There are only a handful of anime that I’ve watched as a direct result of reading the manga. Every single time it has happened, I’ve only known that the anime exists because the author mentions it in the manga; I really should check that more often. The Mysterious Girlfriend X anime is yet another victim of my laziness. I read the manga because the premise was super weird and sometimes you just want to go to the circus and stare at the freaks. I couldn’t put it down and was really excited when I saw that an anime adaptation was available. So how does the anime stack up? Spoilers ahead.
For those of you not in the know, Mysterious Girlfriend X (MGX) is the story of a boy named Tsubaki who tastes the drool of his classmate Urabe out of sheer morbid curiosity. Urabe has a habit of sleeping in class, and when she does, she drools on her desk. When Tsubaki sees the drool, he simply dips a finger in it and gives it a taste. It changes his life forever.
As it turns out, that drool exposes a deep emotional bond between Tsubaki and Urabe. His body becomes instantly addicted (though he isn’t immediately aware of it), and they discover that unless he tastes her drool regularly, his body will go through withdrawals and leave him feeling extremely ill. The bond established, the two enter a romantic relationship. It gets weirder.
That drool pact also serves as an emotional connection between Urabe and Tsubaki. If Urabe wants to communicate a feeling or emotion of hers to Tsubaki, rather than describe it, it’s more efficient for her to simply give him a taste of her drool; when the drool hits his mouth, his body will immediately feel whatever Urabe is feeling in that moment. This can go both ways for him to communicate feelings to her as well. It isn’t restricted to emotions; physical cuts, bruises, and other pain will be transferred as well. And there’s still more weirdness.
Urabe has an affinity for scissors. She keeps a pair of scissors tucked inside of her panties at all times. Should a situation arrive where she needs to defend herself, she can very quickly whip them out and make short work of whatever is bothering her, whether it be paper, clothing, or even a fence. She’s quick like the wind and it’s over just as soon as it begins. I feel like this is one portion where the manga portrayed it better than the anime, but it could be a style choice. The anime went with an almost manic sound effect to help bolster the scissor whipping animation, but it felt more jumbled than elegant.
It’s all very Tim Burton, and the anime really leans into this idea. The music and flow of scenery feels almost like one of those thriller movie carnivals where it’s not really the happiest place on earth, but you don’t feel physically threatened. I hesitate to describe it as unsettling, because it isn’t quite that extreme. Bewildering might be more appropriate.
The art transferred well between anime and manga. The character designs are simple and effective, relying more on the premise than flash to keep you entertained. It worked well in the manga and was just as effective in anime form. It’s a small cast with a few extras, but they keep the focus on the core group of classmates.
One thing the anime did very well was the voice cast, particularly for Urabe. In fact, it’s the only role for which her VA is credited. For better or worse, females in anime more often than not have higher pitched “feminine” voices. While I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, having an overly energetic voice that gets higher and more pronounced wouldn’t fit the character of Urabe. Instead, they went with a much more subdued interpretation that is fitting of the quiet girl in class. Her voice isn’t soft or vulnerable; it’s strong and confident while maintaining it’s level nature. After all, she is a character who rarely smiles or shows her weak side; she has a select few moments of open vulnerability with Tsubaki.
Overall, this concept seems to be one that is stuck working better in manga form than it is in anime form. Perhaps it was an adaptation issue, but I would be more inclined to say that it’s just a concept that happens to work better on the page. The drool feels a little more thick and intimidating in motion, and it can almost trigger a gag reflex until you get used to it. In addition to this, the dream sequences and moments of reflection between the two seem just a little too mysterious, if that makes any sense. Rather than a strange feeling of fantasy, it comes off a little strong and creates a small freak show effect. The anime only ever received a single 13 episode season, so it’s likely others felt this way.
That isn’t to say it’s all bad. By the end of the season you can see a genuinely strong relationship beginning to form between Tsubaki and Urabe. What started out as a strange drool connection was now something much more. With their experience as a couple comes maturity, and even though the show ended long before the manga, you can see the beginnings of that deepening bond taking root. Even without knowing the rest of the story, it leaves you with the sense that everything will turn out OK for these two.
While I would wholeheartedly recommend reading the manga, I can’t say the same about the anime. The anime doesn’t butcher the source material and make you regret watching it like some adaptations (looking at you, Hobbit trilogy), but it feels like it just ever so slightly misses the mark. The best I can say is, if you love the manga like I did, you’ll probably like the anime enough to warrant a watch.