「謎の彼女と彼氏」 (Nazo no Kanojo to Kareshi)
“Mysterious Girlfriend and Boyfriend”
Episode 13 has combined two parts–a previously skipped over manga chapter and an
anime original (correction, it’s actually just more chapters switched around)–to wrap up the current season. I find little qualm to argue this directing decision, knowing full well that the chances of this series getting a second season is sadly low. Watanabe shifted some chapters around to lead into this more satisfying end, rather than a cliffhanger to misguidedly lead fans to hope for a second season. Whilst he shows knack in handling long-cour shows such as Uchuu Kyoudai, his ability to work with the dreaded 13 episode format in Nazo no Kanojo X is an even more impressive feat.
Basically, what Watanabe has done is shifted the chapters in such a way that makes the transition of Urabe into an open and heartwarming character a smooth one. If Watanabe had decided to go with the manga’s original order of having Urabe bump into Tsubaki’s sister before the Cultural Festival arc, I honestly believe the transition into the funeral scene would’ve been a little bit more clunky. Granted, transitioning from their first hug to a declaration of wanting to be important in ones life isn’t so terrible a transition, it’s not linked persay. Tsubaki’s sister acts as the transitive medium–an important figure in Tsubaki’s life–making way for a much smoother segue to this anime original end, avoiding the critiques a show usually has from its loyal manga followers.
This romantic comedy thankfully ends on the ‘fully meaningful end without any sudden reversions in character’ side of the spectrum, rather than the ‘we’re going to put SOME sort of character development, but afterwards revert to happy go lucky as if it never happened’ side. We are presented with a wonderful end that reinforces the honesty of their relationship–a 13th ‘level’ built on 12.5 episodes of constant development, rather than a black-to-white jerk development that romantic comedies have a terrible tendency to fall in. When Urabe smiled her bright smile at the end, she didn’t have to use words to express the rest of her sentence. “Eventually, we’re going to be doing things that are even more inappropriate…but I’m glad that we’ll do those things–together.” With cherry blossoms in bloom and the lapse of a year’s worth of time, such sweet yet mature declarations warmed my heart, considering the growth that allowed that point to happen.
However, now is the time to put this heartwarming weird tale to rest. I’ve stalled it off for too long, but here are my final impressions of the series as a whole, categorized into important topics I feel should be brought up. In addition, I have also asked one of the commenters, mac65, to submit their final thoughts on the episode as well to honor the guy’s efforts to bring up challenging viewpoints and insight in his mini post comments!
Zanibas’ Final Impressions
Show Spoiler ▼
Some people find this a negative point than a positive point, but there are people who enjoy the older design and more conservative character features in this anime, myself included. The style harkens back to a time where angles were more prevalent and colors more basic. As a result, it actually ends up being easier on the eyes due to the reduced detail and contrast. The character designs themselves may be pretty plain, but the lack of extravagance, I feel, allows for better focus on the hit-home message. Animation may be blocky at times, but when it matters most, the scene is animated smooth enough to properly execute, but not enough to detract from the art style.
Music wise, the lack of diversity in the soundtrack was compensated by how well the tracks fit with most scenes. The eerie music box track worked well to set dream sequences and indicate Urabe’s conscious masking of a situation. The upbeat string and accordion rhythms enhanced everyday life dialogues between the main four characters, usually ending with that extended note that helped segue the next scene. The sadder strings, though repeating, did not feel repetitive as it highlighted, yet did not overpower, each emotional revelation our couple shared. My only gripe is with the repetitive sound that accompanied Urabe’s drool every single time; it was a sound that I felt could’ve been omitted during SEVERAL scenes and instead replaced with normal sounds, placing less emphasis on the magic of the drool and more on the emotions it draws out.
Voice acting for the most part was alright, with the exception of Urabe’s VA, Yoshitani Ayako. Hers was a refreshing voice to hear as a completely new VA. Her–would it be called deeper–voice suits Urabe’s cooler personality. Though at times her inexperience shows, especially during later episodes, it is a good entry performance for her. She also performs the wonderful OPs and EDs that have grown on me: they’re not too singsongy, but rather has a unique charm in being slightly imperfect. Maybe I’m being biased in this regard for being in love with her voice, but I definitely would recommend this show for anyone looking to hear some new voices. Here’s to Ayako getting another VA spot sometime in the future!
