My Little Monster (known in its native Japan as Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) is a romantic comedy manga penned by the artist known as Robico. Hmmm, that’s a name I would associate with a Brazilian footballer, instead of a Japanese illustrator, but whatever. The series, which spans over thirteen volumes, was originally published from August 2008 to June 2013 in Dessert Magazine and has since been adapted into a short thirteen-episode anime. UK readers can enjoy the franchise courtesy of Kodansha Europe who are presently selling the first volume on Amazon for eight quid (and half that prize for the Kindle edition.)
The book stars Shizuku Mizutani, a short statured high school student whose dedication to her studies has seen her forego distractions such as making friends or socialising. She sounds a bit like me… minus the pursuit of knowledge, as my dire A-Level grades will attest to. Shizuku’s life is forever changed when her teacher tasks her with delivering some homework to Haru Yoshida, a fellow classmate who is regularly truant after kicking off the school year with an all out scrap against fellow pupils. When the two first meet Haru reckons that Shizuku must be a dear friend, as only a true pal would make the effort to come over and hand him schoolwork.
From this point onward the mate-less Haru starts to attend class in order to stick to Shizuku like glue, much to her annoyance. This being a romantic comedy however it isn’t long before a relationship begins to blossom between the pair. Although things are far from mushy, at this stage of the story, the first four chapters included in volume one already have Haru declaring his attraction for Shizuku, who in turn is surprised to discover that she is developing a crush on him. As the two interact they begin to come out of their respective shells, iron out their bad habits and make new friends (such as Sohei the softball player and Asako – a ditz who struggles to make chums with people outside of the internet community.)
I am going to give My Little Monster a rating of three stars out of five. Overall it succeeded in winning me over after a shaky start. At first I was uncertain if I would enjoy the comic, as Haru comes across as an annoying buffoon whilst Shizuku personified the role of unlikable ice queen. The book reminded me a little of Toradora – particularly as both mangas feature male leads who have a reputation of being scary guys, despite actually being nice chaps. Thankfully with each passing page I began liking the characters more as I became acquainted with their distinctive quirks.
Robico manages to score a hat trick of good artwork, funny moments and a love story that isn’t too in your face. Although the comedy never had me roaring with laughter it was amusing throughout. I especially enjoyed the gags revolving around Haru’s pet rooster and Shizuku’s annoyance whenever Haru bests her in exams (thanks only to his knack for memorisation.) If you pick up the digital version of the book I would say that volume one is good value at four pounds. The chapters are fairly long and have plenty of dialogue, so this isn’t one of those mangas you’ll skim through in a few minutes. All in all, My Little Monster isn’t the greatest manga ever, but it’s an entertaining read none the less.