Review: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

Having never been a fan of the shoujo genre, I’ve only picked up this anime due to recommendation from Alex after the first episode. At the time I decided to watch it, I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (being referred to solely as Tonari from this point on) focuses on the relationship between Mizutani Shizuku and Yoshida Haru, the two vastly different protagonists of this romance. Shizuku is the very definition of a bookworm: she’s obsessed with her marks and with studying in itself, so obsessed that her whole life spins around that one activity. Haru, on the other hand, appears to be a complete delinquent, having never attended high school before meeting Shizuku and getting himself into fights all the time. But it’s perhaps due to said difference that they balance each other so well. In fact, one could almost say they’re a perfect complement to each other. And it is through such contrast in their personalities and priorities that they slowly start to take a different approach towards life and relationships, which is specially true in Shizuku’s case.

As an anime which is supposed to present the development of a romantic relationship, I feel Tonari had a lot more to offer than plenty of other series of the same style. There are a few reasons for such an impression, starting by the lighthearted comedy so ever present that prevents the show from falling into the melodramatic soap opera category (I’m looking at you Sukitte) and finishing in the approach given to the characters, their interactions and relationships. Throughout the entire series, I’ve always felt Tonari  is not as focused on romance as it is on human relationships and how we need them. Be it friendship or romance, the focus is always on the human closeness issue. It’s brought up in different ways with different types of issues, but it’s probably the main running theme in the series, and that’s something I enjoy and identify with.

Another point of great enjoyment comes from the satisfaction felt when watching intelligent characters take the screen. We haven’t got a bunch of unimaginably dense characters who can’t understand the meaning of ridiculously obvious reactions. From Shizuku and Haru to the supporting cast, everyone is a perceptive individual who can pick up on the most subtle details and is aware of the need to understand such details in order to protect their little world. From start to end, Shizuku struggles with the control she’s always had over her life and how it seems to be slipping away from her grasp as she takes on a broader view of the world and starts to understand what it is to have friends. That control is something she wants to protect, yet without paying the price she had paid up until then, as she also wants to be with Haru and her new friends. Haru is a guy who can appear to be the most clueless person in the world, yet through his amazing honesty and bluntness often come insightful remarks, as unexpecteldly as one could imagine.

But the best thing is that the main characters aren’t the only ones with depth. The supporting cast is amazing in its own right, from the lonely Natsume who’d do everything to keep her friends close, to the kind-hearted Sasayan who mainly speaks out whenever he feels like helping someone (and when he does, you’d better be paying attention – the guy is way more perceptive of others than he looks), to the arrogant Yamaken, who’s one of my favorite characters in Tonari, partly due to the sheer strangeness of his lifestyle, partly to his helpful remarks despite him always trying to appear harsh and partly due to… his awful sense of direction, which reminds me of myself. Walking confidently towards somewhere while having no idea where he’s going. (Yeah, I do that a lot^^) Yet despite everyone’s different personalities, they’re trying to grasp control of their lives in quite a realistic way.

One other thing I’ll have to mention is that, curiosuly, Tonari does have one of my most hated “things” in romantic series: love triangles. However, they’re handled so well and realistically, without the cliche villainous third party trying to get between the main pair, that I hardly even noticed such dynamics, let alone be bothered by it. Actually, the characters who were introduced as liking the protagonists  were portrayed in as neutral a light as everyone else, and actually added a lot to the series’ enjoyment rather than detracting from it. Because they weren’t simply made to get in between Haru and Shizuku. They were true round characters who had their thought process and got their own independent development.

However, despite everything good that Tonari has to offer, which is undoubtedly a lot, it did have some less enjoyable quirks that kept me from rating it even higher. One of them, and perhaps the most relevant, is the repetitive pattern of Shizuku and Haru’s relationship which seems to travel quite the bumpy road from start to end. They seem to take turns at confessing and changing their mind as when the other one finally accepts them. Such is an annoying pattern most shoujo follow in order to keep having middle climaxes without ending the story. Which sucks. In Tonari’s defense, though, the repetitive actions are well backed up by different motives and different events behind the characters’ indecision. They’re also quite well portrayed in terms of inner thoughts, once again, specially in Shizuku’s case, as would be expected, since we see most of the happenings through her perspective. Speaking of Shizuku, I find her to be an excellent character. Her change upon falling in love with Haru is gradual and believable, and she keeps her individuality as a character. That’s something that Tonari deserves endless praise for, as one of my main reasons for disliking this genre is the loss of individuality of the female lead.