The Issues of a Relationship
I’ve brought it up many times, but I’ll bring it up one last time: this series holds true to the author’s thesis, “Couples move too fast to sex that they miss out on the buildup.” I doubt this show is anything anti-sex in the slightest, but rather encourages the exploration from distant innocence to intimate transformation. “Build a good foundation,” the author suggests, letting Urabe and Tsubaki go at a casual, yet constant pace. Each episode sought to explore a specific aspect of the journey to intimacy, wasting not an episode on the trivialities. Even from episode one we’re exposed to their first dilemma–Tsubaki faced it head on by tearing up his precious photo and accepting Urabe’s pace. Point after point–jealousy, being clingy, being sad from another’s happiness, intimacy, or even just being able to read subtlties–whatever the issue was, it was a dilemma that allowed one to relate because they hit so hard to home. The conflicts may have a ridiculous twist to them to spice things up, but the absolute core of these issues isn’t hard to see.
However, these ridiculous twists were, more often than not, necessary to give an alternate view of what we sometimes take for granted. Specifically, it is the drool, a prevalent motif, that allowed us to see the issues that go into a relationship in a different light. It is drool that allows Tsubaki to understand Urabe and vice versa. It is drool that breaks down the awkward resistance to sharing one another, becoming an unfailing screen into Urabe’s and Tsubaki’s inner feelings. It is drool that is the replacement for the kiss, only much more potent in well…everything. However, it is drool that also binds Tsubaki to Urabe to the point where he literally cannot live without her, similar to an addiction. It also is a potently manipulative weapon that could guilt trip individuals and cloud their conscience. And they say words are a powerful thing. However, as of now it has been a force of good, connecting most of the characters positively and being the voice of truth in a silent and awkward world. However, speaking of drool…
…I have to note that the series likes to focus on certain physical tendencies couples do…but is never really portrayed in anime (seriously). Prime examples were the ear conditioning, the new hairstyle, the sharing of drool with outside parties, the smell of sweat, and many other points of interest that just don’t show up in romantic comedies (seriously). It’d be silly to think that a girl’s scent isn’t noticed by the people crushing on her. It’d be strange to not note that people are ogling your girlfriend’s new hairstyle and get jealous! However, such…embarrassingly unspoken scenes often go passed on for more “vanilla” issues that are more widely discussed. Ueshiba is daring and observant in approaching these issues throughout the series, and I wish to see more if a second season were to appear. Although I myself may be embarrassed to say it explicitly, some of the weird little habits and actions that played out in the series actually resonated with me–the me that wouldn’t dare to bring up these topics publicly. It’s a guilty pleasure and reassurance to know that I wasn’t the ONLY one thinking or experiencing these issues. Thank you Urabe and Tsubaki for being quite open about their physical boundaries.
Urabe and Tsubaki (and Oka)
Last but most important is the character of the couples themselves. We may have had issues that Urabe and Tsubaki faced, issues that normal couples face, but the mature and/or straightforward way they resolve every single issue has been an admirable sight.
Urabe, with her strong conviction and underlying understanding (or desire to reach) started the beginning of this relationship well. She set boundaries, punished Tsubaki without being draconian when he crossed those boundaries, and wasn’t a pansy afterwards. Although her desired progression through the relationship is warped by our standards, her conviction to follow this progression is something you don’t see often in the romantic comedy genre. With all things hard in a relationship though, Urabe did the right thing and eased her tensions and restrictions as trust grew. She became more tolerant of mistakes, took Tsubaki’s feelings and desires to heart, and faced her own conflicting ideals with relative grace and maturity, eventually concluding with satisfying desires she had herself. Not once was I disappointed in our panty scissor wielding heroine, nor once did I feel that she acted out of character. Oka, all-seeing voice of action for Urabe, has been critical in developing our main heroine, letting out information that’s precise and encouraging of closeness. However, it was fun to see that the influence was mutual. Oka definitely gets bonus points for being able to convince Urabe to become more social AND being a good comedian in trying to copy Urabe’s signature cutting style. Urabe’s apathy progressively melted away thanks to our busty heroine, leading up to an intimate declaration: one that Urabe practically dedicates her life to.
