What's “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?
With so many different titles to choose from, picking a new anime to watch can feel as daunting as finding one's soulmate. If anime is love, then let “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” the salivating Cupid that guides the viewers' hearts. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help fans decide whether or not they'd like to take an unknown series for a test drive.
What's Mysterious Girlfriend X?
Mysterious Girlfriend X is a 2012 TV anime with direction by Ayumu Watanabe and animaton by Hoods Entertainment. It is based on the manga of the same name by Riichi Ueshiba, which was serialized from 2006 – 2014 in Kodansha's Afternoon seinen manga magazine. Crunchyroll describes Mysterious Girlfriend X as follows:
Tsubaki Akira happens to lick the saliva of Urabe Mikoto, who just transferred into his class. This brings about a fever for Tsubaki. Urabe claims the cause is lovesickness which her saliva can cure.
If you're anything like me, you probably read that description and thought: “My, that is a very specific fetish they're catering to there. This show is probably not for me.” And, like me, you might be mistaken, because despite its outlandish premise Mysterious Girlfriend X is a surprisingly grounded, thoughtful romance that treats its bizarre central conceit – that couples can share a deep bond through drool – with the utmost sincerity.
A Question of Consistency.
One of Mysterious Girlfriend X's greatest strengths is the realistic manner in which it portrays its teenage protagonists. Tsubaki, Urabe, and company are a volatile mix of curiosity, anxiety, insecurity, inexperience, and passion, and the show focuses almost entirely on their struggle to navigate the vagaries of romantic relationships. Watching them learn and grow closer is a genuine treat.
The idea consistency also applies to the visual depiction of saliva. The drool in Mysterious Girlfriend X has an incredible sense of gooey-ness and viscosity. This series brings a strong game to its spit, which is important because here drool has the ability to convey telepathic information and even cause people to develop sympathetic wounds.
I'm Not Going to Say It's Aliens...
No explanation is ever provided for why Tsubaki and Urabe share such a powerful connection through drool, although this fantastical element is treated as completely ordinary in the Mysterious Girlfriend X. Couples swapping spit (and the ensuing psychic phenomena) is presented as an activity as mundane as kissing or holding hands.
It's likely that the audience is supposed to assume that Urabe is secretly an extraterrestrial, since her bookbag and mechanical pencil sport UFO-charms and since posters of Roswell, New Mexico, and Devils Tower from Close Encounters of the Third Kind decorate her bedroom. I believe this is just a visual flourish to reinforce how she and Tsubaki are made for each other: Urabe's room has an alien motif, whereas Tsubaki's room is filled with posters of classic science fiction movies from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.
Mysterious Girlfriend X is a strikingly sex-positive show. Unlike a lot of anime where adolescent sexuality is used as a punchline when someone face-plants into someone else's body and receives a tsundere slapping, this series treats its characters' desire for physical intimacy as a perfectly natural outgrowth of their romantic inclinations. Since every couple is new to their relationships, the show also explores ideas of consent and problems such as jealousy and possessiveness.
The Red (Saliva) Band of Destiny.
Crunchyroll currently streams Mysterious Girlfriend X in 66 territories worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. Mysterious Girlfriend X is also released on Bluray and DVD in North America by Sentai Filmworks. If that's not enough content to set your mouth watering, an English language version of the original Mysterious Girlfriend X manga is available in print from Vertical, Inc. and via simulpub on Crunchyroll.
Mysterious Girlfriend X is a hidden gem within Crunchyroll's catalog, an off-kilter romance where the characters' eccentricities are less an opportunity for cheap jokes and more a pathway to explore the difficulties of human relationships in a meaningful way. If you're in the mood for a love comedy that is oddly earnest and more than a little surreal, please consider giving Mysterious Girlfriend X a try.
Special thanks go to resident too-cool-for-drool fan Jacob Chapman (@ANNJakeH) for suggesting the subject for this week's episode of "Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog". Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.