Saturday, September 17, 2016

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun: Self-Reflection Through Simplicity and Similarity

I recently finished rewatching a wonderfully charming slice of life romance anime called Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. If you are like me, you sometimes just find the need to escape from all the bad news and drama of life into something that just relaxes and entertains. I suspect that for many people comedies fulfill this role, however, sometimes I find that comedies, while being amusing, sometimes just can't do the trick. Sometimes one simply needs something that is not too serious, but at the same time isn't too frivolous so that one doesn't reflect on everything. Nozaki-kun fits expertly into this happy medium.

The basic plot follows Chiyo Sakura and her friends as they navigate high school and help the show's namesake character, Umetaro Nozaki, work on his shojo manga Let's Fall In Love.

Unlike an action anime like Attack on Titan or Code Geass, where you are in so much suspense that you can't stop watching because you just have to know if whatever problem the characters find themselves in will be resolved, there is no such suspense in this anime. Each episode is pretty simple with the various characters doing various everyday things with not much suspense at all. Aside from Nozaki being a published manga artist while still in high school and living by himself, no one really does anything that couldn't conceivably be done by a normal real-life high schooler.

While there is, of course, the slight exaggeration of what counts as everyday life that just comes with tv, the characters find themselves in situations that most people can picture themselves being in. I believe that the anime is able to accomplish this by its heavy focus on characters internal emotions. Nearly everyone has found themselves in a situation where they are with someone they have a crush on and end up overanalyzing everything they say or do or just saying something stupid, even if they haven't found themselves doing the same activities.

I should clarify, however, that the show actually only lets us eavesdrop on some characters emotions and not others. This difference is actually very important and ends up demonstrating much more. A pattern develops that I think conveys one of the main takeaways from the series; no matter how well you can get to know other people, the hardest person to really know is thyself.

In a sense, the core plot of the anime is Nozaki's inability to understand himself while being able to understand other people to a pretty good, albeit imperfect, extent and the ongoing consequences of this failure of insight. Nozaki is able to read many of his friends very well, and as a result uses them as the basis for the characters in his anime. Of course, since everyone has trouble knowing themselves', none of the character models catch onto the trick. Sometimes Nozaki demonstrates some rather good insights, but at other times he is so dumb you want to smack him upside the head and ask how he can be so clueless.

I previously said that this is a good anime if you don't want very much tension or drama. I believe that the calming state of mind that is created by watching the show actually serves to facilitate working to solve the problem the show demonstrates again and again; knowing thyself. If the show had been about brave heroes fighting monsters or engaged on a heroic quest, it is quite unlikely that a viewer would be moved towards self-reflection as a result of a character's flaws, but because the characters of Nozaki-kun are relatable and on our level, the viewer is naturally drawn to analyze his own life.

If you are looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life and watch a charming and funny anime that can't help but make you relax, then Nozaki-kun is what you're looking for. And perhaps, it might even initiate some healthy self-reflection.  

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