Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Ep. 1: “…in a friend kind of way?”

Is this a show I’m going to blog weekly? It’s too early to say. Still, the show’s first episode feels solid enough. Since there isn’t an enigmatic plot to make sense of, nor a grand statement about life being made, I’ll just jump right into what I liked, and didn’t like about the first episode.

* * * * *

• Nitpick: Not keen on the heroine leading the guy around on a chain leash in the OP.

I don’t think I need to explain why.

• Nitpick: It’s a studious girl (Shizuku) paired with a delinquent (Haru). How many other combinations are out there? Let’s see, in recent years, we’ve gotten the anti-social girl (sometimes, the studious girl and the anti-social girl are one and the same) paired with a dreamboat. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the studious girl paired with a studious dreamboat. Well… I actually can’t think of any other combinations. There’s clearly a dearth of creative romantic premises, but then again, execution is what matters most, right?

And y’know, since Haru is a delinquent, it’s up to Shizuku to penetrate that stony exterior to get at the Heart of Gold™.

• What I liked: According to Day, “One of the early panels in The Monster Next Door is the would-be love interest threatening to rape the female lead. Charming.” I don’t read manga, so I’ll just take her word for it. In the anime, Haru pulls Shizuku into an alley, and threatens her with rape if she makes any noise. What, then, is there to like about this! Well, the situation is instantly diffused: Haru goes all Solid Snake on us and hops into a box to sneak away from school. I think the guy is just incredibly socially awkward. This is particularly evident when we see the guy try to fit in at school later on in the episode; he just has no idea what he’s doing. With the overall context in mind, I think we can revisit the offending scene in a better light. The story doesn’t seem to be condoning his actions, and at the same time, it’s clear that Haru’s just a clod at this point in the series, i.e. he’ll say things he doesn’t necessarily mean.

Don’t get me wrong though. We guys tend to underestimate how threatening our actions can come across to the opposite gender, especially since a lot of girls have been taught at a young age that the outside world is dangerous and full of predators. So I’m not trying to claim that Haru’s rape threat was merely a harmless joke; it would be an inappropriate action in most context. But — and this is without any prior knowledge about the series — perhaps this is what the story is about. We don’t typically tune into our favorite shows to watch two awesome people awesome their way to an awesome finale. With that in mind, Haru’s definitely flawed, socially awkward — the type of person who might make inappropriate rape jokes — and rough around the edges, but it’s the first episode. Let’s see how his character arc develops from here.

That said, if some of you guys still can’t get past the offending scene, I understand. I disagree, but shrug, we all draw our lines somewhere.

• Just an observation: Teachers in anime are either ridiculously friendly with their students, or ridiculously stern disciplinarians (see: the vocal club lady in Tari Tari). In this case, Shizuku’s teacher belongs to the former group.

• Just an observation: ‘Dry Ice’ is a bizarre nickname, especially when you consider that young children came up with it. I was expecting a sublimation joke to follow, but I guess we draw the line at phase changes.

• Nitpick: I always dislike it, however, when a reluctant person questions, “What am I doing here?” So… you willingly followed someone all day long, and now you’re complaining about it? It’s just so cliche. Give me something more about Shizuku’s character.

• Nitpick: Was the CGI asphalt really necessary? You guys couldn’t animate some scrolling frames of asphalt? Really?

• Just an observation: The receptionist at Haru’s apartment looks like a clean-shaven Harima from School Rumble.

• What I liked: I don’t know why, but I like the visual style, especially the film grain-like thing on the walls:

It might look sloppy and messy from a certain point-of-view, but the way I see it, it beats just plain, solid-colored walls.

• Nitpick: Haru is actually smart — no, the smartest student in their class. I think I’ve written a post somewhere about shoujos always finding themselves in a competition with their love interests. People disagreed with me then, and they’ll probably disagree with me now, but I find it a little fishy that in nearly every instance of this particular scenario, the guy always start off intellectually superior. The girl then almost always has to play catch-up. Sure, by itself, this particular trope — and I loathe to use that term — seems benign, but when you see it over and over in anime, you have to start questioning the trend.

