“Do you think love could arise from this?”
“I think . . . a sense of trust could arise from this.”
-A conversation between Umetaro Nozaki and Chiyo Sakura, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, episode 1
A sense of trust is not nearly heart-pounding enough for a teenager’s idea of love.
Similarly, growing to know someone is boring and left by the wayside in favor of that first strike of lightning. The heroine sees her hero and instantly falls in love. Learning the ins and outs of another is something that often comes later, especially in fiction aimed at young adults. The melodrama ensues as the two leads endeavor to discover that the other isn’t the perfect ideal that they made them out to be from afar.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun skewers these ideals through open jabs at shoujo manga and its brethren. The situations are set up by the romantic imagination of Chiyo Sakura – whose brain stoutly adheres to every standard shoujo trope known to exist – and are quickly inverted by the actions of Umetaro Nozaki.
Nozaki’s dense actions are outwardly hilarious, akin to specific scenes in The Daily Lives of High School Boys. However, the meat of his character is contextualized by the fact that he is a popular shoujo manga artist. Additionally, Nozaki claims to have offered romantic advice to several members of the opposite sex, and Sakura’s classmates openly fawn over his monthly work in a shoujo magazine. Inevitably, the question that pops up in both Sakura’s mind, and the minds of the viewing audience, is where on earth Nozaki is drawing this romantic inspiration from when he hasn’t a clue in any real-life setting.
The lighter side of Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author” essay surely lies in things like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, where it’s impossible to reconcile the idiocy of an author or artist with the ideas espoused in their work, as opposed to the common reading where one must detach the ideals of an author from the work itself. The original Barthes piece aims to divorce the reading from what one knows about the author in order to open up works to varying interpretations rather than one limited by authorial intent.
Sakura’s reading of Nozaki is the inverse. She attempts employing what she knows from his manga to discern his true personality. Admittedly, her initial impression of Nozaki was solely based on his looks and stoic exterior. In the process of getting to know him, it is revealed that he is a shoujo manga artist, and Sakura cannot help but draw conclusions based on his work. These conclusions turn out to be hilariously, and painfully, false.
More humorous is the idea that Sakura is befriending Nozaki throughout the process, developing a real relationship. However, growing a relationship takes time, which is something that excitable high school students often fail to realize. Sakura is closer to Nozaki than she was before, but is continuously let down by her own delusional expectations that come from the overly dramatic work of artists like Nozaki.
As for where Nozaki draws inspiration from, it’s clear that he too relies on existing tropes and perpetuates them in his own work, thereby continuing the cycle. Rather than using personal experience, of which he has none, Nozaki gives readers like Sakura what they presumably want from a shoujo work. It’s not difficult to divorce the loveless Nozaki from his flair for the flowery in his straightforwardly-titled manga, Let’s Fall in Love. However, it is difficult for Sakura to discern from what unseen Nozaki depth the source material is inspired. The answer thus far is that there is none, and the work is derivative of others like it rather than an extension of Nozaki’s romantic side. It’s a bleak outlook on the state of shoujo manga, but all the more humorous for the viewer while they watch Sakura’s hopes continue to be dashed.