Yen Press provided a review copy of one of their newest light novels, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Vol. 1. and so, for all intents and purposes, this is a review of that light novel. That said, my thoughts on this light novel are more personal and somewhat less review-like. ~ stardf29
Amane is a high school boy living by himself, and not exactly doing the best job at it. His living space is a complete mess and he subsists on convenience store food and nutritional jellies. His neighbor, Mahiru, is one of the most popular girls at school, often referred to as an “angel,” and Amane considers her way out of his league and is content admiring her from afar. Even as neighbors, they barely interact until one day, when he sees her sitting out in the rain, and gives his umbrella to her. Expecting that to be their last interaction, Amane is surprised when Mahiru appears the next day to return his umbrella and ends up nursing him when she realizes he got sick, all while scolding him for his slovenly way of life. Things escalate from there as Mahiru’s pity on Amane’s way of life leads to her cooking regularly for him and even helping him clean things up.
Amane, to his credit, does not take Mahiru’s generosity for granted, and makes sure to show his gratitude for all she does (as well as make more effort to keep things clean on his own). As the two continue to spend time together, they naturally start to grow closer as Amane realizes that despite her sharp tongue, Mahiru does enjoy taking care of him for some reason. The volume does hint that her own family circumstances are not the best—she explicitly hates her birthday and is envious of Amane’s lovingly-meddlesome mother—though for the most part Mahiru’s feelings are left somewhat vague in this first volume.
For a general review of this book, what I can say is that it is a nice, fluffy romantic comedy, in the usual vein where a guy with some issues finds a different side to the popular girl and the two spend more time together. It does pick up more in the second half, when Amane stops simply receiving Mahiru’s generosity and starts doing things for her and for his own self-sustainability, and as other characters make appearances in the story. Even then, the author in the afterword outright says that this first volume is still in a buildup phase and things pick up in the second volume, so all things considered this should be considered more of an appetizer volume to get ready for the main course.
With that said, I have to give this light novel credit. Out of all the ones I have read, this is the only light novel that actually got me to clean up my apartment. So that automatically makes this novel a 10/10, right? Well, my personal struggles with adulting aside, this novel, and Mahiru in particular, has given me quite a bit to think about regarding God and His relationship with His people.
Mahiru is initially very harsh toward Amane, and minces no words when she tells him how his lifestyle is not suitable for living alone. And as much as we might prefer to think of God as a kind, loving Father, we should remember that He has very harsh words about the effect of sin in our lives. He makes it clear that sin leads to damnation, and that even for those who are saved through Christ, sin goes against what God wants for our lives and will hurt us. And yet, just like how Mahiru chooses to help Amane out by cooking for him and helping him clean, God does not leave us to deal with sin on our own, but through His grace, He gives us the power to overcome sin. He knows we are powerless to deal with things on our own, and we do not need to be “cleaned up” already to accept His love and care.
And Mahiru and Amane’s relationship is not a one-way street; Amane’s response to Mahiru is what makes this series more than just “popular girl takes care of slob boy.” Of course, Amane first had to allow Mahiru into his apartment to help him clean, and later on, cook for and eat with him. Given that Amane mentions how territorial he is of his living space, this is actually a pretty big step for him. Beyond that, he does everything he can to show his appreciation for what Mahiru does for him, like buying her gifts, frequently complimenting her cooking, and setting up times to spend time together. He also tries to do what he can on his own end to clean and cook, though he does still go to Mahiru for help, especially with cooking where he is a complete novice.
Our relationship with God likewise is based on our response to His love. The first step, of course, is accepting God’s concern and care, choosing to no longer let sin eat away at our lives. Then there are various ways we can show gratitude to God, such as giving back materially or through service, and spending time with Him and letting Him know exactly what we are thankful to Him about. This is also not a passive process in which God magically fixes all our problems for us, either; we have to listen to what He wants us to do and obey Him, doing what we need to do while being aware that our own weakness means we must constantly rely on His help.
These parallels make the growing relationship between Amane and Mahiru way more compelling for me than I had expected. And to think this is still basically just one large prologue to what is likely an even more diabetes-inducing relationship in later volumes. If that can lead to even more insights into my relationship with God, this could easily become one of those stories that becomes one of my personal favorites for personal reasons. Whatever the case, I am definitely very much looking forward to the next volume!
I would like to give thanks to Nicole Wilder, the translator of this series, and of course to Yen Press for publishing the series in English and providing the review copy. You can find links to buy The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, Vol. 1 here.