“What the hell are those two doing?!?”

You’ll be wondering the same thing along with whoever happens to be saying that at the moment many times during this crazy anime! This show isn’t zany, but it maintains a near constant level of comedy, and will have you falling out of your chair at times! Fun characters, nicely arranged storylines, and great artwork that does a great job supporting the characters, this is a fun ride from beginning to end. I hope we get a second season at some point!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 9

So many different personalities! They’re so different, at times you wonder how they get along with each other. But then again, that might explain why none of them are exactly succeeding at this romance thing.

First you’ve got Nozaki himself. Despite his ongoing success as a shoujo manga author, he is Gintoki-level clueless about romance in his personal life. Whether that’s giving advice to others or failing to notice Sakura’s advances, he is totally in the dark. He doesn’t even get it right when Sakura is more explicit. He’s really nice, harmlessly moving through school life with his friends and co-creators around him. Everything revolves around his manga. He shamelessly sets up these whacky situations with the people around him, all so he can get inspiration for his writings. I guess you could say he lives in a different world, ironically! And why is he so tall?

Then there’s Chiyo Sakura. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were getting a glimpse of Sakura Minamoto’s life before her, er, tragic transformation. She’s the only normal human we encounter. Everyone else is crazy or eccentric. She of course is in love with Nozaki after her encounter with him on their first day of high school. But since then, she’s made zero progress with him. The first time she gets up the courage to confess to him, she gets so flustered she blurts out that she’s a “fan” of him, instead of the familiar “suki.” He of course gives her an autograph in return. Cue the first cringe-reaction shot. She gets the vast majority of the reaction shots in this anime. I’ll get to that a bit more later.

Ah I can’t go on any longer without mentioning my beloved Miyuki Sawashiro! One of my favorite VAs of all time plays the insane Seo Yuzuki in this anime. Yuzuki delights in movies filled with death and dying and in tormenting the boys’ basketball club. I love her crazed behavior! And of course that voice…I’d be in love at the first smack of the basketball against my face.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

I could easily highlight the other characters individually, but most of the remaining characters give me an opportunity to instead highlight something uniquely quirky about this anime. While nobody’s gender is ever in question, the lines between the two genders are hilariously bent many times during this series! Kashima is the clearest example, always playing the prince in the drama club’s silly plays (who’s ridiculous storylines are of course provided by Nozaki) and attracting every female’s attention at the school. And of course that episode where Kashima, since she’s kind of in love with him, keeps noticing and misinterpreting Hori’s comments and behaviors into thinking he wants to be a girl, so she keeps sending him girls’ clothing items secretly, which of course Hori misinterprets as her trying to bully him. Then you have Mikoshiba. He’s obviously attracted to girls (as they are to him), but he himself has a lot of feminine attributes and tendencies. His nickname is even cutesy, “Mikorin.” But even beyond individual characters and their traits, you’ve got Nozaki using anybody and everybody as the basis for any and every character! I think every character he creates in his manga are inspired by somebody who isn’t the gender of the character. Certainly Mikorin is the basis for Mamiko (all the cute names in this show). One couple is based on Wakamatsu and Yuzuki, with their genders reversed of course, the terrifying Yuzuki inspiring a cold male character and the confuzzled Waka inspiring a tentative female character. Suzuki, the male protagonist, is inspired by Sakura herself. At one point Nozaki spends a day at school pretending to be the character Mamiko just to see how Sakura reacts, to better inspire his storylines for Suzuki. The result of all this is even more reaction shots for Sakura. It’s hilarious, even adorable.

If everything wasn’t funny enough with just this crew, then here come the supporting clowns. That damned Maeno and his ongoing romance with himself is enough to drive one mad! And poor Miyako, who has unhappily inherited Maeno as an editor after Nozaki cast him off. Her life is full of tanukis (a “raccoon dog,” look it up, I make no claims of zoological prowess) as a result, as is her manga, a constant source of utter bewilderment to Nozaki and Sakura. And I never thought I’d see All Might reduced to working as a shoujo magazine editor, but somehow the producer of this anime managed to procure the great Kenta Miyake to voice Nozaki’s new and continually befuddled editor, Ken Miyamae. I wonder if the author herself had this VA in mind already when she wrote the manga, since the name of the character is so similar to that of this famous seiyuu. It’s always a pleasure to listen to him. He dominates all his scenes!

