Despite being incredibly sexual in nature, Nazo no Kanojo X meshes the awkwardly bizarre with the emotional and finds perfect balance, developing its main characters to create a satisfying and enriching show.
Episode 5 deals with Tsubaki and Urabe going to the beach (which happens after Tsubaki finally musters up the courage to ask Urabe in the first place), which starts off on a romantic note as Tsubaki stutters in awe of Urabe’s swimsuit and tan (also, a nice touch of the Virgin Mary towel). Tsubaki and Urabe go for a swim, where Tsubaki uses the water as a, um, way to take a good look at his girlfriend. She obliges happily in taking off her skirt when talking about how she got a scissor tan which results in Tsubaki getting quite the embarrassing nosebleed. When they come back, Urabe takes some of Tsubaki’s spit and gets the nosebleed herself, and asks Tsubaki if he’d like to see her tan lines again (specifically the scissors tan) and Tsubaki says yes.
What’s most remarkable about Nazo No Kanojo X is how it reverses the trends and mediums of a budding relationship; it’s common understanding that when a relationship starts between two people, it’s based on an emotional understanding which then progresses to a sexually active one as well. The show switches this around. Urabe and Tsubaki sexually relate through their spit relationship. The spit itself is a medium that make their bond much more intimate than just a purely sexual one. The fact that they can share feelings, dreams, emotions through spit makes them, in a light, true partners for one another. However, when it comes to living in a society where common understanding of ideals- for example, the idea that relationships should be founded on emotional bonding first- Urabe and Tsubaki’s bonds are put to the test. Tsubaki is your control. He is your typical, male middle schooler undergoing puberty and sexual longing. The spark of the show then, lies primarily with Urabe, who is not just bizarre in the way she handles situations, but rather reacts to them. Urabe is by no means unresponsive. She reacts in a way that the audience, nor society, can predict; something that’s labelled as offensive and wrong. In the first episode, Urabe appears to laugh for no reason- the class, and society overall, condemns her for this rather weird response and shuns her as an outsider. It’s this same action that Tsubaki takes to be attractive on a more subconscious level, which is why Urabe does love Tsubaki in the first place. They surprise each other: the bizarre with the normality, and vice versa.
Underneath these awkward surprises is the heart of the show and what makes Nazo no Kanojo X such a delight to watch. It takes the simplest emotions or topics and ties them into the wonderful character development of the two main characters. From the way Tsubaki notices a bead of sweat on Urabe’s neck and smells it which then progresses to the rain scene (that is usually a romantic trope found in so many anime but once again subverted here) to how Urabe gets a nosebleed, everything is a certain way of developing the characters. The fact that Urabe’s sweat can also transmit dreams and feelings instead of just spit is a sign of this; of how far Urabe and Tsubaki’s relationship has progressed. The small things that we take for granted- tans, dreams, etc, are turned into a romantic and sexual image. Tsubaki finds Urabe’s sweat smell and her tan all aesthetically and sexually pleasing and flushes at them; Urabe reacts and suddenly these small things become part of the large picture of their relationship. In essence, the show is about how the two react with one another and only with one another. Not just on a sexual level, not through just spit, but through interaction. And it’s these small things and the way Urabe bizarrely handles them (which adds a comedic twist to the show) which makes it overall so satisfying to watch. Furthermore, Urabe and Tsubaki’s relationship is continually contrasted with a ‘normal’ relationship would be like: Urabe pays for Tsubaki’s lunch while in most relationships, the man always pays for the woman’s food. Oka remarks that she and Ueno have kissed more than once, but Urabe and Tsubaki have not kissed at all. It’s a nice way of not only emphasizing the whole “different isn’t bad” theme but also showing that Urabe and Tsubaki’s relationship doesn’t work on that sort of level. Not because it can’t, but rather because it won’t; because Urabe and Tsubaki function on a separate sort of base- one that is so intimate and sexual in nature aka spit sharing. It’s like asking a lotus seed to become a tulip. (Horrible metaphor, I know).
Lastly, one of the major things I love about Nazo no Kanojo X is how it handles its characters. It does not ostracize Urabe for being socially distant or awkward, nor does it woobify her and make her sympathetic. Urabe is presented at first, without judgement. The way she stares at her classmates, or even Tsubaki, would make us think that she harbors no love or fond feelings for anyone. It’s only later as the episode develops that we understand Urabe’s way of understanding those around her and how she perceives other’s actions. Much in the way that we suck a lemon at first and think it’s terribly bitter, but then soon grow to love the taste- Urabe’s personality and actions are no different. Tsubaki is constantly amazed and awed by Urabe, but Urabe isn’t shown to be attached (emotionally) to Tsubaki until the very end of the episode, where these small things come back into focus but through her own point of view. Urabe gradually begins to be more open about her feelings- though certainly is still very odd in displaying them. Tsubaki himself has more confidence in himself, and as he- and us- learn more about Urabe, he also learns more about himself in a way and matures. In this episode, not only does he agree to Urabe’s question of wanting to see her tan lines (a topic that’s no doubt embarrassing for any boyfriend) but says yes without any sort of prodding from Urabe as seen in previous episodes. It’s not the typical “opposites attract and balance each other out” but rather “exploring the contrasts between these characters and individually developing them, together”. And it’s that sort of take on the show that makes it so well developed and enthralling in the end.
(On the tangent of lemon-talk: the OP reminds me much of Thom Yorke’s lyric in the Radiohead song, Everything in Its Right Place: “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” to refer to the way the media took Thom Yorke’s rather serious and grim face. It ties back to the way that most people think Urabe is a socially inept girl when in fact, she just has her own way of expressing herself.)
Enjoyment Level: 9/10