Anime Blu-Ray Review: “Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun” – Animation Scoop

Anime Blu-Ray Review: “Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun”

When Chiyo Sakura (Juliet Simmons), the heroine of the broadcast series Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (2014), awkwardly tries to confess her love to classmate Umetaro Nozaki (Ty Mahany), she mistakenly says “I’m your fan!”–and he responds by giving her an autograph from a special pad. Nozaki is tall, handsome and terminally clueless; he’s also the creator of the popular shojo (girls’) manga “Let’s Fall in Love” manga under the female nom de plume of Sakiko Yumeno. He’s used to fans asking for autographs.

Although he’s known for his insightful depictions of young girls’ emotions, Nozaki is only vaguely aware of anything beyond the nib of his drawing pen. He has a small circle of friends who function as part-time assistants and—without knowing it–models for his characters. Red-haired Mikoto Mikoshiba (Scott Gibbs) poses as a consummate ladies’ man, then cringes when he realizes the idiocy he’s just spouted. Nozaki modeled his impulsive heroine after him. Mikoshiba specializes in drawing the backgrounds of blossoms that appear in emotional moments in countless romance manga. Masayuki Hori (Adam Noble), who’s self-conscious about being short, paints scenery for the drama club and draws Nozaki’s backgrounds. Athletic Hirotaka Wakamatsu (Cameron Bautsch) tries to get Nozaki to re-join the basketball team and applies the screen tones to the pages.

Chiyo joins this group of irregulars, filling in the black areas with special ink. She’s talented and doesn’t discourage easily. She remains stuck on Nozaki, who misses every hint drops. He’s too busy taking notes on his classmates’ behaviors and shooting reference photos to notice. If a car hit Nozaki, he’d blithely sketch the dent in the bumper and try to work up a storyline about an accident.

Offbeat romances flourish under his nose at Roman Academy, yet he never seems quite aware of them. Wakamatsu falls like a bento box of rocks for a girl in the glee club when he hears her lovely voice—not realizing it belongs to obnoxious Yuzuki Seo (Joanne Bonasso), who bullies everyone she comes in contact with. Although she’s a girl, Yu Kashima (Monica Rei) is known as the Prince of the school, and half the girls have a crush on her. She adores Hori, who directs her in the school plays and has fits when she misses class and otherwise behaves irresponsibly.

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Like Animation Runner Kuromi, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is something of an inside joke. The more the viewer knows about the memes and clichés of shojo manga, the funnier the series becomes. Izumi Tsubaki, who created the original web comic, and screenwriter Yoshiko Nakamura clearly have a fun with the send-ups. Director Mitsue Yamazaki shows Nozaki’s pages at various stages of completion, and all the familiar elements there: over-the-top dialogue with girls confessing their deeply felt emotions and boys vowing to protect the girls of their dreams; cascades of cherry blossom petals; traumatic misunderstandings; misplaced trust; tearful partings and over-the-top reunions.

Despite her tireless efforts, Chiyo never gets to first base with Nozaki. She never even gets out of the dugout. She attends a summer festival in a yukata, a cotton robe that’s generally considered about the cutest things an anime heroine can wear. She sits alone with Nozaki to watch the pyrotechnics, savoring this special time together. Nozaki leans over and murmurs in her ear that he loves… fireworks.

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Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun
(Sendai: $69.98: 2 discs, Blu-ray)

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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