Taken together, all these people could as easily hate each other as they could get along and like each other. The source of much of the romantic confusion often originates in these personality clashes. Hori thinks Kashima hates him, and Kashima doesn’t seem even slightly aware of Hori’s interest. Wakamatsu of course thinks Yuzuki is out to murder him, or at least exclusively target him with basketballs, all while adoring her unknowingly as the famous “Lorelei” of the glee club. And Nozaki doesn’t have the faintest notion that Sakura has feelings for him. But the most fun thing of all about their romantic confusion is this: I think Nozaki does have feelings for Sakura, just he’s so wound up in his manga world he can’t express it. I remember one scene when Nozaki is speaking with Ken, and he announces that Suzuki is his type, but for reasons like he’s easiest to draw, etc. Of course Sakura is the inspiration behind Suzuki! I’d have to go back and look for more evidence to support that belief, but it’s fun and heartwarming to consider nonetheless.

While it’s difficult to create great characters in comedy simply because we can’t emotionally attach ourselves to them as easily as we could in drama or action, etc., this series manages to create a wholly memorable cast of characters. The characters are a little difficult to keep track of initially, because they often converse about other characters who aren’t in the scene. On top of that, you’ve got the names of Nozaki’s manga characters mixed in too. So they’re throwing names out there casually before we’re super familiar with these characters, and it’s a little difficult to follow until you get very accustomed to each character. But once you’ve got all that straight in your mind, it’s all great after that. By the time you’re done with this show, you know everybody by sight, by behavior, by voice, by role, and by heart.

Artwork

Rating: 8

Reaction shots and expressions! Everything is about the faces in this anime. Right away the most noticeable thing about these faces is that Sakura’s is so much different than everyone else’s. She has really large, round, violet eyes that catch a lot of light. Between that and the masses of hair and ribbons, the similarity to Zombie Land Saga’s MC is obvious. I can’t find any obvious reason for this design choice with her eyes, but I have some superficial theories. For one thing, it allows for a major contrast with her reaction shots, which I’ll get to below. But also, she’s the only really feminine character in the show. The two other girls have masculine tendencies, and predictably have the same eye-style as the male characters. And don’t get me wrong, Kashima and Yuzuki are really pretty, even if they’re not supposed to be particularly beautiful in a feminine way. But that might be a reason behind the really emotive eyes on Sakura.

Most of the reactions and expressions on the characters’ faces connote confusion or exasperation. And most of them show up on Sakura. We get a massive dose of the darkened brow in this anime. The greater the exasperation, the more we get the semicircular white eyes to go along with it. My personal favorite is the dumb “I’m completely lost” face where the eyes become two black dots. So whether Sakura is frustrated that Mikorin is in a tizzy because she won’t ask him for advice, or Nozaki is trying for the tenth time to get her to wear the sailor suit, we see a ton of iterations of these reaction shots on her. Everybody has them, but she has the most.

Mikorin’s role in Nozaki’s circle of artists is to draw those flowers and bubbles and stuff on those sparkly backgrounds that you see a lot in rom-com anime. Predictably, you see a lot of that when he’s in a scene. You see it with Kashima as well. These two are usually saying something floury or overtly romantic when this happens, as often is the case in these kinds of shows. And that occurs a lot in this series. Usually this resulted in another cringe face from Sakura, as Mikorin expressed personal embarrassment or Kashima smiled happily amidst a crowd of swooning females.

Overall, the artwork supports this character-driven anime extremely well. Rom-com is the playground for all manner of these fanciful still-frames and exaggerated reactions. This show is a wonderful example of how it can be used to its full effect. It absolutely effectively spotlights the characters.

