Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 11

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GSN dash k roars into the final stretch with an episode so packed with charming content and humor that even Sabagebu would blush! I laughed, I smirked, and I appreciated that an end game plot seems to be coming together, which is kinda rare for this genre actually!

First the synopsis!

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Nozaki tells Chiyo about the first time he met Ken-san. In typical Nozaki fashion, he was completely crazy and refused to get close enough to reach, gets ‘puma mom’ over potential changes to his manga (baby) and totally annoys Ken. However, it all turns around when Ken shows a clear knowledge of Nozaki’s cast. Then Nozaki gets a little too friendly…

Interesting note, even though this scene is being told to Chiyo by Nozaki, we see it from Ken-san’s perspective. I don’t know what to make of that decision — not sure if it’s meant to have meaning — but it piqued my curiosity.

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While working on next month’s strip, Nozaki thinks aloud at Chiyo on ways to make the strip more exciting or memorable. In typical Nozaki fashion, his ideas are completely crazy. He proposes the characters have a typical day, featuring a helicopter rescue from a rock wall or everyone carrying knives. 

His final attempt is close, featuring many warm moments with the female lead always zoomed in but totally ruins it when he reveals she’s been riding her love’s shoulders all day long…

Nozaki wants to experiment, as he always does, and promises to show Chiyo something tomorrow.

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“Excitement is hard” – a straight faced Nozaki

The follow school day, Chiyo sits down at her desk. Then she realizes she’s sitting on Nozaki’s back and freaks out! Then Nozaki does a magic trick and offer’s her flowers. This goes well until his hand falls off as part of the trick.

Then they have lunch together and Chiyo is surprised to receive a bento. Then surprised the bento only contains white rice. Then surprised and delighted that curry was hidden under the rice.

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The day rolls on and Nozaki tries many things and, by the end of the day, Chiyo is on constant alert for wacky antics. So much so that she can’t enjoy their nice walk home together. She’s so flustered when they reach his bus stop that she shouts at him ‘Where’s the surprise??’ but Nozaki totally surprises her by saying he just wanted to walk with her. No ‘surprise’ needed.

Sadly, when Nozaki presents his new script to Ken-san, the delivery falls short of his real world experience and Ken politely rejects it.

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Approaching storm metaphor!

Mikorin, Hori and Waka all end up at Nozaki’s to escape the rain and, even though they can all guess the others work on Nozaki’s manga, no one wants to admit it. In typical Nozaki fashion, he takes advantage of the situation and uses it to frame a sleep-over scenario for a future manga.

Hori notices and, being the only one who knows that Nozaki bases his characters on his friend has a mixture of curiosity and terror watching the night unfold. (special note on terror as Mikorin’s dialog is immediately turned into girl talk in Nozaki’s sketches)

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The night wears down and the guys try to talk about some relationships. Hori and Mikorin immediately think about Chiyo and, knowing the time is right, ask Nozaki if he actually likes her. Unfortunately, Nozaki is asleep and the guys get into a rough house moment of excitement over bravado which poor Nozaki had wanted to see and take notes on all this time!

Dun dun duuuuunnnnn!

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Goodness! Episode 11 was packed with development, relationships, a few reveals and an obvious set up for Nozaki and Chiyo to have a romantic showdown in the near future! Between the on coming storm and 2/3 of Nozaki’s boy friends now being curious (and making assumptions) a show down just seems unavoidable.

Will anything come of it? Will Waka/Lorelei or Hori/Kashima get some final screen time? Not likely but I greatly appreciate the show making the effort to get everyone set up. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out!

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07 (Take Two)

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Nozaki asks Chiyo out, but that turns out to be a reference gathering and art supply run. Frustrated but hopeful embarrassment ensues. 

During the “date,” Nozaki attempts to get Chiyo to pose in a sailor suit. Failing that, Nozaki tries to model in the sailor suit himself. Hilarious embarrassment and heaven-sent curses for being manly-muscular ensues. 

Mikorin, who is shopping in the same mall, is discovered in the naughty Bishoujo model isle and asked to model the sailor. Double embarrassment and exasperation ensues. (End Act 1)

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Mikorin refuses Chiyo’s request to model for the art club only to accept the request from another girl he doesn’t know. (and accept with great flourish he does) Chiyo is not amused.

At home, Mikorin prepares by posing in an S shape (the wrong way) and by mimicking his sexy Bishoujo figures but even he knows this is all wrong. (nicely looping us back to act one) If Chiyo were there, she would not be amused.

At Art Club, Mikorin takes many humorously specific pose requests, is humorously not rescued by Nozaki when he shows up and ultimately flirt-agrees to pose for art club again… next time in the nude. Miserably embarrassed with himself, Mikorin crumples in a terror ball and, again, Chiyo is not amused.

