THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is about a girl named Chiyo who tries to confess to her crush. He misunderstands her confession and decides to take her as his assistant, because, as it turns out, he is a romance manga author, and he seeks inspiration from the people he knows to create his characters.
At first, the show is alright at what it does, it's your average character-driven comedy. For the first few episodes, it introduces the characters and establishes their personality. It's nothing special, but it has potential.
These are the stock characters and their relationships from shoujo manga that are parodied:
1: Chiyo is
the main girl who falls in love with the serious and mysterious main guy who is Nozaki. The latter is oblivious.
2: Mikoshiba is like the main girl from several shoujo romance manga that frequently stumbles on her own words and embarrasses herself in front of others, causing her to monologue wistfully about being an idiot. The joke is that, despite being a guy, he acts like a girl, therefore Nozaki writes him as a girl in his manga. Do you get it?
3: Hori is like the Tsundere girl who gets pissed at the handsome suave person who Kashima is. Basically, a gender-flipped Misaki and Usui from Maid-sama, minus the stalking and sexual harassment.
4: Wakamatsu is like the sweet, ever-forgiving girl who gets frustrated at the rude person who is Seo. He falls in love with Seo's voice, however, without realizing it's hers. Just like in superhero comics.
The show is meant to be a parody of shoujo romance manga, which is part of what got me interested in watching in the first place. I've read some of those, so I know what their usual flaws are: basic characterization, forced romance, lack of creativity in terms of premise, etc. If you've read one, you've read them all. So when I heard this was a parody of that, I was looking forward to it.
However, comedy anime is unfortunately not very good at remaining consistently funny, and often would rather remain repetitive rather than come up with something new or original. This is sadly the case with this show. It has the same problem as a lot of comedy anime seem to have these days, which I like to call "punchline decay": it sticks to a very rigid formula and gives the characters one or two personality traits, which I have previously mentioned, and bases all of its jokes around them. Nearly every joke that ever gets made in this show boils down to the same punchlines. They're not so much characters as much as they are running gags. But running gags require variations in order to stay fresh, which doesn't happen with the characters in this show. I certainly don't watch comedy shows expecting deep, three-dimensional characterization, but it gets stale quick if the characters have nothing more to them.
This is where my problem with it lies. Most of the parody just boils down to taking romance character stereotypes, changing the gender... and that's it. There isn't anything to the parody beyond that, especially pointless since the same characters or situations had already been gender-reversed or parodied in certain other series to begin with. More often than not, it plays out these situations without much in the way of irony to make a joke work. (I don't consider making a character type who is usually a girl into a boy to be ironic if it goes down that path too often.) Very rarely does the show ever actually do anything of actual substance with the parody aspect, which is a shame, since the show is at its best whenever it does that.
Similar to a harem anime, the only novelty in this comes from introducing new characters that fit into one character archetype, and once you already know what the joke will be with each character and it has already beaten their gimmicks into the ground, the show has nothing to offer. To put the character's lack of dynamism into perspective, half of the characters don't even have any personality of their own, and instead their personality is entirely dictated by their relation to another character. Chiyo's personality is dictated by her love of Nozaki, Wakamatsu's personality is dictated by his dislike of Seo, and Hori's personality is dictated by him beating up Kashima, etc. There isn't anything else to them really. I'm fine with background characters or supporting characters in comedies being one-dimensional, but not the main ones.
In regards to the romance manga parodies, it doesn't do a whole lot with it. It makes a few obvious jokes about that, like having sparkles or rose petals flying around the characters, and what it's like working as a mangaka. One example of such humor is a gag where three of the characters challenge each other to draw three assorted things. Two of them draw well, and the other draws poorly, except for the last one which they all draw poorly. Hilarious. I could never have seen that coming. The rest is your typical school comedy.
One of the points of a comedy is to subvert your expectations. Mikoshiba saying one of his dating sim lines and getting embarrassed afterward surely subverted my expectations the first time I saw it. Unfortunately, it didn't subvert them the fiftieth time nor the hundredth. It only subverted my expectations once for each of its characters, and then never again.
Basically, my criticism is that the show is cliché, in spite of meaning to poke fun at clichés. It's not bad for being conventional, but even if this were my first comedy anime, I still wouldn't like it that much due to its repetition. I'd still be thinking, "alright, I get it, this character has this trait to them. Are we getting to another joke soon?"
