Tonari no Kaibatsu-kun 1, Joshiraku 10
Tonari no Kaibatsu-kun … What we got here is a girl who studies all the time meeting the class thug, realizes he’s not so bad after all, and the romance that happens after. This is such a tired story that the only time you see it in anime now is when they’re making fun of it, but this show adds a couple of twists.
Shizuku, the studious girl, isn’t a terribly pleasant person to be around. Since we’re watching the show mostly through her eyes we get a sense of the loneliness that this causes her, but also her mindset. They use a flashback of elementary school when the class rabbit dies. The rest of the class is crying, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t feel sad and frankly admits it. We don’t learn why she doesn’t, just that this is her mindset. So when the boy, Haru, decides she’s his friend she’s not sure how to handle it, especially when he confesses to her the second or third time they see each other. And that’s before the kiss he sneaks in the episode’s final minute.
The big problem with the first episode is Haru. He beats people up on the slightest provocation, snarls at everyone else, at one point abducts Chizuru threatening to rape her if she resists. Even if he was joking or didn’t quite understand the effect of these words (and I suspect both), it reveals an ugly mindset. To balance this we’d normally discover that he has a heart of gold or something, and the show actually plays with this cliché when he shows her the “stray dog” he rescued–a fully grown doberman with a studded collar, but it goes farther than that. Haru is a man-child who doesn’t understand how school works, or friends, or anything. When Shizuru (accidentally) talks him into returning to school he follows the rules he learned in manga and makes a complete fool of himself, and continues to beat people up.
I guess I can see the connection between them, and the show does a pretty good job, apart from Haru’s antics, of showing the relationship develop realistically. Shizuku reacts to him the way anyone would, by avoiding him as much as possible. There are some cliches–one subverted wonderfully when Haru’s “enemies” abduct Shizuru, though they’re embarrassed by it and treat her nicely. The worst is discovering that Haru is a genius, smarter than the studious Shizuru. While it helps to make her further confused about her feelings it also feels contrived, maybe because the first episode moves very quickly and it’s just tossed in there. I’m not sure where the show is going, but it looks pretty good and I liked watching Shizuku reacting to Haru. She has a temper, too, and isn’t afraid to let it out. Each scene has something memorable in it. If they can keep subverting the obvious things this might be okay, if Haru tones it down. Right now he’s too much.
No raw-watching Joshiraku this week. Episode 10’s best moments for me came in the Halloween section and the worry that American cultural imperialism will force them into observing things like Independence day and MLK day. Also the K-ON references. I’m not sure how the conversation got to a bomb in the room. The episode’s field trip to (Kabukichou) was interesting in that we learn that no Kabuki is performed there. The dental health section was a miss.