Title: Hatsukoi Monster
Alternate Title: First Love Monster
Genre: Romance / Comedy / Slice of Life / Shoujo
Length: 12 Episodes + OVA
Release Date: 2016
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Based on: Hatsukoi Monster manga by Akira Hiyoshimaru (which is still ongoing at time of this review).
You can purchase the first 3 volumes (at time of this review) on Amazon in English:
Geeky: 2/5 – No action here, but a lot of comedy. It’s also pretty heavy on romance though, so if Rom-coms aren’t your thing, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
Sweetie: 3/5 – Kaho’s character is perhaps the worst defined within this series and the most boring, despite being the main character, and a female lead who we witness the story through. Her relationship also never grows nor do the characters experience any significant growth or development. However, this is a cute, innocent, heart warming anime. The characters are likable, and the art style is kawaii. The blend of romance and comedy make this Slice of Life a fun one to watch, but if you’re expecting a serious and strong love story, the plot here falls short of that.
Overall: 42/55 76% C “Good Anime For Girls”
Concept: 8/10 Hatsukoi Monster focuses on a romantic relationship between the female lead, Kaho, whom is 15 years old, and Kanade, who is a fifth grader. Just like with the education system in the United States, fifth graders in Japan are between 10 and 11 years old. Kanade (and many of his friends) look much older, but their actions give way to just how young they truly are. Since both the anime and the manga are currently in production still at time of this review, who knows how it will end. I speculate that they’ll jump time forward at some point. There are some people who are “grossed out” or “weirded out” by the age gap. But it’s only a 5 year age difference. I’ve dated as much as 8 years older or younger than me, but the difference is, I’m in my 30s, not in my teens lol. But the point I’m trying to make is that, by time the couple (Kaho and Kanade) enter college, this is no longer weird or creepy. Plenty of people have relationships in this age range. AND Kaho is just a child still herself even in the current time-line. It’s not THAT creepy. In fact, I applaud it for daring to do something different from most highschool anime romantic comedies. The characters in Hatsukoi Monster are charming, funny, innocent, and pure. And it’s rare to see an anime or manga with an older woman dating a younger guy.
Each episode features conflicts which arise as a result of the age gap between the couple. There’s a lot of tension, misunderstandings, and mistakes made by both Kaho and Kanade. For both of them it is their first love, hence the title of this anime. They both need to mature a lot if their relationship is to survive. Luckily they have help from various people in their apartment complex who try to help them smooth things over, or conversely, provoke them to be more honest about their feelings.
It’s largely a comedy anime while the romance takes a back seat to the childish antics of Kanade and his gang. If you like comedy anime with a hint of romance, and don’t mind drama, cliffhangers, and relationship tension being thrown at you each week then you will really enjoy Hatsukoi Monster. Some of the jokes and humor are pretty low-brow but what do you expect from a cast consisting mostly of 10 year olds? A lot of the jokes and humor get reused each week too, especially the pranks that Kanade and his friends like to play (which in true 10 year old fashion, they find equally hilarious no matter how many times they pull the same stunt).
Story: 7/10 Kaho has lived a sheltered life of privilege and never been exposed to the realities of the outside world. Wanting to experience life for herself, she moves into an apartment complex known as the Kasumi House. On her way to her new home, Kaho almost gets into an accident. Kanade saves her and proceeds to chew her out for not watching where she is going. No one has ever raised their voice or spoken frankly to Kaho. This, plus Kanade’s cool demeanor and good looks cause Kaho to fall in love at first sight. Only later does she discover that the two of them will be living together from now on, and that Kanade is actually the 10 year old son of her apartment manager.
This is a Slice of Life anime, each episode focusing on another day in the Kasumi House. Kanade and his friends play tag, go to school, participate in sports events, culture festivals, or study for exams. While it shows us a lot of sweet, funny, or touching moments with Kanade and his friends, it falls short of showing us much backstory about Kaho, the supposed main character in this whole mess. Everything is told from Kaho’s perspective, so it would’ve been nice to see her school life, and more of her family life. As for friends, she doesn’t have any from being sheltered, but it would’ve been nice to see her grow and mature and make friends on her own (Aside from those at the Kasumi House of course). It’s almost as if Kaho exists in a bubble and her sole purpose is to chase after Kanade.
Since there’s only 1 or 2 episodes left at time of this review, my main complaint is that the story just never really seems to go anywhere. Each week is the same, with breaking up and making up, and similar antics and mischief. The couple never grows or really gets over their misunderstandings or able to handle their emotions.
Characters: 9/10 Almost all of the characters, except for Kaho herself, have really interesting personalities and back stories, though some are way over the top and eccentric. Kanade’s friends each represent some common roles we’ve seen in other anime, but they take it to extremes at times which just highlights the comedic nature of this anime.
For example, Taga is your typical tsundere. (hard on the outside but with a soft spot for certain things). His soft spot is Kanade whom he says reminds him of himself when he was that age. He is excessively rude to Kaho (possibly because he loves her). He calls her Breadcrumb girl and Garbage Girl, he intentionally does things to make Kaho cry in front of Kanade, which provoke’s Kanade’s protective instincts and sometimes helps them repair their relationship as a result of Taga playing badguy to let Kanade come “save the princess”.
Nagasawa is an Otaku, he has an obsession with a crossplaying young idol by the name of Renren who bares a striking resemblence to one of Kanade’s friends. As a result he usually tricks them into playing dressup and fantasizing about his idol. His room is full of dolls, toys, posters, books, CDs, movies, and costumes surrounding his fandom.
Shinohara is a very shy and frail character who also has a crush on Kaho, however, he is unable to overcome his fears or be honest about his feelings.
Kaz, Gin, and Tom make up the 3 main friends of Kanade and are featured prominently in each episode. Gin and Tom are both similar to Kanade, they look much taller and older than their mental state and actual age. Kaz on the other hand looks very small and young even for his age, but despite that, he acts as the voice of reason among the group.
Kaho’s brother makes an appearance later in the series, and is obsessed to the point where he’s almost actually in love with Kaho. Another similar character, but a female version of him, lives in the Kasumi House, and she is equally obsessed with Kanade’s father.
Shugo is Kanade’s father who has been raising Kanade as a single dad since his wife (Kanade’s mother) passed away when Kanade was small.
Artwork: 5/5 – I love all the character designs, they are really super cute and colorful. Each character looks unique and distinctive.
Music: 5/5 The opening and ending themes are very memorable and catchy. The opening theme is more Pop feeling, while the ending theme is definitely more Rock inspired. The background music throughout is also really well done. Most of the music throughout is fast paced which seems to fit the energy and enthusiasm of Kanade and his friends.
Voice Acting: 3/5 – While some of the characters such as Kanade, Kaho, Kaz, Taga, and Shinohara are almost perfectly cast, I have some issues with some of the other actors. Namely Gin and Tom, who both sound much older than Kanade and much too old for 5th graders, even if their voices have already dropped, they just don’t sound even like high schoolers, but instead like much older men. Overall, all of the actors delivered emotional and exciting performances that (for the most part) fit their characters well.
Overall: 42/55 76% C “Good Anime For Girls”