Admittedly, there were a couple of moments I thought were hilarious: Nozaki and Mikoshiba playing a dating sim in episode 4, and Nozaki having his characters stand on boxes to avoid misproportions when drawing in episode 8. I enjoyed these jokes because they showed unusual ways to deal with unexpected drawbacks in trying to draw or get inspiration for a story, which I found relatable. However, while these two scenes were funny, I didn't feel like it was worth watching the whole show just to laugh at only two scenes and be bored for the rest. I can't help but feel like even if I had dropped the show, I wouldn't have missed out on anything.
The show has a lot of good ideas, which could have ended up resulting in a genuinely clever show, but in my opinion, it never attempts to actually do anything with said potential nor does it take any risks, merely relying on the same 5 or 6 jokes and ends up a mediocre comedy, just as forgettable as the very same romance manga that it wants to parody. It's cute, but I tend to like shows when they have more substance than that. If there were more characters, there might be more different jokes based on how they interact with each other, but most of the humor revolves around their one personality trait regardless of who's interacting with who.
As much as I've been harping on the subject for the entire review, I don't want to make it sound like I believe that this show is any more repetitive than most other comedy anime, because it isn't. I only wrote this review because I watched this show at a time when I really became annoyed by this trend. If I had seen it at a different time, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. From recollection, most of any given episode takes place either at school or at Nozaki's apartment, and most episodes revolve around him trying to find ideas for his manga. Part of my apathetic opinion on it might be because I think I tend to like comedy anime better when there is a larger variety of situations that the characters find themselves in. I just feel like Nozaki-kun doesn't have enough variety in its humor to hold up for 12 episodes.
If you generally like comedy anime, then I'd recommend watching it and you'll probably enjoy it. This is by no means a terrible anime, even though I don't care for it. Otherwise, if you're like me and think a lot of comedy anime tends to miss the mark on humor, this likely won't do anything to change your mind. If you're looking for something more original in terms of characters and humor, you're better off looking for something else instead. There's certainly worse shows out there in regards to this, but there's also far better ones as well.
Jan 16, 2016
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Fiction exists as a distraction. There exists many kinds of fiction: comedy, adventure, drama, etc. This applies to all different mediums, including anime.
However, there are certain works that are unpopular for specific reasons. For example, the Twilight series is widely disliked due to it including several tropes people dislike about young adult literature, most notably its romanticization of an abusive relationship. Basically, it alienates certain people due its use of elements they dislike about its medium or genre.
No Game No Life is one of those series for me.
No Game No Life is the story of two NEET siblings, Sora (18 years old) ... and Shiro (11 years old) who form a team known as "Blank". One day, they get sucked into another world called Disboard, where every conflict is resolved through games, including political affairs. Thus, when Stephanie, the princess of Elchea, loses her inheritance to the throne after losing a game of poker, Sora and Shiro decide to compete in order to claim the throne for themselves, and eventually conquer Disboard.
No Game No Life is one of those stories where the main character is a loser in this world, and then they go to another world and turns out to be a total badass who wins at everything and never loses at anything. Every single time Sora and Shiro play a game, they always win, even if it's a game which is based purely on luck.
Of course, from other shows in this genre, like Death Note or Code Geass, or even Kaiji, we already know that the main character is going to succeed with their mind games, and the fun in that is seeing how the main character wins. But at least in those shows, there is actual dramatic tension. They actually have moments where we think the characters are going to lose, and even if they don't, their actions still have consequences. Even if they win, they lose something in doing so.
In NGNL, there is little to no dramatic tension at any point. Even if the audience is reminded of how high the stakes are in the games they play, we already know that the characters are invincible from the get-go and will never have to cut their losses, the only reason for that being Sora and Shiro's catchphrase "Blank never loses." I feel like this makes the show pointless to watch, because why should I care about whether the characters win or lose if there is no tension because they never lose? Late in the show, they bet the lives of everyone in Elchea, and at that point their victory is a foregone conclusion.
