First Impression – Nazo no Kanojo X

It all started with a(n indirect) kiss.

I remember checking out the manga ages ago and here we are for the adaptation. From the moment I flipped the pages, I was taken in by the weird storyline and the very mysterious girl, who used scissor as her weapon even before Senjougahara. I was skeptical with Hoods doing the production but when I found out Watanabe, the dude who stuck around Doraemon franchise is directing this? I’m definitely in for a penny, in for a pound.
This is director Watanabe Ayumu’s 2nd anime series this season, the other one being Space Brothers, whose 1st episode was very good, showing some good directing work especially with its cinematography. Mysterious Girlfriend X is one of the very rare series with whose source material I’m somewhat familiar, having read the first 10 or so chapters. As I mentioned in our Spring preview, I didn’t drop it for any particular reason, just for losing interest in manga in general. So I have an idea of what to expect, at least at the beginning, and let me tell you, between the bizarre contents of the source manga and the visual flair director Watanabe displayed in Space Brothers, I’m quite excited to see how this will turn out.

Just drenched (sorry) with sexual imagery right from the cold open.

Tsubaki Akira is an average high school 2nd year boy going through adolescence, starting to find himself curious about sex. One day a girl by the name of Urabe Mikoto transfers into his school and is seated next to him (naturally). She quickly gains a reputation as a weirdo by falling out of her chair in a fit of laughter in class the first day, always sleeping at her desk during free periods, and never responding to fellow students’ advances of friendship.

Mikoto doesn’t leave the best of first impressions, but it’s certainly a strong one.

How could you not want to suck on her drool after seeing this face?

After school one day, Akira goes back to his classroom to retrieve his forgotten lunchbox to discover that Mikoto is asleep at her desk. He wakes her up, getting his first proper look at her face in the process, drool hanging out the corner of her mouth. Akira is awestruck and once she leaves, Akira sticks his finger in some of the drool that had gathered on her desk and sucks on it. It’s sweet. That night, he has a crazy dream where he’s led down an alleyway by Mikoto into a bizarre urban landscape where they proceed to dance atop a platform. It’s a dream that refuses to leave his head. But the real effects of this saliva licking are felt a couple days later when he collapses during gym class. He remains out sick for about 2 weeks despite it apparently being only a common cold.

Akira’s continued absence clues Mikoto in on the cause of his sickness, and she visits him unannounced. She asks him point blank if her saliva tasted sweet (his having licked it being a foregone conclusion already), and Akira answers honestly. She then gives him more of her saliva to lick, forcing her finger in his mouth, which seems to magically cure him. She explains that the sweet taste was because he likes her and his sickness was due to body was going through withdrawal from the saliva of the one he likes.

Akira is back at school the next day, and Mikoto meets him on the way home in order to give him more of her saliva. And so the 2 start a tradition after school, where they walk home together until their paths diverge. But Akira doesn’t let the status quo stay for long, and since it’s already out there that he likes her, he asks her to be his girlfriend. Mikoto asks him to “approach” her in a unique way, and he does so by taking out the picture of his previous crush in his wallet and ripping it up. This moves Mikoto to… drool. A LOT. Even her knees become weak causing her to collapse.

Thank god we see the stream coming from above the skirt, or else we might mistake it for something else!

She asks him if he’s a virgin and, again, he answers honestly, and she responds that she’s glad, because she’s one too. She also explains that the laughing fit during class before had been because she had heard some voice tell her that he would be the first boy she’d have sex with. She’d been waiting for him to ask her out the whole time. Before they finally leave their separate ways, she reaffirms that, from that day on, she is his girlfriend, and he is her boyfriend.

Everybody drools!

I don’t think I’ll get tired of this ending sequence any time soon.

Now that was refreshing. This is not one of your common boy meets girl anime but it’s a straight forward playing-with-your-mind enough for you to go WTF just happened?! For those of you who hate the usual shoujo route of the girl/guy fidgeting with their feelings and thinking about when to confess; this is for you. There are no loopholes or leeway that the storyline takes in getting the couple together. It’s a straight forward, boy meets girl, boy finds girl interesting, boy goes WTF with her shenanigans, boy has some ecchi thoughts about the girl, boy’s feelings are returned but in a different way, boy falls deeply for the girl and the girl actually says yes in her mysterious way (drooling all over the place? Where have you even seen such a thing?).

Of course, there are things that can’t be scientifically explained like why Mikoto’s drool tastes sweet to Tsubaki and him contracting love sickness rather than flu. You can also ask, why Mikoto has blue highlights? Why she sleeps all the time? Why she laughs at weird personal jokes? Why she hides her adorable face? Why she has a scissor in her pantsu and why the hell she barfs lots of drool when she’s very happy? You know what? I would love to know all of this and then some. I would take this weirdness/drool fetish any day compared to the usual ecchi boob-jiggle and closeups of many a panty-shots that I’ve lost count of. Please give me something new that can make my eyes open and even wonder at the possibilities. This is what I got and I liked it.

