Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun logo

An excellent attempt at romance that fails to provide any meaningful ending.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun - 10 Screenshot 01

STORY

A smart girl, hell-bent on studying (Mizutani “Mitty” Shizuku), and a brillaint-yet-socially-awkward boy (Yoshida Haru) fall in love. Sounds familiar? It should if the title Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou rings a bell in your head. The basic premise is quite similar, though the themes touched upon in Tonari are quite different than the ones present in KareKano. While the flashbacks show Haru’s dark past and a strained relationship with his older brother, which both led to Haru’s social ineptitude, the main focus of the series is on the feelings blooming between Haru and Mitty.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 11 Screenshot 01

The unique spin of Tonari is that Mitty is perhaps one of the most logical anime characters in the last decade or so. Sure, she makes mistakes, but they stem from her lack of experience in interpersonal communication rather than from your typical anime stupidity. This makes watching her struggle with her newly discovered feelings that much more fascinating and entertaining.

My only beef with the series is that it lacks anything worthy of the name “conclusion”. The final episode resembles a mid-season filler and feels unnecessary, especially since the main selling point – Haru and Mitty’s relationship – is on the backburner throughout the entire episode.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 10 Screenshot 06

From what I’ve heard, the source material gets rather repetitive the further you go on with it, so somehow I’m not really sad that we probably won’t be getting a second season, but – I never thought I’d say this – I wish they would include an anime-original ending that would deliver at least *some* kind of closure.

CHARACTERS

Characters are perhaps the strongest point of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Mitty and Haru are two opposite, yet similar characters – although Shizuku’s logic and stoic behaviour stand in contrast to Haru’s  airheadness (is that even a word? :P), the two of them share a lack of aptitude in social relations. Watching their relationship develop despite the many misunderstandings is extremely fun to watch (Kimi ni Todoke and “I love you in a different way than you think I do”, I’m looking at you). I mean, hell, how many anime series have the male protagonist *punch* his love interest not once, not twice, but three times?

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 11 Screenshot 02

But it’s not only the protagonists that are so interesting. Take for example the unofficial star of the show, Natsume Asako. A typical anime stereotype of a clutz and an airhead (think Haru, minus the violence and brilliant mind), she is nevertheless a character as important to the series as Mitty or Haru. Not only does she stand as a symbol of friendship, she also gets quite a lot of air time and even some character development. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more convincing portrayal of a genki, though ultimately vulnerable and insecure girl. She desperately clings to her only friends and in the process gets hurt by Mitty’s insensitivity. She also struggles with her own emotions towards various characters. I think that Natsume is perhaps even more interesting than Mitty at some points of the show, perhaps because of this seemingly realistic portrayal of her character.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 10 Screenshot 07

And then there’s Yamaken… excuse me, Kenji Yamaguchi. Originally shown as Haru’s fake friend, his sarcastic and down-looking personality soon reveal that there’s more than meets the eye in case of Yamaken. He’s intelligent, rich and all the girls dream of dating him despite his slight disdain for the people who  aren’t as good as he is. However, he soon finds himself more and more attracted to Mitty – a process he doesn’t fully understand, which annoys him to no end. I think that his character is a nice representation of how many loves in school look like – you just get attracted to somebody without any good reason, and for people like Yamaken or me, who rely on logic and like to understand what is going on around them, this can get really infuriating.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 10 Screenshot 10

VISUALS

The visuals of Tonari are a tricky topic. On one hand, from a technical point of view, they border on sloppy. The backgrounds are unimaginative and lack details while characters sometimes look as if they were taken from a bad frame of a SHAFT series. Nevertheless, there is some magic to this terribad art, so that they don’t bother you (too much). Somehow, it works well with the goofiness of the show, especially in the humorous bits. Plus, the close-ups are usually almost spotless in their quality and since it’s a romcom, I’m not gonna be really anal about the visuals this time.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 11 Screenshot 03

AUDIO

Audio is yet another mixed bag. On one hand, the seiyuu do a marvellous job with their characters. The always amazing Tomatsu Haruka once again proves that she has an amazing vocal range (is this really the same person who played Asuna in SAO?!) and Suzuki Tatsuhisa manages to convey a convincing performance as Haru-kun. Additional props go to Tanezaki Atsumi, who is just *perfect* for the role Natsume. Really, even among seiyuu, who are far better at voice acting than their colleagues in English-speaking countries, it’s rare to be able to nail down a role so perfectly. It gets even more impressive when you realise that this is Tanezaki-san’s first role ever! Now that’s what I call a good career start.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 10 Screenshot 05

While the voice actors manage to provide quite a feast for our ears, the same cannot be said about the rest of audio effects. To be honest, it hasn’t been even two months since I last saw an episode of Tonari, but it took me literally days to figure out if I remember any music pieces from it. And sadly, although there is one rather nostalgic track, it’s not connected with any memorable scene and it will sadly get lost in the endless abyss of my memory soon enough. The problem with Tonari’s music is that besides not being memorable (which isn’t much of an argument to be honest, since the majority of romcoms use a rather generic soundtrack), it didn’t really enhance the mood of the show in any way. It *was there*, somewhere in the background and that’s the most I can say about it.

SUMMARY

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun had quite a potential. It could have become one of the best romcoms of the past few years thanks to its fascinating choice of lead characters and increased focus on side characters, however in the end it was bogged down by a lack of any conclusion. Hell, I could even understand an open-ended finish, but the last episode was so random and so inconclusive that I still feel that I’ve been tricked. Nevertheless, despite such a fatal (in my opinion) flaw, it remains one of the more interesting romcoms of the past few seasons and it’s a definite must-watch for people bored with yer typical stupid protagonists in love.

Tonari no Kaibutsu - 11 Screenshot 04

FINAL VERDICT – 8/10

(an unusual though interesting take on a romcom with some great characters, but what the hell was that final episode?!)

Advertisements