Typical rom-com manga plotline. Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, girl attempts to confess to boy, boy completely misunderstands what she’s actually trying to say and instead of accepting or rejecting her love, hands her an autograph made out from a famous and popular girls’ manga artist, who actually happens to be him.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun seems to be about Sakura Chiyo, who’s in love with the eponymous Nozaki-kun. Told in the 4koma (four-panel manga) style, Nozaki-kun is a subversion of shoujo romance, playing with tropes across manga genres, as it tells the story of popular shoujo mangaka Nozaki-kun and the
poor unfortunate assistants he recruits to work for him.
When the anime Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun originally aired in 2014, it was my top must-watch anime of the year. When it was licensed by Yen Press and announced last year, I knew this series was on my must-read and must-recommend list.
Nozaki-kun boasts a broad and diverse range of characters, all of whom correlate to some form of anime/manga trope. Nozaki himself is the tall, quiet, mysterious shoujo romance hero (but actually the tunnel-vision mangaka); his friend Mikoshiba is the flirtatious playboy (but actually the super-shy, easily-embarrassed otaku).
Nozaki’s got two assistants besides Mikoshiba and Sakura: Hori, the reliable upperclassman (who’s actually short and sort of violent) and Wakamatsu, who appears in the next volume of the manga.
The two other important characters introduced in the first volume are Kashima, Hori’s underclassman in the drama club who’s a tall, princely girl (who’s super girly and has a massive and obvious crush on Hori), and Seo, the choir club’s star singer (who’s a demon in human form).
Readers or viewers familiar with manga tropes will definitely recognize the characters by visual cues — Mikoshiba is a very typical shoujo manga bad-boy, and Kashima is a very typical shoujo manga “princely girl” type, complete with fangirls. The best thing about Nozaki-kun, however, is the way the manga subverts the tropes and makes the characters much more real.
Mikoshiba does, in fact, flirt with girls all the time. But every time he does, he gets super embarrassed, reduced to asking Sakura to “save” him.
Kashima does, in fact, make the girls fall over themselves when she gives them exactly the romantic hero their hearts desire. But the only reason Hori pays attention to her is because she’s a good actor, and she loves the attention he gives her — no matter what kind of attention that is. (Don’t you remember that stage of high school?)
Due to the 4koma style of this manga, Nozaki-kun flows a little differently in terms of both story and art than what readers may be used to. Though each chapter has its own story arc, Nozaki-kun is in essence a gag manga, and each page stands alone.
One of the series’ great strengths is the visual humor, which is core to a gag manga anyway. The visual humor runs from excellent facial expressions to a comparison of three different characters’ drawing styles, and it only adds to the hilarity of it all.
While the 4koma style may be off-putting for some readers, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is the funniest manga I think I’ve ever read. As someone who reads a ton of manga, and especially a ton of shoujo manga, I recognize all of the tropes and in-jokes the manga makes — and having gone through high school myself, I remember the very teenage antics of the characters as genuine.
I would definitely recommend Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun to avid manga readers and/or anime viewers. It’s a great series to keep on-hand to read when you’re feeling down — this series never fails to make me laugh out loud, whether it’s the anime or the manga, and its humor pokes fun at just about everything in the best lighthearted way.
Story: 5 out of 5 stars
Art: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano edits and writes for all sections of the site. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.