When I was a teenager, I went through a phase where I read nothing but one-shot shoujo manga. They were simple, and got to the point – boy meets girl, a strange conflict occurs, they fall in love, the conflict gets resolved. I spent so much time reading these cute short stories that eventually I could predict every possible romantic scenario – Romantic bike rides, Ferris wheel confessions, Summer festival romance, the sacred shared umbrella; and every possible conflict – girl is taller than boy, boy is dense as hell, girl is too shy, one of them has a bad past etc. Needless to say, I fell off of shoujo eventually, but it still holds a dear place in my heart.
Then sometime in 2016, as a university student who had put cheesy romance behind me, I stumbled upon Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki Kun. It looked like a completely generic rom-com, but for some inexplicable reason, I was drawn in. After watching a single episode however, I knew I had chanced upon greatness. As the episodes progressed and more characters were added, the ridiculousness only increased, and I was completely sold. This show exposes all the weirdness of the Shoujo genre by showing how it could go completely wrong.
We first follow our naive heroine, Sakura, as she confesses her love to the titular Nozaki. Nozaki thinks understands, but there’s a twist – he mistakes her affection for him as affection for his popular manga series Let’s Fall in Love. Sakura is the embodiment of a Shoujo heroine – a simple but cute girl who wants nothing more than senpai to notice her. Senpai unfortunately always happens to be dense AF and Sakura actively shows her frustration at this.
In her search for her perfect romance, she finds herself in Shoujo scenarios that implode on themselves because of the bizzare characters that populate her world. She points out their many weird eccentricities, as she stands in contrast to them, being the only ‘normal’ one. Basically, she wants to be a shoujo protagonist, but can’t (how miserably relatable) because the others won’t let her. This is well showcased in the very first episode, where Sakura idyllically hopes for a romantic bike ride, but instead is gifted with the experience of a horribly lame tandem bike by Nozaki.
Nozaki on the other hand is constantly on the hunt to find inspiration and help for his manga series. This man is PHYSICALLY UNABLE to realise how many false hopes this gives Sakura. He constantly extends the metaphorical carrot, baiting Sakura into thinking that her shoujo dreams are coming true, only to toss the carrot on the ground and stomp all over it. He has romantic one liners and follows them up with disappointing rationalisations. He tells her he bought her a gift, only for it to be a cosplay costume he wants to use as reference. He tells her that he has surprises for her and instead spends the day giving her heart attacks. Essentially, he can be summed up as ‘Bitch you thought’.
Easily the most endearing character in the show is Mikorin, our pretty boy. You know, the bad boy the type? Except that here, it’s a complete facade. He tries to use his charms, but unlike the arrogant sweet talkers in shoujo, he also reflects on and realises how gross his cheesy lines are. This gives him instant regret every time he opens his mouth, something which Sakura refuses to entertain to an absolutely hilarious effect.
His embarrassment towards himself, along with his irritatingly earnest attention seeking, makes him the perfect model for the heroine (yes, heroine) of Nozaki’s manga. He also happens to be quite socially inept while attempting to be likable, forcing Sakura to come to his rescue as he puts himself in compromising positions. He is the first of several other characters that flip the gender norms of shoujo tropes, exposing how bizarre these characters can sometimes act.
Another character that does this is Kashima, the school prince who actually is the bishounen Mikorin hopes to be, except that she is a girl. She is so committed to her gimmick that it gets in the way of literally everyone around her (ESPECIALLY Hori Senpai), as her posse of fans create more trouble than they are worth. She calls them ‘my princess’ and ‘little lamb’ to tiptoe around the fact that she doesn’t actually know their names. She says things that no man could ever possibly say without cringing and so even the male students accept her as the prince.
So, you know how in Shoujo the tomboy girl always secretly wants to become more girly and cute for her man? Yeah, Kashima cares about none of that. She did manage to do some mental gymnastics into projecting this trope onto HORI SENPAI though, and spends her days encouraging him to become more girly. It’s horribly entertaining to watch Hori get increasingly deranged as Kashima’s antics persist.
Next are Seo, the brash and extremely confident girl who knows nothing of mindfulness, and Wakamatsu, the gentle and naive boy who gets tangled up with her. Wakamatsu ends up in a classic ‘love in the dark’ scenario, where the person he admires from afar (lorelei) is actually the person he knows and detests (Seo). We as an audience, of course, see the ridiculousness in such a relationship because Nozaki encourages it for purely selfish reasons, even though he knows the true identity of Lorelei, and that Seo is the cause of all of Wakamatsu’s stress. We still ship it, though.
Let’s not forget Suzuki kun and Mamiko chan, the protagonists of Let’s Fall in Love. Our protagonists often take issue with these two – Hori calls Mamiko annoying, and Sakura does the same for Suzuki. They comment on how the two never study, only think about love, and how their daily lives are so over dramatic. Mikorin describes it as ‘a manga where an ordinary girl wins over a popular guy through sheer willpower’ and I think no description could be more accurate.
Our main characters also do something that no sane human would ever do – look for inspiration on how to handle situations from shoujo manga. This has wacky consequences for our characters, who end up with such hysterically warped world views that it causes massive misunderstandings. This culminates in the brilliant confession/glove fight scene between Seo and Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu had made the horrible decision to study manga in order to fight Seo, and the aftermath is side splittingly funny – he compares her to lorelei, sings lorelei’s praises and gifts Seo a pair of gloves.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki kun also makes full use of ‘Shoujo events’ and showcases how they could all go horribly wrong, bringing the biggest laughs of the show. This works through setting up familiar shoujo scenarios before completely subverting them. The infamous rain scene where Sakura & Nozaki share an umbrella is prime example of this, another being the equally infamous troll ending of the show. It takes place during the summer festival, the perfect time for romance. Nozaki and Sakura have a genuinely good time, are paired off and watch fireworks together. Everything was perfect as Sakura blurted out her confession. This is it, I thought. There’s no way around this, I thought. As Nozaki leaned over, he whispered, I love fireworks too.
I was absolutely shocked. I had to pause, and process what had happened before I burst out laughing. If this isn’t the perfect way to end this hilarious show, I don’t know what is.
Make no mistake, while Gekkan shoujo Nozaki kun takes a comedic look on the iconic, recycled tropes of the shoujo genre, it does so in the most loving way. You can definitely see that although it pokes fun at shoujo, it does not mock or talk down to it, instead choosing to shed light on its many absurdities by simply using its tropes to subvert expectations or having the characters reflect on them. The show’s premise of having the characters create shoujo manga and look at the world around them for inspiration is frankly genius, and helps the show achieve its status as being one of the funniest anime ever created.
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