Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is probably a manga I won't forget. Despite it having a simple premise and characters that have stereotypical archetypes (Shizuku being a study bug, Haru being an eccentric softie, etc) I still enjoyed this so much because it was executed nicely and, true to the description provided by MAL, a fresh take on your typical tsundere girl x dere boy romance.
The characters are definitely the best part of this manga. Though they aren't groundbreaking, their interactions with each other and how each of them influenced the other characters (directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly) felt so honest and true to
what high school and youth in general is like. Unlike other shoujos I've read that were so dreamy and impossible, it felt as if what these guys went through and felt could actually happen to you in real life (and some of these things probably have). I especially loved the dynamics of the main protagonist "quartet" (Shizuku, Haru, Natsume and Sasayan), who befriended each other regardless of their differences academically, socially and as a whole -- though this manga focuses on the relationship of Haru and Shizuku, I'm also glad that the mangaka took the time to show us through these four that love can also come in different forms and people, not just in a romantic way, and change us just as equally. Though Haru and Shizuku would definitely be different if they hadn't met, the fact that the people around them were just as important and that they weren't the only people in that world was what made this manga stand out to me.
On that note, the story and writing is probably the epitome of what "slice of life" is. It's slow but mellow, and it ultimately doesn't make you feel as if you're reading filler. The conversations and events that take place are meaningful and there are quite a number of quotable sayings from this manga, at least for me! It was also really funny and sweet, enough to make me giggle at the awkward moments caused by a lot of characters' inexperience (especially Shizuku) when it comes to relationships with others, and even laugh whenever anyone (shout out to the Natsume-Haru duo!!) would do something wacky. Though this work is primarily narrated by Shizuku, whenever it shifts to another person's view for a chapter or two, it never feels out of place and it flowed really nicely overall.
The art was just as wonderful! It was clean and pleasant to look at, and the character designs really fit each of their personalities. (I'll be honest, I looked forward to whenever Natsume came "on screen" because her clothes looked so fun and very fashionable, compared to the modest Shizuku, who dresses like a grandma!) Also, the backgrounds were detailed, and the overall quality was just really great and consistent.
All in all, this is a really enjoyable manga! Though there's certainly romance involved, this manga is about love in general, what it means to truly reach out to someone and what your relationship with that somebody does to you and others as people. It's nothing overly convoluted, but it's not that simple, either. It's a fun read and definitely worth a glance if you have the time. This may be a shoujo, but I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to read something a little more unique.