Monday, December 31, 2012

Anime Review: My Little Monster

As a reminder, after this and my 2012 in Review post I'm taking a break for the rest of the week (both because I need to prep for an upcoming con and I have a headcold which makes writing cohesive and interesting reviews trickier than normal). In any case, when I first saw this one appear on the fall season chart I wasn't that interested in it, both it and Say "I Love You" seemed to have very similar and, well, bland premises and not even the lure of Brain's Base was enough to make me interested in it. I don't remember why I did check it out, probably due to good reviews or the fact that I had nothing else to watch on Mondays) but I will quite happily admit that I was wrong and that there is nothing bland about this series at all. Oh and on a random note, the title better translates to something like My Neighbor the Monster, I have no idea why the Japanese licensors thought this one was a good title nor to I know why I haven't seen any crossover My Little Pony fanart yet.

My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)

Summary: Shizuka is an isolated studybug who doesn't care about friendship or anything like that, all she wants are the best grades. So it doesn't make a lot of sense when her homeroom teacher sends her off with the classwork for an absent (and, according to all the rumors, violent) classmate but with promises of bribes she does so anyway. Her classmate Haru turns out to be rather different than she was expecting, he's just as isolated as her but he relishes hanging out with people and turns out to be quite social if given a chance. Of course, since Shizuka was the first person who "reached out" to him he's quite drawn to her now..... 

The Good: I ended up identifying with Shizuka and one of the other female leads (Natsume) more than I expected and just really ended up liking them. Honestly I liked almost the entire cast and since this is a show that's built around it's character interactions that's a great thing, it was a fun show to watch. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the romance genre but I liked how it was handled between Shizuka and Haru. Well, not some of Haru's stranger out bursts but how the two of them are both in love for the first time and just trying to find their feet but definitely getting more comfortable with each other and even a bit jealous (which normally would bother me but here both of them realize what they're doing and use it to figure out how they feel, which is also so ridiculously characteristic for them). It's a character driven show with a lot of romance but also a lot of time spent on it's side characters and some humor, it strikes a good balance and I'm sad that Brains Base doesn't make many sequels these days.

The Bad: I have seen a lot of people, quite rightly, call out Haru's stranger behavior (which runs the gamut from "he doesn't understand society so it's quirky!" to "NO DON'T DO THAT, NO") especially in regard to some, odd (to put it mildly), turns of phase he uses to talk about his relationship with Shizuka. In the end though I am okay with their budding relationship for one reason, the manga (and the characters) never imply or so that this is a normal relationship and Shizuka is quick to call out Haru when he does something wrong. There are many (too many in my opinion) shojo manga where the male lead isn't quite as bad as Haru but it's portrayed as completely normal and romantic, at least here the story shows that it's off and it's honestly about it. I can still understand why some people might be put off the story for this reason and it does really make me wish that whatever character development Haru is going to get that it came more quickly. I was also okay with the anime-original ending, partially because I had heard that there wasn't a really good place in the manga to end a 13 episode series, and also because it gathered all the characters together one last time to interact and that's as much as I was hoping from it.

The Audio: I honestly wasn't overly fond of the opening or ending songs for the show, although their tone matched well with the perky tone of the show (also, no translations from CR to help me see if the songs actually made sense in context). I really liked all of the acting however, some of the actors were actually pretty new (this is the second role that Natsume's actress had) and for the others their voices weren't as recognizable and I kind of liked that (since I wasn't associating the voice with another character the whole time that is). The character's had a roughness to their voices which made them sound more like high school students than characters in a lot of anime do (plus it looks like a number of the actors aren't even that old) so everything acting wise sounded perfect to me. 

The Visuals: The art was, in a word, fun. It used simplified/chibi versions of the character just often enough to make it amusing (and not so often it felt like the art budget was being stretched) and was plenty colorful as well. I also swear that the school uniforms don't look as ugly as they do in that promo image, somehow the show makes them work.

So, I give this show four out of five stars and sadly of the three shojo series in the fall this was the one that didn't get licensed, even though it's the one I would snatch up in a heartbeat. Sure it's streaming over at Crunchyroll but you hear me NISA? I'd buy this, please license it please! (Or Sentai or Funimation, honestly I'm not that picky about where I get it from)