There is validity to the argument that, as long as the show is fun to watch, it doesn't matter if the main characters are invincible. However, my biggest complaint about this show is not about the characters being invincible, but rather about their personalities. As to why: Sora is your typical cocky-as-fuck and smug-as-shit lead character. Shiro is the generic borderline-emotionless younger sister character with white hair and wants Sora's dick. Stephanie is the dumbass-more-often-than-not love interest who is the former princess and wants Sora's dick. Jibril is the lolrandom yet knowledgeable one, who wants Sora's dick. Do any of those characters sound familiar? If so, that's because they're the exact same fucking characters that you would find in this type of anime. The only difference is that they have little-to-no positive or admirable traits about them to balance out. I would be able to overlook the characters being invincible, as that is not by itself a flaw, if it wasn't for them being unlikable, Sora most of all.
Episode 5 in particular is a good example of this, consisting of Steph continuously challenging Sora and Shiro and predictably losing. Not only do our heroes make her walk around wearing dog ears and a tail and make her remove her clothes every time she loses out of spite for her having a better social life (and Shiro out of jealousy because Sora made Steph fall in love with him due to the pledges), but Steph is stupid enough to keep challenging them, even though she keeps losing. This makes the show further frustrating to watch, because the characters are so unlikable that I don't want them to win, making episode 9, where Sora disappears and Shiro has to find a way to bring him back, the only time where there is actual dramatic tension, unemotional. Why should I be sad about a character disappearing and excited about him reappearing if he is a jackass?
It also brings me to my next point: the fanservice. I don't mind fanservice that much if it's in small doses, but this show goes overboard. Disregarding the aforementioned episode 5, the very first shot of Shiro is a panty-shot (keep in mind, she's 11). Every time the characters are falling, or flying around, there's panty-shots. Several times throughout the show, the characters go to the onsen, giving us yet more tasteful fanservice involving a shampoo bottle which sprouts tentacles. The final game in the anime depicts a video game where they have to hunt their opponent across a large city while avoiding enemy catgirls, and of course they use their guns to shoot off their clothes. Not to mention the OVAs, the third one consists of Steph getting tentacle-raped, and I am not even joking. I know this is an ecchi, but even other ecchi shows I've seen don't shove the fanservice in your face as much as this, nor are they as mean-spirited.
Even the excuse I've seen some people make for the fanservice being sarcastic doesn't cover this, the fanservice has about as much purpose here as in any harem show. They say that it's meant to be satirical, to make fun of all the other shows in this genre for having pointless fanservice. So it makes fun of pointless fanservice by having pointless fanservice? That would be like if I made fun of terrorists by blowing up a building: it defeats its own purpose.
Regarding the animation, it looks pretty at times, and the show is very colorful. However, it is also too colorful, the color palette is oversaturated with pink, and the show in general uses colors so bright that it causes eyestrain. If you watched this show in the middle of the night with all the lights turned off, you'd probably have a seizure.
In conclusion, I dislike No Game No Life in practically every aspect. There's no problem with a show that doesn't take itself seriously, but there's a difference between that and being so idiotic that it becomes a chore to watch. I'd rather watch a bad show that takes itself seriously and ends up being boring than a show that doesn't take itself seriously but fails because of its unfunny humor to the point where it becomes obnoxious.
If you don't have a problem or even like any of these aspects, then go ahead and watch it and you'll probably like it. If you're anything like me though, you most likely won't like it. I mean, I watch anime and play video games, but even I can see what masturbatory nonsense this is.
This show is practically indistinguishable from a crappy self-insert wish fulfillment fanfic. This could have been an okay show if the characters were actually likable, if there was actual dramatic tension, and if there wasn't so much fanservice. As it is, though, this is my least favorite anime I've ever seen.
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Dec 24, 2015
THIS REVIEW IS FOR ALL SEASONS, AS SUCH, IT CONTAINS SPOILERS
Monogatari takes place in a city populated by about 20 people, cardboard cutouts, and kanji characters, and follows the story of Koyomi Araragi as he meets girls who have supernatural oddity-related issues in their lives and tries to help them.
I am not a fan of the Monogatari anime, but I will get into why later in this review.
The characters are all pretty much what you'd expect from a harem anime. There's the selfless main character, the Tsundere girlfriend, the shy Moe girl who turns out to actually be psycho and manipulative, the smart girl who ... wears glasses (for a brief time anyway), the little sister(s), the athletic girl, the lesbian, etc.
