I quite honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from the anime adaptation of Mysterious Girlfriend X (Nazo no Kanojo X), even though I had read the original manga. Just what do you get when you combine a studio that’s only produced shows about breasts, a director that’s only worked on kids’ shows (this season, he’s also helming Space Brothers), and a lead actress who’s only acted in live-action works, all working on a show about, of all things, tasting drool?
Fortunately, the answer is a show that surprisingly has a lot to say! So strap in, boys and girls, it’s time to get mysterious! (Episode spoilers after the break.)
The first thing to tackle here is the concept: your average high-school boy, Akira Tsubaki, falls in love with Mikoto Urabe after tasting her saliva. Soon, they develop a relationship that literally centers around swapping spit, and I don’t mean by making out. So what’s the deal?
Let’s go back to last season for a second, to Nisemonogatari, episode eight. Koyomi Araragi explains, ”Psychologically, you have to be fairly close to someone before you’d allow them to touch your hair.” The same goes for brushing someone else’s teeth; the inside of one’s mouth is a personal place, and saliva is an extension of that. Would you let just anybody taste your spit?
The ending sequence expands on this idea: it features the main girls of the show all sleeping, with drool coming out of their mouth. The idea of psychologically opening up while asleep, when one’s most vulnerable, is tied to spit. In this way, spit becomes a strong symbol of intimacy.
Spit is a very personal thing… but is it sexy? One would think not, but Mysterious Girlfriend X begs to differ. The first episode is very much about sex, and yet, it’s nowhere as explicit as, say, the new Lupin III. In fact, outside of the ED (which admittedly is made up solely of cheesecake shots), there’s almost none of what you would call “traditional” fanservice, with only a single panty shot and some faceless naked girls in the cold open.
I’d go so far as to say that the scenes centering around saliva are the most erotically charged in the episode. Of course, there’s a very obvious reason for this on a visual level:
But there’s also more to it than just that. Take the idea of the “indirect kiss,” often seen in manga and anime, where one drinks out of a cup that somebody’s just used or puts his or her mouth to someone else’s mouthpiece. It’s less about the actual deed than the feeling of being connected to the other person, even through the smallest means. In Mysterious Girlfriend X, saliva serves the same purpose, by which Akira can connect to Mikoto.
Maybe all of this is a bit of a juvenile take on sexuality, but that’s what this show is: two teenagers, both inexperienced in the ways of sex, slowly exploring these boundaries in the only way they know how. And who’s to say that’s not just as hot as a gigantic pair of breasts flopping in the viewer’s face?
On a brief final note, let’s talk about the retro feel the show has. The sci-fi posters in Akira’s room (referencing Star Wars, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the character design, reminiscent of older manga, are easy examples. But even Mikoto’s voice, in its almost natural delivery, harks back to anime from days long gone, a far cry from the childish, unrealistic anigoe, or “anime voice” so popular today.
Heck, even the idea of a romantic comedy focusing on a single, actual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship feels refreshingly old-fashioned at this point.
But it’s something I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing more of. See you next week!