My Deer Friend Nokotan – Episode 1

By: Toni Sun Prickett July 8, 20240 Comments
Nokotan and Koshi, with Koshi looking exasperated

What’s it about? Koshi Torako is trying to hide her past life as a delinquent by being at the top of her class, and she’s succeeding. Unfortunately, she’s become the unwilling best friend of the new transfer student, a literal deer named Nokotan–and Nokotan knows her secret.

I would not describe the experience of watching Nokotan in English as it was presented on Crunchyroll as enjoyable. Overwhelming? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Occasionally funny? Yes. But enjoyable? Absolutely not.

Koshi looking confused
My main feeling when watching this show

In honesty, I spent much of the episode in a state of frustration over the absurdly wordy subtitles, which were, as far as I can tell, machine translated (or at least provided by the licensor rather than an in-house translator). I watched it with my Japanese-speaking friend accompanying me, and they assured me that the translations were largely accurate, with a few minor mistranslations. But therein lies the problem. A show with dialogue as comedic and motormouthed as Nokotan benefits from having a translation loose enough to convey the sense of comic timing from the original. Dialogue should be rendered in phrases that feel like things an actual human English speaker would say and short enough to be read. Instead, I was left straining to read and comprehend the often ridiculously awkward phrasing of the dialogue fast enough, as the grammatical syntax of the Japanese was often left intact–leading to the opening narration, which was already in faux-heightened Japanese mimicking that of a storybook, to be borderline gibberish.

Also not helping was the lack of localization, which was particularly infuriating with a show that relies as heavily on references and in-jokes at Nokotan–things like “deer crackers,” jokes about leaves dramatically flowing into an “inside” space (marked by the word “inside” on screen), and many other references to specifically Japanese culture went completely unlocalized. This left an American viewer like me frequently utterly confused as to what was happening.

a view of a monorail, with the phrase "pure as the tama river with smiles as pure as those of the shinsegumi troopers" in subtitles
I don’t know what the fuck she’s saying but girl I am living.

Regardless, though, the question remains: even if I understood the show fully, would it have been funny? The answer is: kind of? The show’s premise and general sensibility remind me a lot of Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. In both shows, an oblivious supernatural being transfers to a local high school, is accepted by literally everybody in the school, and then proceeds to terrorize the main protagonist and destroy their reputation. However, what Dokuro-chan has that Nokotan lacks is a strong sense of pacing. When Dokuro does something horrible to the protagonist, it happens so quickly that we can barely believe our eyes before she “Pipiru piru piru pipiru pi”‘s it all away. This leads to a sense of “anything can happen” screwball comedy.

In Nokotan on the other hand, when Nokotan embarrasses Koshi, without a single exception the direction goes into slow motion. The first time this happens, when Nokotan breaks into the classroom, it works. Seeing the shrapnel fly and hit all the classmates in slow motion was quite funny. However, by the fourth time it happens in one episode, it comes across as a cheap gimmick and has destroyed the pace of the episode. This level of directorial incompetence was surprising from Studio Wit, but I suppose given that the most noteworthy work of the writer-director combo before this was Uzamaid, I shouldn’t have been optimistic.

Nokotan herself just feels like a non-character. There is no explanation as to why she seems so dedicated to destroying the life of the protagonist, nor any sense of intrigue to make me want to know why. Her entire identity is just obliviousness combined with “I’m a deer!” The protagonist herself is an assemblage of cliches–the delinquent girl, the perfect popular A student, the put upon potato-kun of many a rom-com. (In fact, the show seems weirdly interested in shipteasing Koshi and Nokotan, particularly in one scene where she drags Nokotan to the bathroom to keep Nokotan from spilling her secrets and Nokotan seems almost flustered. We will see if this is a one-off gag or a larger Thing we have to deal with.)

Nokotan looking deadeyed
My other main feeling while watching this show

Honestly, it is entirely possible that this show would have been much funnier with better translation and localization. My Japanese friend I watched it with seemed to enjoy it. However, we won’t know that unless Crunchyroll or the licensor releases a more legible version. Do better.

About the Author : Toni Sun Prickett

Toni Sun Prickett (they/them) is a Contributing Editor at Anime Feminist, and a multidisciplinary artist and educator located in New York, New York. They bring a queer abolitionist perspective shaped by their years of organizing and teaching in NYC to anime criticism. Outside of anime writing, they are a musician blending EDM and saxophone performance, and their hobbies include raving, voguing, and music production. They run the AniFem tiktok and their writing can be found at They are on X, Instagram, and Bluesky @poetpedagogue.

Read more articles from Toni Sun Prickett

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