However, most of them are written with more nuance than what you'd expect, as in, they get backstories, but on a basic level, I don't feel like it's any deeper than the character backstories from any other anime. But they do have a bit more depth than what you'd expect from a harem show, meaning they are not in a round-the-clock quest for the main character's dick. I'm not a fan of the characters (except for Kaiki Deishuu and maybe Meme Oshino), and don't think they're very noteworthy, but I do give the writer credit for that.
The dialogue is also the same as what you'd expect from an anime. Talking about motivations, delivering exposition, and bantering whenever there's nothing going on. The difference is that most the show is just that, talking, with nothing else going on. However, I don't have that much of a problem with that aspect and some of the dialogue is occasionally funny. Nevertheless, even then, the dialogue often tends to go in circles and isn't strong enough to carry the whole show in my opinion, but more on that later.
When it comes to the story, however, a lot of the story arcs start out with potential, but then they end up focusing more on the dialogue rather than doing something interesting with the premise, and then end unmemorably.
In my opinion, the biggest example of this is in Monogatari Second Season's Mayoi Jiangshi arc. In that arc, Koyomi time travels and prevents something from occurring in the show's backstory. Because of this change he made, a character was unable to help him during the events of a previous story arc in this alternate timeline, which leads to the extinction of humanity via a vampire zombie invasion. I was genuinely pleasantly surprised at the premise of this story arc because it gave new meaning and importance to previous arcs and character interactions. But guess how the story arc plays out. Lots of talking, of course.
Surprisingly enough, despite the first scene of this show being a 15-20 second-long panty shot, there isn't actually all that much fanservice. However, when there is, it's rather unappealing.
Two running gags with Koyomi include going out and molesting Mayoi, who is 11, and planning on tricking his little sisters into being molested by him, and he suffers no real comeuppance for it. I'd say it's refreshing to have a subversion as a change of pace from the typical harem humor where the main character does something perverted by accident and gets beaten up for it, but I don't think child molestation or incest are funny.
That's not to mention the rape snake from the Nadeko Snake arc, and two extended scenes from Nisemonogatari, in which Shinobu, who is over 400 years old but is physically 8, bathes with Koyomi, as well as the infamous scene where he brushes his little sister's teeth and it looks like they're having oral. I have read an essay analyzing the fanservice in Nise, of all things, and apparently it's supposed to represent teenage sexuality, or how the girls want to be seen by Koyomi. Okay, but that doesn't mean that I have to feel it's worth waxing philosophical about this aspect. Might as well apply that same logic to every ecchi harem out there.
The biggest problem I have with Monogatari, however, isn't intrinsic to the series in general, since I've read some of the light novels and think they're okay, despite having these flaws.
The animation looks nice and clean (despite the obvious low budget resulting in all these still frames), however, it is also its biggest flaw (besides the fanservice).
Shaft has been using the same visuals for every Shinbo-directed show for several years (10-11 years as of the time of this review), but I feel that when making Monogatari, they rely on their visuals too much.
A lot of the time, during the dialogue scenes in Monogatari, they keep cutting to Dadaist visuals, text screens, weird camera angles, and extreme closeups, which wouldn't be a problem, except that they focus on them for so long and so often, that it detracts from the experience. They go too overboard with those and fail to build up a good momentum for the pacing.
I don't judge a show based on the animation, as long as I'm interested in the story and the characters, but this is one case where I have the opinion that it detracts from everything else. In this case, I feel like the animation department is too busy showing off what I already know that they can do while not advancing the story in a significant measure in each episode with little pay-off, and that aspect is what I actually care about in a show. I've already seen this exact same type of animation in multiple other Shaft shows previously, so it doesn't do anything for me anymore, I'm not going to give it extra points.
Imagine if someone made an adaptation of a book, and instead of adapting the events of the book in a visual format, the adaptation entirely consisted of watching some guy sitting there, reading the book out loud. That's what watching Monogatari feels like.
In conclusion, I think that the Monogatari light novels are okay despite their flaws, but that Shaft's direction makes the anime boring to watch, and that I would have likely enjoyed the show more if it was made by another studio, or if Shaft hadn't gone so overboard with the animation to the extent that it detracts from everything else. The only reason I continue to watch it is just because I'm waiting for the moment where it finally lives up to its potential.
Monogatari is a love-it-or-hate-it show, watch it if you want, maybe you'll like it, but if you end up not liking it, I recommend watching Monster or Mushishi as preferable alternatives.
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