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I’m double-reviewing GSN-k this week in prep for Zane’s hand off next week — and what a week to start reviewing this lovely show! While I giggled like it’s 1493 during Nozaki’s sailor antics and Mikorin’s bedroom confusion, episode 7 is all about the romantic teen drama. Lite-Drama, to be sure, but the confusion and believable frustration felt by the two emotionally present characters is there at every turn.

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Because we view the show largely from Chiyo’s perspective (I could even argue we see Mikorin’s POV scenes as Chiyo would imagine them) we’re only getting her hopes and doubts about Nozaki liking her or not and, since Nozaki is extraordinarily weird AND stoic, it’s impossible for us to tell if he really does like her and is going about it in a Nozaki-be-crazy way, or if he only considers Chiyo a professional ally. Color me less entertained, laughs-wise this week, but I’m gonna stream this show until I get an answer!

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Meanwhile, team Mikorin has to wonder if he’s harboring confused interest in Chiyo as well. I may be reading too much into it, but Chiyo is the only only female Mikorin talks to seriously — the only one he ever show’s his embarrassment to — and he’s come to her for childish emotional support on more than one occasion. He went so far as to panic and tantrum at her after she left him alone in the art room (to get him a drink no less) this week. Who knows if that clinginess will turn romantic or not but, given GSN-k’s playful jabs at the genre, I expect at least an episode dedicated to the art of tragic romantic triangles.

Or squares.

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What continues to make GSN-k so much fun is how absurd the characters are — sincerely bizarre. Not absurdist plays on modern culture sprinkled with anthro-characters, just people with unusual ways of looking at the world and unexpected ways of behaving. It’s great and very effective at keeping us in the dark over what they all want (in relation to Chiyo) and, usually, keeps an amused smirk on my face while doing it.

GSN-k is taking it slow but, sometimes, slow is a good thing. If this were Love Stage!!, Chiyo would have raped Nozaki by episode 3 and I’d be all make the bad bad dreams go away mommy by now. And that’s something I can do without.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07

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Besides the fact they’re now friends and she helps him with his manga, one of the reasons Chiyo hangs around Nozaki so much is that she hasn’t let go of the hope that one day he’ll notice her as a romantic interest; even requite her feelings for him. It’s gestures like agreeing to hang out with her on his off day that lend fuel to the long-burning flame she carries for him.

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Unfortunately, in every such instance Chiyo is ultimately disappointed, and part one of this episode is no exception. He picks the movie they go to so he can see a school building from multiple angles; he picks out clothes for her to wear so he can use her as a reference for Mamiko; he picks out a resin doll to be a Suzuki reference; and he makes an art supply run.

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This isn’t the date Chiyo wanted; it’s errands, and she’s not his companion, she’s his assistant. We watch much of this show from Chiyo’s perspective, and she has an idealized version of Nozaki whose thoughts and actions are motivated by things other than shoujo manga, but episodes like this make me wonder if that vision of Nozaki is just her mirage. The last nail in the coffin is when he invites her to his place…because he has too much food.

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There’s always a practical reason for Chiyo in Nozaki’s life, but never an emotional one, aside from acknowledgement of and gratitude for her hard work, never realizing she’s doing all this because she likes him. In a comedy that purports to satirize shoujo manga, I’m actually okay with Nozaki being so single-minded and unromantic; it subverts that genre’s usual formula. But it also makes me feel a little bad for Chiyo.

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Unfortunately it is also hamstringing Nozaki as a character. Chiyo and Mikorin have many sides to them, but while Nozaki sometimes reveals strange tastes, he remains stubbornly static. Happily, the show seems to be aware of this as well, and chooses to put Mikorin at the center of the second part. An ironic indication Chiyo and Mikorin are good friends is how easily he refuses her request.

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Were she any other girl, he’d have put on the playboy charm and accepted, which is exactly what happens with the other art club members, much to his dismay. During the session each member of the club gives him a pose to do, and they’re all hilariously specific, including Chiyo’s request for him to pose like Nozaki writing a manuscript.

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When the real Nozaki pops in, he ends up drawing what he wants, then takes over the club by making everyone else pose for him. In the end, Mikorin has fun, and the club members, mostly girls, are very appreciative. He gets more comfortable and confident around them, but goes too far, offering to be a nude model for them next time. Godspeed, Mikorin!

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Stray Observations:

  • It was pretty adorable watching Chiyo try in vain to keep up with Nozaki’s massive gait!
  • Nozaki over-thinking: planning to break the arm off a resin bishoujo model because it’s covering her ear. Just buy a different pose, dude!
  • I don’t know why, but I feel a bit cheated that Chiyo never dressed up in that sailor suit. I guess Nozaki was a little too enthusiastic about snapping photos of her in it. Also, through his eyes/lens she’d only be Mamiko.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 06

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The first half of this week’s episode introduces us to the last member of the ensemble, Wakamatsu Hirotaka. He’s on the basketball team, but is always getting rammed by the out-of-control Seo Yuzuki. It’s stressing him out and leading to insomnia.

