Cheerful high school girl Chiyo Sakura has fallen head-over-heels for the tall and handsome Umetarou Nozaki. Much to her confusion though, when she tries to confess her love to Nozaki, he hands her his autograph instead! As it turns out, the stoical teenage boy is actually a well-respected shoujo manga artist, who writes under the name of Sakiko Yumeno and, through a series of misunderstandings, Chiyo ends up becoming one of Nozaki’s assistants! Striving to get closer to Nozaki, Chiyo continues to assist Nozaki with his manga, meeting several of their quirky school mates and fellow assistants along the way.
Despite the romantic sounding premise, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, a 2014 anime based on the 4-koma manga series by Izumi Tsubaki, is barely a romance show at all, but is in fact a comedy and an excellent one at that. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Nozaki-kun has to be one of the most consistently laugh-out-loud funny anime I’ve ever seen. Despite some physical comedy gags, most of the humour comes down to the excellent comedic chemistry between certain duos in the show. Personally I got the most laughs out of seeing the well-meaning but somewhat dense Nozaki paired with the average girl Chiyo. If you’ve seen anything from Nozaki-kun on the internet before now, it’s probably the large swathe of Chiyo reaction images, and they’re even more hilarious in the context of the show and never failed to make me laugh. Outside of their shtick, there are an absolute ton of very funny and well written gags and some great visual humour too, including one incredible scene involving a bear costume that has to honestly be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. The off-the-wall supporting cast is also a comedic riot, with characters like Mikoshiba and Kashima not only being hilarious, but also acting as a clever jab at traditional shoujo archetypes, which I think shoujo manga fans will get a kick out of. It’s worth keeping in mind that comedy by its very nature is very subjective, so I think how much someone would enjoy this show would very much depend on their sense of humour, but, for me at least, I loved the comedy on display here.
Even though I really loved the comedy in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, I can’t help but feel that the total dedication to the comedy aspect was also a fairly big hindrance in other aspects. Going into the show, I was expecting something akin to a romantic comedy, and if you read a description of the show, you might think that too, and whilst I suppose it is technically true, the romance here is severely downplayed. There are a handful of nice moments between Chiyo and Nozaki, but these moments felt spread out rather thinly, and a lot of the time, they were used to service the comedy rather than develop the relationship between the characters. I definitely think that the potential was there for the writers to go down a more serious route with the romance angle, but they never did, and that left me feeling rather disappointed. The same can be said for the characters in general, who, whilst likable and entertaining, can’t help but come across as pretty one-note and don’t receive any real development throughout the show, which is a shame because, again, I definitely think there was potential there that was totally ignored in favour of comedy. Now, despite my negativity, I’m not sure I can really fault the show for sidelining so much depth in favour of making the show funny, because, at the end of the day, Nozaki-kun is a comedy anime, after all; I just think that if they had made the show more balanced, it would have been far better on the whole, even if it wasn’t quite as funny. As Nozaki-kun is based off a 4-koma manga, I imagine much of the issues lie in the source material, which is written short form and likely lacks the depth to support a full anime adaptation.
Animation for Nozaki-kun is handled by Doga Kobo, and honestly, I couldn’t really think of a studio better suited to the material. When it comes to Slice of Life comedy, Doga Kobo has produced a number of well liked shows including New Game!, Yuru Yuri and Love Lab, and Nozaki-kun is certainly at home with those shows. Not only does it generally look quite nice, Nozaki-kun has a wonderful sense of energy to it that makes the show very entertaining on a visual level.
Both an English and Japanese audio track are included on MVM’s release of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and although the English dub is perfectly fine, I preferred the Japanese audio. Everyone in the main cast does a stellar job, with the stand-outs being Yuuichi Nakamura (Clannad, Hyouka, Karneval) as the titular Nozaki, whose monotone delivery leads to so many hilarious moments and Ari Ozawa (Gakkou Gurashi, Classroom Crisis, Active Raid) as Chiyo, who provides countless wonderful reactions. The soundtrack to Nozaki-kun is composed by Yukari Hashimoto, who also did the soundtrack for Toradora, and is quite good, complementing the show nicely.
Although it is lacking in the romance and character department, I can’t deny that Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is an incredibly funny comedy that never fails to hit its mark.