The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Vol. 5

By Saekisan and Hanekoto. Released in Japan as “Otonari no Tenshi-sama ni Itsu no Ma ni ka Dame Ningen ni Sareteita Ken” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

There is a trope sometimes known as Moonlighting Syndrome, named after the 80s TV show, which refers to a series failing because the romantic couple got together and all the tension was removed from the show. Leaving aside that this is not at all why Moonlighting failed, I think it’s a trope that is honored more in the breach than in the observance. It also depends on the genre. If this were a standard harem comedy, with Amane attracting the love of five or six different girls, then the one where he picks one would definitely be the final volume. Fortunately, this is not that, it’s a syrupy sweet relationship book. In fact, the thing that separates this from the pack is how long it’s actually taken Amane and Mahiru to get together. But at last Mahiru has managed to convey her feelings and the two of them are dating, and so now we can finally answer the age old question the above trope asks: now what?

Well, first of all, they’ve got to let the school know that they’re dating. OK, they don’t HAVE to do this, but given how much they accidentally flirt with each other constantly now, it will become rapidly apparent anyway. Surprisingly, it goes very smoothly – Amane is serious and withdrawn rather than a “loser protagonist”, so doesn’t get as much backlash as expected for dating the Angel of the school. Plus she’ll kill anyone who tries to get on his case about it with an angelic (fake) smile. After this there’s two more important relationship goals to conquer. Going to the local pool, which will involve swimsuits and attractive bodies. And going back home to visit Amane’s parents, which will involve a lot of Amane getting teased, but also an encounter that will hopefully let him close the book on his past trauma.

Generally speaking, whenever you have these “my personality is broken because of kids in my past”, you are inevitably going to meet those kids again. So the question is will it be the “it turns out we were really sad about what we did and want to apologize” version or the “no, we really are massive assholes” version. Angel Next Door takes the latter tack, and it’s probably for the best. Amane’s psychological damage has been what’s held the romance back in the first place, so having it be due to a misunderstanding wouldn’t have worked. That said, instead of a past trauma, we have a new enemy for readers: Amane and Mahiru’s own innate pureness. It takes the entire volume for them to get around to a kiss on the lips, and you get the sense that any sexual activity will be long after this series has finished. This is syrupy sweet romance, but that means you have to put up with them being two massive cinnamon rolls.

So still decent, if you can put up with the two leads being gaga over each other but rarely getting past the “holding hands” part.

The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Vol. 4

By Saekisan and Hanekoto. Released in Japan as “Otonari no Tenshi-sama ni Itsu no Ma ni ka Dame Ningen ni Sareteita Ken” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

I’m going to talk about the ending of this book, for the one or two of you who have never read my reviews before and don’t know I tend to spoil. It’s sort of unavoidable. Honestly, it’s something of a surprise to see the book has finally come out – it’s been 11 months since the last volume in English, and I’m not sure why there was such a delay. It could simply be to allow the reader time to recover from and prepare themselves for another wacky adventure with Amane’s self-hatred, which continues to drive the plot, because otherwise the series would have been one book long. Unfortunately, since the last volume of this Tentai Books has released a good 3-4 different series with a similar premise, so it now has competition. Can it manage to be sweet and syrupy while also separating itself from the pack? Yes, thanks to the ending. I wasn’t going to wait 5 volumes.

You know the basic plot. Mahiru loves Amane and is trying to subtly show him it’s OK to ask if that is the case. Amane sees the signs, but cannot possibly imagine anyone liking him romantically, so keeps pulling away. If this annoys you, why are you four volumes in? The main events here are exams, which features Amane trying to do better than before for Mahiru’s sake; getting in better shape, which features Amane trying to do better than before for Mahiru’s sake; and the sports festival, which features Amane trying to do better than before for Mahiru’s sake. He’s nearly got it! He’s almost there! That said, he still needs one last push, and it all comes down to the Scavenger Hunt, where Mahiru chooses to give up on “not rocking the boat” and drops a bomb in the middle of the school.

Not an actual bomb, of course, but she makes it clear in front of the student body that Amane is the guy she loves. She is aware this will trouble him, because the last four books have all been “we need to hide our friendship or else I will get attacked at school”, but honestly, I admire her waiting this long. I wanted to punch him in the face, as did his friends. That said, it is in fact the grandest gesture that makes Amane give in and confess to the rest of the class that he is in love with Mahiru. There’s an undercurrent here, seen in a lot of other high school romcoms, of “looks and shared interests are not as important as simply understanding one another”. That said, this honestly works out a lot better than you’ expect. Amane isn’t disliked or an outcast. he’s just “that tall guy who almost never talks”.

Best of all, now maybe Mahiru can stop0 being such an Angel at school. The author assures us they have a lot more volumes planned, even if this felt like an ending. That said, they also warn that we still have Amane’s self-hatred to deal with. Ah well, if you’re going to buy into a fluffy series you’ve gotta buy into its less-fluffy things, I suppose.

The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Vol. 3

By Saekisan and Hanekoto. Released in Japan as “Otonari no Tenshi-sama ni Itsu no Ma ni ka Dame Ningen ni Sareteita Ken” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nicole Wilder.

Tempting as it is to simply cut and paste my review of the 2nd volume here and call it a day, I will try to find new things to discuss. This series runs on sweet but slow burn, and there are very few surprises. On the downside, that makes it somewhat boring. On the good side, you know exactly what you’re getting and you get a lot of it. The main difference in the third volume is that Mahiru tries to come on to Amane a lot stronger to get past his impenetrable shell of self-hatred. She fails, but it’s the effort that counts. She is starting to get a bit sick of his attitude, though – as is the rest of the cast, including his new friend Yuuta, the “class prince”, who sees a kindred spirit in Amane and is rather startled that the feeling isn’t mutual. By the end of the book, everyone is dragging him constantly to feel better about himself. Will it help? Possibly?

Usually the 2nd paragraph of my reviews is where I summarize the plot, but the plot can essentially be summarized in three words: Mahiru Tries Harder. As such we get a lap pillow, and more spontaneous touching. We get Amane seeing another guy ask Mahiru out, and see just how difficult it can be for her to reject them, especially when they refuse to accept it. We see Mahiru managing to actually join Amane for lunch and get away with it. Most importantly we get Golden Week, where Mahiru asks Amane on a date. Of course, it’s not a romantic date to him – not at all, after all, how on earth would she ever have feelings for him? It’s just going out to a cat cafe, a mall (where much trying on of clothes is done) and an arcade (where there is winning of stuffed animals) but as Just Friends. That said, a return to school shows some folks spotted her on the date, so something may break next time.

The author knows Amane’s big flaw can be annoying to the reader, but instead of trying to disguise this it is shoved in our faces – and his. We do finally get his own tragic backstory here, which amounts to “I grew up rich and naive and then met typical middle-school two-faced jerks”, but it’s left him bitter, mistrusting and thinking he’s the absolute worst. This even plays into the title, as he regards everything Mahiru is trying to do in order to get her feelings across to him as “spoiling him”, so he automatically pushes back. Multiple times in this book she, Itsuki and Yuuta all tell Amane to man up, have confidence, and actually try to show Mahiru how he feels about her. The end of the book implies we may see this in the next volume, but for now, this is painful.

Still, the sweet and cute romance outweighs wanting to strangle the lead man, so I’m still invested in it. Imagine how sweet it will get once these two actually confess. Like eating Pixy Stix.