Predictably enough, Shizuku is bitter about Haru’s natural aptitude for calculus, if not every other academic subject. That’s another thing about this scenario that bothers me, but I guess I’ll just have to chalk it up to the culture. I’m Asian, but being born and raised in the ‘States, academic competition has never prevented me from being someone’s friend. Then again, Nyoron, one of Moe Sucks’ two nonexistent contributors, had actually grown up and gone to school in South Korea, and it’s apparently a battle royale over there over the class rankings and whatnot.

• Just an observation: I wouldn’t be surprised if Haru’s behavior was based on a cat:

Just the way he’s sitting there licking his hand, factoring in his churlish behavior and sudden attachment to Shizuku, Haru is very much like a goddamn cat. Maybe he’s a dog, but I’ve never been around a dog.

• What I liked: I think it’s amusing to watch Haru compare his “romance” to what he reads in what is probably sappy shoujo manga. Hopefully, this particular aspect of the show keeps up. In this, you get a bit of a meta-commentary, and it’s made all the more ironic by the fact that Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is a silly rom-com itself.

What if Haru’s corny actions — wholy inspired by manga, by the way — doesn’t meet his expectations, but they totally work on Shizuku?

* * * * *

Well, the first episode didn’t bore me, and that’s usually more than what I can say for most shows starting out. I’m sure most of us are tired of hearing it, but the question is always relevant when it comes to assessing any romance: do they have chemistry? We don’t have to come up with an answer right away, but for now, I’m leaning towards a yes.

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25 thoughts on “Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Ep. 1: “…in a friend kind of way?”

  1. Naota

    We don’t typically tune into our favorite shows to watch two awesome people awesome their way to an awesome finale.

    I absolutely agree.

    Sadly, the overwhelming popularity of Sword Art does not.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Yo, this ain’t even about SAO and you’re still trying to pick on it! Do you have a crush on SAO or something?

      Reply
  2. I Hate Memphis

    Once I saw that the male protagonist threated to rape her, I lost all interest in this show whatsoever. I’m sorry, but treatment of women like that completely dissuades me from giving any show like this a chance. Hence why I don’t watch much anime any more.

    Reply
    1. Ian Caronia

      E Minor said it properly, but let me add in by saying that Haru, the guy who threatened rape, literally only said that line and then jumped onto being “wacky”. By that I mean that there’s no emphasis on the threat, no musical cue, no zoom in, Dry Ice (since I can’t be bothered to remember her name) the girl doesn’t even seemed scared. She’s creeped out by him and nod, but then is perplexed by his box-jump and follows him.

      I’ve got my fair share of issues with rape as a subject, even as a throw-away one-liner, however the main thing here isn’t that Haru is just wacky or socially awkward, he is very clearly a schizophrenic. Literally. He presents all of the usual symptoms, ranging from paranoia to drastic mood swings and so on. Now, understand that he also doesn’t seem to be the type to ever do such a thing even despite that. Rest assured that, at least for the first episode, that throw-away line was spoken in the same sense as a very timid and awkward retarded child threatening to punch another kid’s dog if they didn’t follow them. They wouldn’t do it, but they still say it in hopes to make them follow.

      I hope I helped out, mate. I watched the ep too and trust, there’s no actual threat of rape as a topic, not even as a comical one.

      Reply
      1. A Day Without Me

        Uh, pretty sure Memphis doesn’t really care to have it “explained”, bro – it made them uncomfortable, so they’re not going to keep watching. I can already tell you that I’m probably going to have a similar reaction when I do watch it, ’cause, seriously, do not care that its an attempt to demonstrate that he’s got shit social skills, there are other ways of having done that.

