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.
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• 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?
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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.