinations. I didn’t make sense of it until one character started talking about the other and they appeared on the screen at the same time. I know this is a rookie mistake, and not one I really hold against the anime… but if they had been visually differentiated better I might not have gotten confused.

For Her: Ovary-Up, Girl

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Sure, I enjoy a good ‘shipping’, and I love a sweet romance... However, I am not a fan of any female character trying so desperately to get a male to like her. Sakura basically becomes Nozaki’s employee as she helps him outline and shade his mangas into all hours of the night. Since our love interest is blissfully unaware of anything in front of him, he doesn’t catch the hint that Sakura is expressing her feelings for him. With this being said, here is my message to Sakura, “GIRL! Do not get on the payroll of your betrothed’s business endeavors. Ovary-up and tell him how you feel before he puts you on a pension plan!”

Because this is not an official Ani-TAY review, we have eschewed the normal review card.

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My wife and I really enjoyed our time watching Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun together, and we think you and your significant other will enjoy it too. The series is genuinely funny, and more often than not takes the time to explain the joke setup before delivering the punchline… which makes it great as introductory anime viewing. Knowing some of the shojo conventions this series explains could also be of good use when watching more anime with your partner down the road. If you’re looking for a light-hearted, slice-of-life shojo comedy, you can’t really do much better than Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun can be watched on Hulu and Crunchyroll streaming services. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is based on a manga series written and illustrated by Izumi Tsubaki and serialized in Gangan Online. The series was adapted to anime by Dogakobo and is licensed for regional release in North America by Sentai Filmworks.

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Interested in watching anime with your significant other? My wife and I have written a guide based off our experience watching anime together that offers some tips.