Tsubaki on the other hand, wields an impressive morality that stands more on openness and change, rather than a good set of morals. Tsubaki listens to Urabe, pays attention to when he angers her, and actually changes his attitudes and personalities. Although it may take a couple of tries, and he does fail every now and then, Tsubaki learns to control what Urabe is most uncomfortable about: physical contact. His intentions are never malicious when he makes a mistake, being only the byproduct of a drool transfer or his own hormones raging inside of him. As a result of this, he can make as many stupid mistakes as he want without being hated, simply because his heart is never in a bad place and his mind is willing to listen. In a way, he reflects what I one day hope to be: more confident and willing to chalk up mistakes. That is why it makes me proud when he avoids a silly mistake that’s overused in romantic slapstick, such as falling down on a girl or going on a walk with your previous crush, because it reflects his internal growth in a realistically positive way. He might be one of the most plain characters that I’ve ever met, but that is far from saying that he is one of the most boring. His honest dedication to Urabe’s happiness is enough to dub this one of the best portrayals of young relationships that I’ve ever seen. Kare Kano might’ve shown two excellent students overcoming their lives to be with one another, but Nazo no Kanojo X shows two remarkably average (read: not normal) students overcoming stereotypes to find truly intimate happiness.
Good job Nazo no Kanojo X. You gave me expectations and met them solidly. It was a pleasure to watch you to the very end, and even now it’s hard to say goodbye! I hope that one day, we can see a kind producer take up a second season. The chances of that are extremely low, but one can hope. Personally, this will be an important series to me, as it is the first series I have completely blogged for Random Curiosity. However, even if it wasn’t, I will always remember this series not for the emotional rollercoaster a Key production brings, but for that subtle warmth and internal chuckle I felt at the end of every episode. Thanks Nazo no Kanojo X, and goodbye for now.
mac65’s Final Impressions
Mac’s impressions will be edited by me later, but here is the original text that I received.
Show Spoiler ▼
I knew nothing about this manga adaptation beyond the RC preview, but after the first episode, I was hooked. This series drew me in immediately (like Jormungand) and I can’t say there was a weak episode. There was light drama, excellent humor, dynamics that felt honest, substantial character interactions, consistent animation, and of course, drool. Polish that off with catchy and well choreographed OP/ED themes, and you’ve got the makings of a future classic.
On the outside, the premise was really weird–having an addiction to a girl’s drool, an alternate form of communicating emotions. For most, this was a series turn-off, but after seeing how effective this was used in the story, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The drool exchange wasn’t just thrown in, but was pivotal in advancing Tsubaki and Urabe’s understanding of each other. As the series progressed, the versatility of the drool continued to mesh well with progressively harder challenges to their relationship. Episode 9 was the strongest and most realistic in demonstrating important relationship milestones for a boy. As the series progressed, each episode build upon the last. We learned that drool was not unique to Urabe – Oka could communicate with it too, and added interesting insight and humor to the series. I would call it the best non-verbal communication I’ve seen in a story.
I loved how this series focused on many things that are considered taboo, but we’re all connected with: the smell of a girl, the feel of her lips, the warmth of her mouth; real things that are part of a healthy relationship. It did not shy away from problems relationships can have: jealousy, possessiveness, and dishonesty; internal and external forces a couple may face on their path to closeness and intimacy. These topics were artfully handled with sincerity, cleverness, and humor that made the underlying story in each episode credible, and a joy to watch.
What made it work so well is the clever hyperbole to illustrate the mysterious communication between Urabe and Tsubaki (and Urabe and Oka). Masterfully executed, the drool is animated like a thick honey which is drawn from a deep, mysterious secret place in Urabe’s mouth. It does not come off of her finger easily either, but must be gently coaxed to realize its full message. It’s not really explained what this is, either. But my take is that is that mysterious chemistry that you experience when you meet a very special person, and as we saw with Ogata, it really only works with that one person.
