|A complicated story about young love, minus the usual fan service you might expect.|
In a lot of movies and television shows and even in a fair portion of the anime I've watched, love is a simple thing. You like someone. They like you back. You dance a little dance and the two of you fall in love in the end. That's how things are supposed to be, right?
"My Little Monster," a 13-episode anime series that was localized by NIS America and recently released as a deluxe package on blu-ray and DVD, explores a romance that feels more like something you'd find here in the real world. Shizuku Mizutani is a high school freshman. She takes her studies very seriously, so she's not entirely sure what to do when her teacher all but forces her to reach out to a student who used to sit by her in class, Haru Yoshida. He got in a fight and was temporarily expelled, like a proper delinquent, but he hasn't returned since. He refuses to answer his teacher's phone calls, hence the assignment to Yoshida.
Unexpectedly, Haru is extremely pleased by Yoshida's arrival and he soon returns to school. Her life begins to change as a result, because she finds herself intrigued by his attentions, as well. What will that mean for her studies, though?
Quickly, a cast of secondary characters enters the mix. These additions include Haru's guardian, Micchan, who runs the local shop and gaming center, as well as a somewhat ditzy and clingy girl named Natsume who seems to feel that it is her duty to play matchmaker… when she's not studying to bring her own academics up to speed. Another interesting character is "Yamaken," a snobbish, standoffish lad who figures prominently in the final few episodes, but otherwise presents as an emotionless enigma. And there are other characters, as well, but mostly they play bit parts.
"My Little Monster" is based on a 13-volume manga, which I haven't read. I can't say how closely the anime follows the source material. All I can do is judge what's here, and that is… well, it's a little slow-paced, if I'm being entirely frank. The first couple of episodes do a great job of introducing most of the principle cast, but their relationships evolve at a leisurely pace from there, with little apparent interest on the part of the writers in actually resolving any of the numerous threads that are introduced.
Haru's interest in Yoshida, and hers in him, are both fickle things, to the point that it's difficult to keep track of which one of the two classmates is willing to admit to liking the other at any given point in time. They rarely seem to be on the same page, and even when they are, they… aren't. In general, this is the story of an academic girl who is finding more to life than just her grades, while helping to tame a wild child with an endearingly innocent streak a mile wild. It gets distracted from that, though, and dives into backstory that never feels quite clear or even useful.
Technically, you could classify "My Little Monster" as a romantic comedy, but it's not particularly funny except in a few scenes. You know you're supposed to laugh when you see the chibi artwork, which comes along so rarely that it could almost have been dropped entirely. There's little fan service to speak of, and you'll have to do a lot of reading to keep up with the subtitles (though I was pleased to find that they're very crisp and easy to read).
As for the presentation, the deluxe version of "My Little Monster" comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard case that houses two separate DVD-sized cases. Each case holds a DVD and a blu-ray disc, so you're getting two formats for the one price. As well, there is a hardcover art book that features handy teaser paragraphs introducing the general plot of each episode, with screen captures to refresh your memory if you go back later for a repeat viewing. The book is presented as a "study guide," and also offers handy character profiles and descriptions and images of key settings.
If you have a short attention span, "My Little Monster" is probably not for you. The lack of fan service and the understated comedy aren't exciting in the conventional sense. The love triangle can sometimes be frustrating to watch unfold, as well, and yet that is undeniably part of the tale's charm. To me, the most disappointing part of the whole package was actually the way the final episode left things hanging, just when I was finally feeling invested. There were four or five key points that might be explored in a sequel series, but there's no guarantee that will ever happen and even if it does, we might be stuck waiting a long while before it ever materializes. If you're okay with that, though, this deluxe package is a pleasant treat and a pleasant change of pace from the rowdy projects often localized by Funimation and Sentai Filmworks.
The above text resulted from time spent enjoying a retail copy of the anime that was provided for review purposes by NIS America.
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