Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 12

Natsume goes to the batting center to talk to Mitsuyoshi, but is sidetracked by Sasayan’s friends, who laugh as one of them attempts to ask her out; she dismisses him. Haru arrives and invites her to a picnic after New Years, which Shizuku promised to take him on in exchange for his good behavior. As New Year’s Eve arrives, and a lonely Natsume invites herself and Haru to Shizuku’s to hang out. After dinner they fall asleep until 1 AM, but meet up with Sasayan at the town festival, ultimately ending up on the roof of the batting center for the sunrise, where Natsume confesses to Mitsuyoshi.

Natsume is fearful. She likes Shizuku and Haru, but fears when they become a couple, she’ll see even less of them than she already does. They weren’t easy friends to make in the first place, but they’re the friends she’s got, and she doesn’t want to lose them or become marginalized in their lives. She tries to maintain online friends, but it’s not the same thing. Haru is too clueless and Shizuku is too practical, so it’s up to her to take the initiative and bring the three of them together for a New Year’s celebration.

She’s also fearful of love; specifically boys. They act like everything’s a big joke and put their fun ahead of her feelings. While she’s not entirely fair to them, her behavior is based in a sort of impatience with immature boys. Her ideal right now is Mitsuyoshi, who assures her love is worth trying to achieve. It drives change in people, for better or worse, and helps them grow up. The world she wants to live in – an eternal “Kingdom of Mitty” that’s all fun and no pain – doesn’t exist, he tells her. So she asks him very straightforwardly: can he and she grow up together? Having a good ten years over her, he’s not quick to respond. But we admire Natsume for saying what she needed to say.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

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Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 09

A month after the cultural festival, Haru and Shizuku still aren’t getting anywhere, frustrating Asako. Shizuku’s dad’s store goes under, reinforcing her drive to become a successful businesswoman like her mom. When she tells Haru about the goldfish, he promises to catch her a crayfish. She bumps into Yamaken at the library and asks him to help her analyze her state of mind and options; meanwhile Yamaken has fallen for her, which he tells Haru when asked.

Shizuku’s mom is the breadwinner and obviously a strong-willed, domineering woman (or her dad’s just a weeny), but she’s kind of a bitch, too. Some people just aren’t cut out for business. It doesn’t make them failures, and it’s hardly fair to abuse one’s spouse when he’s virtually raising their kids single-handedly. On one hand, she’s made sacrifices – giving up romance and family in order to provide for said family (conceivably bourne out of romance), and that’s a noble thing to do. On the other hand, she’s spent so many years berating the father of her children, Shizuku has essentially been warped into the emotionless, clueless yuki-onna currently struggling with the same dilemma her mother faced, only by choice, not necessity. The cycle continues.

The thing is, in life, one can truly have it all. In a way, it’s easy to dedicate oneself to study while in the Springtime of life, rather than face uncertainty by trying to balance Haru with her bright future. Shizuku’s mom has always been a beacon of certainty, and we wouldn’t be surprised if she’s projecting her loving but insolvent father onto Haru. But she’s not alone in the stalling of their relationship; Haru is being too hands-off and oblivious. Meanwhile, in the midst of offering free advice to her, Yamaken now has the hots for Shizuku (she is cute), forming the second love triangle of the series. This is the last thing Yamaken wants right now, but if Haru remains dilatory, will he make a move?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 07

Disheartened by Shizuku’s apparent rejection of him, Haru is encouraged not to give up by Oshima and Natsume. School Culture Festival preparations begin, and Haru gives Shizuku tickets. More distant from him, Shizuku’s exam rankings rise. She tells herself she’s doing the right thing. But when Haru bumps into her at night, vows to change her mind, and almost kisses her (stopping himself after remembering Natsume’s advice) all the feelings come roaring back to her.

These past two weeks Shizuku has voiced her intention to purge elements unnecessary to her, which she tries to convince herself is a group that includes Haru. But he isn’t taking no for an answer, even when she says no outright (as in there’s no chance of her falling for him again). Shizuku’s suffering that classic case of Mind vs. Heart, in which the two do not see eye to eye.She’s learns the hard way that “purging” feelings for someone isn’t the same as “burying” them. She’s simply done the latter, and Haru doesn’t need to do much digging to bring them back up. He’s driven by his departed aunt/guardian’s words that humans will wither if left alone, and her belief he’ll one day find someone “whose presence is strong enough to soothe his pain”.

Right now Haru thinks that someone is Shizuku (Oshima doesn’t register to him as anything other than a friendly acquaintance, much to Oshima’s frustration). Yamaken tells Shizuku her relentless pursuit of grades above all else is a “boring way to live”, and she can’t deny that, because her heart is telling her the same thing as her mind is trying desperately to keeping her on a path of monastic study. The second half of this series will continue to explore that inner conflict, but we have no clue which part of Shizuku will ultimately win out. Haru will be on Team Heart; he’s listening to his, which is telling him Shizuku is the one…even if she says otherwise.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 06

Overcome by feelings for Haru, Shizuku finds it difficult to concentrate and her chest hurts when she’s near him. Distressed by her plummeting mock exam scores, she aims to jettison unwanted distractions. She refuses to participate in her friends’ attempts to solve the problem Ooshima’s lack of friends. As Ooshima falls harder for Haru, Shizuku tells Haru she’s no longer attracted to him, and wants to focus on her future and studying.