For a 1 cour series, I felt the pacing and story complexity progressed very well. Everything fit together – but I did not feel spoon fed either. I admit I put some thought into many of the episodes to understand what I
thought the writers were trying to say. I really like being engaged this way.
But, I really want to break from what many may read as a couple’s story of their relationship, etc. After some thought and striping away the marketing and fan-service, I think this is more about a very shy girl who, in her mind, has a deeply embarrassing flaw – she drools. Remember in the first episode, when she became excited and she drooled uncontrolably in front of Tsubaki? A show of hands from the guys that that’s not a turn off. Thought so. Yes, it’s a flaw. Hey – wait, that’s what the series is about, right? No, I think that’s how the story is told.
Most of us are fortunate in that we don’t have such flaws, not so for our Urabe. In the beginning, she’s introverted; her candidness labels her as a weirdo by her classmates. We know little more about our transfer student. But Tsubaki is intrigued at the first sight of her drooling face when he wakes her. The intervening episodes were all entertainingly based on that moment. That’s the clue we all missed – looking back it’s so clear…
Fast forward to the 13th episode. Finally, Urabe learn some very important things about Akira’s family from her chance meeting with Akira’s sister: first, that his sister’s a drooler; second, she knows Akira’s crush is sitting before her (really, did anyone really think she didn’t figure it out but is too polite to challenge Urabe about it?); third, she warns Urabe not to make the mistake she made in not continuing to nurture the love that she had when she was younger. I don’t know all of the Japanese subtleties, but it seems to me Urabe’s bold announcement of her name was announcing herself to the Tsubaki family.
And this is the forth item, Urabe decides. This isn’t the I’ve decided to go out with you, etc. This is the big decision; the one and only. Now, all she has to do is mold and shape Tsubaki. No! No, and No! She wants to devote herself to become as important to him as his mother was/is to him.
All of this led to an amazing confession by Urabe in the 13th episode. Wow!!!!
I believe the author is saying, fundamentally, that yes, girls and boys are very different. But way beyond that, girls have very specific responsibilities solely theirs in the health of a loving relationship, just as boys have. Neither can perform the other’s job, so to speak. Urabe has learned that, and if/until Tsubaki rejects her, she knows and lovingly accepts her role. It may sound like I’m putting most of the responsibility on Urabe; re-watch the series. Tsubaki has a tough job to provide the environment in which Mikoto can blossom in. She can’t do it, that’s his area; his job.
I don’t expect many to agree; I’m thankful to the author for this wonderful series and manga. But mac65, we got you! You never mentioned the scissors! But the best of my thoughts for last. What’s a girl without an edge? To me, the scissors represent the ultimate feminity of a girl. She can mend with them, make things with them, and lastly, cut with them. In this we can all agree with Tsubaki that you never want to get between their blades, is all I’m saying!
If there isn’t a sequel, there’s no shame as this series was excellently done! But, there’s a lot of material that hasn’t been introduced, and I would love to see another season.
Due to many reasons which I feel would be selfish to list here, personal and and as a blogger included, I apologize for the ridiculous delay in this final. If you want to hear out my reasons, send me an email at “email@example.com” (use a period instead of a dash in the email) and I will explain my situation. Alt-texts and links will be completed later. Again, my deepest apologies: if I could’ve avoided this delay, I would’ve in a heartbeat.
Full-length images: 14, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 33.
Before I forget: thank you dear commenters for sticking with this series to the end! I really appreciate the comments you leave. Seeing your take on each episode has always been, and always will be the highlight of my blogging career (to be overly cliche :P).
Again, thank you for following, and thank you for putting up with my terrible tardiness for such a nice final! Hope to see some of you guys again this season too! ^_^
… ill just stick to the manga
1 – Thanks a lot for review every episode form this series, it was a lot of fun.
