I slowly watched My Little Monster (aka Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) over several months. It’s a slow shoujo romance anime, the kind I once avoided. It’s not quite interesting enough for me to marathon the thirteen episodes. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why it kept my attention long enough for me to finish it.
There isn’t much action, adventure, or suspense. I’ve long since expanded my horizons beyond action shows, but I still like them, and I still have trouble sitting through slow plots.
There is humor, but it only makes me smirk a little, at most.
The primary conflict is internal, within the main character, Mizutani Shizuku.
I guess I watched because I wanted to see her find her balance. I wanted her to be both a friend and a good student, to know when to prioritize what. I wanted her to find her identity beyond just being first (or second) in class.
Identity: isn’t that what we’re all searching for? Up to this point, Shizuku has relied on herself for identity, and her place at the top of the class is her affirmation. She is so wrapped up in her schoolwork, she doesn’t have time for anything or anyone else.
|Haru in the sixth episode|
She isn’t a very good friend to him or anyone else. She has very little idea of how to even be a friend. To everyone else at school, she is just a cold, soulless top student. But he doesn’t ask anyone’s opinion. He earnestly, honestly loves her, and that’s all that matters.
Hm... that sounds familiar. In fact, it sounds a lot like what I talked with God about a few times.
I, like Shizuku, place too much of my identity in school. When I turn in incomplete homework, ask a less than brilliant question, or even learn that I’m not the best student where I think I could be (prideful, I know), I become unsettled. I want my professors and classmates to think well of me. I want to meet my personal standards. And I forget that none of these is important.
Jesus doesn’t love me for my brain. He likes it - He made it! - but He’s a lot smarter than me, and a much more diligent worker. I can neither impress nor disappoint Him.
He doesn’t love me because I try to be a good friend. He’s a much better friend, and doesn’t hold my failures against me.
He loves me because He chose me. He loves me not for what I see, but for what He sees. He delights in me, not despite or around my flaws, but with my flaws. He doesn’t expect me to heal myself; that’s His job. He just wants me to sit long enough for Him to treat me. He’s sad when I reject Him, but He’s still around. He chose me.
Haru doesn’t expect Shizuku to change for him. He doesn’t expect her to suddenly become friendly to everyone or stop caring about school. He just wants her to open her heart to him. As she begins to love, she naturally begins to change. She starts to be a friend, to care for other people.
Jesus doesn’t expect me to make myself a perfect or different person. He doesn’t expect me to know what to say, to please everyone, or to be at the top of my class. He doesn’t expect me to know how to converse with friends or professors. He doesn’t even expect me to be wonderful at getting homework done. He chose me. He loves me. He stands by me as I learn. And He tells me those things don’t matter to my identity. They don’t make me me. All that matters is that He chose to love me.
So as I watched My Little Monster, I hoped that Shizuku would come to realize she doesn’t need to have the perfect balance, or to be the best student, or even be the best student she can be. I hoped she would realize that her identity, and even her success in life, isn’t reliant on grades. Haru loves her for who she is, faults and all. All she has to do is accept it and open her heart to the change his love brings.