An Ordinary World with Extraordinary Characters: The Reason You Should Watch "Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun"
So why, in a sea of endless slice-of-school-life anime, should you watch Robico's "Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun"? Once you boil it down, the answer is simple: the characters. Here is your cheat sheet to who the people in the world of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun are and how they interact with each other!
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!
Mizutani Shizuku is a second-year student attending Syoyo High School. Shizuku is a driven, goal-oriented person that will do anything to achieve her dream—to become rich one day (earn 10 million yen a year).
Judging Shizuku by her cover, she is a one-track minded workaholic; she only pays attention to things that directly affect her and, when you come right down to it, she is pretty selfish. She sees things that people do out of obligation or decorum as a waste of her time because "it doesn’t concern her."
As a result, some her actions take on a somewhat obsessive tone. For example, because her priority is getting a high paying job she sees having top grades as the most direct way to do that, and the most direct way to get good grades is to study as hard as humanly possible. While this is fine in moderation, Shizuku studies to the point where others have deemed her inaccessible and cold. This image isn’t helped by the fact that Shizuku was nicknamed "Dry Ice" by her classmates because of her lack of emotion to the death of the class’ pet rabbit in elementary school. She even gets called a "blizzard" by her teacher because her lack of compassion. In all honesty, if her responses and actions were taken at face value, the viewer would really have no issues with hating the protagonist.
Thankfully, that is not the case. Since she is the Narrator, you get a look into Shizuku’s reasoning behind her seemingly cold actions and realize that it is, in part, just clumsiness and inexperience. Usually her actions are as straightforward as her verbal opinions, which creates misunderstandings with others who assume she is cold and emotionless. Shizuku has trouble finding value in fake niceties and hates the idea of automatically being expected to feel a certain way in certain situations (a.k.a. wholeheartedly loving animals). She sees her straightforwardness and honesty as a kindness, even if it hurts someone’s feelings, and has trouble understanding why people take it so personally. She finds true, honest feelings, such as when Haru cries, to be moving and beautiful.
Shizuku is a very strong judge of character—and is very self-aware when it comes to how people perceive her. Because of this, she serves as a great foil to Haru as a "straight-man" in response to his antics.
When it comes to people that she cares about, Shizuku shows that she is able to take interest in other people’s welfare, but the compulsion to help makes her uncomfortable and she often attributes it to "not feeling well." One very early example of this is when Haru is being taken advantage of by his "friends." Even after he dumped a milkshake on her head and yelled at her, when she overhears them calling Haru names and sees that he has overheard it as well (and is hurt), she stands up for him and asks them to please treasure Haru as you would a real friend since that’s the way Haru sees them.
Of course, Shizuku always goes back to the path of least resistance and will always think or say insensitive things, but it is those fleeting moments of empathy and kindness, which are only brought to light by her friends, that makes her a loveable character.
Shizuku tends to dress old-fashioned and keeps her hair in long pigtails. She has old-fashioned tendencies as well (old-school alarm clock, cooks, makes her own pickles, etc.). She doesn't like to lose and she loves to be praised. She seems to get a lot of her personality traits from her mother, Mizutani Yoshino, who remains unseen throughout the anime (because of work); but she cares for Shizuku deeply. Shizuku lives with her father, Takashi, who owns a market, and her little brother Takaya.
Her best friend is Natsume (who calls Shizuku "Mitty") and she falls in love with Haru after he confesses to her and she gets to know him better.
Known as the "Phantom," Haru is also a second-year student at Syoyo High School and is actually the top of his class (much to Shizuku's angst). Because he "spilled blood first day of school," Haru is suspended from the beginning of the semester. In his absence, frightening and scary rumors about him fly around and flashes of a body-shaped bloodstain on a wall frequent in conduction with descriptions about him.
However, you soon find out that while the rumors may be true, there is usually something more to the situation.
Haru has a very strong fight or flight instinct—when he feels that someone is being bullied or mistreated he is quick to start a fight for them (and tends to lose control). When he takes it too far, other people usually lose sight of what actually started the fight (or don't even bother to ask him) and they assume that he is dangerous. On the other end of the spectrum, when he senses danger for himself, he is quick to run away—to the point of jumping out of third story windows.