2 – Enjoy the full OP sweet as Urabe’s saliva 😀
3 – For the no manga readers there is yet an episode to “watch”, from the Drama CD, one of my fav chapters.
for those who yearn for more of our characters “mysterious love story” , I fully recommend the manga!
and thanks for all the posts, dear bloggers! and for comments, dear co-readers!
this has been one series that made me feel nostalgic about the times when every girl was walking mystery, and I have been learning to understand them (not that I think that this learning ever ends…)
Been following this on the side and glad to hear others enjoy it, and thanks Zanibas for your work although I only came to read final impressions. This was definitely a nice show and definitely got me interested in the manga.
Did we got a Tsuritama easter egg in Urabe key chain ?
I’m going to miss Urabe so much. At least we got One-san yodare which I was mising since last week post. For me it was an endearing closing to the series and hope we get more antics from Oka and Urabe soon.
Finally I don’t think you need to explain to anyone for the delay. Life is life and is full of situations. Thanks for the coverage.
I haven’t read the manga but I really enjoyed this show. It was rather “different” in it’s premise to most romantic comedies but that working in its favour, in my opinion at least.
The ending was indeed very heart-warming!
Thanks Zanibas… and mac65, you make me feel like an inadequate commenter ^_^
Hope all is well then =) good luck with RL! and what a creative way to do your final impressions ^^ I’ll add you on Gtalk when I get home!
Really loved this anime, but specially loved Yoshitani Ayako’s voice. I hope there’s a second season, and to me, the end card look more like Imai Momoka than Urabe.
Thanks, Zanibas (and mac, and the whole RC team via podcast) for covering this series so thoughtfully. I loved reading your thoughts on each episode every week, and was continuously thrilled when the coverage went far and beyond “ew drool gross lol”. I don’t think I have much to add after such a comprehensive final impression – I think between you and mac most the details, metaphors, and themes were given ample space for rumination – and there sure was a lot to discuss!
I think this was a really important show to have out there. Once in a while I think it’s important to pull your scope back and look beyond the immediate present, and Nazo no Kanojo X did that by supporting it’s mission with complementary artistic aesthetics. The thesis of “enjoying the build-up” that was discussed earlier was achieved not only through the timeline and subject material, but in the artistic aesthetics as well. The retro style art was discussed. The throwback music is a big contributor too – J-Pop these days is super electronic, and a lot of anime soundtracks (and OP and EDs) have been chock full of electronic elements, but the soundtrack here which involved [albeit samples of] acoustic instruments, utilizing older forms (such as the waltz style for Urabe’s mysterious theme) is a huge contributor to the “back to the beginning” sort of mission the director embarked on with this series.
Yeah, this is a highlight anime of 2012. I suspect it’ll get one of my “best of” votes at the end of the year.
Thanks for covering this, enjoyed the posts!
ZANIBAS, could you just post your reasons here on RC? i’m sure enough people are curious (as I am) to warrant you posting them rather than having each one of us emailing you individually.
re the series, slightly anti-climactic (but nice nontheless) end to a great series. just seems a bit strange so mundanely after all the crazy/weird (in a good way) things that have all the way through the series.
This season was great, and one of those milestones was without a doubt Nazo no Kanojo X! I don’t have much time to read manga, but this indeed deserves it…thank u for blogging and the great full-sized pics guys!
The episode’s first half was chapter 19 “Mysterious Sister” and the second half was chapter 12 “Mysterious Memories” plus an scene from chapter 56 “Mysterious Twinge”. A few changes were made but I wouldn’t call this an anime original.
I really liked it though. As you said, it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger (what episode 12 would have been) but also it doesn’t discard the posibility of a second season either as it works as an “open ending”. I really liked the small additions to the manga, like how Urabe and Tsubaki exchanged drool (in the manga only Urabe tastes Tsubaki’s drool). Here’s hoping for a second season and I’ll make sure to buy the DVDs (already have the first one coming my way).
Show Spoiler ▼
Oh, and congratulations mac65!!! As I told you before, I enjoyed all your comments and thoughts on the series. Nice to see your final impressions in the actual post rather than a comment. Good job!
Very nice show.
I’m glad to see this gem of a show getting a little attention. One of the 2 or 3 best rom-coms ever. Maybe word of mouth will eventually get it a bigger audience.
