I could say this was inspired by a “recent” post by Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime, but that post was published on June 1st, and it is currently September 10th… not so recent anymore. Nevertheless, reading her post on the anime I watched waaaaaay back in 2013 inspired me to revisit it to see if it holds up as much as I remember.
To travel back to those days, I was in the midst of an anime renaissance. (How many times have I said that already?) After minimal experience with the medium growing up—outside some random, popular shounen anime a la Dragon Ball Z and Naruto—my buddy got me to watch Deadman Wonderland one fateful day in mid-2012. Lo and behold, it turns out I really liked anime! From that point, I consumed a (borderline unhealthy) amount of anime, ever hungry for the next series that would amaze me.
My memory does not recall what initially drew me to Nazo no Kanojo X, also known as Mysterious Girlfriend X, in the first place. Perhaps it was the old-time aesthetic that the characters were drawn in, or the fact that this dude is addicted to this girl’s saliva. Probably the latter! A bizarre premise like that is certainly enough to arouse suspicion within me—after all, I watched a lot of mindless harem anime at this time, too. Was there more to it than just disgusting drool fetishism?
There is! It also sexualizes teenagers. Wow, what a unique thing for this specific series to do that the greater medium absolutely never does!
For those who may have also read Irina’s post, she actually does a phenomenal job of assessing the anime in the title of her post alone: “Charming when it’s not being gross.” There’s very little to this sentiment that I would argue with, as it sums of the general strokes of the series as a whole.
It starts with male lead, who, through a series of interesting coincidences, ends up finding female lead asleep at her desk. Upon waking her, he becomes enamored with all of the spittle she has on her desk; when she leaves, he even tastes it. Thus sets into motion a very strange yet kind of adorable relationship between an average male character in an anime and an average female weirdo in an anime.
Something that is immediately beneficial to this, at least from a “unique” standpoint, is that a majority of the series is set during the establishment of a romantic commitment. These leads are actually dating for most of the episode count, rather than slowly building up to a point where, upon the last three minutes of the final episode, they get together and kiss or something.
To further accentuate how unique this is, it also features a gratuitous amount of saliva-swapping—not via kissing, but through spitting on their fingers and putting them in each other’s mouths. Basically, it’s like kissing, but with all of the things we try to put out of our minds during the act of kissing and bluntly showcasing it for all to see. It’s pretty gross!
Now stay with me here, because what I’m about to say may seem odd. I actually really like how they incorporate the saliva aspect. Not for the act itself, but how they frame it as a means of communicating one’s feelings to another. Something that Nazo no Kanojo X likes to do is blur reality and fiction by making saliva… magical, almost. That because certain people have a special “bond,” exchanging saliva actually allows them to feel what the other is feeling.
For example, male lead is super horny, pretty much all the time. He wants to hold and kiss and do “pervy things” with his girlfriend, though she won’t allow it. So much so that he apparently “can’t hold it in” when she gets to be too affectionate. (Fun fact: He actually assaults her in one episode, and boy, was it awkward!) Female lead can assess this by sticking her finger in his mouth and tasting his saliva, resulting in her ‘getting all hot” and having her nose bleed and face blush.
It’s not so much the exchange itself that impresses me; it’s what it represents. Female lead is often portrayed as an incredibly bizarre person (and she is), though she’s also normal enough to still be swayed by emotions and insecurities and all that. By incorporating this drool shtick, it’s a manner in which she can properly replicate her feelings without having to dance around with pretty words (though she does occasionally). That whole “bond” thing ends up being relatable if only because it’s shared in a certain naivety that ends up charming.
While I continue my “male lead, female lead” shtick, I did actually find myself fond of Tsubaki (male) and Urabe (female) as people, as well as their slow-moving relationship. They complement each other well, particularly near the end when other characters begin to strip their motivations bare. If there’s any substantial issue, there is a bit too much of a “Mysterious girl makes otherwise hollow guy discover that life is cool” (read: Manic Pixie Dream Girl) vibe that I may be reading too into, but notable, nonetheless.
[Narrative spoilers for the following three-ish paragraphs]
What is not up for debate is just how insane this series can get, especially when it comes to minor characters. This is especially noteworthy when male lead is faced with the, uh, “threat” of his former crush suddenly appearing back into his life. Initially written as a sociopath, her desire to get male lead to love her is genuinely creepy, going as far as to lie about being physically abused by an ex-boyfriend to get him to attend a cultural festival with her. What follows somehow goes even further.
Female lead is suspicious of male lead’s activities upon discovering that he lied to her about what he’ll be doing on a certain day. Eventually, the three are situated in an abandoned classroom, where former crush is trying to get male lead to taste her saliva. What would you expect female lead to do in this situation? Slap her? Fight her? Tell her to fuck off and die? Actually, she goes along with it, stating that male lead should decide whose saliva tastes “sweeter,” then proceeds to blindfold him.
Then it’s revealed (she came in wearing a box-robot suit, by the way) that she’s naked underneath her outfit, which she destroys to, uh, show that she’s actually naked(?). Former crush, not wanting to be outdone, also proceeds to strip naked so that she can stimulate the embarrassment she’s feeling for her saliva to communicate to male lead. So the situation has devolved into male lead being blindfolded in an abandoned classroom with his current girlfriend and former crush both naked in front of him, testing to see whose spit is “sweeter.”
Now that that has been established, there’s also a minor character who’s actually dating male lead’s friend (who is rarely important), who takes a fancy to the two leads’ relationship. Turns out, she is also quite weird, occasionally acting as an instigator for the two leads to do absurd things or place ideas into female lead’s head. She, well, didn’t really feel like a character as much as a really strange addition to make the series more weird. And to further sexualize very small girls with large breasts.
While I do enjoy the “classic” style of character design in this, the animation itself is choppy generally and never totally visually engaging, outside of some surreal dream sequences male lead has on occasion. I also vividly recall a scene that I thought was a dream sequence because the background was way, way too red, but it progressed normally… Why was it so red…?
But y’know, you aren’t here for the character designs or expressions. You wanna see that drool, yeeeeah! That sparkly, lovely saliva dripping out of the soft lips of these girls as they make suggestive faces and submissive auras and… ick. Too much of that for my liking.
Will also briefly mention that there was one audio track that I was fond of, which generally played during said surreal dream sequences. Very carnival-like, in a demented sort of way that encapsulated the absurdity of the series. Nice touch.
I will probably seek out reading the manga for Nazo no Kanojo X in the future. By the end, I was actually pretty satisfied with the way the series progressed their relationship… looking past some very interesting events. If one can get past the graphic display of saliva worship, it’s a pretty wholesome series that only occasionally dives into the wilder aspects of what one would expect from the anime medium. At least it’s unique!
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.