"Humor has to surprise us; otherwise, it isn't funny."
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. Hilarity is supposedly ensues, but doesn't really.
Despite premises like that having been done before, I thought that was an interesting idea. However, comedy anime is unfortunately not very good at remaining consistenly funny, and 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 anime comedies seem to have these days, a little something I like to call "punchline decay": it gives the characters one or two personality traits and bases all of its jokes around them. I certainly don't watch comedy shows expecting deep, three-dimensional characterization, but come on. If the characters are merely one-trick ponies with only one gimmick to their name and nothing more, it gets stale quick.
At first, the show is serviceable enough at what it does. A somewhat average character-driven comedy. It introduces the characters and establishes their personality. It's nothing special, but it has potential. Yet, this is where it remains the whole way through. I'm not knocking this show for having one-dimensional characters (I expect it from an anime these days), but rather for not doing anything new with them.
Every single joke that ever gets made in this show always boils down to the exact same punchlines: Nozaki is oblivious; Chiyo thinks a moment with Nozaki is going to turn out romantic, and then it turns out the opposite; Mikoshiba is feminine and gets embarrassed; Seo is rude; Kashima is flirtatious towards other girls, which Hori beats her up for; Wakamatsu dislikes Seo but loves someone called Lorelei, whom he doesn't realize is the same person; etc.
In other words, 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. Much like how a harem show has characters that can barely even be called that, made to fit into a specific character archetype, the only novelty in the show comes from introducing new characters that also fit into one character archetype, and after the show has ceased to introduce new characters and has already beaten all of 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.
But is there anything else to these characters? Doesn't seem like it. That level of shallowness in regards to personality is the sort of thing that I would expect from secondary characters, not from the (ostensibly) main ones.
The point of a comedy is to subvert your expectations. Does Mikoshiba saying one of his dating sim lines and getting embarrassed subvert your expectations? Sure. But does it still subvert your expectations later on, the 50th time that happens? How about the hundredth? That's the problem; it only subverts your expectations once for every one of its characters, and then never again. The only time your expectations are subverted is the first time a joke is used; but then after that, since they keep reusing the same jokes over and over again, everything gets predictable in a few episodes.
It's like the "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. When someone first came up with it, it was funny, but nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who still finds the joke funny. Guess why? Because everyone has already heard it a million times. It's the same thing here.
The show is supposedly a parody of shoujo romance manga, which is part of what got me interested in watching in the first place. I've read a certain amount of those out of curiosity, so I know how dumb they can be. The characters are one-dimensional, the romance is forced, they're all just variations on the same story, 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, as it turns out, it doesn't really parody romance manga that much. It makes a few obvious jokes about that, while the rest of it is spent parodying (I guess?) what it's like working as a mangaka. Along with that comes jokes about being a mangaka that I've already seen in plenty of other shows where characters are mangakas.
This is where the problem comes in. 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 character types had already been gender-reversed in quite a few romance mangas to begin with. 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.
Admittedly, there were a couple of moments I thought were hilarious: the dating sim in episode 4, and the boxes in episode 8. However, in both of those cases, I thought the rest of the episode was mediocre, for reasons which I already outlined earlier. And even then, 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, theoretically, has a lot of good ideas, which could have ended up resulting in a genuinely clever show, but 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 with no thought involved, and ends up a mediocre comedy, just as forgettable as the very same romance mangas that it supposedly parodies. At the very least, it's cute, but I tend to like shows when they have more substance than that.
If you're fine with repetitive humor, then watch this if you'd like. Otherwise, if you're looking for something 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.