I think the link didn’t work so here is again
MGX Full Opening Mp3 LQ
I loved this show. I was so sure I was going to hate it going by the show description before it came out. I don’t even remember why I watched it, but I’m so glad I did. It became one of my favorite shows of the season, and Urabe became one of my favorite female characters of the year so far.
On a different note I really hope to hear a lot more Yoshitani Ayako she was so great.
Thanks for covering this overlooked show. Despite the initial “eww” factor about drool and spit, it really was a nice romantic series. I really appreciated how the characters actually grew, struggled, and changed throughout the stories. And this last episode was well done. It wrapped up the arc with a nice, upbeat outlook.
A very sweet episode, only sweeter would have been their first kiss (though considering how Urabe reacts when happy and Tsubaki reacts to her saliva things might have escalated quickly). Also impressive that they managed to make a decent 13-ep series, that’s usually a sign of lesser quality and trying to make a quick buck rather than giving it the attention it deserves. Ignoring the saliva-sharing, I’d say that this is one of the best romance series I’ve seen period.
Now that you mention it, Tsubaki can barely handle the feeling of touching Urabe’s lips with his finger. I can’t begin to imagine how would he feel when he’ll actually kiss her… poor Tsubaki, to die from withdrawal or cardiac arrest, that is the question. ^_^
I actually liked the fact that they didn’t kiss. If they had kissed then bai-bai second season. Even if it takes a couple of years, with this ending a second season could totally work.
I’m thinking more death from lack of bodily fluids. As for a second season, I’m not sure there will be one. I’ve heard about an OVA handling the idol chapters, but nothing on a second season.
I don’t think the OAD will be the idol arc. Show Spoiler ▼
A second season doesn’t have to come right away. How many years took for KyoAni to come up with Haruhi’s second season? What I mean is that with this ending a second season could work. Had they kissed then I wouldn’t even think a second season would be comming.
Another good news is that we’re getting another manga volume. Volume 9 was completed with chapter 68 and the next chapter will cover the Kazamidai Cultural Festival so we’d still have at least another 8-9 chapters to go.
Even though I don’t read Japanese, I was so impressed with the series,
I’ve picked up all 8 of the Manga (vol #1 by a hair before it sold out) and BDs.
Vol 9 has a DVD, but it’s not exactly clear what’s on it, so I don’t know
if that’s the OAD or there’s another OAD (usually with the last BD vol).
I really hope that if a second series is executed, that the same staff produces it.
Fret not, the volumes have been re-released several times. Yours might be the 14th or 15th edition since the 13th edition was released this february: http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/1535/img0103xbu.jpg
The OAD won’t likely be the idol arc as the promo (http://kc.kodansha.co.jp/nazokano/) Show Spoiler ▼
Thank you very much – now I know where to look in the Mangas for this.
Thank you so much for covering this awesome show, Zanibas! As you write, it didn’t have the emotional intensity of a Key drama but it was almost perfect for what it was, a warm and believable portrayal of teenage romance.
I don’t have much to add re the character relations but imo this show was awesome productionwise, as well. I loved how the creators not only used these old-fashioned “retro” character designs but how the whole setting was unobtrusively placed in the recent past (Tsubaki’s room, the clothes, …). For me, this added a light melancholy as growing up might be less peaceful today in the age of smartphones and omnipresent media. I also loved the soundtrack. In the last episode e.g. it created so much suspense even though not much happened in terms of action. Finally, I totally second you, Zanibas, re Urabe’s voice. I particularly loved her hesitant “ah” as a way of agreeing to something!
If there’s one thing I missed it would be a deeper portrayal of Urabe’s character and background. I’m not talking about the magic drool and her scissors. Instead, I wonder how she became what she is. Why is Urabe always alone in her apartment? Why is she so afraid of physical contact? Sometimes, I was also perplexed by how she is super confident and almost pushy in some situations (like in the last ep.) and in other cases shy and insecure. But maybe that’s how girls her age are 😉
wooow really amazing jop man!!! i love your reviews!!! this cap and anime,manga are wonderful!!! :D:D thanks man :3
PD: please!!! posting the review of OVA!!! *-*