If you are a shameless fan of the “notice me senpai” trope in its purest, most unadulterated form, this is the anime for you.
The course of true love never did run smooth, and doesn’t Chiyo Sakura know it. After finally building up the courage to confess her love to the titular Nozaki, he misinterprets what she was actually trying to say. It is revealed that he is the mangaka of the popular shoujo manga “Let’s Fall in Love”, working under the nom de plume Sakiko Yumeno. Nozaki thinks that she is expressing love for his work (rather than the author himself) and gives her his autograph. Due to Sakura’s involvement in the art club, Nozaki enlists her to ‘beta’ his manga and help with the inking of upcoming chapters. Sakura decides to use this time with Nozaki to get closer to him, so the pair end up working together.
Along the way, we are introduced to the people who influence Nozaki’s work, creating an ensemble cast. The focus is not always centred on Sakura, despite the series revolving around her feelings. The cast is diverse, including Yuu Kashima; an androgynous girl who steals the heart of every girl in school, Mikoto ‘Mikorin’ Mikoshiba; Nozaki’s best friend and a compulsive flirt, and Yuzuki Seo; a girl whose insensitive personality hides her singing talent. Even if the relationship between Sakura and Nozaki isn’t appealing to you, there are plenty of other relationships covered in the series without it turning into a harem situation, which can be an overused trope. The pairings are very clearly defined to the viewer and even if the characters don’t realise it, there’s a sense of inevitability in terms of who should end up with whom. This creates less drama in both the plot and the fanbase, so this is a great series for audiences wanting a lighter anime with the ‘will they or won’t they?’ kind of tension, completely devoid of love triangles.
Both the pairings and characters challenge gender roles in shoujo anime. While the androgynous girl and feminine man concept is definitely not new to the genre (for example, Haruhi and Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club), we get to see these two character types in a platonic situation. Kashima and Mikorin are portrayed as close friends rather than love interests and it is obvious that Kashima likes someone else despite her flirtatious nature. While they spend their time together sweet-talking the ladies, Mikorin becomes shy and embarrassed at himself while Kashima is the more confident of the two.
It’s because of Mikorin’s sensitive side that he inspires Nozaki’s shoujo manga, despite Nozaki having no experience of love or dating. Each episode demonstrates different tropes of the genre, as Nozaki tries to incorporate them into his manga, from sharing an umbrella to bicycle rides. The series simultaneously criticises these tropes and praises their usefulness and familiarity. However, this is an insight into the manga world for more casual viewers, as while it covers topics such as deadlines, editors and the artistic process, the 12 episode length only allows for a brief overview.
While it may not be the best shoujo anime ever created, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is still extremely enjoyable, even if the characters can be completely oblivious at times. This can become rather frustrating, and the amount of times I found myself shouting at multiple characters to “just get together already dammit” was quite alarming. The ‘notice me senpai’ theme is strong throughout, and not just in Sakura’s storyline, with different characters struggling to be seen as ‘more than friends’ by their love interest. Despite how maddening it can be to see them being so close and yet so far, the comedic aspect of the show creates a light and fluffy atmosphere which makes up for it. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is a shoujo rom-com about teen manga artists so the plot was never going to be overly complex, but this means it’s perfect to watch without having to be too immersed in it and thinking about every detail. This is especially true as most episodes can be viewed as stand-alones, because while the overarching story progresses naturally, it isn’t vital to understand what’s going on.