I have not read this manga and I had absolutely zero idea of what to expect going in, other than something about drool or saliva. I suppose I wasn’t prepared. The visuals, the character, the premise, and the weirdness all added up to a unique proposition that I was almost going to ignore.
The first thing you’ll notice going into Mysterious Girlfriend X is the style. It’s retro, and not the kind of retro I normally go in for. But eventually the cross-eyed goofiness does squeeze out some charm. It works perfectly with Urabe’s hair-obscured character design.
The second thing you’ll notice is Ayako Yoshitano, the new (to anime) actress tapped for the starring role of Urabe. She’s… different, yes, but that’s not the word I’m looking for. Perhaps I’ll find the word I’m looking for in Bonertown, where she clearly wants us all to go. I can only assume this was a bold casting decision for a bold character. Urabe’s already intriguing from minute one and not in the way that a girl who drops out of the sky or mysteriously transfers in would normally be. She’s forward, she’s unafraid of what people think of her, she’s not embarrassed in a boy’s room… perhaps the worst yamato nadeshiko ever. And while the bold and liberating girl character has become something of a cliché in western entertainment, we don’t get to see too much of it in conservative ol’ anime, where free spirits usually lose out to good (or bad) lunchmakers. As a bonus, I’m really amused by Urabe’s tendency to drop intense conversational bombs and then go “well, gotta run!” and just peace out.
Of course, the thing that makes Mysterious Girlfriend X stand out above all… it’s the drool. Never mind why Akira decided to taste the drool in the first place — perhaps he just wanted to see if everything emanating forth from that mouth was as delicious as Urabe’s voice — how about the general willingness with which he kinda went along with the story of needing it. As Caraniel mentions, the greatest portion of effort in the episode’s animation is spent making the saliva nauseatingly thick and gloopy. It doesn’t really resemble saliva in the least, but it goes along with the rest of the show’s stylization. The pervasive feeling of grossness mixed with sexual tension is a unique one; at least I’ve never quite experienced it in an anime.
It’s a bizarre gimmick that can probably help the proceedings move along for a while, but considering that the characters are supposed to be in a relationship now from episode 2 on (already a unique proposition as well), I hope that it’s not used to draw things out. After all, there’s one sure-fire and efficient way to transfer saliva from one person’s mouth to another, and it usually doesn’t come until the end of a romantic anime. But there are enough glimpses of further weirdness —namely, the geyser of drool and the scissors in the underwear — that I’ll probably be able to forgive that for a while.