Title: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun
Author: Izumi Tsubaki (Oresama Teacher)
Publisher: Yen Press
Volume: Volume 1, $13.00
Vintage: 2012 by Square Enix, November 2015 by Yen Press
Genre: 4-koma (four panel gag strip), comedy
Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun is a four panel gag strip manga following Umetarou Nozaki, who draws a romance manga for a monthly girl’s magazine. In case you couldn’t get that from the on-the-nose title. It’s about Nozaki, but most things are seen through his classmate’s, Chiyo Sakura, viewpoint. When Chiyo approaches Nozaki to confess her feelings for him, he mistakes her for a fan and gives her an autograph. Next thing she knows, she’s at his house, inking backgrounds for his manga. Apparently he’d has his eye on her all this time – but only because she’s in the art club. Oblivious to Chiyo’s feelings, Nozaki continues to enlist her assistance. She soon meets another assistant of Nozaki’s, Mikoshiba, whose main task is adding shojo sparkles and flowers into panels. Mikoshiba appears to be a popular playboy with a rude personality, but he’s secretly totally uncool, and frequently embarrassed by his own efforts. His constant flustered nature and defensiveness has made him the model for Nozaki’s heroine. Chiyo, meanwhile, becomes Nozaki’s lab rat, helping him test new ideas (like couple’s bike riding), or tracking down new inspirations. To help Nozaki come up with a new character model, Chiyo introduces him to the oblivious and extremely blunt Yuzuki Seo. Wanting to be helpful, Mikoshiba also introduces a friend – an actress who is known as the school’s Prince, Yuu Kashima. Through helping out the drama club by painting sets, Chiyo meets another of Nozaki’s helpers – the drama club’s president, Hori, who draws the manga’s backgrounds. The rest of the volume highlights two very different manga editors and their styles. Nozaki’s current editor is short and to the point, but his former editor forces his personal preferences into his current assignment.
For some reason, I didn’t even realize this was written by the same person who created one of my favorite series. It’s a gag strip, and the style is slightly different, although looking back now I can see similar facial structures and feel a similar energy. It’s funny, too. Not quite rolling off the furniture in laughter funny, but it’s been good for some snorts and laughs. I’m not a huge fan of the 4-koma format, preferring standard chapter manga, but for the most part, they’re grouped together in themed chapters so they form a cohesive story. For example, one chapter might be devoted to the introduction of a new character, another to coming up with a new plot device for Nozaki’s manga. Tsubaki keeps the energy going panel to panel, and page to page. Not as frenetic as Oresama Teacher, but it’s obviously a different kind of story. I haven’t watched the anime, but if it’s anything close to the manga, I can see why it has such a strong fan following. Nozaki is a good looking guy, and I’m sure that helps, though he can be a little clueless sometimes, and he’s very strict about what can appear in his manga (nothing bad or law breaking that his readers might emulate, like underage drinking, or two people riding a bike in certain prefectures). He also views everything in life in terms of shojo manga, which is a little frustrating for the people around him, like Chiyo (especially when it rubs off on her). A lot of the characters are sort of backwards shojo caricatures – like the school’s Prince (labeled by the boys who are amazed at her suave conversational skills), who is a girl who flirts with everyone but is a total slacker. She’s also the single thing that bugs me about the book. Not her specifically, but her club president, Hori, who treats her with over-the-top violence. I know it’s supposed to be funny and over-exaggerated but holy crap. He knees her in the stomach, punches her in the head, and swings her around, complete with bruises and “blood” sprays. Kashima doesn’t fight back, but lets Hiro drag her around, so it’s one-sided violence. Other than that, I loved it. Yen Press’s edition flows well, there’s a lovely color page in the front, and my only complaint is that the translation notes are in the middle of the book, rather than at the end, where they’d be easier to reference.