This has unique written all over it and it would be a sore mistake to skip this just because you think the art is old-looking or you got scared of that ‘ecchi’ genre. The art definitely looks as if it’s based on an older version of Doraemon kids but of course, you can’t expect Shizuka to traffic her drool to Nobita, right? Even if the art is old looking, the animation still got an upgrade. I specifically loved all the dream sequences and the depiction of strange city Tsubaki visits with Mikoto via various camera angles. I’m also glad Yuki Kaji didn’t voice Tsubaki even if he’s part of the cast. Miyu Irino brings a refreshing voice to the table and same can be said about Ayako Yoshitani because she’s a complete n00b, yet does a very good job with the husky under-toned voice of Mikoto.

She’s no Sawako and though the former can be pretty adorable, Mikoto’s matter-of-fact style is pretty rare in a romance heroine and can go a lot of places. I remember Senjougahara at this point but even she has problem saying what she means at times, which is opposite of Mikoto. She has been very direct in her approach rather than hiding behind an ax (pun intended). She has already wooed Tsubaki out of his mind with her mysteriousness so I can’t wait to discover what else she has in store including her mad-scissor-art skills. I never finished the manga so I’m clueless about the end but I’ll take lvlln’s word on if it follows the manga then we should be in for a drool-worthy ride.

Unique doesn’t mean defying anime logic: The sudden appearance of lips, just before the supposed kiss scene.

I suppose the visual direction is a good place to start. It was less prominent than in the 1st episode of Space Brothers, but there was still plenty to like here, with some subtle but significant uses of a moving camera, particularly during the final scene on the intersection between Akira and Mikoto. The dream world was a beauty to watch, from the very start with the first person shot of Akira pulled by Mikoto down the alleyway. The CG enhanced the surreal feel of the dream, and I particularly liked the camera angles during their dance scene. Really, I’m thrilled that this Watanabe Ayumu fellow is starting to direct anime that I watch instead of just Doraemon, because he has added much needed variety to cinematography in TV anime. Never going all the way to the crazy end like Shinbo and his proteges, but he does things oh so slightly differently, showing that regular anime can come out ahead by using some standard live-action camera tricks that most anime directors seem afraid to use for some reason.

I’m a big fan of the tracking shot here.

Okay, enough of me fanboying about the cinematography; there are other aspects to the visuals. The character designs are certainly very different from what we see most of today. I’ve seen it compared to a 90s anime, but I’m not sure that that’s an apt comparison. It certainly has the grunginess that we saw more of in the 90s, but I think the design of Mysterious Girlfriend X deserves to be recognized as its own thing. Again, it’s refreshing to see something that looks so different yet still very pretty; the non-standard designs don’t make Mikoto any less of a cutie (or, dare I say, moe character?).

This is clearly setting up to be an adolescent story of sexual discovery – perhaps it’ll end up being a coming of age tale as many such stories do – and the opening monologue about boys’ discovery of sex with the accompanying flower visuals laid it on pretty thick. Of course, it’s not like the saliva swapping gimmick was any more subtle, either. That’s not even a metaphor, it’s literally swapping bodily fluids. The metaphor came when Akira got sick, needing a constant influx of Mikoto’s saliva in order to stay healthy. Clearly going for that idea of someone getting a “first taste” at a sexual experience and growing addicted to it. But this is just the beginning, and we’re going to see lots more weirdness going down, which will no doubt also serve as metaphors of other aspects of sex and romantic relationships. I’m reminded a bit of Gainax and their focus on penises and just how transparent they make their metaphors. And FLCL and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have shown us that such works could be just as great and layered as any other pretentious and opaque art house work.

Whereas Watanabe is a newbie only to the late-night TV circuit in anime, Urabe Mikoto’s voice actor Yoshitani Ayako is a literal newbie to the business, acting in her first credited role as best as I can tell. And it looks like she’s singing both OP (skipped over in this episode) and ED, too. I’ve read a lot of praise for her performance here, and I have to admit that I liked it quite a bit, especially her laughter. She did a good job in the transitions, from talking to holding back laughter, to barely holding back laughter, to all-out laughing. She sounded very boyish, fitting for the tomboyish Mikoto, so she has that going for her. But I don’t think she’s been challenged yet. This was just the 1st episode she has ever acted in, and she didn’t exactly get a ton of lines, so that’s expected. But I’m bullish on her prospects. Though I certainly don’t expect her debut performance to equal that of Omigawa Chiaki in Soul Eater (to the 3/4 of you who hate her voice, SHUT UP, she’s an angel!).

Did you catch this one? The girl’s packing!

And I’m quite bullish on this series now after the 1st episode. Perhaps you expected that this would be an ecchi series based on Hoods Entertainment’s other works (Aki Sora, Seikon no Qwaser, and Princess Lover! (OVA) being some of their more well known ones), but if it follows the manga truthfully, it won’t have much fanservice at all. In fact, it’s an extremely tame if just as extremely bizarre high school romantic… something (comedy? Drama? Not either, really) if you can get past the saliva swapping. I’m eagerly awaiting more. I mean, Mikoto hasn’t even whipped out her scissors yet!

