By Izumi Tsubaki. Released in Japan as “Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the online magazine Gangan Online. Released in North America by Yen Press.
As my regular readers are aware, I’ve been excited for this title for a long time. I’ve been a fan of Tsubaki ever since The Magic Touch (in fact, I am the only fan of The Magic Touch), and I’ve also loved her other ongoing series right now, Oresama Teacher. Those, however, are normal shoujo series, albeit with a lot of humor in them. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a 4-koma gag series. As such, we do not need to worry quite as much about depth of characterization, advancing the plot, and romantic resolution. We just have to worry about 1) Build to a gag, and 2) Have a character react to the gag. This series succeeds admirably at both, but especially the second.
The setup is fairly simple, and ripe for amusing situations. Sakura has fallen for the tall, handsome, stoic Nozaki, and confesses to him in a roundabout way, trying not to use the words “I love you”. Unfortunately, Nozaki is as dense as lead when it comes to matters of the heart, so interprets this as a desire to work with him on the shoujo manga he draws for a monthly magazine under a pseudonym. Luckily for him, Sakura is quite good at art. And Sakura is okay with this if it means she can spend more time with him. Over the course of this volume, though, the cast broadens to include a wide variety of eccentrics, and we also discover that Nozaki’s manga, while popular still has its problems. As such, many of the final panels are Sakura giving a comeback to the ridiculous situation, in typical Japanese tsukkomi style.
Not that Sakura is always the straight man. As with Tsubaki’s other current series, the characters have the ability to alternate between boke and tsukkomi as the situation requires, and so if Sakura is off in Nozaki-kun fantasy land, it will be Mikoshiba or Seo who will boggle at her antics. And Nozaki-kun may be stoic, but this doesn’t mean he’s without emotions, as we see whenever he’s reminded of his prior editor. The 4-koma format serves this series perfectly, as the gags all land dependably right where they should, and have just the right amount of impact. There are no drawn out scenes where half the 4-komas are setup to a final gag – there is humor every 3rd and 4th panel throughout.
Indeed, there’s even humor on the front and back covers, and in extra stories at the back, which might be why the translation notes are awkwardly placed midway through. For those worried, by the way, the presence of the -kun in the title should tell you that this translation is allowed to be a bit more Japanese than other comparable series, and thus “in my heart I call him Mikorin” is present and correct. There are a few adaptations of super obscure things, like the concept of ‘KY’, but honestly, ‘oblivious’ is a pretty accurate translation of that. Fans of the Nozaki-kun anime will definitely enjoy reading the series in its original form, and if you simply like to laugh, this is a great series for it.
Also, there are tanukis.