The other less desirable quirk Tonari could never run from is its incompleteness. Being that not even the source material is completed yet and how this is apparently far from adapting all that is published so far, such as thing was to be expected. As such, Haru and Shizuku’s relationship doesn’t get a proper closure, neither does Natsume’s subplot. A lot of Haru’s past is also yet to be disclosed, and the root for his aggressiveness, that doesn’t seem to steam solely from social ineptitude, is still unknown to the viewers.  However, I feel like the series managed to pass its points across quite well: the importance of having people to support you and people with whom you can share your good moments and turn to on your bad moments; the way it’s impossible to be on a relationship with someone, be it love or friendship, without eventually hurting your peers but even so, even through all the mistakes, it’ll be worth it. Those two points were reflected countless times in these 12 episodes, and I felt were conveyed in quite an effective way. The finally episode itself seems like a metaphor for the later point. I first thought of it as a bizarre episode, something quite strange to air as a finale, but after reflecting on it for a bit, I understood it was about Haru’s journey to share the sight of the firefly with Shizuku. To share something beautiful with someone you love. Even making lots of mistakes in the mean time, it ends up being worth, for the journey and the company both make what you want to share even more beautiful. Or so I understood it.

As it’s apparent by the above paragraphs, these two small issues just mentioned don’t detract all that much from the enjoyment of the series as a whole, nor from getting what it was all about, nor from laughing at its funny moments (and there are plenty). Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun was a series I really enjoyed following, a series with well-developed characters (in fact, I believe it packed quite a lot of character development for a mere 12 episodes), an amazing art style with a colorful and eye-catching color palette, and a show that would always put a smile on my face regardless of my mood before watching it. It is definitely something worth watching, both for fans of the shoujo genre and for everyone else.

Dusk’s Score: 8 Meeps out of 10 (Very Good)

Alex’s Score: 8 Meeps out of 10 (Very Good)

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Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Episode 5

Yoshida Family Matters

As afraid as I was Tonari would somehow lose its charm from the first few episodes, I must yet again rejoice at the fact that it isn’t.

In this fifth episode, we once again get pretty interesting character development, on top of some revelations about Haru, his family and his past. And also about how the hell does he goof of so much and still has all those 100s xD It seems he was studying all the time, despite not attending school. And as it usually is so, time is much better used by studying home. Of course the guy has to have some intelligence, but knowing things ahead is really useful.

However, despite revealing this to Shizuku, Haru still doesn’t want his past touched. That said, Shizuku ends up learning about it from Yuuzan, who comes talk to her at the end of the school day. His intentions are hard to grasp, and Shizuku is definitely wary of that, specially knowing how scared Haru seems to be of him. But her curiosity towards Haru’s past was sure to win her over, as she hurries Yuuzan to talk about him, since that’s what he came there for anyway. However, he seems more interested in talking about food instead. Of course his plan isn’t to tell a sweet story to Shizuku, but to attract Haru there, which he does pretty skillfully. But really, it was a treat to watch Haru, who always runs form his older brother without exception, run towards him instead. All for Shizuku^^

As lovely as his attitude is in that regard, he still doesn’t feel like telling her everything. On the other hand, Yuuzan does give Shizuku a briefing in the subject. It seems Haru’s father is quite the strict guy and put him out when he stopped going to middle school. However, now that he’s back at school and doing well, he wants him back in his grasp. Yuuzan was supposed to bring him back, but is giving him a chance if he promises to continue going to school. Of course Haru now does love school, so it’s not a hard thing to promise. My question is, Yuuzan actually seemed like a good guy here. Despite his creepiness and weird means to obtain his goal, it seemed to be an act of kindness. However, Haru totally holds a grudge against him. In fact, even Yuuzan admitted Haru hates both him and their father. So, how is Yuuzan really like? Will we get to know, or was he just here to shake Haru and Shizuku’s relationship by revolving over past issues? I bet on the former, and hope that I’m right.

By the end of the episode, Haru does open up a little more to Shizuku regarding his past, but one can’t help but notice how he only tells the happy things, seeming to be purposefully avoiding addressing the things that scarred him. That is definitely generating quite the tense atmosphere between them, but is definitely interesting to watch.

The one and only other issue worth noting this episode was the class rep. (yes, I know not her name and am not in the mood to check it now). She definitely fell in love with Haru. And I understand. The guy defended her from those bullies, is honest and straightforward but also really kind. Not to mention he’s gorgeous too. Either way, the being the first person to say that she was kind in a long time… Well, that kind of stuff always has way too much impact. By the end of the episode, Shizuku seems to notice this developing feeling in the class rep.’s heart.

I usually dislike love triangles, but heck, Tonari has been doing lots of things I usually dislike well, so let’s just hope this won’t be to melodramatic and see what’s in store.

