Nazo no Kanojo X: The first pro-abstinence anime ever?

No, seriously. Just think about it. While it’s true that the overwhelming majority of anime characters are virgins, the reasons for it are varying from fetishist appeal, to the inherent moe appeal of youthful innocence, (that is also used in series that aren’t supposed  to be sexually appealing). Sometimes, it’s pointed out as a significant plot point. Other times, it’s just implied by the characters’ age and behavior.

And then here is this one anime, that finally bothered to actually discuss teenage sexuality.

Start the very first episode with a monologue about first time experiences, throw in a prophecy that these two characters will be each other’s firsts, and then, when the first chance for physical intmacy, for a kiss, would come up, put words into their mouths about how they choose to “wait until they understand each other’s feelings”.   And that’s what the following episodes are all about. Understanding each other’s wishes, priorities, kinks, dealing with  jealousity, possessiveness, and generally, learning to deal with each other, as a couple.

It’s probably the most blatantly present in the 8th episode, in the scene where Tsubaki is pushing down Urabe, almost kisses her, and then suddenly realizes how forceful he is being, and stops. Simply stops. Not because someone is entering the room, not because something is falling on the top of his head, not even because he got hilariously kicked in the balls by Urabe. In other words, not because a kiss would be a goal of the story, and the writer was forced to invent some Deus ex Machina to delay it, so he can milk the series for a longer time.

He stopped, because he chose to stop. Because he didn’t want to hurt his girlfriend. Because this story is about Urabe and Tsubaki not kissing, and not having sex, until they choose to.It’s clearly laying it’s card on the table about having a strong, culturally relevant statement about how teenaged couples should behave, and it’s hell-bent on explaining it to us. Not just in the form of a randomly inserted fetish, but from dialogue to dialogue, from episode to episode, as an underlying message.

I have seen comments about how the series “already played it’s single trick in the first episodes”, and now it “isn’t moving forward”. I think, such interpretations are seriously misunderstanding the entire purpse of the story. Unlike so many others, this story is not about romance as a challenge, where scoring a “homerun” is the goal, just like winning at a video game, or defeating the Demon King, or winning the Olympics, or becoming a famous mangaka. It’s about a young couple slowly getting to know each other, experimenting with some indirect forms of connection, and otherwise choosing abstinence until they are sure that this is what they want.

This is what the manga’s author wrote in his comments at the end of an extra chapter:

There is a good reason that the main characters of Mysterious Girlfriend X are 16 years old. Namely, there are many cases when boys and girls end up secretly spending a night in the same room with no sexual intentions. (in good will). However if the couple happen to be university students, I think there is a good chance that they will have sex. However if the couple happen to be junior high school students (I’m pretty sure these days high school students will think rather differently than the ones from my day that I’m talking about) would not have sex. What I’m trying to say is that, well, they are only junior high school students, so in my opinion, I think it would be better if they didn’t have sex. Now in the case of High School Students, since they would be the legal age of 16 years old, they are young adults but I honestly can’t say whether the majority of them engage in intercourse a lot or not.

I guess some of them do, and some of them don’t.

In the beginning scene of the short novel The Demon of the Desert Island by Edo period writer Kawa Ranpo, the main character and the heroine are taken to an inn. The two of them are very shy and uncomfortable, and instead of lying in the bed, the girl sits down on the bed, and dangles her feet in the air. She tells the main character a secret she has been keeping:

“The truth is, I…”

That night, after merely confiding her secret to him, not doing anything (volptuous), They leave the inn. After that, because of that secret, their incredible events and fantastic adventure began.

Even though the Demon of the Desert Island is an old work from before the war, if, by some chance, this kind of delicate relationship was to emerge in our present day society, wouldn’t it most likely occur with about 16 year old young adults? If you try to think about it, all of the manga that I have drawn up to now including “Discommunication”, Yume Tsukai”, and Mysterious Girlfriend X”, in all of them the main character is 16 years old. This is because around 16 years old is the time when children are the most fragile and tend to be uncertain about their life; and thus I start all of my stories in that time period, where the characters seem to start as children and make their way into adulthood.

Ueshiba Riichi

It’s kind of a strange thing to comment on, since high school characters are so common, I doubt that anyone actually asked the question why the characters of MGX are 16. And his answer isn’t particularly surprising either, it must be the kind of thing that passes through most writers’ minds. Coming of age is fascinating, innocence is kawaii, so why not? But the fact that unlike the rest of them,  Ueshiba Riichi actually spent some time bringing up the issue, is a good demonstration of how Mysterious Girlfriend  X is special. It’s not because of any gimmicky originality (and not because there is drooling in it).  While many of the most critically acclaimed manga and anime are about adult characters, MGX isn’t even breaking the old formula of teenaged protagonists.

But that doesn’t matter, because there are thoughts poured into it, and because it’s writer had a message that he wanted to tell. You might disagree with the details of his worldview, but that he has one, already sets MGX apart from all mindless series that don’t.

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3 responses to “Nazo no Kanojo X: The first pro-abstinence anime ever?

  1. Reblogged this on A Life Un-Lived and commented:
    I stumbled upon Mysterious Girlfiend X through Hulu, and as a 41-year-old man, found many of the same themes Alterego 9 also discovered. Additionally, the story properly portrays the way most young men approach women: with wonder, respect, and longing for love and understanding. If you’re looking for an anime story without false innocence, then you need to check out Mysterious Girlfrined X.

  2. “The first pro-abstinence anime ever?”

    B Gata ?

    “Because this story is about Urabe and Tsubaki not kissing, and not having sex, until they choose to.It’s clearly laying it’s card on the table about having a strong, culturally relevant statement about how teenaged couples should behave”

    Well, if anything, Japanese are already choosing to NOT have sex, en masse. Demographics are appalling, and sexless marriages are quite common. So who that message is supposed to be for is anybody’s guess. Will Japan be soon forced to do what Singapore did ? Will they actually go for it ? Probably not.

    • Good catch, I didn’t consider B Gata H Kei, because even the narration really seemed to have a message about how couples would be better off taking it slowly, the protagonists were more of a negative example of that, so the plot itself still took the traditional “random interruptions stop horny kids from having sex” direction.

      I think the changing sexual habits have more to do with the sexual revolution, than with changing sex drives. With the traditional family model becoming optional, sexually active teens might seem very promisculous for an oldtimer like Ueshiba, while at the same time, asexuals might use the same revolution as an excuse to “come out” and admit that they don’t want to have sex to begin with. So the average person is having more sex than before, while the amount of people having sex decreases.

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