If I remember correctly, I believe this was the first shoujo of the season to air, and boy did it make a splash (and it’s not because of the chicken). Now, I’m not going to linger on this for long because, honestly, this issue has been beaten to death. Therefore, I’ll keep this quick.
Way back when the first episode came out, there was a poor choice of joke that involved our male protagonist, Haru, pulling his female love interest, Shizuka, into an alley and threatening her with rape if she made noise…only to, seconds afterwards, go off and show her a dog he found. Doubtless Haru’s threat was inappropriate and his actions throughout the rest of the episode didn’t do much to make him much of an endearing and likable character, from him violent outbursts to his treatment of Shizuka. Looking at the episode in retrospect, I don’t think it handled Haru particularly well since it mainly served to give people reasons to dislike him. However, I think it’s a shame that so many people have dropped the series as a result of that one scene because I think that the episodes since that disastrous debut do a much better job of presenting Haru as a more likable person.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is a romantic comedy whose initial premise isn’t terribly original, but whose characters manage to set it apart and make it interesting. Tonari‘s story involves your classic bad boy falling for the nerdy girl whose social life isn’t the most active. Girl then falls in love with said boy and drama and slice of life hijinks ensue, leading up to the eventual get together. What I like about Tonari‘s story so far is probably the pacing.Although no parings have happened so far, confessions have been made (and rejected) which, in my book, puts the show in a good place since now we get to focus on seeing how the pair’s feelings develop past the initial “I like you”s. The dual focus on building up platonic relationships adds a fun dynamic to the show since most the characters themselves are not only fun to watch, but also have their own sort of charismatic charm.
Shizuka, the heroine of this love story, is a witty girl who is more concerned about one day earning the big bucks than living up her high school days. I like her quite a bit because she’s not a moron, but she’s not snobbishly smart either. She’s simply a “try hard” who prefers studying to socializing. She also has a backbone which is nice to see and shows us that she isn’t going to passively take crap from Haru. On the flip side, she’s also an honest person and, as she hangs out with Haru more, starts to become more caring, especially where he is concerned. As for Haru, he, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as bad as he was first presented. From episode two onward, he mellows out a great deal and isn’t as prone to violence as he was at the start. While he does have the occasional outburst, for the most part, he’s more sweet tempered I’d say, as he focuses more on his dream of having friends, as well as working on his relationship with Shizuka. With the introduction of his brother and more hinting at how he was in middle school, I’m hoping that perhaps we’ll find out why he’s become the hard to approach person he is now. Quickly becoming the sweetheart I pinned him to eventually become, I find myself liking him more, especially when he’s around Shizuka because she tends to bring out his better/more interesting aspects.
Haru and Shizuka’s friends are characters who are also a colorful bunch with their own odd quirks. We have the beautiful moron who has quite the online life because she she wants friends as badly as Haru, and we also have the seemingly normal guy who I suspect isn’t as ordinary as he appears. Though perhaps not as interesting as Haru and Shizuka, they are, nonetheless, pleasant additions to the cast and never fall too deeply into cliches or stereotypes.
The animation is as nice as I was expecting it to be with pretty fluid movement and vibrant colors that create an overall pleasant tone. The character designs aren’t ugly in the least and, putting aside medium view side shots, are consistently nice looking.
Overall, I’m enjoying Tonari a lot. Although I mainly started watching to see the romance develop, I find myself more drawn in by the characters now and not caring as much about seeing Haru and Shizuka quickly become a couple. Despite a shaky start, Tonari has mostly made up for it and is on its way to being a solid and enjoyable shoujo.