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?

Aku no Hana – 10

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao, Saeki Nanako

Kasuga and Nakamura ride his bike into the mountains, but he gets tired and it starts to rain, they stop by the side of the road to rest. Saeki excuses herself from dinner and goes after them, and finds someone who saw where they went. As they lie down to sleep, Saeki finds them. She asks Kasuga why she can’t understand The Flowers of Evil and why he likes it so much. Nakamura tells her about all the deviant things he did and even strips him down in front of her, but Saeki doesn’t care, as long as he loves her.

Nakamura gets on Kasuga’s bike and starts off. Kasuga runs after her but Saeki yells at him and he stops. Nakamura tells him to make his choice, but he tells them he is empty inside: he can never love like a normal person for Saeki, and he can’t be the deviant Nakamura wants him to be; he doesn’t deserve to choose either of them. Saeki drops the book in resignation, and a teary Nakamura stomps on it. The police pick the three up and they share a ride home.

Kasuga and Nakamura wanted to weigh anchor and shove off without any trouble. They were both sick of the city and the people in it, had no good reason to stay, and finally wanted to see what lay beyond the hill. Unfortunately, they allowed themselves to be seen by one too many witnesses, and the mountain proved too much for the un-athletic Kasuga, especially having Nakamura in tow. Their great deviant adventure stalls in its infancy, and isn’t allowed to start back up. Nakamura muses that over that hill could be the end of the world, and until they actually get there, for all intents and purposes, it is.

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This week Saeki showed what she was made of by not allowing Kasuga to run away so easily. Other girls may have given up on him after all he’d done to and kept from her, but she loves him, and to her none of that matters as long as she gets to be with Kasuga and understand who he is. Only Kasuga doesn’t understand who he is either. In his climactic speech where he refuses to choose either, he speaks of hiding behind Baudelaire & Co., trying to convince himself he wasn’t normal by pretending to understand literature. It isn’t until he’s between the two girls, faced with the choice of one, that he completely tears himself down in an effort to make himself undesirable to both.

This desperate attempt to snap them out of their obsession with him looks like might’ve worked, on at least a superficial level: Saeki says “Fine, forget it”; Nakamura, shockingly, starts to cry, finally betraying genuine emotion to him. Then the cops arrive, shine a blinding light on the emotional spectacle (record scratch, anyone?), and stick Kasuga between two girls who were stripping him down and pulling his arms out of their sockets a few minutes ago, but now they won’t even look in his general direction, as he’s rejected them both. But lengthy and devastating monologues aside, it’s likely far from over between these three. Fortunately for us!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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