If you’re a hopeless romantic but still extremely single then do I have the series for you! It’s funny, somewhat romantic, and challenges gender roles in the concept of romance. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is a series that deconstructs the romcom genre and sticks the pieces back together with realism. That might seem like an odd sell, but it works!
Nozaki-kun starts with high school student Chiyo Sakura confessing her love to Umetarou Nozaki. He mistakes her for a fan and takes her back to his place to work on his manga series. Turns out, Nozaki is a renowned shojo manga artist! Chiyo agrees to help him in order to get closer to him. With their friends and fellow classmates becoming the inspiration for narratives in Nozaki’s manga, the series focuses less on writing the manga and more on the ‘romantic’ entanglements.
Author Izumi Tsubaki has a deep understanding of the romantic tropes from films, comics and television across various parts of the world, made clear in the first volume of Nozaki-kun. By using these tropes and removing the romantic elements, comedy is amplified in a relatable way. For example, very early on is the bike tandem. This is something that can be very romantic in Japan, but in actual practice, it feels weird.
The cast of characters also represent similar romcom stereotypes, but with a twist! A notable duo includes Yuu Kashima, ‘Prince of the Drama Club’, and Masayuki Hori, The Drama Club President. Kashima is actually a woman. But she has earned the title of ‘Prince’ for her performances in the school productions. Her adoring fanbase are also all female students. Hori on the other hand is often frustrated by Kashima’s actions. A notable misunderstanding between the two includes an arc that makes Kashima believe that Hori wants to play the female lead. This makes Kashima replace all his clothes with those the female characters wear.
The gender twist isn’t the only thing that sets this series apart. Chapters even take time developing and exploring the relationship between different characters, using their personal flaws as a way to explore these relationships. A good example of this is Kashima’s friendship with Yuzuki Seo. The latter is a talented singer so detached from the world around her. Seo is brash but agrees to help Kashima learn to sing for a possible musical role. This arc doesn’t just start their friendship, but also shows that romcoms need to explore female friendship.
It’s worth noting there isn’t a long overlapping story; instead, it’s a collection of short arcs made up of jokes, something similar to Valentine’s Day and Love, Actually’s story structure. This might seem frustrating if looking for a singular narrative focus. However, these short arcs make it easier to pick it up and put it down at any given moment.
This Valentine’s Day, if you’re single and looking for a romcom that won’t make you feel bad, Nozaki-kun is worth picking up. It’s happy, upbeat and a refreshing take on the genre. Without neglecting its side characters or non-romantic relationships; the series can make you laugh and explore love through a lens that removes romance. There remains comedy that isn’t just delightful but also makes you appreciate the focus on a slice of life twist!
Ever read Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun? What’s your favourite romantic trope and how are you celebrating this Valentine’s day? Let us know in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Twitter and Instagram.