P.S.: That preview, oh, that preview… It was hilariously awesome. A type of ridiculous genius. Stupidly fantastic.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Episodes 3 & 4

Nuisance

&

Summer Break

Having college to blame from my lateness in episodic coverage, I will now talk about episodes 3 and 4 of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.

Episode 3 was largely dedicated to introducing the side characters. We’d seen a lot of Natsune last episode, but we now see the group get together with the addition of Sasayan, who reveals himself to be quite the dependable guy and brings the much-needed stroke of normality to that enjoyably strange group of people.

It also brings the guys who used to take advantage of Haru’s strife for friendship back into the scene, portraying them, once again, as complete idiots, save for Yamaguchi, who’s quite the mysterious guy that left me with as much of an unsettling feeling as he did in episode 1. Anyhow, it seems amends were made to their relationship through building… a chicken coop together. Which actually ended up looking great.

The second half of the episode packs a different, less playful tone, being dedicated to our main couple: Shizuku and Haru. As they’re going home, Shizuku finally decides to confess to Haru, obtaining quite the strange answer when considering it was Haru who had confessed first. Several times, actually. Thus, he’s reaction felt hard to understand to me, though I believe that after Shizuku backed down when he asked her out in the beginning of the episode he must have felt afraid of what a change in the dynamics of their relationship would bring.

Regardless of the motives, this didn’t feel like a reset of their relationship as much as it was an evolution. Haru demonstrates to be less impulsive and to actually think about his feelings deeper while Shizuku has definitely come to terms with hers and shows her resolve towards staying true to them and conquering Haru.

This scene established some very nice balance between these two characters, but such balance did last for long, as Haru suddenly decides he’s not going home that night. He’s the type to only run away if something really disturbs him, so I’m really curious as to what Yuuzan might have done to him in the past. I mean (and I’m jumping a bit into episode 4 here), Haru hates his older brother and even runs from him every single time he sees him. Mizutani also seemed to get quite wary of the guy, so I’m quite curious regarding his true personality.

Making our way into episode 4, it was pretty much dedicated to developing Haru further. As I said before, Haru’s strange and somewhat scary behavior comes from a total lack of social contact. He doesn’t have any briefing on the importance of appearance in social integration (we all should be like that, really) and his honesty and bluntness are completely genuine – without a hint of self-restraint. From this description, it’s actually obvious how, as Shizuku pointed out, he’s a really nice guy, with the best intentions and always trying to help people out, yet he needs to appear that way for people to believe such. In fact, they’d probably only need him to appear like that, rather than be like that to believe it. Which once again, is rather sad. (Yeah, I’m losing my faith on human beings… *depressed*) Anyhow, it’s always nice to see how he strives to follow the advices of those he cares about and being nicer to everyone around him.

But of course change is never instantaneous. The scene where he beat up that upperclassman and everyone was looking at him as if he were a monster… He was just very rightfully trying to help that girl. It just happens that his way of solving conflicts isn’t the calmest one. It’s really bad that no one tried to help out his scared self when the same thing happened when he was younger. Speaking of which, it seemed pretty obvious who he saved back in that first day of middle school. I hope Sasayan can pay back his debt. He’s doing great at it so far.

Anyhow, on top of his nature and lack of social interactions, there also seems to have been something more traumatic to have happened, judging by how he avoids not only his brother but any conversation about him. His answer to Shizuku was just a bit too strong, even for him, so there really must have been something quite unpleasant happening in his past. And that’s something I’ll be looking forward to finding out.

This series has surprised from the very beginning, and it really is nice to see it’s not losing its charm. And that’s a merit I can almost wholly attribute to the characters. I find them to be quite fascinating. It’s nice to see a main duo who despite their uncommon personalities (especially Haru), are honest with their feelings and actions. Something I also have to applaud to is how perceptive everyone of others. Forget the unimaginably dense protagonists of these type of shows. We’ve got characters which try to grasp control of their relationships in a realistic way. And we’ve got that mixed up with a whole lot of fun, as Tonari manages to still tell a serious story without ever holding back on the enjoyment.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Episode 2

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

As someone who’s never been fond of the shoujo genre, I decided to try this one out due to Alex’s opinion of it. (In fact, I’m watching two shoujo anime this season.) I never thought I’d be ending up liking it enough to blog about it but… here I am bringing you coverage of the second episode of this interesting and funny romance.
The beginning of the episode focuses on the interactions between Shizuku and Haru and how she’s conscious of him due to the love declaration and then the kiss at the end of the premiere. What Haru is thinking truly is hard to realize, as the guy’s mind doesn’t seem to pack the least bit of common sense, so it’s only natural for Shizuku to be wondering about his intentions. But her focus ends up being more on herself, and how she seems to be changing. Her concentration capabilities aren’t the same as before and she gets nervous whenever she’s around Haru, so she starts wondering if she’s in love. For someone who’s lived routinely and never left her comfort zone, that sure is a hard realization to grasp, and it showed in her numerous attempts to deny it and run from it.

