I really liked this anime. I probably can’t exactly tell you why since I myself am not too sure but there are some things that I’m sure of. It’s stories like this that inspire me to write. I can imagine Skye’s jaw dropping after she read that. Well, that was before she, too, came to understand the beauty of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (to be known as TnK from here till the end of the post). “But the story and characters were all kinds of erratic and neurotic and messed-up,” you might say. True, but that’s exactly it.
Had I grown up in a normal environment – lead a lovely ‘perfect’ life, joined clubs in school, been at least semi-popular, been in a little clique of my own, gotten As for every subject, hung out with friends, kept up with fashion trends, listened to popular music, chatted with my friends about clothes, boys and makeup, etc. – I might have found TnK stupid, childish, unrealistic and weird. Let’s face it, after one episode, I would have left it at that, called it crazy and never come back to it.
But I grew up differently – it had its ups and downs and it’s shaped me to be who I am today and I’m okay with who I am – so I can embrace weirdness better, I guess.
If you didn’t know, I write. I love writing. Writing has been a huge part of me since I was a kid. It’s my outlet, my way of telling my story or someone else’s story, my way of letting my feelings out, my way of making stories from movies or books continue after they end, my way of creating characters, my way of rewriting endings that didn’t satisfy me. And it’s also one of my favorite ways of giving morals to stories. I am ALL about morals in stories.
I didn’t realize until very late in my teenage years that I made a lot of my characters misunderstood or vulnerable and made them go through certain things… and I fixed them along the way. They would start out in pieces but I would try to make them whole, better, more in love with themselves. Someone would come along and ‘fix’ them (do I sound like a Coldplay song already?) or they would rediscover themselves and see themselves in a better light. Know what I mean?
Why? It’s subconscious. Bits of my experience, personality and childhood are in those vulnerable characters and by ‘healing’ (for lack of a better word) them in the stories that I write, I’m making myself better somehow and I don’t know, writing could-have-beens. Like the outcomes are what should have/could have/would have been if things had been different. Does that make sense? Was that too deep and confusing? Did that make me sound like an emo kid? I’m not… haha. It’s life, you know.
AAAnyway, I suppose that’s the reason why I liked TnK so much. Because Haru and Shizuku are really weird. Weird in a good way though. They’re both outcasts and kind of ‘damaged’ in some ways but then the ending is uplifting and I really, really liked that about TnK.
Brief summary: Yoshida Haru is a delinquent kid who hasn’t been to school since the beginning of middle school (how awesome) because he got into a fight on the first day of middle school and people judged him and became afraid of him. He had a troubled childhood (divorced parents, mean father), is no longer close to his brother whom he looked up to and loved, but is somehow intellectually gifted.
He was sent to live with his Aunt Kyoko and cousin Mitsuyoshi from middle school onwards but because he refused to go to school anymore, his aunt became his teacher and was almost like a mother to him. Then she died and since then he has continued living with his cousin who is 8 years older than him.
I like the way Haru and Shizuku met. She was asked by the teacher to send notes to Haru since he was still suspended from school for engaging in a fight on the first day of school. Then… I won’t spoil it for you. I could write out the whole story here – I really rather like writing freaking long synopses of stories but Skye says that I like spoilers too much and a lot of people don’t so here I am, doing my best to leave the suspense wherever it belongs.
So… this would be a good time to dish out on a bit of why I love spoilers: I hate suspense. If you tell me a secret, I’ll probably forget it. Seriously, friends have told me secrets before and when they ask, oh remember the time I told you this and that? I’ll be like, no when? So yeah, your secret will be pretty much safe with me. But if you ask me to keep a surprise a secret, I’d probably fail you. Sorry but I’m just not good at hiding surprises and I hate surprises.
Tons of people hate me for the fact that sometimes I’ll be reading a book… then I’ll go right to the end and read the ending. HAHA. You’re totally screaming, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? I know. I just think that if the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere or if it’s too exciting, I need to read the ending. If the ending is satisfactory, I will continue and the thrill of reading will still be there. Really. I will enjoy the ending just as much. If the ending sucks, chances are I’ll just drop the book and never return to it. I don’t know. I just see it as if the endings are depressing/ridiculous/pathetic, why waste my time reading something that I know I won’t enjoy?
