If you like shoujo anime you might like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun) (Crunchyroll). On the other hand, if you don’t like shoujo anime, you may still like Nozaki-kun. It’s an adaptation of a shounen gag-manga and does a hilarious take on shoujo tropes.
Due to its origins as a 4-panel comic, each 24-minute episode consists of a series of short sketches, all of which combine to more-or-less tell a story.
Unlike Bakuman, a shounen manga and anime about the creation of a shounen manga, this does not attempt to give a realistic depiction of how shoujo manga are created. It’s mostly playing for laughs, and it does it quite well.
The protagonist, Chiyo Sakura is a high school girl who is normally sensible, but she has a big crush on Umetarou Nozaki, a classmate who is very tall, broad-sholdered and laconic. He also seems pretty clueless about girls.
When Chiyo finally musters the courage to confess her feelings to him, she blurts out that she is his “fan.” He responds by giving her his autograph. Strangely, he signs it with a woman’s name: “Sakiko Yumeno.”
It turns out “Sakiko Yumeno” is the pen name of the creator of Let’s Fall in Love, a popular series in a monthly shoujo manga magazine. It is, in fact, created by Nozaki-kun.
Nozaki-kun has been impressed by Chiyo’s work for the Art Club. Since he thinks that she is a fan of his manga he invites her to help out by doing “beta” work (inking in large dark areas). She agrees since it gives her a chance to spend time with him. She still hasn’t managed to confess her true feelings for him; at least not in a way that will penetrate his thick skull.
Nozaki-kun has another assistant: Mikoto Mikoshiba (or “Mikorin” as Nozaki calls him.) At first glance he looks like a typical shoujo leading man. He’s tall and good looking, with a cold-hearted but seductive attitude. Indeed, many of the girls in the school are obsessed with him.
However he is also shy and tends to collapse in fits of hysterical embarrassment. He has no idea that he is actually the model for the manga’s flighty, emotional heroine.
This, it seems, is the explanation of how Nozaki-kun, who really knows little about either women or romance, has been able to create a manga series that millions of girls believe addresses their deepest feelings. He carefully observes the people around him and puts them in the manga, usually gender-reversed.
In general Mikorin can’t draw very well but somehow he is very good at doing the floral backgrounds that are so vital to shoujo manga.
Chiyo’s friend Yuzuki Seo can sing beautifully but she is a thoughtless self-centered troublemaker.
Naturally she ends up in the manga as a cold-hearted man.
Mikorin’s friend Yuu Kashima is known as “The Prince of the School” and regularly plays the romantic lead in the Drama Club’s productions.
Yuu is actually a girl but that doesn’t keep her from having a horde of obsessed female fans.
This is an obvious shout-out to the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female theatrical troupe founded in 1914 and still going strong. The otokoyaku who play romantic male characters often attract large numbers of devoted young female followers.
There is a long historical linkage between the Takarazuka Revue and shoujo manga. The otokoyaku are the inspiration for the bishounen (“pretty boy”) characters who are so common in shoujo manga and anime. Bishounen characters are not just good-looking men. They are actually pretty, with long hair, feminine features and often a rather bitchy personality.
Though she regularly flirts with her female fans, Yuu actually has eyes only for Masayuki Hori, the long-suffering short-tempered president of the Drama Club. Masayuki, of course, has no idea how she feels. Indeed he regularly yells at her and roughs her up when she disrupts the preparations for a play. (I think the idea is that he treats her like a male subordinate.)
Yuu seems to have self-esteem issues. She craves Masayuki’s attention but can’t seem to imagine winning his heart. She says that her greatest ambition is to be invited to perform at his wedding.
When told of this, Masayuki says that he would never invite Yuu to his wedding. “If I had a girlfriend she would steal her from me!”