Full disclosure: Mysterious Girlfriend X is a show about a couple that swaps spit on a daily basis. If you’re the type of person who rejects shows on premise, you probably won’t give this one any more of a chance than reading the plot summary. Once you get past that one hurdle, though, the show is a decent romance which gets a lot of extra punch from an ominous, quirky soundtrack and an approach that treats the characters with dignity.
Character Designs: Appropriately mysterious [Kenichi Konishi]
The titular girlfriend, Urabe Mikoto, is a real character. Quiet, aloof, and independent-minded, she leaves a very strong impression from the visual get-go, with frizzy bangs that scream “I could care less” and a glare that could pierce a ten-inch steel plate. Other character designs have less of an impact, but they all share a peculiar tall-eye design style, one that’s impressively effective at emphasizing emotions by calling more attention to the whites of their eyes.
1/1 (Nails the female lead, works well for everyone else.)
Soundtrack: Constantly builds a sense of oddness [Tomoki Hasegawa, SD – Masafumi Mima]
-Small technical point, I’m going to start including both sound directors and composers when I talk about soundtrack quality, as I’ve learned that both roles are fairly important.
Anyways, the soundtrack in Mysterious Girlfriend X nicely compliments the abnormal vibe the series is going for. When it’s dramatic, we get slow, tense strings. When it’s playful, we get tuba sounds that, while fitting the mood, feel distinctly different from the soundtrack of an average school-life series. Not nails-on-a-chalkboard different, more like pineapple-on-pizza different. The net effect of the soundtrack is a sense of whimsy with a touch of odd that pervades the show.
2/2 (It’s good music well-suited to the tone of the series, without being in-your-face about it.)
Writing: Takes its weirdness seriously enough to actually tell a decent story [Deko Akao]
To reiterate, this anime is about a relationship between two high school students tasting drool. Most people get hung up on the drool part, but there’s a relationship in there. The main couple is an official item from the end of the first episode (though they don’t advertise it publicly , and we see their feelings for each other grow and get more complex as the series progresses. But to stop a description there would do it a disservice. The execution of a show’s script always needs must go well beyond its concept. In particular, pulling off a good script requires characters who act consistently. Urabe is a girl with any number of weird quirks, and is aloof but distinctively neither emotionless nor comically stoic. Meanwhile, male lead Tsubaki is a nice guy who’s bit reserved, but at the same time focused on his relationship with Urabe. These characters are something the script makes a real, appreciable effort to build, and neither character suddenly starts acting like a twelve-year-old when it comes to the beach episode. The main couple is rightfully the draw of the series.
If I had to say what I disliked about the show’s script, it’s the fact that it doesn’t have much of a supporting cast. There are 4 characters aside from the lead couple who get significant screentime, and they never see much development. In particular, Urabe’s female friend Oka ends up relegated to a role as a lunch buddy whom Urabe occasionally shares thoughts with, despite being established in a relationship of her own very early on. It’s a show about a relationship, rather than relationships, which somewhat caps the script’s ambition.
2/3 (Rock-solid leads, but could use a better supporting cast.)
Direction: Well-planned backgrounds which compliment a more traditional foreground [Ayumu Watanabe]
The handling of the series isn’t anything really new, but it may come off that way, as it does play with its tools deftly. The strongest point of the series is the way it plays with setting and background. The time of day that a scene takes place is constantly being fitted to the mood; daylight goes with casual slice-of-life, sunset/dusk is paired with scenes involving drool and other unusual things, and nighttime is saved for particularly weird dreams.
The backgrounds in the series are well-thought out, and often carry little hints about the personalities of the people living in them. Tsubaki’s casual-fan love of movies is something more explored by the wall art in his room than anything mentioned, but that’s a good example of nice touches that add depth to a character without really getting in the viewers’ face.
3/4 (Doesn’t reinvent the romantic moments, but does handle backgrounds very well.)
Overall: 8/10 (When all is said and done, it’s an above-average romance series with a defined sense of style.)