This week Shizuku gets a rival in the shy, quiet, but cute Ooshima, who is particularly prone to feverishly quick internal monologue and the occasional outburst when Haru misinterprets Shizuku’s words. Ooshima finds herself in the middle of what she thinks is a lovers’ quarrel. But Shizuku doesn’t care about the potential competition Ooshima offers. By episode’s end, she’s decided to regress a bit, in light of the negative effect her attraction to Haru is having on her studies.

Shizuku remembers a night she was going to go see fireworks with her family, but her mom was too busy, so they stayed home, and she studied. She never got any goldfish, and the pot in the yard stayed empty. She learned to enjoy studying. She wants to be busy and successful like her mom, and right now, she doesn’t think she can achieve that when she’s constantly thinking about Haru, so now she’s trying to convince herself that she’s not interested anymore. It’s logical, but it leaves us a little cold nearly halfway through the series.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 05

Yuzan asks Shizuku for an audience, and Shizuku agrees, curious about Haru. He tells her how Haru was kicked out of the house three years ago and went to live with Mitsuyoshi (where he studied in his spare time). Haru and Yuzan’s father wants him to return home so he can send Haru to a “school he can influence”, but Yuzan personally wants Haru to stay put, and asks Shizuku to make that happen. Haru arrives to “rescue” her, and she makes him hear Yuzan out. He agrees to Yuzan’s plan, but still doesn’t trust him. Shizuku tells Haru not to let her get in the way if he wants to really go home, but he tells her he wants to be with her. Ooshima thanks Haru for saving her and then falls for him right in front of Shizuku.

Shizuku is in love with the Haru she knows, but lurking somewhere out of sight are various jigsaw pieces that make up the complete picture of who he is. Frustrated with not knowing which pieces he’s willing to reveal to her and where he draws the line, she takes the opportunity to learn more when it presents itself in the form of Yuzan. But where Haru conceals those pieces out of worry they’ll threaten his relationship with Shizuku, we’re not sure why Yuzan is hiding things. He relays his father’s desire for Haru to come home, but he doesn’t want him home. He implies “they’ll end up killing each other” if he does and laughs a lot, but the laughing and cheerful small talk about sweets hides his true intentions vis-a-vis Haru. Haru likes directness and honesty, which is one of the reasons he likes Shizuku. Yuzan has neither, and so it’s impossible to trust him.

When he forbids Shizuku from talking to Yuzan again, he’s so caught up in tying her best interests with his that he doesn’t realize he’s giving Shizuku an order he has no authority to give. She stands firm in rejecting that order, and even his “I thought you loved me” card doesn’t sway her. In the end though, they grow closer, once they’re once again honest in what they want: Shizuku will be sad if he goes, and Haru doesn’t want to go home to the “den of evil”. Those positions would seem to align with Yuzan, but who knows. And then there’s a potential new love interest in the bespectacled Ooshima (Hanazawa Kana in Shy Mode), pefectly poised to misinterpret Haru’s general kindness with romantic feelings; the next wrench to be thrown into the gears of Shizuku and Haru’s courtship.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. It’s nominally fun to see the characters playing other roles, but the Edo-period omake “preview” is really neither here nor there.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 02

Shizuku tries to eat her strange new feelings away with Monjayaki, to no avail. She notices Haru would have gotten a higher score than him had he only written his name. Haru also adopts a rooster. On the way home, a small, cute girl named Natsume Asako begs Shizuku to help her study so she won’t have to take remedial classes so she can go to an offline gathering. Shizuku refuses but Haru agrees to tutor if she’ll bring him along.

Haru’s longtime classmate Sasayan approaches Shizuku to get an impression of her. She decides to help Natsume as well, pulling an all-nighter with her. Natsume passes, and takes Haru along as promised, but he ruins everything. Shizuku dozes off on the roof and awakens with her head in Haru’s lap. He insists she skip class and keep napping. She tells him she loves him.

Shizuku initially approaches her sudden situation as if it were some kind of affliction; something to be solved like an equation. But no logic or reason will slow her heart or un-pinken her face when in the presence of Yoshida Haru. In short, she’s fallen for him, she just has to come around to realizing it. And she does so, in record time! Seriously, two confessions in the first two episodes and we have ourselves a couple. You have to admire the efficiency. And aside from some invasions of personal space and one rough face grab, Haru generally behaves himself.

This week also introduced a couple of new characters in Natsume and Sasayan. Natsume is an interesting parallel to both Shizuku and Haru in that all three have had trouble getting closer to others, albeit for different reasons (she’s offputtingly cute, apparently . That said, we enjoyed her energy and how her struggle to pass her test so she can make friends – making other friends in the process – helps Shizuku realize that what she’s feeling isn’t a nuisance. Haru’s changed her world. That change isn’t bad…just new.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Car Cameo: There’s a white Mazda2/Demio parked outside the monja place.

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)