A few days ago, I stumbled into an anime called ‘Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun’ by accident and I decided to watch it. That isn’t usually how I approach anime – Normally, I do some research on whatever anime I choose to watch. With manga, I tend to be more lax and read whatever cover attracts me. Now, with this title, I hadn’t read the manga previously either so I didn’t know what to expect. However, after watching only the first episode, I was completely won over.
The plot is simple, there are no supernatural elements or dramatic backstories. It’s just about a bunch of High School students and their emotional bonds and problems.
The protagonists are Shizuku Mizutani and Haru Yoshida. Shizuku is an intelligent high school student whose aim is to study hard, get top scores and later secure a high profile job. She was nicknamed ‘Dry Ice’ in Elementary School due to her inexpressive demeanour. She comes to know Haru when she is tasked with handing out class printouts to him. Haru is known as a delinquent who rarely attends school. On meeting Shizuku, he immediately considers her his friend. Though initially wary of Haru and his violent outbursts, Shizuku warms up to the misunderstood boy and his innocence and warmth. Haru immediately declares his love for Shizuku, who is taken aback at his sudden confession. Over the course of 13 episodes, we are introduced to some heart-warming supporting characters and are taken on a ride showing us how Shizuku and Haru fall in love with each other. It’s a bumpy ride but it’s filled with laughter and joy.
The supporting characters are a heart-warming and lively lot. We have the net-savvy Natsume-chan; the popular Baseball player, Sasayan-kun; the timid Class President, Oshima; the intelligent and cool, Yamaken, and his hilarious pals. We also have Haru’s cousin, Mitsuyoshi, who acts as a fatherly figure to Haru and later his entire friend circle, often accompanying them on trips and parties.
We also have Nagoya, a chicken, who Haru rescued. Nagoya somewhat becomes the mascot of the group and is loved by Haru and his friends. The group even builds a coop for him. In one of the episodes, during the School Festival, Haru is shown building a barricade for Nagoya, to protect him from all the outsiders that the festival would attract. He even goes on to name the barricade ‘Mizutani Shizuku’.
The storyline is made more realistic with everyday problems. Shizuku has trouble expressing her emotions because she saw her mother working for the sake of her household from her childhood. She learnt to sacrifice “petty” pleasures such as keeping pets and having fun because she was constantly studying in order to become more like her mother. Haru’s violent outbursts stem from his strained relationship with his father and his elder brother who admitted that his existence was a hindrance.
In a way, these conflicting emotional states were something I could easily relate to. All the characters have some sort of backstories which weren’t explored much in the anime. The manga offers a more vivid view into their lives.
A running gag in the anime is Haru getting charged up whenever someone touches Shizuku and running off to beat them to a pulp, often hurting Shizuku one way or the other. Soon after, Shizuku retaliates by telling Haru to maintain a distance of 2 meters from her or to not touch her at all.
Their relationship takes one step forward and thanks to Haru’s violent outbursts, quickly goes back five steps.
There are some love triangles too, be warned. You may end up supporting the least-obvious choice too. I know I certainly did. At times.
We see little character development in the anime as it is more laced with gags and a laid-back approach. However, the sincerity of the characters themselves was enough to satiate my hunger for a good anime.
If you wish to see some more development and of course, laugh some more, I would highly recommend reading the manga.
All in all, I would definitely encourage you to watch this anime and if you’re like me – someone who likes to research before committing – I would encourage you even more. The randomness will catch you off-guard, you will not find a single character you dislike and you will enjoy hilarious and endless banter among the group.