Story

Rating: 8

This is definitely rom-com, but within the genre, if there exists a spectrum spanning from comedic to romance, this show sits further to the comedy side. And it is really funny! There’s a handful of things that will leave you either speechless and staring like Sakura, and some things that will have you rolling on the floor!

Tanukis? I mentioned Miyako’s life is now filled with tanukis. That idiot Maeno insists she includes one in every panel of her manga. It’s so stupid you want to slap Maeno yourself! But if that wasn’t enough, Miyako’s apartment is full of them as well. She has hundreds of tanuki stuffed animals! All various sizes, they lay around the edges of the room and all over the furniture and shelving. I presume Maeno has purchased them for her, either just being obsessive like he is or, equally likely, he’s forgotten that he got one for her before! Of course the alternative is that she’s bought most or all of them, perhaps as some weird coping mechanism for dealing with Maeno. Who knows? It’ll make you scratch your head and wish you could scratch Maeno.

I mentioned Nozaki sets up crazy scenarios at times to inspire his stories. One of those entails him knowing what it feels like to have girls as enemies, to help him understand how Mamiko might feel about having rivals. He needs to find a way to make enemies out of a lot of girls at once. His solution? Find the person that is most popular with girls at his school, put that person on a rolling cart, and run around the school campus while the girls all chase after them. Of course that person is Kashima! As Hori and Sakura look on, she sits hugging her knees on his flatbed cart with a look between sheer terror and utter confusion on her face, while Nozaki runs at full speed pushing the cart all over the place. The inevitable result of Kashima falling off the cart of course occurs, and she ends up headfirst in a row of bushes, as Nozaki detachedly ponders Mamiko and Suzuki’s relationship.

My two favorite situations occur around Yuzuki. In the first, Kashima decides she wants to learn to sing, since Hori has decided to do a musical in their drama club. Kashima comes to the glee club room with Sakura and Nozaki and meets with Yuzuki there, asking for her help. Yuzuki agrees and sits down in a chair and asks Kashima to sing. After a few suspenseful seconds, Kashima begins making these hideous noises as she tries to sing a simple song. Nozaki and Sakura stare at her in terror, covering their ears in agony. Yuzuki sits and doesn’t move a muscle. We don’t hear any more singing, as the writers play a snippet of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony in its place. It’s hilarious listening to that grandiose music while you know Kashima is slaughtering people’s ears! Finally Yuzuki stops her, and pulls out her earplugs in the process. Nozaki rages that she was supposed to listen too! Yuzuki advises Kashima that she can give up now or give up after a year of practice. Somehow, she ends up agreeing to help Kashima in the end.

The final part of this situation occurs immediately thereafter. Of course Wakamatsu sees Yuzuki go into the glee club room one day. He still doesn’t know she’s the famous “Lorelei.” So of course as he waits, Kashima, already in the room, starts to sing at Yuzuki’s prompting, and Wakamatsu thinks it’s Yuzuki singing. He cries, saying how bad he feels for her! It’s complete madness!

Yuzuki getting a different perspective watching movie characters die.

But my favorite scene is even worse. Earlier on in the series, Wakamatsu decides to confront Yuzuki about her behavior during basketball practice. So he seeks advice from the worst possible person, Nozaki. He of course refers to his manga situations, which Wakamatsu takes far too seriously and seriously misunderstands. So he starts out by inviting Yuzuki to the school rooftop by placing a letter in her locker. Everyone else recognizes that it looks like a love letter. Everyone else recognizes that it sounds like a love letter. Wakamatsu does not recognize any of this.

So Yuzuki meets him there. Between his inability to speak directly and Yuzuki’s dense misunderstandings, Wakamatsu pulls out a final trope from Nozaki’s manga. He decides to try to hurt Yuzuki by comparing her to another girl. At this point in this episode, we’re already aware that Wakamatsu has been losing sleep over Yuzuki terrorizing him, but that he’s been able to sleep since he got a recording of the glee club’s “Lorelei” from Nozaki. So of course who does he choose to compare Yuzuki too in this scene? Yep, the famous “Lorelei,” who of course is Yuzuki. Wakamatsu does not recognize any of this.