He is quick to jump to conclusions about people he doesn't know or like, but he is just as quick to consider them his friend as soon as he is flattered or they do something unexpectedly nice for him.
At Haru's core, he just wants to be liked. His shyness and fear that other people are afraid of him makes him self-conscious and afraid to even try to clear up misunderstandings—to the point where he doesn’t go back to school even though he really wants to. He is very easy to read and gets very shy and excited to do things that a "normal high school student" would do.
He is very honest about his own feelings and doesn’t try to censor them. When he's mad, he fights; when he's scared, he runs; when he's sad or happy, he cries; and when he's in love, he says so. With Haru, there is no in-between. While this can be seen by some as really intense, it is also probably the main reason Shizuku can't ignore him and ultimately falls for him.
He lacks common sense which usually evolves (or devolves) into antics, such as saving a "stray" that was clearly well-bred and taken care of, or when he strips naked in front of all the girls in his class because he thought that you were supposed to get changed for gym class in front of everyone.
Occasionally we see a more serious side to Haru, especially when it comes to things that happened in his past. He makes allusions periodically to a darker time when he was "empty" and we later find out that he had a very difficult childhood. He tends to get very defensive when Shizuku or his friends inquire about the past, either stating that it's not their business or that they don’t need to know.
You later find out that Haru was thrown out by his father by a child and was taken in by his aunt, Mitsu-chan's mother. She teaches him fundamental lessons such as, "You can't pick up water once it's spilled," and "If you want to be accepted, you must first accept yourself." One of the last things she teaches/says to him is that "Humans will wither away if they're always alone. The only remedy would be to seek out other people. I hope you find the right person one day. I hope you find someone whose presence is enough to sooth your pain." It is this phrase that compels Haru to treasure Shizuku and encourages him to keep trying to win her affections even when she turns him down.
Haru is good-looking (when he smiles) and has long, curly hair. He comes from a wealthy family who he generally doesn’t get along with. His father wants Haru to attend a better school (which Haru refuses) and he frequently runs away from his brother, Yuzan, because of their past. He now lives with his cousin, Mitsu-chan, who owns the batting center where Haru and his friends hang out.
Natsume is a second-year student at Syoyo High School and becomes Shizuku's best friend (calls her Mitty). Natsume is good-looking, which has created problems for her in the past. She is a poor student (has gotten 0 on a test even after answering every question), but she has good coordination which comes in handy during Sports Day.
At the beginning of the story, Natsume doesn’t have any friends outside of the Internet. When Shizuku makes a comment about it how the Internet isn’t real, Natsume responds that she knows that, but it's better than being alone.
We later find out that because she is good-looking, boys paid more attention to her in middle school and, as a result, the girls in her class ostracized her. This compelled her to build up her online image and make friends over the Internet so that she didn't need to interact with people one-on-one.
Initially, Shizuku doesn’t respect Natsume because she sees her as a slacker who would rather be on the Internet and socializing instead of studying. As a result, she turns Natsume down when she asks for help studying for her exam. However, when she sees what a difficult time she's having with Haru studying and also sees how sincere she is about the Internet, Shizuku agrees to help her. After Mitty helps her pass her make-up exam, the two of them become friends.
Natsume later verbalizes that the reason she finds Mitty so attractive is because she isn’t as responsive as other people and doesn’t pay attention to Natsume. As a result, Mitty doesn't call her "phony or slutty or anything stupid like that," which makes Natsume really value their friendship. Natsume is sometimes frustrated because Mitty doesn’t confide in her as much as she'd like her to, but the two of them have an understanding of sorts about each other's personalities.
Natsume is a romantic and truly cares for her friends. As a result, she tries to help Mitty and Haru by giving advice to Haru on the down low, but she frequently ends up insulting him and running away instead.
As a result of her previous trauma, Natsume feels uncomfortable hanging out with guys, especially alone. Besides Haru, the only exception to this rule is Sasayan. Natsume ends up falling in love with Haru's cousin, Mitsu-chan, and confesses this to him on New Year's Eve. His answer isn't explicitly given, but it is implied that he turned her down.
