「春遠からじ」 (Haru Toukaraji)
“Spring is Near”
Such is our journey so far, a journey that definitely has not ended.
It took me a rewrite, many interruptions, and lots of thought to get this out, but it has definitely been worth it. Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun has been a show that, with its ups and downs, dared to challenge how we view the characters and risked much in the process. A sizable number of people have left due to the incessant desynchronization of the main couple or the violent and irrational behavior of Haru. However, for those of us left, for those of us who stuck through it to the end, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun has provided an uncommon perspective on the growth of relationships, whether we like seeing that perspective or not. Creator Robico and director Hiro Kaburaki, I’m sure, were aware of the consequences of portraying relationships in this manner, portraying characters this erratic.
Thus, we must ask the question, what is this perspective that Tonari wants us to view, and why the creator decided to make her characters so flawed and potentially unlikable?
The short answer: to provide the perspective of a less-than-rosy relationship that adolescence often goes through, while also providing the character growth required to fuel this perspective.
While I had asserted this claim many episodes ago, this final episode reinforced it. At first glance, the episode feels like any other episode. Haru has a crazy thing going on, everyone is dragged into it, and then the episode ends on a positive, yet strangely chill note, lacking any sort of season climax. In isolation, one can say that this episode was at best a “good” episode to end on, or at worst a terrible way to wrap things up.
But for us to completely understand this strangely cliffhanging and anticlimactic end, we must reflect back on the rest of the series as a whole.
The first two episodes would’ve been an entire season in itself if Tonari was a standard romantic comedy. Guy likes girl, girl responds back, and all is well. The climax hits us very early, and our emotions are already running like hotcakes, whether positive and negative.
“He hit a girl and threatened to rape the same girl in the same episode. I’m not the main lead’s biggest fan.”
“Almost got squeeing on every Dere scenes. Hoping for more belligerent sexual tension moments between the main couple for the rest of the series!”
“2 episodes, 2 confessions. Next week: the wedding. Damn that was quick.”
“My roomate walks in and asks me ‘why are you smiling like an idiot.'”
Our couple looked to be destined for each other, without a worry in the world. However, complications arose, with doubts on feelings and desires seeping into the cracks. Typical so far, right? But let many episodes pass, with so many revelations and insights the characters go through, yet their actions are slow to change.
“Repetitive nonsense is only interesting the 1st time it repeats.”
“Is there’s something wrong when I’m more interested with the other girl character than the main girl herself?”
“i Seriously Can’t Believe that the ending is near T_T *cries*”
“IMHO, I kind of see it now, Haru has not offered to support Mitty in any way with what’s important to her. This is
making Haru, for the amount of strength that he has, an unlikable person for me.”
Finally the climax comes, and almost nothing has been resolved, with more problems than progress pervading almost all the characters. Did the author mess up with the repetition? Did she overdo it and make the buildup to this fantastic end too long? Perhaps, depending on your taste.
Tonari is definitely not an anime for those looking for quick gratification and resolution, where problems are neatly segmented into arcs. It also seeks not to follow the general formula of storytelling, where buildup to some pre-destined climax is the goal of the story. Tonari instead is an anime that seeks to tell a different side of the story of relationships, the one that isn’t so cozy and compact in its ups and downs, but rather an elongated and error-prone side of the social dynamic. It seeks to bring out the frustrations, the stupid mistakes, and the downright irrationality of certain relationships of this nature, all while softening the tension (for the audience) with comedic humor. There is a high chance that a watcher will disagree with at least one of the characters, believing one to be in the right while the other….not so. Such is what I believe is one of the goals of this show: to make sure every major character has a disagreeable quality.
It’s a risky move. Some may call it a dumb move. Whatever you judge of the output quality though, the writers of this show have to be applauded for their bravery. They have made a show that stands out among the waves, that doesn’t make things easy, no matter how easy it is to do so. We get angry, annoyed at their inability to do SOMETHING, but perhaps that is the point that’s trying to hit home.
It makes sense why this last episode ended like it did (apart from setting towards a second season). The conflict to find that stability amidst many problems does not usually end quickly. It may take months, years, years upon years possibly to resolve the issue, but for the people in this show, it doesn’t matter. Their struggle will continue as long as they can see the light at the other side. While it may be easy to attribute this end to production reasons,
Think back to the last scene before the ending song. The light that Haru and Mitty saw was nothing spectacular by itself–at best the light would be a pleasant occurrence. The fact remains though that Mitty realizes that it was so much more beautiful because she wasn’t alone, because someone else was in her life to give that event meaning. The light has dual meaning in this case: the claim that life is much more enjoyable when shared with another and the symbolic hope, the fleeting hope that Shizuku and Haru see in their future together. Haru tries so hard to chase this small hope, making many mistakes, looking in all the wrong places, but when he finds it and shows it to Shizuku, it somehow makes all the effort worth it.
The effort to try and reconcile their conflicts continues, but it is their journey through it together that sustains them. All the characters in this show are unsatisfied in some shape or form, and for the most part, have failed to completely rid themselves of those troubles. The fun and joy of the beginning of the show is over, the troubles are still troubling, the mistakes are all frustrating, but dammit all, they’re still trying their damn hardest. Long will it be when they had their initial thrills, but when it does happen again and when they do make it work, the adventure will have made their relationship worth it.
That is why I love this show. That is why people dislike or hate this show. But that is what the show is: a struggle that isn’t clean in the slightest.
It is at this point that I will address various points in the show that I feel should be mentioned before closing the cover on this show.
Haru: Mental Institution or Not?
Shizuku: Strength Despite Haru
A Victory For Natsume’s VA
Using Truth to Hide the Truth
Yuu-chan is so cute.
While DVD sales may not indicate well for a second season, it definitely has been an enjoyable ride to blog this show. It’s been a pleasure to take all of these screencaps of these colorful characters, warm palette and all, and it’s been an honor to examine their characters in detail. While we may not agree all the time dear reader, I’d like to think that we sparked conversation here to make us think hard about a show that challenges our patience in a purposeful way.
Goodbye for now, you little monsters!