A bit late to the fray, but what better way to start 2019 the way I intend to carry it on. With an anime review nonetheless!
I started watching 'Rascal Does not dream of bunny girl Senpai' when it first aired in October 2018, However, I have a tendency to be inconsistent with watching shows. Hence the late review in December. I picked it up again on my long train journeys into work and this is the result!
The story starts off with a disinterested rascal by the name of Sakuta Azusagawa. Early on, the audience is shown by other characters reactions and whispers that Sakuta is isolated and an outcast due to a 'hospitalization incident'. One day he meets the wild bunny girl in the library who is none other than the famous child star Mai Sakurajima who is also his senior in school.
He soon learns the reason for her strange appearance is due to her slowly becoming invisible to more and more people. Immediately in the first episode, we are introduced to the phenomenon of 'Adolescence Syndrome'. Cases of memory loss, mind reading, invisibility etc. Predominantly in teenagers. This syndrome is an urban legend which seemingly causes the social perceptions and atmosphere to manifest themselves as physical effects.
This anime at a first glance delves into the complicated and emotional turmoil that occurs in loneliness. Not only from Mai, and Sakuta but also when we learn about the back-story about Sakutas little sister, Kaede. Initially, I didn't expect much depth from this anime, it seemed like there would be a typical fan-service and storyline of a cool/dorky/snarky guy surrounded by a harem of guys. I detected a faint whiff of Clannad. So far, I was sorely mistaken. Sakuta is blunt and to the point, whilst he does make some distasteful jokes (most noticeably to his friend Kunimi's girlfriend).
I personally do enjoy Sakutas cool demeanour and witty retorts, I did dislike this particular snippet. I could take this retort in an offensive way however, I suppose it could be seen as a narrative portraying the stereotypical rebuttal of a man who is faced with an intimidating woman. To undermine her opinion with reference to her reproductive system. The feminist in me screams in frustration.
Sakuta spends his time in the first episode learning more about Mai-san and her motivations behind her bunny girl costume. Mai-San is currently on hiatus from acting due to some complicated motivations that involve her manager, who is also her mother (we learn this in episode 2). In the first episode, we see the slow progression of how she becomes invisible to more people. To the point where she can no longer buy food without the assistance of Sakuta.
In Episode 2, we learn more about Mai-san's hiatus and the motivations behind it. During Middle school, a swimsuit photoshoot was planned by her mother when she was very young and this hiatus from show-biz can be seen as revenge. This stirs up some interesting discussions about the sexualization of girls at a young age, the ruthlessness of the entertainment industry and a complicated mother/manager-daughter relationship. The resentment towards her mother stems from the apparent greed and disregard there is for her own daughters' feelings. Mai-san resolves, after a brief chat to Sakuta, that she will re-enter show business and that she will no longer be managed by her mother's agency.
Mai and Sakuta plan a trip to Kamakura and take a detour for Mai to break the news to her mother. However, it is at this point that people have completely forgotten her. Even her own mother has no idea who she is. It is also in this episode that Sakuta stumbles upon the theory that her disappearing presence may have a direct connection to the School and it's 'atmosphere'. With the help of his Senpai, and a reference to Schrödinger's cat (insert slight eye-roll). Sakuta's theory is: what cannot be observed cannot be seen and that during sleep observation cannot physically happen. In atmosphere at school, no students observe mai. This is especially true in the outside world as she is currently on hiatus and her face isn't regularly appearing in shows or commercials.
In the grandest display of love, he vows to not sleep for as long as he could in an effort to not forget Mai-San. He writes everything that has happened since the bunny suit incident in a diary. However, sleep comes for us all and he eventually does forget who she is. Until he takes his midterms. When all his memories conveniently flood back.
I loved the relationship and humorous banter between Sakuta-Kun and Mai-San - the classic anime style depiction of a Kouhai in love with their Senpai but, I felt that the progression of their initial romantic relationship was quick paced. He confessed his love in the third episode:
I did really enjoy the moment of realization during Sakutas midterms, and the dramatic run to the field and his proclamation of love. However! It felt rather cliché and rushed with regards to the progression of the storyline. Regardless, we are only 3 episodes in and I will take it with a pinch of salt and look forward to how the relationship progresses. Mai-kun responses to Sakutas heartfelt and brave confession with a demand. He must Confess he loves her again in a month before she considers it. To which, he replies he will tell her 'I love you' every day for a month. I have to admit, this tugged at my heartstrings.
However, I'm not entirely bowled over about how simple the resolution of Mai's invisibility was. The atmosphere of the school, and how students' bullying in the form of ignorance and neglect was reverted simply by a cringe-worthy confession of love? Maybe my skepticism is a reflection of my aging mind, and maybe at the days of youth this reasoning was true:
So far, I am enjoying the anime and I will give it a 3.5/5. This may seem low, but I want to leave more room for the progression of the story. I hope anyone else who reads this will give it a try to!