Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 01

Mizutani “Dry Ice” Shizuku eschews friends for grades. When she is asked to deliver printouts for the delinquent Yoshida Haru, her high school life is set on a totally different course. He insists they’re friends, and has an innocent personality but is quick to violence and treats everyone roughly, including her. When he finds out his friends are just using him like she said, she tells them off and provides a shoulder to cry on. He agrees to come back to school, and confesses his love for her.

He follows her around, and she finds out he was the only one with higher grades than she, pissing her off since he doesn’t study. Upperclassmen take her hostage as revenge, but when he arrives to rescue her and she tries to calm him down, he punches her, and she’s through with him. Midterms come, and she comes out ranking first, but isn’t happy. She goes to his house (an arcade) to tell him she doesn’t hate him, and they start hanging out again. Breaking from studying to get monja, he steals a kiss, reiterating his love.

This series doesn’t waste a lick of time, spanning days, weeks, even months, and creating an entire arc of the cold-hearted Shizuku and the wild, naive Haru, who go from complete strangers to pseudo-friends to rivals to enemies to the makings of a couple. Shizuku gets pinned, accosted, threatened with rape, has orange soda thrown on her head, gets kidnapped, and gets slugged really hard in the face. And yet despite all this, she falls for Haru. Indications are he’s her first friend and she’s his, and all of a sudden good grades aren’t enough to make her happy – much to her consternation.

Is Haru a bit of a stylized manic pixie dream boy? Perhaps, if you ignore all the domestic violence. The guy is equal parts five-year-old, brawler, and math whiz; a personality polymath. And Shizuku is the only one who seems to be able to handle him – hence all the chain imagery in the OP. But these two crazy kids and this episode reminded us of some of the best rom-com anime we’ve seen, from Whisper of the Heart (another bookworm Shizuku! Loves a guy she initially hates!) to Kare Kano (academic rivals gradually falling in love! lots of earnest inner monologue!) Also, it’s a Brain’s Base piece that looks and sounds great, and Tomatsu Haruka kills it as the voice of Shizuku.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Shiki – 21 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 Dec 2010 – As if there was any remaining doubt about whether there is a distinct good or bad guy in Shiki, this episode drives the point home: there isn’t. The vampires and werewolves mostly kill to survive, as the humans do. But just as some vamps kill for sport, the humans kill other humans they believe to be collaborating. Things have gotten out of hand, and Toshio is so focused on victory he can’t see the ultimate tragedy: even if the living win, they’ve lost: they’ve cast away too much of their humanity to do so.

This is perfectly illustrated in a prologue that makes one’s skin crawl, as Chizuko and the gals cluck it up after a hard evening’s transporting dead vampire bodies. They have a meal right in the midst of corpses, without even washing the blood of their hands. This isn’t just getting used to a tough situation: to me, this is a form of insanity brought on by the need to cope with one’s hellish reality. They’ve hardened themselves to the point that cutting a person into pieces appears as easy as throwing a load of towels in the wash. Win or lose, things will never go back to the way they were; not for these people. Society’s rabid compulsion to survive has led to its own collapse.

Seishin finally asks Tatsumi why he does so much to serve Sunako, despite werewolves seemingly superior to vampires in all ways. Tatsumi scoffs at this: it has nothing to do with superiority and everything to do with feelings. He loves Sunako because amidst the cycles of society collapsing and rebuilding – the centuries of humans and their civilizations tearing themselves down and building themselves back up again – only Sunako remains and endures to see the next phase, the next world.

Her timelessness is a source of awe. Those who know and admire her cannot bear to think of her demise. Their own existence is meaningless compared to hers, and they’re willing to sacrifice themselves if it means her continued existence. Seishin obviously believes this as well, as he exerts all his remaining energies to help Sunako escape her hunters. But they’re hot on his trail, and his blood will lead them right to her. Will she wake up in time? I think we all know the answer to that!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Nov 2011 – Tabuki flees, leaving Yuri to bring back Momoka on her own. Himari is relased from the hospital and enjoys sukiyaki with Kanba, Shoma, and Ringo, but fears Sanetoshi only let her go because she’s going to die anyway. Masako enters the Takakura household with a bone to pick with Himari. She tries to fire a blue recollection ball at her, and Shoma and Kanba stop her. But an exhaust fan trigger’s Himari’s memories of the Child Broiler anyway.

In this topsy-turvy, twisty-turny, noodle-churning, downside-up series, what is the one constant throughout? That Kanba, Shoma, and Himari are siblings, right? That’s what we…wait, what? Even that’s not true now? But…but she knit them sweaters! And she’s in all those photos! And what is the thing Masako is always talking about crushing soon? Perhaps he wants to crush the lie…the lie of Himari being their sister? Does that mean Masako’s his real sister??

O Hai, Takakura parents! Just hangin’ out at a ramen shop in Ogikubo, huh? They certainly don’t look like mass murderers…but now we know it’s them passing packets of cash to Kanba. In envelopes marked “Kiga”, just like an apple Shoma offered Himari a lifetime ago – the fruit of fate. So it seems we’ve got Sanetoshi, the Takakura parents, and the late Momoka all playing with fate like a chemistry set in their own ways. We remain utterly enraptured.


Rating: 9 (Superior)