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Spring 2012 Anime Review: Mysterious Girlfriend X (謎の彼女X)

Posted May 20th, 2012 by Enrico in Japanese Culture

This is the second post in our mini-series about the anime series currently being broadcast in Japan.

Last week I wrote about Hyouka, a slice-of-life mystery series from the same studio that worked on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Staying with the high school theme, this week I’ll be writing about Mysterious Girlfriend X (謎の彼女X). But before I jump into it, a couple of words of warning: if you’re the sort who gets queasy around bodily fluids, this might not be your show. But, if you like the romance plot, you might be able to get by just by averting your eyes every so often.  ;)

If you’re still reading, here’s a brief synopsis: Akira Tsubaki is an ordinary 17-year-old boy who is naturally curious about girls. His curiosity reaches its peak when Mikoto Urabe transfers into his class. Her hair mostly covers her eyes, she speaks with a bit of a flat effect, and she has some of the oddest habits. She spends lunch napping at her desk, she rejects all of the other girls’ attempts to socialize with her, and she bursts out laughing in the middle of class for reasons she won’t explain.

One day, while picking up his bag from class after a long day of school, he finds her napping at her desk once again. After he wakes her up and suggests she heads home, he notices a pool of her drool that was left on the desk. His curiosity gets the better of him and for reasons unknown to him, he decides to taste it. It’s a lot sweeter than he would have expected, but he comes to regret his decision later: he is gripped by a cold that just won’t go away.

Mikoto comes to visit Akira while he’s bed-ridden and reveals to him that his sickness isn’t a mere cold, but the result of withdrawal. From what? From her drool. It turns out that what has gripped him is “love sickness” of a kind and being without Mikoto’s drool for so many days has taken its toll on his body. Akira is flabbergasted (and who can blame him?) but Mikoto offers him a bit more of her drool and when he drinks that, he immediately makes a full recovery. This is the beginning of their incredibly odd relationship, centered around the “bond of drool” that they share.

This is, in my view, one of the wildcard shows of the season. Depending on who you ask, it’s either really good or way too weird. But what draws me into this series is that from the character designs to the animation style to the opening and closing sequences, Mysterious Girlfriend X feels very much like a 90’s anime. Being a fan of many shows from the 90’s, I can’t deny that the feeling of nostalgia has a strong pull on me. But also, once you look past the rather odd way in which Akira and Mikoto communicate with each other, their romance is adorable. If you subtract the “drool” from the equation, what you’re left with is a shy young man who knows little of women but really wants to experience more and a girl who is honest about her own feelings but can’t adequately express them to others. It’s a standard “boy meets girl” story turned on its head and given a “mysterious” twist.

I’ve been reading the manga series too and the anime series follows it pretty closely. Where the anime storytelling diverges from the manga, it is often to combine elements from a couple of manga chapters into one animated episode to give those elements greater effect. I’m also impressed with the quality, which while not as stunning as Hyouka, manages to be consistently great throughout. Also, if you’ve ever been annoyed at cutesy sounding “moe” characters, Mikoto is very much not that, though she has her moments of being absolutely adorable. The anime series seems to be a faithful adaptation that also offers its own improvements and I think it is a must-watch for fans of the manga.

So, if you can stomach a bit of drool (or at least manage to look away at the right times), and you like romantic comedy, Mysterious Girlfriend X might be the best series you pick up this season. Conveniently, Mysterious Girlfriend X is in Crunchyroll’s simulcast lineup, so you can catch a new episode every Sunday at 9:30AM Pacific.

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