High school can be a cruel place. Even if it’s not implied by class structure, cultural stratifications often build themselves, emotionally walling off students from potential social interactions. The jocks, honor students, music kids, burnouts, and socially awkward students all tend to gravitate towards each other, not bothering to mingle with the other groups because people are “out of their league.” But unintentionally, Amane Fujiyama circumvents this and builds a new connection in the first volume of Saekisan’s new light novel series, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten.
Amane’s got decent class scores – not enough to reach the top of the class, but nothing to sneeze at, either – but doesn’t have much going on besides hanging out with his buddy Itsuki and playing video games. On top of that, his sloppiness and bad eating habits leave him looking messy and sickly. His course in life is shifted on one rainy day, when he has a run-in with Mahiru Shiina. Mahiru, colloquially known as “the Angel” around school, has it all. Her exam scores are top notch, she’s a pro in gym class, and her striking beauty leaves all the boys in school swooning. All except for Amane, that is. He doesn’t look at Mahiru that way, since he knows in his heart he has no shot with her.
But when Amane comes upon Mahiru sitting in the park unprotected during a torrential downpour, he offers her his umbrella to shelter her from the rain. Mahiru accepts, but Amane’s favor leaves him catching a cold the next day. As he struggles to get back to his apartment, he stumbles upon a surprising discovery: his next door neighbor is none other than Mahiru. The two teens, coming from well-off families, have adjacent apartments all to themselves. Mahiru, wanting to return the favor and the umbrella, helps Amane home, only to find his place is a disaster. From there, Mahiru decides to lend a helping hand, cleaning up his apartment, then pledging to provide him with dinner every night, since she has food to spare. Through these ordeals, they grow a bond, but Amane also discovers Mahiru isn’t the kind, benevolent angel everyone thinks she is at school.
Both Amane and Mahiru are fun characters when they interact with themselves or others, but they don’t have a lot of depth to them. As far as Amane goes, there’s not a lot there. We get to know very little of his character, perhaps so the reader can self-insert themselves into the story, hoping to win Mahiru’s heart. One of the few facets that we get about Amane is that he can’t stand energetic, bubbly personalities, but looking at some of the supporting cast, he just seems to surround himself with those types. Meanwhile, Mahiru comes across as nearly perfect and proud of it. The only times she shows weakness are when she interacts with Amane. It also gets confusing when you look at Hanekoto’s accompanying illustrations. He portrays Mahiru in a very moe style, which is fine if the pictures were in class. But her character falls much more under the tsundere label outside of school, regularly prodding Amane to get his life together.
Some of my issues with the characterization might come from the fact that this is the first romantic light novel I’ve read for review. There are subtle hints to issues Amane and Mahiru have with their families, but they’re left unfollowed. On top of that, the plot moves at a pretty slow pace, devolving into episodic hijinks before building to a strong ending. An example of that is how Amane continues to refer to Mahiru as an angel, despite her discomfort with the term. Even in his inner monologue, he’s still placing her on a pedestal, despite getting to know her over months. Lingering threads like that, though, could be so there’s enough breathing room for the major story beats in future volumes. Time will tell how detailed the story of Amane and Mahiru’s relationship becomes.
When it comes down to it, I did have a few pacing issues with this book, but that might just be the nature of the beast. It’s still a light, enjoyable read, a simple high school romantic comedy that leaves a smile on your face, despite the flaws. So if you’re looking to brighten your day, maybe you should invite this angel to your reading list.
In photo one, Mahiru gets ready to return Amane's umbrella, when she makes a surprising discovery. In photo two, meal prep is one of the services Mahiru provides to try to get Amane's life together. In photo three, even "angels" need a break every now and then. (The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten Novel Volume 1)
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten Novel Volume 1
Amane lives alone in an apartment, and the most beautiful girl in school, Mahiru, lives just next door. They've almost never spoken-until the day he sees her in distress on a rainy day and lends her his umbrella. To return the favor, she offers him help around the house, and a relationship slowly begins to blossom as the distance between them closes...Add to CartLearn More