Sasahara, or "Sasayan" as he prefers to be called, is also a second-year student at Syoyo High School. In contrast with the other three protagonists, Sasayan is a cheerful and outgoing person and is well liked at school. As an active member of the baseball team, he is fairly popular, but he chooses to spend most of his time with Haru, Shizuku, and Natsume.
This initially makes Natsume suspicious of Sasayan because she thinks that he is secretly looking down on them and not sincere about his friendship, but as you soon find out, Sasayan has a mischievous side to him and also does not take well to dishonest people.
Sasayan attended middle school with Haru and he initially takes an interest in Shizuku because she is friendly with Haru and was able to get him back to school. He seems to be genuinely concerned for Haru and wants to do his best to make sure that what happened to Haru in middle school doesn’t happen again.
He slowly befriends the group, first by offering to take care of Nagoya (but ultimately couldn’t because he had a cat) and going on the river fishing trip over the summer with everyone. Sasayan is very observant and has a way of getting people to do things or admit things without directly saying anything. While this may seem to be meddlesome, especially with people as dense as Haru and Shizuku, he is an important presence in the group to bring the other characters back to reality.
Sasayan develops feelings for Natsume, but after seeing that she has feelings for Mitsu-chan he backs off.
Called "Yamaken" by Haru, Kenji is first seen as one of the freeloaders taking advantage of Haru's generosity. He attended school with Haru when they were younger and actually bullied him, but they became "friends" after. This is disrupted when Shizuku brings up that he and his friends are taking advantage of Haru. After helping build Nagoya's coop, Haru accepts Yamaken's apology and they become friendly again.
Kenji attends the prestigious private school, Kaimei Academy, and is actually in the same cram school as Shizuku. He ends up falling for Shizuku, which frequently makes Haru jealous, to the point of near violence. He has told Haru that he likes Shizuku, but hasn’t expressed his feelings to Shizuku directly.
Kenji has a horrible sense of direction and frequently gets lost.
Oshima-san is in the same class as Haru and is their class representative. She initially comes off as meek, so her classmates frequently take advantage of her. However, as we see more of her, Oshima can be very vocal and helpful.
After being saved by Haru, she starts to notice him and starts to like him. However, because of Haru's oblivious nature, he only sees her as a friend and actually complains to her about his romantic issues with Shizuku. Because Oshima isn't a bad person, she frequently ends up cheering him on and clarifying some misunderstandings that he has about Shizuku, much to her own frustration. Natsume wants to hate her because she is Mitty's competition, but the two become friendly when Natsume realizes what a good person she is.
Oshima's best friend is Miyama Yu, who attends another school, and Oshima frequently vents about her situation with Haru.
Mitsuyoshi, or "Mitsu-chan," is Haru's cousin and guardian. He runs the batting cages and occasionally chaperones get-togethers and trips that the group has. He is very protective of Haru, especially when it comes to Yuzan, and tries to keep him away from Haru.
He is very surprised by Natsume's confession of her feelings and is left speechless.
Yuzan is Haru's older brother. Yuzan claims that that Haru has a severe case of a brother complex, much to Haru's horror. Haru frequently runs away from him, so he tries to get to Haru through Shizuku. He was originally sent by his father to bring Haru back home and force him to go to school, but he says that he will try and convince his father to let it go since he is now attending because of Shizuku.
There is more to him than it seems—very pleasant and attractive externally, but you get a hint that there is something darker about him.
He loves sweets.
Ninomiya Saeko, known as Saeko-sensei, is a teacher at Syoyo High School and the initial catalyst to Shizuku and Haru’s meeting. She is kind of flaky and cheerful, but seems to care for her students. Saeko-sensei is the one who asks Shizuku to help get Haru back to school because she would have trouble sleeping if he ended up quitting. Saeko-sensei is also the one who gets permission from the board for the group to keep Nagoya (the rooster) as a school pet, and is frequently seen arguing with Haru about Nagoya (among other things).
She calls Shizuku a "blizzard" because she coldly refuses her requests for favors.
Last, but not least, Nagoya is the pet rooster that Haru keeps at the school. Nagoya was first found by Haru at the side of the road and he subsequently tries to bring him to classes. Sasayan and the others get permission to build him a coop at school and after that Haru visits every morning to feed him.
Nagoya appears in almost every episode.