Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Vols. 5-7) by Tsubaki Izumi

51eZhVCdHnL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_.jpg5155s-Lcg0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg409-gekkan_shoujo_nozakikun.jpg

A few weeks ago, a reader accused me of having crappy taste because I don’t like anything popular. Well, here’s an exception for you.  At least according to Wikipedia, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun consistently places in the top 20 of Oricon’s weekly manga list (which appears to be analogous to our Billboard 100.)

My taste might still be crappy, but I share it with a lot of Japanese folks, because I think Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun is incredibly cute and charming.

SPOILERS

.

.

.

 

Volume 7, which is available in English (despite what it looks like in the image above,) brings the reader to chapter 71 (out of 85, at least on MangaReader).  Volume 8 will be officially available from Yen press on July 18, 2017.

As I said above, I’m still enjoying the heck out of this manga.  Normally, humor doesn’t work for me in text, but something about Nozaki-kun breaks through and I’m able to enjoy it. There are still puns that sail over my head, but I like the characters and the tone of this manga enough that not getting it doesn’t bother me as much as it usually does.  It’s very possible that I’m still able to enjoy the written humor because I was so very, very fond of the anime —which I can NOT recommend enough, keeping in mind my fondness for slice-of-life. If you prefer high-octane action, this is not for you.  But, say, if you liked Free!, I would think Nozaki-kun would be a good bet for you.

One of the things I’m charmed by in the manga is how, over time, you see the rest of the high school accept Nozaki-kun and Sakura as a couple, even as the two of them continue to be blissfully… well, not exactly unaware of the sexual tension, since Sakura is still in full-pursuit mode, but more like… blissfully unaware of how comfortable they’ve become with each other in the way of Real Life ™ lovers.

Maybe this is why Nozaki-kun is getting the designation of ‘shounen’ despite being a romantic comedy.  The relationship is, despite the humor and classic rom-com antics, really very realistically portrayed (even while all the shoujo tropes are being parodied by Tsubaki-sensei).

The other thing I love about it (and the anime) is its gentleness.  For all of the shoujo send-ups, there’s hardly a mean bone in any character’s body and you can easily root for all of them.

Of course, being me, I also appreciate all the insights into the editorial and production processes in manga publication.  There’s a scene in volume 5 or 6, where the two editor characters Ken Miyamae and Mitsuya Maeno are in a planning meeting for a themed issue of the magazine “Let’s Fall in Love” (Nozaki’s manga) is serialized in.  I found that, and their “all-nighter” in which they wait for a mangaka’s overdue pages to come in (not Nozaki, he would never do that), totally fascinating.

This is the kind of slice-of-life stuff I live for.

I would suspect much of it is fairly accurate since Tsubaki-sensei not only has a lot of experience as a mangaka herself (her other long running series is Oresama Teacher), but, apparently, she has a sister who is also a mangaka (though Wikipedia did not say who that was, exactly.)  She also started publishing while in high school, just like Nozaki-kun. So, that’s kind of a fun detail.

 

Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-Kun (vol. 1-4) by Izumi Tsubaki

I loved the anime for this on-going manga Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-Kun/Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. When I saw that the Saint Paul Public Library had several volumes of it, I decided to check it out.

Volume_1

SPOILERS

.

.

.

Apparently, the last time I reviewed this, it was on a podcast.  Rather than making you listen to Mason and I yammering on about Bleach and everything else, I will re-summarize everything for you here.

The story behind Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a cute one.  Our heroine, Chiyo Sakura is super-attracted to Umetarou Nozaki and works up the courage to make her love confession.  She blurts out, “I’m your number one fan!”  Much to her confusion, he takes this utterly in stride and said, “Oh, okay, here’s my autograph.”  She’s very, “???”  Then, he asks what’s she’s doing because the “others” have cancelled (“eep!” she thinks, “he has a harem!?”) so does she want to come back his place right now?  Poor Sakura is completely confused and a little horrified by all this forwardness, until she gets back to his place…

….and is asked to ink a manga sheet.

Turns out Nozaki is actually “Sakiko Yumeno,” a super-popular shoujo mangaka known for “her” sensitive storylines and gorgeous art style.  When I explain this concept to people less familiar with manga, I say, “It’s like finding out the hot high school football player writes Harlequin romances.”

As you know, gentle reader, humor is often a hard sell for me.  But, since I already fell for this particular story in its anime format, I found a lot to enjoy in this manga.  The one thing that’s very different about this manga than most others that I’ve read is that the story is cut up into short, self-contained single-page, four panel stories. It reads more like a comic strip than a comic book.  But, after a while, you get used to it, and like “Judge Parker” or other soap opera comic strips like that, the stories occasionally follow one after the other.

Like in the anime, a lot is made of gender stereotypes and Tsubaki-sensei loves to flip gender roles.  For instance, Nozaki has modeled his heroine after his best buddy, Mikoshiba (aka “Mikorin”). As I suggested in my earlier rant, the ‘oh, it’s so gay!’ is played up often and always for laughs.

I still love this one.

I almost never laugh out loud reading humor manga, but these first three volumes had a couple of moments where I did.  I especially loved the scene when Sakura tries to use Masayuki Hori (the background artist/theatre manager), whois pulling an all-nighter with Nozaki to finish up the chapter for deadline, to find out what kind of pajamas Nozaki wears.  Hori, of course, gets Sakura’s text and just ask.  Nozaki basically sleeps in sweatpants and a tee-shirt, but once apparently an adoring fan of his female pseudonym sent him a frilly pink camisole.  So, Hori texts back: frilly pink.  Sakura is suitably confused/horrified.

What? It tickled me. What can I say?

The one thing that’s very different from the anime, outside of the fact that its still on-going and the anime only had one season, is that Nozaki has a younger brother, Mayu, who shows up from time to time, who is deeply in love with the mangaka who lives in the same apartment building as Nozaki, Yukari Miyako.  He also doesn’t like to talk…. or do anything strenuous.

Here’s Mayu talking to Mikorin….

gekkan-shoujo-nozaki-kun-4380725-1

The joke here is that Mayu is so profoundly lazy that he will do whatever is easiest, even if it means doing something he hates.

Ha ha?

But, you can also see how these four panel one-shots work.  They all have sidebar titles, too, which help prepare you for the punchline.

I think the thing I like about Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun is how utterly clueless and dorky Nozaki is.  Also, as I’m sure I’ve confessed before, I love stories that give glimpses into the life of mangaka (and of course I love slice-of-life as a genre a LOT).  I liked this about Bakuman, too, despite all it’s faults.  At least with Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun, the women characters are as weird and wonderful as the male ones, and there is a whole cast of side characters if you don’t end up bonding with the main ones.

The anime is equally charming and is only one season, so it’s a quick watch.  You can catch it on Crunchyroll, if you like.