All Shizuku is concerned about is her grades. She wants to study hard, be the best in every subject, and one day have a high-paying job. However, her life becomes more complicated when her teacher bribes her into bringing assignments to Haru, a boy who beat up a few students on his first day and then stopped showing up to school.
Because Haru has so little experience dealing with people in a nonviolent way, he tends to view kindness and positive behavior through the lens of cliches. Therefore, when Shizuku brings him his homework, he automatically decides she's his friend, because that's the sort of things friends do. Although Shizuku has no interest in becoming further involved with Haru, he refuses to leave her alone and she begins to warm to him.
Gradually, their circle of friends expands to include Sasayan (the most grounded and ordinary person in their group), Natsume (a ditsy, gorgeous girl who desperately wants to make female friends), Oshima (an extremely shy girl), and a group of delinquents, led by Yamaken (has a terrible sense of direction). Oh, and there's also a rooster named Nagoya.
This is one of those shows that grew on me. I liked it for its complex characters. I even found myself rooting for its romantic storylines...until something came up that reminded me how messed up those romances would be.
I initially thought this series would focus on Haru and his behavioral problems. However, he and Shizuku tended to share the spotlight, for different reasons. Haru was clearly messed up. For a good chunk of his life, he'd been wild, violent, and angry. The littlest thing could set him off. At the same time, the smallest kindnesses could turn him into a loyal friend, almost childlike in his desire to please, making it easy for unscrupulous people to use him.
Shizuku had her own issues, although they weren't as obviously damaging as Haru's. Her father had never managed to hold down a job for very long, which meant that her mother spent most of her time working to support the family. Throughout the series, viewers never see her mother even once – Shizuku hears from her via faxes and phone calls. It's indicated that all this has played a part in Shizuku's current personality and goals. She wants to one day be a career woman like her mother, and she's convinced that the only way to do this is to focus all her time and energy on studying and schoolwork. Love and friendship only get in the way.
The bulk of the show involved Shizuku and Haru trying to figure out how to deal with their budding romance while at the same time working through their own issues. It didn't even occur to Shizuku that it might be possible to balance romance with schoolwork, so, whenever her emotions became too intense, she immediately retreated. Haru was on the other end of the spectrum, embracing his emotions almost a little too much. He wanted to be by Shizuku's side as much as possible. He even tried to dictate what she could do and who she could see, something that, thankfully, Shizuku refused to go along with.
There's a lot crammed into this series, something that didn't occur to me until I realized I'd made it to the final episode and almost nothing had been resolved. In fact, even more things where up in the air by the end than when the series began. Shizuku and Haru's relationship was only slightly more settled than it had been. There were several loose ends involving unrequited love. Also, Yuzan, Haru's older brother, hinted at future complications involving their father, and nothing ever came of those hints. In the hope of seeing all those loose ends tied up, I plan on giving the manga a try (the first volume is being released in English in 2014).
I'm actually kind of glad that even Shizuku and Haru's relationship was left fairly unresolved by the end. I had problems rooting for them as a couple. On the one hand, Haru could be very sweet. On the other hand, he could have used a lot of therapy before getting into a romantic relationship with anyone. His violent outbursts were so uncontrolled that he accidentally hurt Shizuku (as in, bruised her or made her bleed) at least three times throughout the series while supposedly fighting in her defense. He didn't seem to have a clue why his behavior scared people. There were also disturbing indications that, if Shizuku fell for someone else, he'd regress and possibly even kill someone.
Like I said, I plan to try the manga. I'd also watch a second season, if one were ever created. As a romance, this series sometimes made me more than a little uncomfortable. However, I enjoyed its complex characters and explorations of the events and people that helped shape them, and its balance between humor and drama worked well for me.
- I wish Yuzan had gotten more screen-time. Devious characters with secret soft spots are my guilty pleasure. I'm looking forward to finding out more details about his and Haru's relationship in the manga.
- Kare Kano (manga) by Masami Tsuda; His and Her Circumstances (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another heroine whose life is, at least initially, ruled by her grades and her desire to be academically better than everyone, might want to give this a try.
- Special A (manga) by Maki Minami; Special A (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another competitive, academically-focused heroine and a hero who's desperately in love with her might want to give this a try. I've written about the anime.
- Ouran High School Host Club (manga) by Bisco Hatori; Ouran High School Host Club (anime TV series) - The heroine of this series is also very academically focused and is even less interested in romance than Shizuku. I've written about the first half of the anime and volume 1 of the manga.
- Say "I Love You" (manga) by Kanae Hazuki; Say "I Love You" (anime TV series) - Another high school romance. Like My Little Monster, it stars characters who haven't been in romantic relationships before and don't quite know what to do. I've written about the anime.
- Boys Over Flowers (manga) by Yoko Kamio - If you enjoyed the romance between Shizuku and Haru, you may want to give this a try. I've written about the Korean live action adaptation - the heroine wants to be left alone and focus on her swimming and schoolwork, but the leader of the F4, a group of elitist bullies, won't let her and soon falls in love with her. Because he's a violent bully, and because she has fallen for someone else, she refuses to easily accept his feelings.
- Beautiful Disaster (book) by Jamie McGuire - This is for those who are willing to try something a bit different (something that is neither anime nor manga!) and/or those who fully enjoyed the romance between Haru and Shizuku. Although I haven't read this, every time Haru went into one of his rages I was reminded of descriptions I'd read of the male protagonist of this book.