Directed by Lihua Wang
Produced by Project No. 9
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Welcome to this special Valentine’s Day review. While we may die alone, it is at least comforting that our favorite fictional characters may one find happiness, so long as they stop screwing around and pick the tsundere already.
This week, we have the highly anticipated adaptation of The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, from the same avant-garde studio that brought us such hits as…My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex. Alright, well, track records aren’t everything, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the light novels. That’s not much to cling to, but as a drowning man clutches a piece of driftwood, you just gotta let me have this.
You might be wondering what precisely I mean by calling The Angel Next Door “Diet Horimiya”. That sounds like an insult, but Horimiya is my favorite manga of all time; I have a dozen different posts detailing my search for something that even comes close to it. So, is it so bad to be Diet Horimiya?
Well, no, not really, it’s just a little disappointing.
One day, high school student Amane Fujimiya spots the angel of his class, Mahiru Shiina, sitting out on a swing in the pouring rain. He’s confused and initially ready to walk away, but something stops him. It’s just such a different image than what he has of the pretty popular girl, and the look on her face stirs something in him. He gives her his umbrella and heads home.
Now, if you’ve seen exactly one (1) anime, then you know that anyone who ever walks home in the rain is going to immediately catch a cold, unless they were trying to catch a cold on purpose. Thus, Amane gets sick, and it’s Mahiru’s turn to help him out.
He learns that the most popular girl in school is also an excellent homemaker, and she learns that beneath his calm exterior, he is the kind of slob that only a teenage boy can be. Long after she has repaid the favor, though, Mahiru is still helping the hapless Amane clean, or giving him leftovers. She claims to be inspired by his pitiable living conditions, though he’s not quite buying it.
If you’re passingly familiar with Horimiya, it sounds rather similar to Horimiya, and it is, with one difference. The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten is just a soulless clone.
The Angel Next Door hits all the same beats as the first episode of Horimiya without producing the same notes: boy meets girl, they discover their personas at school and at home are at odds, and romantic tension ensues.
This section will be highly referential of Horimiya, so I apologize if you haven’t seen or read it, but I just can’t let this go. I could forgive most sins committed by an anime, but ripping off my favorite manga and missing the entire point. Horimiya isn’t just a nearly perfect rom com because it had a few plot points; it’s an intricately crafted story informed by the realistic inner workings of each of its characters’ lives.
Storytelling as we know it is defined by conflict, and The Angel Next Door possesses none of the conflict that drove Horimiya’s earliest story arcs. In the short term, Hori and Miyamura are growing closer, while her friend Tooru has a crush on her. This prompts Miyamura to back off, revealing his insecurity and social anxiety that will be the defining conflict of his character for the rest of the story. However, Miyamura withdrawing causes Hori to lash out because she has deep-seated abandonment issues due to her parents forcing her to grow up too quickly and take care of her brother and the home.
In the first episode, Horimiya has introduced twice as many characters as The Angel Next Door, given them significantly more depth, and established its principal characters’ arcs. In 23 minutes.
What gets me more than anything is that The Angel Next Door takes the same arrangement as Horimiya, without any of the emotional context. Hori and Miyamura playing house makes sense; what begins as social obligation, repaying Miyamura for helping her brother, becomes about hiding behind pretense and concealing their feelings as they are both shown to do. Then, by the end of that first episode, the conflict surrounding each character forces them to come out from behind the lies they tell to protect themselves.
Horimiya has such tactful, yet lightning-fast relationship development that to see any other anime so wastefully parrot it is deeply upsetting. Maybe it’s unfair to judge an anime just on the grounds of it failing to live up to what it’s ripping off, but when you’re ripping off a story as expertly crafted as Horimiya, what else is there to do?
And don’t let me say that the only reason I don’t like this show is because Horimiya does everything it’s trying to do and better. That’s part of it, but the comparison is only to point out that this story is devoid of conflict, and interesting character writing. Even if it didn’t do that, it would still look janky.
I’ve said this before of Project No. 9’s adaptation of Higehiro, where I favorably compare their vibrant art style and gorgeous lighting with the work of Makoto Shinkai. The problem is that Shinkai works on anime film budgets and Project No. 9 does not get a fraction of the time or money to make their TV anime. While these characters might look pretty in still images, their movement is stiff and looks cheaper for having tried an art style they couldn’t stay faithful to.
It looks as though the director was trying to hide the flaws in the animation by hiding behind soft line art and the series’ admittedly good lighting effects. The average anime watcher doesn’t watch closely enough to realize that these techniques are surface-level shortcuts.
However, I don’t want to rip any further into the presentation than that, for a couple reasons. The first is that the studio is really not at fault, and I’m sure the production committee did not give them the time to make such a detail-oriented style work. The second is that the general audience will think the show looks good, and so the mileage of criticizing a debatably cheap animation trick will vary.
So, you might be able to enjoy The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten a lot more than I ever could. For a number of reasons, this show seems to be created out of spite for me specifically.
I’ll try to consider that in the rating, because it’s really not all that bad if you don’t care about the comparisons to Horimiya and you think the art is pretty. Without that, it’s just a mediocre anime with some decent visuals, so I guess I’ll give it a Boring Mediocre.
Not the best way to spend Valentine’s Day, admittedly, but you’ll just have to check in next week for the best rom com of the winter season. Been looking forward to this one for a while.
If you’d like to be notified when that goes up, follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress, and if you like your notifications served with a side of bite-sized snarky commentary, you can follow me @ExhibitionOtaku, where I talk about all the anime I’m watching. Until next time, thanks for reading.
|Mediocre||The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten|
|Fine||Tomo-chan is a Girl!|