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Nozaki provides a remedy, if technically by accident, when Wakamatsu is over at his place. He switches on his iPod and a recording of Yuzuki’s beautiful singing voice comes on, putting Wakamatsu to sleep instantly. Yes, the source and solution to his stress are the same person; he just doesn’t know it.

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This is not at all a bad premise for a shoujo manga, and Wakamatsu decides to confront Yuzuki with methods used in manga: leaving a note in her locker that Chiyo thinks is a love letter; meeting her atop the school at dusk; even using gloves to challenge her to a duel. But even if Waka executed all of these perfectly, Yuzuki takes everything precisely the wrong way.

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Even when he yells at her, she’s too busy thinking of a nickname for him, and when he gives her gloves, she believes the whole meeting was so “Waka” could give her a gift. It’s a case of two people who like each other, but are on such different wavelengths they’re unable to connect.

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Part Two deals with another common shoujo scenario: the girl lovingly nursing the sick guy back to health. Naturally, there’s a twist to it, as Chiyo isn’t the only one the ill Nozaki sends an SOS text to. Waka and Hori also arrive. Nozaki doesn’t need medicine; he just wants someone to stay in bed for him, as if following the spirit if not the letter of doctor’s orders made any sense.

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Instead, Chiyo insists he stay in bed himself, and she and Hori decide to finish his manga for him before tomorrow’s deadline. Being the seasoned manga senpais to Waka is of no avail when they discover screentone has to be applied to the pages, something they’ve never done. Waka proves better at it than either of them.

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When Nozaki is too rambling about the dialogue, the three decided to add their own, with Chiyo and Waka using Yuzuki as a template for Mamiko, while Hori uses the same shimmering background for Suzuki, projecting Kashima. They finish the manga and it’s technically fine, but content-wise it’s a hot mess, and Nozaki has no choice but to ask for an extension.

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Yuzuki-as-Mamiko is pretty funny, and a nice call-back to the first half story. It seems the show will rarely combine all seven members of its ensemble for one story, unless of course all of them end up going on a trip together or something. having a different combination of strong, quirky personalities each week is keeping things fresh.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 05

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Nozaki gives his apartment a thorough cleaning for his extremely curt editor, Miyamae. Chiyo doesn’t think the editor likes Nozaki at all, but Nozaki is totally in love with the guy for the punctual and straightforward nature of their communication. We learn why Nozaki feels this way in an episode that explores the mangaka-editor relationship, which can be a treacherous sea.

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Nozaki has been scarred by his previous editor, Maeno (whose name means “previous”): who always suggested and took credit for obvious ideas Nozaki had either already come up with, or ones he hates. After a subtly manipulative, self-important boob like Maeno, Miyamae seems pretty darn “cool and mature”, as Nozaki describes him.

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Nozaki is also troubled by the fact his neighbor and fellow mangaka—the beautiful college student Miyako Yukari—is still suffering under the affable boot heel of Maeno, who forces her to put random tanukis in everything she draws, regardless of genre (her apartment is also full of the things). The website set up ostensibly for artists’ benefit is full of posts of him describing what he’s wearing or abusing Miyako’s manuscript.

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Miyako should get mad—indeed, when Maeno shows up unannounced and teases Nozaki, Nozaki very nearly hulks up—but she doesn’t. Such is the insufferable, inscrutable power of Maeno, something Nozaki is very glad to be (mostly) rid of. From there, Nozaki receives criticism from Miyamae that he isn’t revealing enough of Mamiko’s emotions to the reader. Believing the only way to understand Mamiko is to become Mamiko, Nozaki decides to do just that.

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The results are unsurprisingly hilarious, though not as over-the-top as you’d think. He makes a bunch of bentos to give to friends to try to capture Mamiko’s feelings, but ends up conjuring a somewhat sinister Mamiko. He also tries to understand what it’s like to have girls for enemies. In an inspired choice, he does this by speeding Kashima around on a hand cart; her hordes of worshipers in hot pursuit.

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The chase sequence is a hilarious peace of physical comedy, and the little moment the “spurned” Kashima has with Hori afterward is pretty cute as well. Ultimately all of Nozaki’s research only leads to an even more confusing, unrealistic version of Mamiko that further frustrates Miyamae. Even so, it was neat to watch the creative process in action.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 04

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Mikorin reveals himself as far more comfortable around fictional girls than real ones, as evidenced by his love of dating sims. When he tries to get Nozaki into them as well, a hilarious send-up of the genre ensues. As an accomplished shoujo artist, Nozaki enters the game as the protagonist fom his own manga, who isn’t the slightest bit interested in any of the girls in the game. He also serves as skeptic to Mikorin’s true believer, picking the sim apart as he plays.

