I don’t really have much to say about this week’s episode of Tonari, even though I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was pretty much a build-up ep – some subtle character development, but mostly a chance to watch the four main characters (and they do seem to have officially formed a foursome now) in their natural habitat.
This series seems much quirkier than Sukitte Ii na yo, and less interested in presenting a no-holds barred look at high school life than in entertaining the audience. Not a thing wrong with that, but it does mean this is a more stylized and fanciful experience. It works for me because the character emotions seem quite genuine in spite of that approach, and because the chemistry among the leads is excellent. I’m not sure at this point which pair I like better – the main couple has a very winning misfit quality to them – both in society and with each other – but Natsume is consistently the funniest character in the series and Sasayan has a charisma that steals every scene he’s in, even if he doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot ( so far).
It’s the nature of Tonari that it makes me want to see more of the family lives of the characters, which so far are only being teased. We’ve met Shizuku’s father briefly and her brother even more so (he was indeed the “Zashiki-warashi” of last week) but enough so that her family seems intriguingly odd. Even more has the curiosity level been raised for Haru’s family, considering his violent dislike for his brother. We meet Yuzan properly this week, and while he’s a strange fellow there’s no hard evidence to suggest why Haru is so terrified at the notion of seeing him (Yuzan suggests Haru is a brocon). Yuzan is nice enough to everyone but there’s still something off about him that makes me suspect that Haru’s feelings aren’t entirely groundless. In any event, Haru’s not talking.
The bottom line for me is that I like Haru and Mitty as a couple, and they don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of anime pairings in any way. Oddball romances certainly aren’t anything revolutionary, but these two might be the only pegs square enough to fit with each other. They’re each socially inept in profound but totally different ways and that makes them interesting, and while Haru’s dysfunction is so thorough as to stretch credulity, watching him awkwardly try to change is poignant in its way. And of course, Tomatsu Haruka is delivering a monster of a performance as Mitty – wounded but resourceful, unsure but surprisingly resolute.