Preview

Just a hint of what’s to come. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

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We live, laugh, enjoy and strictly believe on "more the merrier". When together, we usually come up with very chatty, conversation-based episodics and interesting posts.
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14 Responses to “First Impression – Nazo no Kanojo X”

  1. Metalsnakezero says:

    It surprising well the first episode turned out and it could had gone down some really bad turns due to the studio past works. I look forward to more. Also, what a voice Urabe has, so enchanting (o^__^o).

    • lvlln says:

      Well, given the source material, I’m not sure how much the studio could’ve made this similar to its older works. I suppose they could’ve changed the art style drastically, and that would indeed have been disastrous. But director Watanabe seems to be on top of things.

  2. BlackBriar says:

    This is a pretty straightforward and subtle anime. Little fanservice, likeable characters and very nice quality. A sign of relief is that Akira isn’t male leads from harem shows. He’s actually in the range of normality. It’s a nice change of pace.

    So, someone made a love story centered around drool? Now I do believe I’ve seen everything. Moreover, how can someone’s drool taste sweet? Mikoto is strange. She’s as different as they come. There’s utterly no way of reading her personality where you can figure out what to expect. The having a pair of scissors in her underwear is the icing on the weird cake. All that drool she let out while she collapsed reminded me a lot of Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka: Of the Dead’s Chris puking rainbow barf.

    The designs for this anime are pretty old school, which are very reminiscent of anime from the mid-90s. It’s awesome how they use retro art and modern animation to creating such a beautiful sight. This show is unique and I definitely intend to keep watching.

    • lvlln says:

      There’s a lot to Mysterious Girlfriend X that don’t make any sense, and I doubt it’ll attempt to explain any of it, either. Everything is just part of the, well, mystery. Ultimately, they act as metaphors, but as parts of the story, they’re just fun to see.

  3. akagami says:

    I just realized what this was – I remember trying a few pages of this manga where this guy tries this girl’s drool from a table at school and being weirded out at the while story. Just finally clicked!

    I think the fetish themes here are too strong for my tastes. Thanks for the review however, at least I know I won’t be picking this up!

    I was wondering who Hood was… so they did those three series? *facepalm*

    Princess Lover OVA was a catastrophe. Princess Lover was ok, but the OVA was pretty much hentai.

    • lvlln says:

      I’d encourage you to stick around at least until she takes out those scissors, but if you can’t get over the saliva, well, I guess some shows just don’t work for some people.

      Princess Lover OVA was indeed straight up hentai. I find Aki Sora the most interesting among the studio’s past work, cuz that one’s based on one of my favorite manga and really gets close to the line between just ecchi and full on hentai, crossing it a couple of times definitely.

  4. skylion says:

    Very unique show on so many fronts. As llvln points out, it looks to be taking some great efforts to excel at being a visual medium. I had to watch her fall out of that chair a few time, good full animation.

    Yoshitani Ayako took me by surprise. Her voice is so natural sounds, it’s like she isn’t even acting. I could swear that once she got into her lines, it was like she was in the same room with me. In this age, even the most steady of characters have to have a moe or kawaii filter over them. Not so here.

    And, llvln, I know you are a man of rare taste, so few people appreciate the work of Omigawa Chiaki. I think the fandom might be split more towards 5/6 of the people, but I like that. I like that they hate her voice, more for the rest of us to enjoy.

    • lvlln says:

      There’s definitely something to there not being a filter over Yoshitani’s voice. She does sound very natural and real, which works for Mikoto, as she’s a very matter-of-fact person.

      And yes, Omigawa’s voice is a joy to hear! I recall I first heard her as the reverse trap in Natsu no Arashi! and, since she was only employed (employable?) by Shaft for quite a while, there was a period at which I had literally watched every single anime in which she had played a role. With her starting to expand out with roles in Hanasaku Iroha (which I unfortunately watched all of) and Bodacious Space Pirates (of which I’ve only watched the first 3 episodes), I’ve started to miss out on her.

      Also, she could do sit ups on my back any day.

      • skylion says:

        Nice video; considering that I do four reps of fifteen situps via hanging boot, I would like to do that with her.

        Unfortunate that you watched all of Hanasaku. lylln, I take back just a few bites of the taste I granted. Sorry, that show goes down as one of my all timers.

        She has so few lines in Bodacious, it’s a shame. But, we shall always have Maka Albarn, and The Town Moves On; great great show.

  5. Amutofan123 says:

    I loved it. I remember I read a few pages of the manga a while back, but I can’t remember why I didn’t keep reading. It’s unique, it’s different from your typical moe moe fanservice shows. The male lead is normal, but not the point that he is unlikeable. I’m certainly looking forward to more.

    • Kyokai says:

      This has a unique weirdness to it that is good. You should definitely stick around. ^^

  6. Toori-chan says:

    Look at all that drools. Did they mistakenly drew it instead of vomit or blood? It was a weird episode though I enjoyed it somehow. It’s on my list now. *drool*

    • Kyokai says:

      Lol! It’s a drool fetish thing, which is not so bad as I thought it would.

  7. [...] the 1st episode aired, I commented that the cinematography reminded me more of a live-action show. By panning the [...]

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