Shizuku Mizutani has a goal; to have an annual income of 100 Million Yen. To do that, she has to have perfect grades and is always studying. She doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t think she needs any. Then she meets Haru Yoshida. He is a First Year like her, who should be in the desk next to her, but hasn’t been to school since the first day. She takes some printouts from their home room teacher to him, and he decides they are friends. This starts Shizuku on a path of making friends and maybe even falling in love, as long as they don’t get in the way of her grades.
My Little Monster sort of sounds like a “good girl falls for the bad boy” story, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. The characters are more like misfits, damaged from events in their past that have kept them from finding real friendship and relationships, making them much more interesting to watch and their stories more compelling.
The story centers around the relationship of Shizuku and Haru. Neither has any real friends. Shizuku doesn’t because of an incident in elementary school that made it difficult for her to trust other and just rely on herself. Haru got a “bad boy” reputation because of his physical strength, but is really a good guy. Their personalities are somewhat different. Shizuku is straightforward, to the point of being blunt sometimes. She comes off as cold and unemotional, but just doesn’t know how to act around people since she has spent more time studying than interacting. Haru seems scared of the other kids at school, except when someone is being bullied or threatened. He’ll jump right into the fray and start fighting. He is also clueless about how to act around people, but he is more naive than cynical. They are both socially inept be for different reasons.
Their relationship is like a see-saw. When Haru has feelings for Shizuku, she doesn’t for him and visa-verse. Haru confesses first, and then when Shizuku is ready to reciprocate, he just wants to be friends. Then when he comes to realize he might like her as something more, she wants to go back to just being friends. Up and down, up and down. Just like a see-saw. I think that’s what I find most intriguing about their relationship. There aren’t any big dramatic moments that make them change their minds. There are these moments of realization. Haru, when he kisses Shizuku and doesn’t see stars, starts to think he doesn’t like her that way. Shizuku realizes her life has changed, but that she doesn’t have to lose focus of her goal, and can just be friends with Haru. It’s such an unusual take on a teenage romance that it really intrigues me.
The cast of supporting characters really helps. Shizuku gets a girl friend in Natsume, a girl with really poor study skills who wants to make friends. She’s really pretty, and can get the boys attention, but the cold shoulder from the other girls. Sasayan is on the baseball team and is just hanging around Haru and Shizuku because he thinks they are interesting. He’s also a regular at the arcade and batting cages owned by Haru’s cousin Mitchan. And then there’s Nagoya, the chicken. Haru found him and started bringing him to school until they got the administration to let him keep it as a school pet. I love the chicken. He doesn’t do anything, but it’s just funny to watch Haru dote over it.
The stories start out like the usual shojo fare, but turn out like anything but. The boys that bullied Haru for money come back to apologize and end up helping to build Nagoya’s henhouse. Haru starts smiling more and girls start to pay attention to him more, but a fight with upperclassmen sends him back. Upperclassman Oshima starts to like Haru, but instead of confessing her feelings, she explains Shizuku’s to Haru. I really enjoy all these twists. It’s great not knowing how things are going to turn out.
My Little Monster is a great read, especially if you are getting a little tired of all the upbeat, perky heroines in shojo. Shizuku’s cynical and analytical view on life is a refreshing change. I am really looking forward to seeing how the see-saw is going to change this time, and really want to find out more about Haru’s and Shizuku’s background. There have been a lot of tantalizing hints dropped, but I really want to see more.
Review copies provided by publisher.