Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (TV) – Review
One of the lighter series this (actually, already last) season. Just 13 episodes long, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (“My Little Monster”) is a romance comedy. First of all I want to point out that it succeeded at what it was trying to achieve – it’s one of the best rom-coms I’ve seen in my life.
How exactly could an anime like this succeed? Originality! No, there were no panty-shots or typical, cliche fanservice. There was no harem. Instead of all that, we get lots of hilarious jokes, facial expressions. Add to that the personalities of the characters, and you get a great anime.
Story: The story of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is quite simple. A guy named Yoshida Haru and a girl named Shizuku Mizutani fall in love with each other. At first glance, nothing special. However, what really makes the anime stand out, is that neither of them have any social skills or experiences. Through their developing relationship, they learn more about themselves and the way people should interact with each-other: friends, classmates, or even lovers.
There is no real plot behind the series. The events in different episodes are connected only losely, by the central idea of the relationship between Shizuku and Haru. Sometimes some obstacles occur on their path, and the main characters have to overcome them. In the end, however, as the saying goes: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” This also goes for Shizuku and Haru.
Characters: First of all, the female protagonist, Shizuku. She is a genius: her grades are the best, she gets the best results on national mock exams, she helps her father with managing a store. But behind all of those qualities, she is a rather cold-hearted girl. She does not care about the society’s opinion of her, and she couldn’t care less whether she had any friends at all – she just wants to study hard to earl a lot of money later in life. Throughout the series, this personality of hers changes thanks to people who gather around her – Haru, Natsume, Sasayan (Sasahara Souhei), Yamaken (Yamaguchi Kenji), Ooshima Chizuru and others. Each of them brings something new into the scene, affecting Shizuku in some way.
As important character to the series is Haru. I could say that he is the complete opposite of Shizuku. If she doesn’t need any friends, then Haru is ready to sacrifice almost everything to find some friends. If Shizuku studies at any possible moment, then Haru doesn’t study at all – which doesn’t mean he scores any worse than her on the tests. Finally, unlike his girlfriend, he has a very rash personality, and almost never thinks his actions or words through. For example he can easily (and accidentally) hit Shizuku or threaten her. Despite all of these differences, the two are very similar. They both know nothing about social interactions, and have to work hard to improve their skills.
Shizuku and Haru are the main characters in the anime, but there are plenty of others. One of them is Natsume – the friendly and cute girl, who tries her best to become friends with Shizuku, despite the latter not being interested. She really wants to have female friends, but all she ever gets is unwanted attention from guys around her. Secondly, Yamaken. He is one of Haru’s old acquaintances, who keeps getting lost everywhere. He is rich and has good grades. He does not consider Haru his friend, and only pretended to be one to ask for money. He hangs around 3 other guys, who do all the diry work for him – Yamaken himself never participates in fights. Sasayan is a less important character, but he’s still worth mentioning. He is energetic, friendly and helpful, ready to always give good advice to his friends. He’s not very good at fighting, but is capable of protecting those in need.
Visuals: Nothing special. Creating amazing animation and quality of detail clearly wasn’t the main aim of the production studio. Instead, having read a few chapters of the manga a long time ago, I’d say the authors were aiming at making the anime as similar to the original work as possible. The art and character design really reminds of the manga, which is good, since the main reason I actually picked up the shoujo manga was the character design – very different from the usual shoujo art.
Sound: Quite good. All of the voice actors that were chosen for the roles did their job well, and therefore none of the characters had unexpected voices or personality traits. I was surprised that Natsume’s voice actor had no other roles expect this one, because she did her part extremely well. Opening and edning were both quite good and catchy, but nothing I would listen to separately from the anime.
Conclusion: Amazing characters. Good setting. Okay story execution. Great humour. What else could I ask for in a romance comedy? Of course, the main thing about the series is still its originality. I loved how the authors avoided all the fan-service that is present in pretty much EVERY modern anime – I’m honestly tired of it all already, and it’s the reason why I didn’t watch many series that I planned to last year (2012). However, this step might have its negative consequences too – the sales. Producers usually add the fan-service to appeal to wider audiences, and therefore drastically increasy the amount of sold versions of the anime. I’m not sure whether Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun will be able to survive solely on the humour – and a 2nd season is absolutely necessary. Without another season, I would be really disappointed in this anime, since it didn’t receive a proper ending or conclusion. Everything was left too open, and based on that, I and many others are expecting more of the anime.