It's brilliant. This show is a magical mood-lifter. No matter how grumpy or down you might be feeling, you'll be bouncy and laughing by the end of the opening title sequence.
The original manga is a four-panel webcomic by Izumi Tsubaki that's had both physical and digital releases, plus tankoubon volumes. What's more, I'd seen its anime adaptation on several reviewers' "best of the year" lists for 2014, so I'd been eager to watch it. That reputation is well-earned. It's very, very entertaining.
Short description: it's a parody and deconstruction of shoujo manga. "Shoujo" means girls, so we're talking about sparkly romance-filled soap opera. The main character is a manga writer/artist and most of the rest of the cast help him out as his art assistants. Naturally this provides ample opportunities for bringing manga cliches into conflict with real life.
The cast are as follows:
(a) NOZAKI, who's both a professional shoujo manga artist and a huge, lumpish schoolboy. He underreacts to almost everything and you'd expect him to be the straight man for all the wacky characters around him, but he's not. He's a nice guy, but he's got professional tunnel vision that filters everything through manga spectacles. He'll use his friends for story ideas. Take him on a date and he'll drag you into girls' clothing shops, in order to research what his manga heroine might wear next. Make him play a romantic simulation computer game and he'll start analysing the characterisation and deciding that the main character's best friend is either secretly plotting against him or his homosexual life partner.
Nozaki can be super-feminine at times, but with the expressiveness of a rock. He's also pretty clueless about lots of things and has an idiosyncratic list of priorities. He worships his fat, rude, disinterested editor, for instance, because the guy's good at his job and will comment intelligently on his manga. His previous editor, Maeno... no. No, no, heaven help us all, no.
One other thing I love with Nozaki, incidentally, is that here we have a generic-looking, unresponsive character surrounded by loons... yet he's at the centre of the comedy and easily as funny as everyone else. It's because Izumi Tsubaki has a lot to say about shoujo manga and she's filtering all her insights, sideswipes and self-parody through Nozaki.
(b) SAKURA, who's in love with Nozaki. (Don't expect this to go anywhere. Being based on a four-panel gag manga, this is a show of character comedy, not plot progression.) Fortunately Sakura's a cheerful, positive person who loves hanging out with Nozaki and helping him with his work. She's funny, cute and very likeable, but she's also the nearest the show gets to having a straight man. Sakura-Nozaki episodes are less funny than episodes that include other members of the gang, although that's not to say that I didn't happily watch it all.
(c) MIKORIN, who's a delicate, shy, blushing maiden and the model for Nozaki's manga's heroine... but also a boy. He's popular with the girls and puts up a braggadocio ladykiller image, but he'll then get embarrassed about what he's just said and beg Nozaki or Sakura to rescue him from his latest self-inflicted idiocy. You could quip that he's the real female protagonist, although Nozaki's blurring lines too.
(d) KASHIMA, nicknamed the "Prince", who can out-flirt Mikorin and is always at the centre of a mob of squeeing and probably slightly moist girls. It's just that she's a girl too. Her fan club and mild airheadedness never stop causing trouble for everyone, which makes Hori (see below) attack her violently several times a day. Kashima sees this as proof that they're best friends and gets grumpy and worried when he stops.
(e) HORI, who's irritated beyond all endurance by Kashima and keeps trying to beat some sense into her and/or make her go away, but would get depressed if he ever succeeded at the latter. They're obviously fated to be a couple.
(f) YUZUKI. Imagine the most obnoxious girl in the world, but so lacking in self-awareness that she thinks she's a saint. She's actually quite a good friend and an entertaining person to be around, but only if you have the hide of a rhinoceros.
(g) WAKAMATSU, who's similarly fated to be with Yuzuki despite being a naive, impressionable boy whose idea of a dream girl is someone with a "sweet personality" or a "beautiful heart". Hahahahahaha. Wakamatsu's also in love with Lorelei, who's in the school glee club and sings like an angel. (He doesn't know that Yuzuki is Lorelei. If he found out, his mind might snap.) Wakamatsu will often be trying to drive Yuzuki away and make her hate him, but unfortunately he's liable to get his ideas on how to do this from shoujo manga (no no no) or his friends (RUN AWAY NOW). He's also so meek that his attempts at hostility generally come across as wooing.
These people are hysterical. They're only half the comedy, though. The other half comes from Nozaki's worldview, either because he's trying to write and draw his manga or because he's trying to do something unrelated but he's still got his manga-ka head on anyway.
Fantastic opening theme music, too.
This show's great. I'd recommend it to anyone, although its first and last episodes aren't its strongest. It's family-friendly, with no panty shots or anything like that. You don't need to know the first thing about shoujo manga, since all the parodies and industry gags communicate perfectly to newbies. Wherever you are, an editor from hell is an editor from hell. (In the title sequence, Nozaki and Sakura destroy one of Maeno's tanuki with extreme prejudice.) The extensive gender-bending is far funnier than you'd expect, because shoujo manga has such clearly defined gender roles and Izumi Tsubaki has specific ideas on how to subvert them. This isn't a world-changing anime, but it's both clever and very, very funny. Top stuff.