Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Vol. 1 by Izumi Tsubaki
This was by far one of my most anticipated new manga titles of the year. I generally don’t get into 4-koma manga all that much, but Oresama Teacher is one of my favorite shoujo comedy titles, so I was looking forward to reading this.
Poor Chiyo has a crush on the handsome yet mysterious Nozaki. When she confesses her affection to him, he assumes that she’s a rabid fan and hands her an autograph – as it turns out he’s secretly a successful shoujo manga-ka. Chiyo soon finds herself serving as his assistant, along with a quirky supporting cast. Nozaki is incredibily odd, as the main thing that he’s an expert in are shoujo manga tropes, which causes plenty of real-life confusion. He also finds inspiration from his classmates, turning one awkward boy nicknamed Mikorin into his shoujo heroine and making a tomboyish girl his inspiration for a new male character. Shoujo and manga conventions are constantly lampooned, for example Nozaki has a habit of always drawing his favorite face, making his characters indistinguishable from each other. Also, his relationship with his deadpan editor is hilarious, as Nozaki is always determined to believe the best of his editor, even when his drawings get a lukewarm or negative response.
One of the things I like about Tsubaki’s work is that she’s able to quickly assemble a large and exceedingly quirky supporting cast, providing plenty of fodder for humor. That she’s able to go from two characters to over half a dozen within the constraints of a 4-koma strip in one volume is impressive. This is a genuinely funny manga, and the perfect thing to get for a manga fan for the holidays if they haven’t snagged it already. I will never think about tanuki the same way again after reading this volume!