Review for Mysterious Girlfriend X
I don’t watch a lot of anime but when I do I usually enjoy it. Sometimes it’s formulaic and lacking in originality and occasionally, especially when it comes to teenagers in high-school stories, it can be pretty puerile too. But occasionally it completely knocks me for six with its free-flowing creativity and sensitive story-telling. Against all expectations, ‘Mysterious Girlfriend X’ (which originally aired in 2012 in Japan) did exactly that.
Our very own anime-aficionado (Jitendar Canth) asked me if I fancied reviewing it and I duly accepted, guessing that he was sinking under the weight of dozens of discs to review and this being perhaps his least fancied. (It transpired that, whilst this may have been partly true, he was happy to pass on these check discs solely because he had already acquired the US Blu-ray version of the series). So expectations were not high. First there was that title, plus all the indications of a zany but vacuous high school comedy. But you should never judge a disc before it spins.
Once ‘MGX’ started spinning there was no stopping it. It was frankly like nothing I had ever seen before. Based on a manga of the same name, it’s a surreally poetic reading of growing up and dealing with the mysteries of natural attractions and drives. But rather than doing this in classic high school drama style, with tears and heart to hearts, most of its narrative is played through the eyes of a young man, besotted with a girl who’s every action and utterance is a mystery to him.
Jitendar said I would enjoy it, describing it as ‘if Tim Burton made a rom-com’. That sounded intriguing but in no way prepared me fully for the treat in store.
Akira Tsubaki is a likable, normal high school kid leading a normal uneventful teenage existence until a new kid arrives in class. Mikoto Urabe proves to be an anti-social outsider showing absolutely no willingness to engage with the others in the class. She wears her hair over her eyes and appears to spend most her class-time falling asleep. In fact, the only break in this routine is her capacity for breaking into hysterical giggles at things that none of her classmates either notice, understand or find funny. In other words, she dances to the beat of a different drum. Which is why, to begin with at least, she is nothing more than a curio to Tsubaki and his pals.
One day, having left something behind in the classroom, he goes back to find Urabe lying asleep with her head on the desk. When he manages to wake her he notices a small pool of drool on the desk. Once she leaves he gives in to a bizarre compulsion to taste the drool which he finds incredibly sweet.
Having tasted her drool once, he becomes quickly infatuated with her. Walking her home after school she guesses that he has tasted her drool, and far from being freaked, she offers him more, taking it from her own mouth with a finger and putting it into Tsubaki’s mouth. Tsubaki then falls into a fever which seems can only be cured with more of Urabe’s drool.
This starts a daily ritual and a new kind of intimacy. However, if he ever tries to follow through with any traditional intimacy, like hugging, holding hands or kissing, Urabe goes into a frenzy, pulling scissors kept in her panties and shredding anything within site. As a result, poor Tsubaki is left at a loss on how best to progress his relationship with Urabe, who at least concedes to officially be his ‘girlfriend’.
Not even his best friend Ueno is able to advise on how best to progress with Urebe.
Across 13 all-too brief episodes we learn that sharing drool can mean sharing intimate feelings and emotions and it seems that this can only happen between two people who are totally compatible.
So when Tsubaki’s junior high-school crush makes moves on him he has tough choices to make as Urabe seems to know everything about him. He can’t even vent his mounting frustrations with a book featuring a glamourous, bikini-clad idol that looks uncannily like Urabe without her shredding it into tiny pieces.
But the relationship does progress and one day, after dreaming about touching her breasts, he is amazed when she concedes that it is acceptable from him to go ahead and do that. He can’t believe his luck and quickly over-steps the mark, forcing himself on her in a way that he personally believes is totally unacceptable.
And so it goes. All the mysteries, wonder and excitement of those early exploratory relationships brought to life through brilliant metaphor.
For me, the opening two or three episodes were so strong that I became fearful that the series would falter and be an able to sustain interest across 13 episodes but I needn’t have worried. Without the need to introduce many sub-plots or introduce new characters, it manages to sustain interest throughout and actually felt more like half-a-series which, at 13 episodes, it kind of is. Of course, much else happens too – including a relationship happening in parallel between his best friend Ueno and another class mate, the glasses wearing beauty Oka; a ‘situation’ where it appears that Tsubaki is cheating on Urabe and certainly lying to her – all of which makes for a very satisfying narrative which moves along at a comforting pace. Of course, some might protest that too little happens. This is not a narrative that moves very quickly, if at all. But for me, that wasn’t an issue at all. The bottom line is that it was immensely watchable.
Without spoiling it too much, the ending of this part was hardly a cliff-hanger but rather a note from Urabe that Tsubaki can expect much more intimacy as the series progresses.
Although the series themes are fairly adult in one sense, it’s not really offensive in any way and perfectly suitable for a 15 year old. There are some slight scenes of nudity but these are very much with Barbie doll level detail and nothing to offend.
The image quality is really first class on the DVD's despite seven episodes being crammed on to the second disc (remember the bad old days when the average was three episodes per disc?). As this is a DVD only release in the UK I believe, this is the only choice you'll get unless you want to import the region free from the US. I would say that, even on my 50" TV they looked great despite being SD.
Audio-wise I listened to the US dub (sorry Jitendar) which I found to be excellent. As a point of comparison I watched episode 1 again in Japanese with English subs and was surprised how close the voice tones were for both the principals.
Extra features were the usual array of trailers (including one for the excellent ‘Kids on the Slope’) as well as clean opening and closing titles (always wonder why these are included and who values them but I guess that’s just me!).
It would have been good to have wrapped in the OVA which I believe is just a single episode which takes the story forward a bit and which I look forward to watching at some point.
In the meantime, I think it’s fair to say that, as short as the series is, it’s perfectly formed and highly recommended. .
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