Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is a bit of a strange beast. A series predicated largely upon frankness and speaking your mind, the show initially caught my attention because, hey, you just never know where a show like this will go.
Now that 13 episodes have passed, and the only thing remaining is a bonus episode included with the manga, it's time to pass judgement on the series. Did it live up to its initial promise, or did the show spin its wheels and go nowhere?
Find out after the jump!
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is about the dysfunctional relationship between Shizuku, the iciest of ice queens whose only focus in life is studying, and Haru, the ultra-smart delinquent whose sole reason for attending school is to be close to Shizuku. A chance request from a teacher sent Shizuku to Haru's place of residence, and ever since, the boy has been enamored with her. Follows her around everywhere, proclaims his love almost instantly, and doesn't give up.
The bluntness of the characters, and the ability to understand and convey their feelings, instantly attracted me to the show. In my mind, the show existed as a counter-balance to slow-moving harem titles and shows like Kimi ni Todoke. There's nothing wrong with a slow-moving show, but it became the norm and took over the romance genre. Change is necessary.
But if the characters come to admit their feelings -- one way or another -- this early in the show, where does that leave the remainder of the show to go?
Kaibutsu-kun took a remarkably similar path to shows like Kimi ni Todoke. The majority of the show was focused around taking two people who had very few friends and rapidly expanding their world. We saw this with Sawako in Kimi ni Todoke, along with a number of other programs. Not only did this provide more storylines to fill in the remainder of the series, but it also introduced characters to wrinkle the Shizuku and Haru relationship. Challengers appeared, new potential pairings emerged, and it gave some livelihood to the show.
All that only took the show so far. Haru's feelings weren't changing. Shizuku was the only one that needed to evolve. Even so, she made a determination pretty early on that she did indeed like Haru. So now what? She set a timeframe to delay when they would be together.
That might work in a real-world relationship, but when it comes to a show, that just kills the enjoyment. Any time Shizuku pushed away from Haru, she quickly ended up verbalizing her feelings either to herself or directly to Haru, which took away from the drama of a "will she/won't she" situation. All this time it was clear that she would still end up with him, it was just a matter of when.
It could have been complicated with the side-characters, but nobody ever presented a legitimate challenge to Shizuku's or Haru's interest in their partner. Yamaken pursues Shizuku, but never effectively. He does serve as a foil to show a darker side of Haru, but it's never expanded upon. And Oshima's interest in Haru doesn't pierce the dense AT field surrounding his heart, leaving her an ineffective side-character.
They could have pursued secondary relationships more, such as Mitsuyoshi and Asako. It was touched on in the final episode, but they could have more fully developed the story. Same thing with Souhei -- perhaps pair him with Oshima, or at least give his character more dimensionality that he had in the show.
Ultimately, the show draws itself out a few episodes beyond where it truly needed to be. Sure, the manga manages to keep the story going for a while yet, but at least the way the anime ended, it was in a drawn-out fashion, not with a memorable bang.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun certainly proved to be a show of interest, but the total execution proved to be lacking. Should the show be licensed, this will be a rental-only title. The first half proves to be great, and a really engaging view, but things peter out afterwards. For the animators and staffers who worked on this show, hopefully Kaibutsu-kun will be a launching pad for a more complete and thought-out show.
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