A wild bunny girl has appeared!
What’s the Story?
The strangest things always happen to teenagers (especially in Japan). Body swaps, time loops, doppelgangers, they get the lot and Sakuta has had more than his fair share of weird in his life. From the mysterious scars that appeared on his chest to his little sister having cuts appear all over her body when she was being bullied and that isn’t even the start of it. Sakuta is about to find out just how weird adolescence can be and it all begins when he runs into a young woman dressed as a bunny girl in the local library.
I think, for me at least, this was the surprise hit of 2018 (and I might have considered it the best anime of the year if A Place Further Than the Universe didn’t exist). Also I do have to give a shout out to Karandi over at 100 Word Anime, because this show was not on my radar in the slightest and it was only after reading her review of the first episode that I decided to give this one a go and I am so grateful for that. This show is not what you expect in any shape or form, I mean I know the first thought that went through my head was ‘Oh boy, this is going to be another forced fanservice-ladden harem nonsense and I don’t have the patience for that in any shape or form’. I mean look at the title and the promotional image on Crunchyroll has Mai dressed up in the titular Bunny Girl outfit, what was I supposed to expect?
But I didn’t get that, no, instead I got a show that was smart, thoughtful, incredibly funny and sweet and a little heart-wrenching at times (scratch that, a lot heart-wrenching). If I look at all the elements of this show on paper it shouldn’t have worked (not for me at least), the recipe was there for pure Infallible Fish repellent and yet the show zigs everywhere I thought it was going zag. It turns character archetypes that have been so overplayed they’re the foundations of the genre and manages to spin them into such fresh and interesting people. Seriously the show could just be two of these characters sat in a room talking for a half hour and I’d be glued to my screen. There’s something about the dialogue in this series, it’s not realistic in any way, everyone speaks in this long-winded, philosophical way that only turns up in anime, but its packed full of so much sardonic wit and quick-fire timing that I don’t care. I could listen to these people all day long; Sakuta and Mai especially have the art of deadpan humour down.
Speaking of the happy couple I don’t normally get involved in these things (ah who am I kidding I’m a shipper ‘til I die) but Sakuta and Mai definitely win the award for best couple of 2018, if not the whole decade and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. What I love the most about their relationship though is that we actually get to see it play out. So many series with romances in, whether it’s an actual romance anime or just a subplot within the story, have it be about the build up to the joyous moment when they confess their love for the world to see, kiss and the credits role. That’s all we see (unless there’s a sequel where the couple will inevitably break up or one gets killed off). Here though Sakuta and Mai get together after the first few episodes (which could play as it’s own little mini movie) and we then see what happens after that. We see them deal with Mai’s work commitments, trying to fit the budding romance around that as well as the weirdness of whatever ‘Adolescence Syndrome’ they’re dealing with for that arc, and all of it builds to further strengthen (and sometimes test) they’re relationship.
I’m so glad this didn’t turn into a harem series, yes after Sakuta helps Mai through her particular problem there are a series of other girls who he has to help out, but they’re all firmly friend-zoned (well I suppose Kaede is sister-zoned). Sure one or two of them may develop feelings for Sakuta, but he sticks to his guns and never once wavers from his adoration of Mai (which, scratch anime, is rare of any male protagonist across any fiction). That’s not to say I don’t like the other girls, all of them are really likeable and their problems are interesting, I also like that they stick around even after their arcs are done, feeling like natural additions to Sakuta’s life even though they don’t have a problem any more.
That brings me to Shoko, and the only slight downside of this series. Shoko is the only mystery left unsolved by the end of the series and she’s been a fairly consistent presence throughout. She keeps being mentioned and makes a couple of appearances, there’s plenty of stuff being set up for her but it never goes anywhere. It’s the only damp squib in the last episode which has some great moments with both Mai and Kaede and I can’t help but feel it would have hit the emotional highs it was aiming for if this particular plot point wasn’t left dangling. Then again that is only if you count the series as the end, from what I’ve heard there is meant to be a movie based on this series coming out at some point (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl) and hopefully that will follow on and resolve the Shoko plot. I certainly won’t turn my nose up at more of this series.
In the end, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (my gods that title is unworthy of this show) is a witty, intelligent and heart-warming show that never does quite what you’re expecting. Its focus is very much on its characters and it explores each and every one of them with a skill and precision I haven’t seen in a long while. I could seriously just listen to the characters bantering back and forth all day long and the central romance of the series is one of the very best of 2018, if not the decade. If you haven’t seen this series than you really need to. Now, how long until that movie comes out?
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.