        Reply
        1. Ian Caronia

          No, hey, I understand, mate. It’s just that I often react the same way but didn’t this time, and so I was hoping I could help in some way. The fact that there’s no emphasis apparently mattered to me so I thought it might matter to I Hate Memphis.
          -If I didn’t help then I’m sure there’s no harm done. At least, I hope. That being said, I agree that it was utterly needless and therefore should’ve never been there (a fundamental writer’s rule). Easily could’ve replaced it with a childish thing like “Indian Burn” or “purple nurple” or the like. Personally think it would’ve fit better with the character.

    2. E Minor Post author

      Hence why I don’t watch much anime any more.

      Not here to change your mind or anything. Just curious though… what do you watch?

      Reply
      1. I Hate Memphis

        First off, I’m impressed by the maturity of some of the people on this blog. It’s nice to have a respectful and intelligent conversation for once. To answer your question, Mr. E Minor, I watch anime that I deem to be of certain standards. Some shows I have recently enjoyed are: Requiem for the Phantom (beautiful show, lacking in the animation budget, but extremely well written), Shakugan no Shana (one of the only shows from its genre I can ever enjoy because of the mystical plot and immense world to explore), Deadman Wonderland (exciting, somewhat original, controversial, and fairly unique characters), and some others. Some I’m interested in giving a shot are Stein’s Gate, Fate/Zero, and A Certain Magical Index. Also, I watch a few live action shows like Grimm (NBC), Last Resort, and Burn Notice.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Deadman Wonderland

          I’m surprised to see this show on your list considering your reaction to the anime above. I’m not trying to be snarky at all, but you didn’t find the instances of almost-rape in Deadman Wonderland equally questionable? In my mind, it’s even more egregious there because the narrative is exploiting a serious issue for nothing more than shock value. In Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, it’s a dumb joke with (debatably) no actual threat.

        2. I Hate Memphis

          I haven’t watch that much of Deadman. Didn’t really know about rape in that one. But I guess the reason I could put up with it more is the fact that I’m not supposed to sympathize with the character who threatens rape. Why would I watch a show with a protagonist who even makes a hint of treating women like that? Villains will be villains, but it’s already easy to hate them even without the rape.

        3. E Minor Post author

          But I guess the reason I could put up with it more is the fact that I’m not supposed to sympathize with the character who threatens rape.

          I can buy this, but you don’t actually have to sympathize with Haru. I certainly don’t. But in any case, I won’t bug you about this particular topic any further.

  3. A Day Without Me

    Re: lack of variety in romantic pairings in shoujo anime – last shoujo romance I genuinely enjoyed was Lovely Complex, which maybe I enjoyed in part because it wasn’t the same old pairing we’ve seen twenty million times by now (also, its humor was actually, in a shocking twist, humorous). Instead, LoveCom was about a tall girl and a short boy, both of whom are touchy about their heights.

    But, yeah, that is exactly one example I can think of.

    …oh wait! Itazura na Kiss had smart guy and dumb-ass girl! Although the manga hails from the late 80s/early 90s, so that may be why it isn’t competing smartness pair-type. Ditto for Hanasakeru Seishounen (the manga’s era bit, not the dumb-ass and smarty pants bit), although that’s reverse harem, so maybe it isn’t a good comparison anyway. And maybe that’s why we don’t want to consider Fruits Basket, either.

    But, yeah, more recent stuff, smart girl and smarter guy. Sigh. So dull.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Lovely Complex

      I remember watching and enjoying a live action version of it. As such, no reason to watch the anime!

      I’ve never seen the other shows you mentioned because I’ve got enough on my plate.

      Reply
      1. A Day Without Me

        Well, since Fruits Basket is crap anyway… yeah. Although thought you’d mentioned at some point considering Hanasakeru Seishounen because of the politics and intrigue angle?

        LoveCom’s live action movie was pretty good, so I’m cool with that.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Although thought you’d mentioned at some point considering Hanasakeru Seishounen because of the politics and intrigue angle?

