Has The Angel Next Door Spoiled You Rotten?

Review: The Angel Next Door Has Spoiled Me Rotten eps 1-10

I would absolutely forgive anyone for dismissing this one as just another generic romcom about an ordinary guy who somehow gets the interest of the school’s Perfect Girl. Indeed, its early episodes, while still having some entertainment value, don’t leave much more of an impression than that. However, amidst all of its cliches, cutesiness, and male wish fulfillment is a slow, steady, and surprisingly endearing romantic build-up which can gradually whittle away at any resistances one might have.

It helps some if the series is classified properly. While the overall tone is light, this is more a pure romance story than a true romcom. The premise is a simple one for the genre: male high school student Amane is a nondescript, somewhat insecure young man who just happens to live alone in an apartment next door to his school’s Angel, Mahiru, who is also living alone. This is not something he reveals to anyone, and indeed, they barely interact at all until one rainy day when he finds her, morose and umbrella-less, in a playground near their apartment building. A simple “I lend you my umbrella and get sick from it, so you return the favor by helping me through my sickness” exchange later and the course is set for Mahiru to take it upon herself to go all domestic on Amane. She helps clean up his place, starts cooking dinner for him on a regular basis, and even becomes a regular in his apartment in her at-home clothing. Later on, they go on what essentially amounts to a date, too, even though neither (especially Amane!) is willing to openly admit that they’re more than friends. Throughout the process, only a handful of closest friends ever know about their relationship, and those who do proclaim that Amane and Mahiru practically act like a married couple. In other words, the plot (such as it is) is a very straightforward teen romantic path.

Although this is all absolutely male wish fulfillment, the series does take pains to establish more credibility than normal and work on carefully building the foundations for a deeper relationship. Amane lives alone partly because his mother would be a handful for anyone to deal with and partly because he felt a need to switch schools because of some things which happened at his middle school. (These aren’t big, dark, scarring events, but how they could shake his confidence in himself and encourage him to seek a change of venue is readily understandable.) He does have a close friend – or two, if the friend’s gregarious girlfriend is counted as well – but he’s developed somewhat of an inferiority complex and certainly think that Mahiru is above his level. Mahiru, meanwhile, drops hints early on that she’s living alone because of a wholly unpleasant family situation, and when the truth of that eventually comes out, why she would be looking for an excuse to make more than just a superficial connection with someone else is also easy to understand. Towards her, Amane is polite, comforting, and above all, respectful of boundaries. She doesn’t have to put up a “perfect girl” front around him (she can be rather pouty and a bit sharp-tongued) and can trust Amane to behave himself. Mahiru may be benefiting from just being a convenient outlet for Mahiru’s apparent wish to have a more interactive home life, but he’s also being very careful not to screw it up.

The one limitation here is that the story is told almost exclusively from Amane’s point of view. We never get to hear what’s going on inside Mahiru’ head, hence leaving viewers to intuit her motives. However, once the revelations about her family situation come into the picture, the implication is that she may be trying to simulate a version of the home life she never had a chance to have. Of course, she also gives the impression that she’s just having fun coddling Amane, even as she scolds him about not being more confident in himself. Although she has, since beginning, been an equal proponent to Amane on the “we’re just friends” claim, her most recent behavior and verbal slips have started to suggest that her emotions have shifted to the point that she might not object if Amane did make a move. Amane’s lack of confidence may be the only barrier to them going the full boyfriend/girlfriend route in the season’s final episodes; certainly she wants to see him have more faith in himself.

One of the main draws of the series is Mahiru’s adorability, and the series wastes few opportunities to play that up. Whether it’s her character design, the way she pouts or gets angry, the way she hides behind a couch pillow, or the very domestic way she dresses and behaves outside of school, everything about her is a finely-calculated level of more mature cuteness. The original writer and production team seemed to be aware that this alone would not carry the series, so Amane’s friend Itsuki and Itsuki’s girlfriend Chitose quickly become cast regulars and, later, confidants, and their presence is quite welcome. They offer a much more expressive verve and energy to the proceedings, as well as providing a good contrast to Amane and Mahiru and an example of what a successful high school relationship would look like – something which, sadly, is far too rare in series like these. While they are not usually at the center of events, the series would not work as well without them.

The technical merits are not strong on this one beyond the character designs, but the musical score adds a nice, soft touch and the opener has a neat late ’70s vibe to it.

Overall, this series will not blow anyone away or emotionally overwhelm anyone, but it delivers well enough on its core sentiments and romantic developments to be a sweet and endearing view. It’s definitely worthy of more attention than it’s getting.

Rating: B

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