The difficulties in doing so come exactly when Natsume, a ridiculously clumsy girl, approaches Shizuku and asks her to help her study. Of course she bluntly refuses, as expected, but the same doesn’t apply to Haru, who is still determined to take advantage of each and every opportunity to make friends and takes an interest in Natsume’s reason for being so desperate about the make-up exam – being able to attend a meeting with friends from an online community she talks so well about. I assume that Haru’s intelligence is already spread news around the class, as the girl happily agrees. (Though it wouldn’t be too sketchy to think she’d just accept help from anyone at that point, seeing how bad her grades were…)
As Haru took the offer in the condition she’d let him attend the meeting, Shizuku is forced to actually be around the studying pair, which disturbs are studies even more than just Haru alone. Of course, Haru is even worse than me at teaching anything, so the poor girl who had hopes to be helped didn’t understand one thing. Really, his reactions to her mistakes were really fun to watch.

Following with the episode, Shizuku and Haru’s conversation outside the house was quite the curious thing. It made me wonder about how he ended up with behaving in such a senseless way. I mean, it’s definitely not a rebellious attitude and it’s beyond what could be explained by personality traits. His intentions are good, he’s just too naïve and seems to have no idea what human interactions are like. Or what they’re supposed to be like, as defined and taught to us by the society in which we live. Long story short, he lacks human interaction, even more so than Shizuku. But he yearns for it, yet last episode he said he was scared about school. His expression in his scene and Shizuku’s posterior conversation with the guy from the baseball club made me really wonder about what made Haru skip the entire three years of middle school…

Speaking of that conversation – that’s what made Shizuku accept her feelings and adopt a less tense attitude towards the studying vs. relationships issue, as he made her realize Haru’s confession wasn’t something he just spouted half-heartedly. The scene where she offered to help to Natsume studying was both cute and funny, and I credit the art and music directing (especially the later) for making all those sequential changes of mood successful.

If there’s something I’m enjoying about Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun so far is the character development. Few series can pack so much in so few episodes, and while I was already surprise with the amount of development the main duo got in the first episode, the fact that they managed to keep such quality (though focusing more on Shizuku this time) was something I really welcomed. In fact, the pinnacle of that is exactly the closing scene of the episode, where Haru sits by a sleeping Shizuku (yeah, I can totally understand you girl, relationships are exhausting, indeed) and doesn’t wake her up for classes. She’s, at first, upset at him for it, but then realizes that there is no need to as there is more to the world than simply school and grades, and as she shrugs of what would have before been a huge issue to her, we see the results of her gradual change in her attitude towards life and in her awareness of her own feelings. Also… A female character said “I love you” without stuttering. That’s something to compliment.

As a closing line, I’m enjoying this series immensely; as I feel it it’s not as focused on romance as it is on human relationships and how we need them. Be it friendship or romance, the focus is always on the human closeness issue. It’s brought up in different ways with different types of issues, but it’s probably the main running theme in the series, and that’s something I enjoy. Also, the way it can delve into such a theme in a lighthearted manner with actually a good type of comedy that manages to make me laugh rather than cringe at it is a plus, especially with all the dramas we already have lying around.

But seriously, that little scene after the ED… Feel happy Haru didn’t get along with anyone at the offline meeting, Shizuku! He’d be in for some really creepy stuff in that community. I wonder what Natsume is up to with the strands of hair…

Autumn 2012: Round Two!

Fighto! >o<

In all seriousness, now that we’ve seen almost everything, here’s the finalised version of who’s covering what, with, rather spectacularly, almost every good show being covered this season.

Alex, after removing all his jokes,  is covering Sword Art Online, Magi, Little Busters

Mimi,currently overjoyed with her new headphones, is covering Shin Sekai Yori, K and Sukitte Ii na yo.

Dusk, won her quest for justice, is covering PYSCHO-PASS, Tonari no Kaibutsu-Kun and Jormungand 2

Doofus, recently exposed as a tsundere, is covering Hunter x Hunter, Gintama 2012 and Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure (Triple helping of Doofus, everyone!)

Liam, after baking everyone a nice cake, is covering Zetsuen no Tempest

Justin, living happily ever after in Canadaland, is covering Space Brothers and Code:Breaker