Comedy often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to artistic discussion. Comedy is often viewed as a vehicle for escapism, something that makes you feel good rather than make you think. If you were to look at the Best Picture winners throughout history, drama almost always trumps comedy. But good comedy is just as important as good drama. Comedy is as necessary for the soul as thoughtful morose drama, and comedy can be just as intellectually stimulating. I say all of this because when it comes to writing about comedy, I feel less equipped to talk about it than I do about something serious. Good comedy is worth talking about though, so I’ll try my best to talk about why Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a great anime comedy and needs to be seen.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is about a mangaka, the titular Nozaki, who writes for a popular shojo manga magazine. He’s assisted by Sakura, who works on the beta and has a secret crush on Nozaki, and a cast of eccentric schoolmates that often serve as inspirations for Nozaki’s manga. It’s a simple premise and there’s not much an overarching story or much progression for the characters. It’s structured like a sitcom, with two different situations filling out a 23 minute episode each week. There’s no guarantee that Sakura will ever confess to Nozaki, no guarantee that there will be any meaningful progression, but that’s okay because the jokes are amazing and timed perfectly. Sitcoms often lean on archetypes, and Nozaki-kun is no exception, but Nozaki-kun plays around with its archetypes in unexpected ways. The overarching theme of Nozaki-kun is expectations vs reality.
Expectations vs reality is a classic comedic theme. The best jokes are the ones you don’t expect, that genuinely shock you so much that you can’t help but laugh. Nozaki’s existence as a male shojo mangaka, while not unheard of in real life, is still something most people wouldn’t expect. The joke of the first episode is that no one believes Nozaki when he tells them what his job is, and the show sells the joke by making Nozaki a tall stoic man. The rest of the cast includes an indifferent troublemaker with a lovely singing voice, a beautiful prince who’s a girl, a shy lady killer, and an amazing actor who’s too short for the leading role. All of these characters fit into certain archetypes, but the show derives humor from theme not quite fitting those archetypes as neatly as they’d like.
Nozaki-kun’s premise also allows for good jokes about the relationship between fiction and reality, specifically, the way in which Nozaki conducts social experiments in order to better understand the protagonists of his manga. Nozaki claims to be an expert on girls because he writes for a girl’s magazine, but he’s never once dated a girl and his advice often shows that. The best episode so far, episode 4, uses this character flaw of his to build the funniest jokes around a visual novel that he and his friend Mikorin are playing. The utter seriousness that Nozaki has around every facet of his life adds to the absurdity when he role-plays as his female protagonist for a day to better understand her feelings.
For as absurd and large as the entire cast is, they’re all extremely likable and fun characters to watch. When an episode decides to focus on a different character, the show is still enjoyable even if that character isn’t your favorite one. I look forward to episodes featuring Mikorin, the pretty boy who’s easily embarrassed and the model for Nozaki’s female protagonist, but I’ll take an episode featuring Seo or Kashima and laugh just as hard.
High school romantic comedies are perhaps the most common genre in anime today, but few feel as fresh or funny as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Its take on the genre’s conventions aren’t just cheap jokes that amount to “hey isn’t it funny how this always happens in this genre?” but instead truly original, and original high school rom-coms are a rare breed. How many other shows feature two straight boys drawing gay fanfiction after playing a dating sim? Exactly.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is currently being simulcasted on Crunchyroll.