Shizuku can finally admit her feelings for Haru.
After the whirlwind of episode 1, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun doesn’t slow down much for episode 2. Picking right up where it left off last week after Haru surprise-kissed Shizuku, this episode really focuses on Shizuku’s completely uncharacteristic reaction to her growing feelings for Haru. She tries to distract herself with food, she tries to distract herself with studying, which had been her go-to refuge all her life, but she can’t concentrate on any of that. But overall, she deals with Haru himself pretty well, appearing to have gotten a lot more outwardly comfortable around him, even as her thoughts run a bit wild, the ‘background noise’ that she keeps complaining about, even in the silence of the library, or in the classroom by herself, or on the roof. I thought it was a nice allusion to that feeling you get with newfound love.
The main revelation that Shizuku comes to in the end is that all of this distraction and mixed up feelings and friendship is worth it because the interesting new experiences outweigh the old stuff. It’s really early in the series for this, but I always like it when couples get together early, far more than last-minute romance, so I’m certainly not going to complain at Shizuku’s answer to Haru.
And it seems like a lot of the impetus for that confession is Haru’s much calmer demeanor around her. He still has that boyish innocence, but he seems to have realized he was trying too hard. I thought his letting her sleep was really touching, even with the semi-lap pillow he gives her at the end. The two of them are learning each other, how to react to each other. While Haru’s reactions to people in the first episode seem almost entirely random, in this one, he’s far more appropriate with Shizuku, much less likely to feel like he’s being attacked. It’s fast growth, but it’s also good for the show.
I didn’t care much for Natsume’s character. I guess they’re going to work in some sort of growing friend angle in there, but she just seems too vain and self-absorbed, with nothing to back it up. She claims that the guys are always after her, but they could have shown us that, and instead the things we see are that she has a hard time talking to Shizuku and Haru, and she spends breaks at school on her netbook computer talking on her message board. She did hint that the offline meetup was all guys (and isn’t every internet community almost all guys?) and didn’t go well, but then she was working her way into ingratiating herself into the same online community, it looked like. Overall, I just didn’t like her, her “I just can’t have to take the remedial class!” whining, and her crippling brainlessness. I think Shizuku had it right: She should be in the remedial class if she has so much trouble with stuff.
The ugly is a lot of the backlash that the first episode of the show generated, in particular Haru’s threat to Shizuku about rape. Learning about it after my post last week, I didn’t mention it because I thought this was more of a characterization thing, showing how childish and tone-deaf Haru is about his interactions with other people. Sure it was an extremely serious threat in words, but that threat evaporated immediately as he comically hid under a box, letting her go, completely oblivious to the seriousness with which society takes such threats. I thought it completely fit in with the character they were trying to show Haru as: someone who doesn’t know how to act around other people. Some people have interpreted that line (probably in conjunction with Haru’s other violent tendencies) as acceptance of rape, or thinking it’s ok, or that Haru thinks it’s ok. I certainly didn’t get that at all, and personally have a hard time seeing how Haru could follow through on that type of threat, given the way he acts. His violence that got him suspended was in the name of justice, protecting a first-year from some third-years. His instinct later was to protect Shizuku, even as he unintentionally hurts her. To me, this all indicates a guy who just doesn’t know how to act. I think it’s a shame to judge the entire series on a line like that, especially given how completely out of character that seems to have been. Now, it’s certainly possible that he could turn out much worse later in the series, and that would definitely be problematic, but for now, I think it’s better to not overreact to what I felt was a hyperbolic line meant to show the character’s social ineptitude.