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Nozaki sees ulterior motives in the characters that don’t belong in the game’s genre, but on one point manages to convert Mikorin with the sentiment that the game’s protagonist’s best friend Tomoda is way too selfless, sacrificing his own youth to support them. Suddenly motivated to pull an all-nighter drawing a manga in which Tomoda is the protagonist, the most suitable person to pair him with turns out to be the protagonist from the game, making it a BL manga and thoroughly confusing Chiyo when she arrives in the morning.

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After subverting the dating sim by pointing out the sidekick best friend is the most compeling character in it, GSNK moves on to a new story in its second half, in which Mikorin must prepare for what is, despite his playboy persona at school, his first mixer ever. He solicits advice from Nozaki and Chiyo, who turn out to be ill-suited to the task, as both of them would prove insufferable at a mixer. Nozaki, posing as a girl, gives conversation-killing answers to Mikorin’s questions, while Chiyo is only interested in meeting someone who matches Nozaki’s description exactly.

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Nozaki also insists on “going to the toilet” with Chiyo to talk “in private”, but when Mikorin insists on joining them, they’re all just in Nozaki’s bathroom for no reason, which is great! Ultimately, Mikorin sends Kashima (who thankfully escapes physical abuse this week) to the mixer in his place. The Prince ends up conquering all four of the other girls, leaving the three guys in the dust. Not that having Mikorin there would have resulted in a dramatically different outcome, but Kashima sure seemed more into it.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 01

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Commiserations, Ao Haru Ride: you had the misfortune of being followed by this on my watchlist; not that you would have fared much better had I watched them in opposite order. Getting down to brass tacks, this slick, nimble laugh-fest of an episode made Ao seem like a feckless, nebulous, lethargic, overly straight-laced chore. And we didn’t even dislike Ao Haru Ride…while we were watching it!

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We could only summon a slight snicker or two from Ao Haru Ride, while numerous parts of this episode had me loosing legit belly laughs. It’s a show that’s not afraid to let its hair down and get silly and ridiculous, as it does when Nozaki and Chiyo brainstorm ways for a guy and girl to ride a bike, culminating in the two riding a tandem bicycle in similarly goofy ways. Also, the misunderstandings between the two in matters regarding romance were understandable and/or clever; never labored.

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The bikes are just one example of the many ways the show grabbed hold of ideas and squeezed just the right amount of comedy out of them before moving on (the many cats mistaking Nozaki for a telephone pole, or something, were another). The exercises in futility that are Chiyo’s attempts to confess to Nozaki are another; both attempts bookend the episode and end in the same undesired result for Chiyo: a signed autograph.

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Another plus: unlike the kids in Ao Haru Ride, Chiyo and Nozaki aren’t just bland, confused students milling around school trying to fit in; they’re artists. Nozaki is a published and highly popular manga artist; the fact he’s an enormously successful shoujo artist is one of the many running gags, as it’s never adequately explained exactly how he’s able to touch the hearts of so many girls with zero romantic experience.

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But that lack of experience also informs how he looks at Chiyo. She’s always looked at him as a love interest, but gains even more respect and admiration when she finds out what he does (even if she’s not sure how he does it). Nozaki, meanwhile, has been watching her for some time too, but as a mangaka scouting for talent, which Chiyo has. The two settle into a nice cozy creative routine, and their “bicycle research”, while hilarious, also exemplifies their collaborative efficacy, as it leads to a popular manga, a source of pride for Chiyo.

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In short: they make a damn good team. Sure, they seem incapable of seeing eye to eye on matters of romance between them, but chalk that up to Chiyo simply failing to get unmistakable words out (she only gets out mistakable words, like “I’m a fan!” She may have struck out twice, but she’s still very much in the batter’s box, just as Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun has earned a solid place on our roster. Sports metaphors!

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Stray Observations:

  • The sheer volume of laughs approached those of the very best episodes of Sket Dance; not faint praise from us.
  • Never heard Ozawa Ari before, but she’s very good here as Chiyo, expressing a great range of emotions. Both her inner and outer dialogues fizz like a fresh Alka-seltzer.
  • If there’s ever an anime where the guy speeds off in a bike while the girl runs behind him, I want to watch it.
  • A subtle but ever-present sight gag is in effect here as well: Chiyo is absolutely dwarfed by Nozaki, underscoring the figurative “heights” she’ll have to scale for her feelings to reach him.
  • Those cats…so random…but so good.
  • The ending theme was kinda obnoxious…but who cares?