First Impressions: Mysterious Girlfriend X
How far can curiosity take us? What does a single, absent-minded moment weigh? The decisions we wear can alter our lives in ways we can’t imagine. Bringing us to locales we never fathomed, consequences we never considered, love we never expected. Just a single moment, just a puddle of spit, and your life, too, could change, just like that. Tempted?
Well, maybe not quite. But for Akira Tsubaki, your average high school student who’s a bit of a sci-fi movie nerd, it’s not surprising that he decides to go for it. The mystery that Mikoto Urabe has to offer provides us a number of options to consider. Is she the source of the substance dependency? Or is it all in Tsubaki’s virgin psyche? Let us rule out the latter because, well as boys we’ve all been there… virgins and we didn’t turn into saliva junkies after our first kiss.
So in a sense, Mysterious Girlfriend X takes place in an idealized world. The elevation of not just sexual but emotional attraction to a unique physical response seems to speak to the uncertainty which can accompany a first love. This plays into the work’s larger themes regarding the ritualization of the taboo into the mundane. What society sees as strange behavior is realized in a sort of microculture containing just a few people, but is it valid to dismiss a culture merely out of an argument of numbers? As ritual becomes culture it becomes what society expects from normal humans.
Dutch anthropologist Johan Huizinga once wrote that our modern institutions are born out of a ritualization of basic human behavior. The centrality of drool in NazoKano deconstructs romance as standardized ritual, and, by association the standard notions of stereotyped romantic relationships in media in general are a target for critique. The general media perception is that anything beyond normal must come from characters who defy social norms. No normal person could be in that kind of twisted relationship. Here, we have a normal teenage boy entering into the most important relationship of his life in the most abnormal of beginnings. Urabe’s declaration of sexual intent jars the audience in its straightforward ripeness, as does Tsubaki’s ripping of his old crush’s photograph.
Both actions teem with an eccentric dramatic flair – and yet, seem natural in their own strange right. They over-brim with the budding sincerity of young love, the kind look that shone through Urabe’s eyes as the safety scissors stab-… No just kidding that didn’t really happen. But that does bring up largest mystery in my mind right now: what is with those scissors? Past the lol erodrool aspect the first ep of nazokano is actually pretty normal, and yet stands out from its genre peers with its bizarre and rather gut-turning use of metaphor.
Not that metaphors aren’t a staple of anime romcoms, the most obvious case being the nosebleed symbolising the rushing of blood to somewhere else. But the gushing of saliva to represent ‘extreme happiness’ is perhaps too obvious a metaphor for sexual excitement, but it’s not like the show is going for subtlety anyway. It reminds me of FLCL and KareKano which beat us over the head with their metaphors and ended up better thanks to it.
I suppose the old school aesthetic dovetails nicely with the occasionally seedy mood of the show, but said mood is often nullified by the extraneous amounts of sexual innuendos mainly perpetrated by the female lead. Most risque of all these situations has got to be, of course, Akira’s constant drinking of Mikoto’s drool is being played off as some kind of glorious, heart-fluttering moment in Akira’s life, reinforced by the recurrence of the subtle-like-a-badger-to-the-face flower and nectar imagery. Mysterious Girlfriend X’s grasp of subtlety is tenuous at best, and the drool-licking is a little icky, but its first episode is excellent.