Tue 10 Jul 2012
Nazo no Kanojo X is a romantic comedy that focuses on the extraordinary. The story follows two high school students: Tsubaki Akira and Urabe Mikoto. Tsubaki is nothing more than a generic male character, except for his one usual fetish; on the contrary, Urabe is a very eccentric young lady whose mannerisms and attitude are everything but ordinary. The anime illustrates the development of their relationship as they learn about each other and themselves. For the most part, the series is quite charming — the characters are fun to watch and the show can be occasionally genuine and moving. However, the focus on fanservice and questionable plot developments have shaken my enjoyment of the show.
Immediately, anyone can sense that this show has tons of fanservice. The show’s premise itself is alarming. The story begins with Tsubaki tasting Urabe’s lefetover drool after she fell asleep in class. That one taste has him addicted to Urabe’s saliva to the point of having withdrawals, so one can only image the shenanigans these two will eventually have. The troubling issue is that the fanservice is the soul of the show, rather than extraneous garnish. The visuals scream sexual themes: there are occasional panty shots, close-ups on breasts, and tons of skin visible. Above all, everything is glistening with the shinny oozes.
The fanservice reveals a flaw with the show: why are Tsubaki and Urabe together? For a majority of the show, there’s a lack of understanding between the characters. While Tsubaki announces his thoughts to the audience, Urabe’s thoughts aren’t as obvious. Even at the episodes’ climaxes, we only see a cute smile here and a panty-flash there. For a majority of the series, there’s no real chemistry between the characters. Every episode starts with Tsubaki having sexual thoughts. Every episode revolves around him pursuing his fantasies. Every episode ends with revealing some fetish with fanservice. In fact, Tsubaki seems more interested in sex than Urabe herself.
The most frustrating part of the series is how each episode has so much potential. As the story progresses, it highlights common relationship problems. Some episodes focus on the concept of a relationship, others focus on conflicting desires. These topics are sometimes quite mature. For example, one episode actually involved rape. These conflicts actually challenged the nature of their relationship, but instead of actually discussing the issue, the writers piss away the potential with fanservice.
Going to the previous example, episode 8 involves the rape scene. The tone becomes darker as Tsubaki forces himself on Urabe, and the scene ends with him realizing his error on top of a weeping Urabe, a girl who has rarely shown emotions in the entire series. So how does the episode conclude? Urabe interrupts Tsubaki’s apology and admits she enjoyed his advances. In addition, she blames herself for his actions. This resolution completely ruined my view of the show. The seriousness of rape is rarely discussed in anime, let alone in well-directed manner. This was the perfect opportunity to develop Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship and reveal the inner thoughts of both characters. Instead, the show ignores the topic entirely. It made no attempt to challenge the issue and give depth to the characters. Just like every other episode, it simply highlighted another fetish. The mood is constantly killed by the fetishes and fanservice. The show can’t stop focusing on it.
I should clarify that the fanservice is (usually) not blatant nor obscene . While some segments are obviously “eye-catching”, the bulk of the fanservice is the atmosphere. The art style is reminiscent of past shows of yesteryear, giving a feeling of nostalgia even if you have never seen anime before the 2000s. Combined with fantastic cinematography and great direction by Watanabe Ayumu, you have something very pleasing to the eyes.
Basically, this show is all about Urabe. She is purely the reason why I would consider this show charming. Her voice acting is superb: Yoshitani Ayako has a very sensual voice. Urabe can sound distant and cold, yet still convey passion and sincerity all at once. Every episode is a delight just for the simple fact we see another side of her. In one episode she will laugh, in another she will cry. Simply, her mysterious nature is what is appealing. I mentioned how the show can be genuine at times. When the fanservice is toned down, the show can produce some moving scenes with Tsubaki and Urabe. It’s not their romance that affects me but the actions of Urabe herself. She is the one that defines the scenes.
I won’t deny that I like this show. Its quirky nature makes for a memorable romantic comedy. The constant focus on fanservice is a double-edge sword — Urabe definitely makes the show enjoyable, yet her over-sexualization diminishes the emotional effect of the story. Tsubaki and Urabe’s lustful desires drive the story, but the drama revolves around problems in their relationship. Every time the show has the ability to make a statement, it instead sacrifices potential development for crass fanservice. Ultimately, the romance was simply a plot device just to see more Urabe. But, we got more Urabe. That’s not so bad, right?