Important spoiler warning: While the Christmas “episode” in question takes place in volume one of the series, I will be talking about major spoilers from volume two.
Whenever a big revelation happens in a story, I like to think about earlier events and see how my view of those events changes based on what was revealed later on. In the case of The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, volume two finally reveals the past of Mahiru, the titular angel who’s been helping protagonist Amane with cleaning and cooking. Considering how, up to this point, the story’s focus had been on Amane, how Mahiru “spoils” him while encouraging him to change for the better, and what he does to try to show his gratitude to her, it’s nice to finally see what her side of the story was like. And with that information, re-reading volume 1 becomes quite a bit more interesting as we can start to guess how Mahiru felt during everything that went on.
This brings us to the two Christmas chapters towards the end of the first volume. In the first chapter, Amane invites his two school friends Itsuki and Chitose over for a Christmas Eve hangout, while Mahiru supposedly spends the day alone in exchange for hanging with Amane on Christmas Day. However, during the party, Itsuki and Chitose discover that Mahiru is in fact Amane’s neighbor, and the one who had been taking care of him all this time (they had known someone was caring for him, but not who). As such, Mahiru gets invited to this party where she befriends Chitose and Itsuki herself. The second chapter is more of a “wrap-up” chapter, with Mahiru trying out video games with Amane and the two of them expressing thanks to each other for the year.
All of this sounds fun and relatively low-key; sure, the Christmas Eve chapter does allow Amane and Mahiru to finally reveal their “relationship” to Amane’s friends, but beyond that, it’s not like it’s some earth-shattering event or anything. Amane’s friends accept what’s going on with little fanfare and will probably just contribute a bit more to future hijinks, right? Well, when we look at things from Mahiru’s side, especially with what we learn from volume 2, the events are a lot more meaningful than that.
In volume 2, we learn that Mahiru was born to a loveless arranged marriage, and her parents basically want as little to do with her as possible. Mahiru had done her best to make herself as “angelic” as possible, hoping her parents would actually show her some love, but her efforts were all in vain. Her mother in particular has outright said to her face how much she doesn’t care about Mahiru and how she’ll be glad to have nothing to do with her once she graduates from university. In fact, it was after one such encounter that Amane first found Mahiru and lent her his umbrella, which started off the whole series of events with Mahiru taking care of Amane when she finds out how sloppy his life is.
Looking back, one could guess that in taking care of him, Mahiru was, consciously or not, trying to find the love she had sought so desperately from her parents. And when Amane responded with genuine gratitude, she had finally succeeded. In a more cynical story, this would be the start of an unhealthy codependent relationship, but thankfully Amane has taken steps to improve himself and respond more proactively to Mahiru’s help.
How do the Christmas Eve events fit into all of this? Up until this point, Mahiru did not have any friends at school; her perfect “angelic” persona that she kept up at school had distanced her from others. Anytime people referred to her as an “angel”, she can only silently lament how it is only a facade that she puts on for her parents’ sake, which she can’t turn off even after realizing how pointless it is. Amane is thus the first person to see past her “angelic” mask, something she had secretly been wanting this whole time. But ultimately, Amane is just one person… at least until he introduces his friends to her.
With Itsuki and particularly Chitose getting a chance to befriend the “real” Mahiru, her world expands just a bit more. Volume 2 features more interactions between her and Amane’s friends, and it becomes part of his reassurance to her that she has people who care about her, even beyond himself. Amane might still be the one she is closest to, but having other friends who she can be herself with can only be a good thing.
In their Christmas Day hangout, Mahiru tells Amane that she is thankful for things that he is not aware of. At this point, Amane doesn’t know what kind of pain she had been through, and just how much he had helped her by being appreciative of her and showing her that he cares. She is also likely thankful for how he has introduced her to more friends and how she can generally be herself around them. Amane is not quite aware of just how much he means to her, but he can nevertheless sense that their relationship is starting to become something special to both of them.
This post was an exercise in retrospection: seeing how my perspective on events from volume 1 changed because of information from volume 2. Often times we only realize how important something that happened in the past is because of something we learn in the future, and nowhere is this more relevant than with the birth of Christ. If you think about it, from Mary and Joseph’s perspective, giving birth to Jesus probably didn’t feel very celebration-worthy; they just listened to the words of some “angel” while Mary somehow got pregnant by supernatural means. There were some things that happened that indicated to them that the baby might be a Very Important Person, but at the time, they could not have known that their baby would grow up to become the Savior of humanity, who would die on a cross for everyone’s sins and would then rise from the grave. We only celebrate the birth of Christ because His death and resurrection gives us reason to celebrate. So in a way, when we celebrate Christ’s birth through the Christmas story, we are taking the time to appreciate Volume 1 of Christ’s life, based on what we know happens later on in the story. It may be a bit of a stretch to have these light novel chapters tie into Christmas in this way, but I feel like it’s worth pointing out.
Also, remember to be kind to others, especially during the holiday season (but also the rest of the year, too). After all, we don’t know just how meaningful such acts of kindness may be to other people.
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten is released by Yen Press.