Nozaki stands aside and stares in horror as Wakamatsu launches into this tirade about how Lorelei would never behave like Yuzuki. He rolls on the ground in agony, gripping his head and covering his ears, begging for it to end! Yuzuki just stares at Wakamatsu. Finally he stops talking. As you pick yourself up off the floor from laughing, Yuzuki looks at Wakamatsu, calls his name, and asks him to say all that again.

Of course he mercifully doesn’t say it again. But it’s so sweet and so hilarious! I was throwing pillows and striking cushions in laughter during this scene. It was so awful! Yuzuki doesn’t have any idea what’s going on either. She initially thinks he’s brought her up there so she can give him a nickname! She leaves thinking the whole thing was about the pair of gloves he gave her! Though he brought those just so he could engage in another manga-inspired trope, throwing gloves at a rival in challenge. Instead he simply gave her the gloves, and that’s what she’s left thinking the whole ridiculous scene was about!

Which Sakura is this??

Oh my goodness. It’s not as zany as Gintama, but it reaches that level of funny at times! Gintama totally dives into absurdity, while this show makes the ordinary into the absurd. But the result is an epic level of comedy! This whole section has ended up just rehashing funny moments from the show. There’s so many of them, you kind of get lost in it all, and lose sight of any storyline. I guess there really isn’t any story! Well, I guess Sakura and Nozaki’s ongoing love saga is the main thread. But when this show finishes, nobody has confessed their love, nobody’s relationship has progressed, and Sakura and Nozaki are as clueless about the other’s feelings as they were at the beginning! I kind of expected a Toradora! ending, especially with the setup with the fireworks and Nozaki and Sakura being alone there together. But then it doesn’t happen. You throw the remaining pillows up in the air, Sakura pulls one more uncomfortable face, and you just laugh at how ridiculous it all is!

Overall: 8

If you wanted to compare this to something, the best choice is probably Kaguya-sama: Love is War. They’re very similar in the number of characters, multiple clashing personalities, strong cast, minimal main storyline thread, and mini situational encounters within single episodes. Nozaki’s situations last a little longer. Kaguya’s characters are more developed and get more screentime individually, but this is entirely due to the lesser number of characters. There’s basically only four characters in Kaguya, but at least six or seven that regularly appear in Nozaki. But if I had to choose which of them was funnier, I might actually choose Nozaki at this point. And I never thought I’d see a funnier rom-com scene than that insane scene late in S1 of Kaguya, when no matter what scenario Miyuki goes over in his mind, they all end up with Kaguya looking down on him and famously saying “O kawaii koto.” Kaguya definitely has its moments like that one, but I think Nozaki is funnier overall. Maybe not as side-splitting as Kaguya is at times, but still more funny more often. I don’t know if it can ever be quite as instantly recognizable as Kaguya has become, but for those that have seen this show, I’m sure it’s just as memorable.

The music is very fitting in this series. It kind of reminded me of how the music really fits the scenes in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, where the music is slightly mischievous. And I don’t know who decided to cut those snippets of a handful of famous classical pieces into a few scenes, but it’s extremely effective. I could name most of the pieces featured, and it was always hilarious how it juxtaposed with the craziness that was happening before our eyes! I don’t always notice music, and you wouldn’t think it’d be that big of a deal in a rom-com, but it was remarkable enough to notice and therefore to mention here.

I enjoyed this anime thoroughly. There’s dumb comedy and there’s good comedy, and this is a high quality comedy. Everything ties together very well, the characters are fun, and above all there’s tons of laughs! Right now there’s only one season (March 2021), but I can’t imagine this being a one-season wonder. I hope the writer is able to churn out some more of the manga, and subsequently a second season of the anime is produced. It’ll be fun watching Sakura make all those faces again!

Sakura gets a second autograph. Yay!

5 Comments »

  1. I like this show a lot. I think though, Nozaki is more like a pure comedy than a rom-com just because of how lacking in romance the show is most of the times. Not to say that’s bad but it gets a little frustrating when I look for romance in the show.

    Like

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