Hello there, hope you are enjoying Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day for those of us who are a bit lonely….. Anyway, as per tradition for me when it comes to reviews in February, I cover anime that have relationships as a primary focus. This year, however, I am putting out the review on the day of love itself, as opposed to around this special day like I have done in previous years.
Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun (2014 TV Series)
Director: Mitsue Yamazaki
Writer: Yoshio Nakamura
Studio: Doga Kobo
Chiyo Sakura is a teenage girl with a typical problem: she has fallen in love, ah young love. Of course, the target of her affections is Umetaro Nozaki a stoic and seemly inconspicuous guy in her class. But she runs into indecision when she tries to confess her feelings for the guy, however Nozaki misunderstands her plea as a request for an autograph and even an invite to help out with his rather trite and clichéd shoujo manga, like as in it’s a pretty boilerplate story and characters, but done in a respectful manner than being cynical or mean-spirited. In the course of 12 episodes, we explore not just Chiyo and Nozaki’s relationship and life but also of their fellow students and others, and this helps to solidify this show as a great romantic show, in terms of the life lessons brought forth, strong visual comedy and excellent English dub.
Nozaki-kun offers up some quite interesting life lessons, as it explores the life and times of these crazy kids. Chiyo and Nozaki’s relationship best exemplifies the theme of young love and how fleeting but precious it is. Being about manga, there exists insight into the creative process and creativity. Another life lesson comes in the form of Wakamatsu, a classmate of Nozaki, who gets introduced in episode 6. He is a basketball player who has to endure the ire of tomboy Seo in basketball practice. However, one day while visiting Nozaki, he hears a song from the ‘Lorelei of the Glee Club’ who is actually Seo singing but Wakamatsu. Anyway, part of his storyline in the series consist of him trying to follow situations he sees in shoujo manga only to see those played out quite unlike what he had read. This leads to another moral: Reality rarely meets the expectations of fantasy, no matter how hard you try. That’s another thing, this show avoid mucking around in postmodern commentary ‘oh let’s just mention clichés and tropes without doing anything with them’ that a lot of anime run into nowadays, which I appreciate immensely.
Sakuga Moment (thanks Sakugabooru.com owob)
Nozaki-kun displays strong visual comedy courtesy of Studio Doga Kobo, whose work I have currently been following. They have shown, with shows like New Game, Umaru-chan and Love Lab, that they are masters of anime visual comedy. Jokes and comedy can only go so far unless they are complemented with appropriate visual cues and/or gags. Thankfully, Nozaki-kun delivers this in spades and then some.
The excellent English dub, provided by the wonderful people at Sentai Filmworks, is the cherry atop this awesome anime sundae. Kyle Jones directed and co-wrote with perennial dub scriptwriter/actress Katelynn Barr, and it certainly shows just how far Sentai Filmworks has come in terms of their dubbing efforts. They can certainly be compared favorably with regards to the rest of the R1 anime industry. Jones cast this one with an eye on versatility, combining newer talent (Juliet Simmons and Scott Gibbs) with somewhat more veteran talent (Ty Mahany, Monica Rial, Joanne Bonasso) in a way that feels fresh. The dub script is very on point with the jokes, making me laugh hard in just about every episode. But more than anything, it got a great sense of character voice that Barr’s scripts are known for. I feel that she is likely the best talent for dub scriptwriting that Sentai has nabbed and I wish her the best for a fruitful future. Also the Nozaki kun shorts are included and dubbed as well for the complete collection, providing a nice little addition to the series.
Now while the anime ends on an incomplete note, even a jokey one, I feel that’s intentional. Because, in the end, life and all the relationships we sustain in our lives end up being works in progress, always changing up, even in little ways. Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun is the first romantic comedy anime that I have enjoyed this much since His and Her Circumstances. Pick this one up and show to your friends who might not even be into anime, they can get introduced via this amazing show.
So for my March review, I am covering a show with a Steven Foster dub, but one that you might find surprising…..
‘Til next time, dear readers