          Yeah, but time. Harem Hill takes up a lot of time. Plus, I have a very neat (in my head) project to execute in the next few weeks…

  4. Ian Caronia

    I’m actually offended to a degree, and very interested as well. I’m offended by the anime because Haru, as I commented, is obviously schizophrenic and seems to have been for some time. The ideas that “people fear” him comes from the misunderstanding about his disorder. What disturbs me is the dog theme. “I never liked dogs”, Haru licking himself, the girl putting a leash on him in the OP: all of these allude to the idea that Haru is not just wacky but “untamed”, and she will be the one to correct him onto the right path, and in doing so she will lighten the fuck up.
    -…But relating Haru to a dog is just…horrible. The guy is mentally disturbed. I’m not even talking like “Oh, this character is written like they’re retarded or something”. I’m talking “This guy should be seeing a doctor and taking pills.” I bet you, E Minor, that if you read up on schizophrenia and rewatch the pilot, you’ll see what I’m talking about. This isn’t just social awkwardness, this is social awkwardness brought on by a disorder. The fact that such an individual is being paired with a callous girl like…what’serface…and being linked to a dog theme is what disturbs me.

    However I’m really interested to see how things play out. Not with Dry Ice. Hell no. I’m too tired of characters like her. Hopefully there’ll be more to her in the next episodes. I mean how things play out for Haru. His “friends”, the way the school treats him, and his behavior are very realistic (to a degree). I wonder what they’ll do to give him an arc. Hopefully he’ll get the right help, maybe through Ice, because otherwise he’s not going to get any better.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I bet you, E Minor, that if you read up on schizophrenia and rewatch the pilot, you’ll see what I’m talking about. This isn’t just social awkwardness, this is social awkwardness brought on by a disorder.

      I don’t disagree with the last thing you said, but I think you’re being a little extreme here. Schizophrenia? Uh… no, I think Haru definitely exhibits some autistic tendencies, but there’s no reason to jump all the way to schizophrenia.

      But you’re right in that the potential of the pet theme is problematic. As it stands, however, the OP is the only instance of the “taming” aspect being overt. Let’s just see how the rest of the show plays out.

      Reply
      1. Ian Caronia

        I’ll certainly see how it goes. This is one of those shows I’ll be watching alongside your reviews for sure.

        *Schizophrenia is often confused with autism and visa versa because of similar traits. I only lept to schizophrenia because of the traits Haru’s exhibited, those being severe paranoia, drastic mood swings, heightened aggression, a lack of an awareness of his surroundings and sense of reality. Trust me, I’ve got family with schizophrenia. Not every schizophrenic hallucinates (if that’s why you don’t believe he’s schizophrenic. If that’s not the reason, then please disregard this sentence, mate).
        -Still, you could also be right about it possibly being a form of autism instead. I suppose it comes down to when he was diagno- Oh who am I kidding? He won’t be diagnosed in this anime, will he? I doubt there’ll ever be anything concrete for why he’s the way he is.
        “He’s just wacky and awkward, okay? Can we move on to the comedy now?”
        …Meh, I guess I could just be bitter from having experienced other anime that put forth such a character only to have them be ONLY “zany” comic reliefs (black face humor). Would be nice if this turned out to be somewhat like “Rain Man” in how it approached and dealt with the topic, though I doubt it considering the source.
        Let’s hope they don’t try the “pet lover” thing, only with the guy as the “pet” this time.
        Good update, by the way!

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          severe paranoia

          Why do you think it’s paranoia? Maybe it’s true that others fear him, because he’s strange and different. High schoolers aren’t exactly an understanding bunch. I can see how Haru’s behavior might be off-putting, and this is further compounded by his inability to understand why he turns them off.

          drastic mood swings,

          Or a hot-tempered teen.

          a lack of an awareness of his surroundings

          Socially inexperienced. Like I mentioned in the post, he uses manga as a reference for how his courtship of Shizuku is supposed to play out.

