Shoujo is a genre far, far away from the interests of most anime fans I know. Nevertheless, just as with any genre, the truly great shoujo shows deserve to be loved by all. Franchises like Nana and Ouran High School Host Club belong to my all-time favourites and this season’s My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) caught my eye because of its fantastic teaser trailer that sees the main characters face off in a spaghetti-western-esque stand-off amongst other things. Somehow a chicken is involved as well.
This zaniness seemed like a colourful and far stretch from a genre usually associated with melodrama, rage fuel and Fifty Shades Of Grey-eque glorified abuse. The quirky opening sequence manages to uphold this promise, with dancing and other varieties of goofing off bringing some life to the otherwise rather forgettable song. The episode starts off with a long, long exposition monologue in which our main character Shizuku blatantly explains that the guy sitting next to her, Haru, is a delinquent and never attends school. When a teacher asks Shizuku to deliver some notes to Haru, she hesitatingly agrees and finds the man in question at an arcade, where he punches a guy in the face for losing at Super Marco Bros., jumps out of a window and eventually concludes that Shizuku must be his best friend for willing to bring him notes.
The next day, Shizuku, still visibly annoyed by Haru’s childlike antics, reports back to the teacher, yet refuses to further assist her in readjusting Haru. When returning from school, sh-
Not this shit again.
Okay, stop the presses. I get why this line is in there. Threatening to rape someone never ever makes you a nice dude, but unlike many, many other shoujo shows, this is not one of these anime where the lead girl actually likes being ravaged by a pretty asshat. It’s not exactly the best way to portray Haru’s complete and utter lack of social skills, but it gets the point across. Heck, after a while, it even turns out that, despite macho mishaps like this one, Haru is actually a pretty funny guy and a joy to watch.
My Little Monster is a show about conflicting personalities. Haru is a misunderstood loose cannon, an idealistic, cheerful, but brash dude who acts on impulse because he doesn’t know better. His intentions are good, but he doesn’t know how to convey them so he often ends up doing things that are considered barely acceptable. He punches Shizuku, threatens to rape her, throws soda all over her and immediately confesses to her simply because he does not know how to properly deal with girls. In that way, the show’s title is very appropriate. Shizuku, on the other hand is a sarcastic, studious and uptight little lady who prefers to keep any and all impulses in check. Furthermore, she will bring down harsh judgement on whoever does not agree with her. Just like Haru, she ranges form bloody annoying to likable. A lot of My Little Monster‘s success will depend entirely on how much of their more questionable antics its main characters will get away with, and how much their personalities will change for the better.
This applies to the writing as well. Snarky narration might have worked in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, yet in My Little Monster it is pointless to the point of being grating. Shizuku’s narration is nothing but a terrible excuse for dumping exposition and information onto the viewers, to the point where she monologues out loud about her own personality traits. This is not how you write, people.
Aside from the tedious narration and capricious characters, My Little Monster looks like a quirky shoujo romance that stands out well enough to justify a watch. While the eventual judgement will depend on the credibility of the romance and the growth of the characters, My Little Monster seems to be a great pastime for fans of Maid-sama! or Kimi Ni Todoke. As long as they keep Haru’s more brazen side under control.