Back to the story. Haru is a rather complex character in the sense that while he’s prone to violence, he’s actually a pretty naive and sensitive guy. The years of not going to school and being somewhat a genius may have contributed to this strange personality. He says inappropriate things without thinking twice and blurts out whatever is on his mind but he actually means well. Despite everything that he is or isn’t, he’s just an honest guy who wants to have friends and be normal though he doesn’t know how to.
Then there’s Mizutani Shizuku. I honestly thought I wouldn’t like her. She seemed like one of those cold, unfeeling characters who could be arrogant and annoying. But she wasn’t. She’s just a girl who grew up without a mother in the picture. Her father, who is a supposed failure and can’t seem to hold a job for more than a certain period of time, becomes the stay-at-home dad while Shizuku’s mother has to work far away to support their family.
Thus the lack of a maternal figure in Shizuku’s life. She dedicates her life to studying and acing all her exams because she wants to be like her mother who seems to be something of a power woman. She thinks that everything revolves around doing well academically and she won’t let anything/anyone deter her from her ultimate goal of acing her exams and being first.
Anyway, TnK’s story – it was real to me. At times, over-the-top (as most animes can be) but ultimately something I can appreciate. I like how Haru and Shizuku’s relationship was so honest and they helped each other grow. A pair of oddball teenagers discovering parts of themselves through each other, things like love and honesty and friendships. They started out with no friends, slowly gained a few and from there life suddenly looked different, better, less lonely, less self-centered. What can be better than that?
The ending was hopeful and that’s what I look for in shows and books. I love a wonderful, hopeful ending that makes you feel that it’s only just the beginning. It was left hanging but for the first time, I can appreciate an ending like that. TnK is the kind of anime I wish I thought of first. It’s beautiful.
The other characters were likeable. I liked Natsume and wish I had a friend like that. She’s protective of Shizuku, whom she calls Mitty, and is a true girl friend. Haha, the way she kept telling Yamaken that he was interfering with Haru and Shizuku’s relationship. I didn’t like Yamaken and felt like his appearance wasted time that could have been spent showing other characters. I mean, they could have showed more Nagoya – the rooster – and I wouldn’t have minded. Skye loves Yuzan who is Haru’s older brother who pops into the show now and then because he’s so cute and voiced by Yuichi Nakamura.
My other favorite character would be Mi-chan. He’s adorable and such a cool big brother figure to Haru. This would also be one of the first stories where the older guy turns down the younger girl because of an inappropriate age difference. To be honest, if Mi-chan and Natsume had gotten together, I wouldn’t have minded. Their age difference isn’t that huge and they would make a cute couple.
What else? Hmm. The art was nice. I loved all Haru’s outfits and I wish our school uniform had been that awesome. Haru’s character design did remind me of a few male leads from other shows but at the end of the show, it’s clear that Haru is of his own league. The colors used in TnK were very vibrant and fitting for the setting and mood of the show. The setting was also really beautiful – I LOVE the stairs leading up to Shizuku’s house. So dreamy and the last episode when she and Haru stood there? Loved it!
The OVA was beautiful. I loved the ending SO. MUCH.
Skye and I LOVE their soundtrack composed by Elements Garden. One of our favorites is this track called Hope. It’s a beautiful piano composition that will hopefully move you even if you haven’t/will never watch the anime. This 2-minute track perfectly describes the whole show. You’ll get what I mean after you finish watching.
The opening and ending themes were okay, nothing too special but nothing too boring.
Ohhh, I forgot to mention the voice acting. I HEART Suzuki Tatsuhisa as Haru’s seiyuu. I cannot imagine a more perfect voice for him. Kyaaaaa! Haruka Tomatsu as Shizuku was pretty darned perfect especially with that indifferent, unfeeling voice that made us LOL. I don’t know the other voice actors too well but they were good too.
Overall: 9/10. Loved it. I want to rewatch it already! Morals of the story: 1) life is about finding the shades of grey/a balance that works for you – it’s not all or nothing, 2) life doesn’t only revolve around studying and being super successful, 3) love/friendship can be found in the strangest of places (like a batting cage), 4) you can learn a lot about yourself through other people. If only life were that simple though.
Sometimes you just need a bit of weirdness in your life, even if you’re already weird to begin with. I don’t know what’s better than a weird teenage romantic comedy + slice of life anime.
Haha this may actually be one of the most personal reviews ever. I’ve included bits of myself in this post which I usually wouldn’t.
P.S: I didn’t think that the usual way I review animes would fit for this one so I just wrote it out this way. Let me know what you think.