          I’m not a doctor, and even if I was one, I wouldn’t diagnose a character in a rom-com, where things will often be exaggerated for comedic effect.

        2. Ian Caronia

          -It’s clear people do fear him, but his reaction towards finding out Ice was in the same room as those guys was not a case of suspecting they feared him. It was a case of immediately concluding they wanted to inflict harm on her, which, considering she wasn’t even near them really, was what I’d call severe paranoia. Plus the whole “spy from the school” thing, but that might be explained away.
          -”hot-tempered teen”
          He goes from ranting to suspicious to smiling in a few seconds flat, mate. That’s not just hormones.
          -”Socially inexperienced”
          He swats Ice in the face, bleeding her nose, without so much as registering her presence. The minute he dived into his delusion she was being/was already harmed by those guys he went nuts on them without any regard for her. Full-on revenge mode, you can say. That’s what I meant by that.

          “I’m not a doctor, and even if I was one, I wouldn’t diagnose a character in a rom-com, where things will often be exaggerated for comedic effect.”
          Now that’s not entirely fair, mate. You make me feel like I’m shoving a magnifying glass up to my computer screen and poring over a psych textbook while watching the episode. haha! Or maybe I made myself out to be that kind of anime nerd. haha
          - I’ll agree to disagree if it comes to that, mate, but my point is that Haru’s personality seems to be too deliberately written to simply be one of “those” RomCom characters, you know? At least in the first episode, anyway. Plus it’s fun to speculate, isn’t it?
          Is it autism? Is it schizophrenia? Maybe it’s just brain damage from sustaining heavy trauma to the skull as a child as a result of teasing that chicken at the end of the episode. haha

        3. E Minor Post author

          It was a case of immediately concluding they wanted to inflict harm on her, which, considering she wasn’t even near them really, was what I’d call severe paranoia.

          Severe paranoia? I think he was just jumping to conclusions.

          He goes from ranting to suspicious to smiling in a few seconds flat, mate. That’s not just hormones.

          Sure, but it’s also indicative of a hyperbolic rom-com. Perhaps you think Dokuro-chan should take anger management classes. ;v

          He swats Ice in the face, bleeding her nose, without so much as registering her presence.

          Well, it was an accident and he’s got tunnel vision fully engaged because of his anger. He’s very protective of Shizuku, but he doesn’t have the social graces to observe the subtleties of the situation.

          You make me feel like I’m shoving a magnifying glass up to my computer screen and poring over a psych textbook while watching the episode. haha!

          Well, you might be right, but I just don’t think the evidence in the first episode wholly supports your conclusion. You can interpret it in many other ways, and so I don’t find the schizophrenia diagnosis most convincing. But, as you say, we can agree to disagree, and see how the future episodes play out.

  5. r042

    I’m probably going to write something about this show because really it doesn’t know what the hell it wants to do. It falls squarely into the “comic abuse” trope ala Sousuke/Chidori or Takeru/Sumika but is even then wildly tonally inconsistent. What’s more, I didn’t get a good sense of what it wanted to do with its premise overall. It will probably get one more episode to see if it knows what it’s doing but I’m not hopeful. Haru is just too sincerely creepy at times to make his shenanigans believable.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I’m probably going to write something about this show because really it doesn’t know what the hell it wants to do.

      I get what you’re saying about the tonal inconsistency, but it doesn’t seem to bother me. I see it somehow fitting Haru’s personality shifts. On the other hand, Shizuku is completely flatline, but Haru manages to rile her up. Granted, this does reeks a bit of “guy gets girl to live her life.”

      Haru is just too sincerely creepy at times to make his shenanigans believable.

      I think that this is the premise. The joke right now between my friends is that Haru has Asperger’s. In any case, I still think he’s sincerely trying to make friends, so I’m interested in seeing how he develops. If anything, I find the girl totally boring.

      Reply

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