Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai
Anime Studio: CloverWorks
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Released: April 27th, 2020
Puberty Syndrome – Abnormal experiences rumoured on the internet to be caused by sensitivity and instability during adolescence. This year, Sakuta Azusagawa, a second-year student at a high school near Enoshima, meets several girls that are experiencing this “puberty syndrome.” For instance, he encounters a wild bunny girl in the library. She turns out to be an actress on hiatus, Mai Sakurajima, who is also his senior at the school. For some reason, no one else can see this enchanting girl. How did she become invisible…? As Sakuta searches for answers to help Mai, they spend more time together, and he eventually learns of her hidden feelings… This is an unusual story that takes place in a town of bright skies and glistening seas, where Sakuta encounters various intriguing girls.
When I first saw the original artwork for the series, which was Mai in the titular bunny girl outfit, I fell into the trap of expecting that to be a prominent theme. As it turns out, it isn’t. In fact, we barely see the bunny girl outfit at all. That kinda translates across the series as a whole too insofar as any idea that it will be fan service driven is completely false. As it transpires, Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai actually places the emphasis on supernatural storytelling.
The core concept here of ‘puberty syndrome’ is actually pretty interesting, and it never becomes too over the top. If anything, the way it manifests for each character is fairly understated compared to what it could be. That works well here as it means that Sakuta can concentrate on the mystery of what caused each issue and how to resolve it. What I like about that is that means the paranormal edge to the series never becomes so overblown that it strays towards parody. That’s actually aided by the underlying incidents being fairly contemporary in nature too; social media bullying, isolation and so on all fit with our modern world, and the negatives of them are on show in force here.
I was also impressed with Sakuta as a protagonist. With the series featuring plenty of girls for him to help, it had the potential to become a standard harem show, and that often means a bland male lead. Sakuta though is not that. He has a bit of snark and can be a little laconic, but as things go forward, you can see some depth to how much he truly cares about those close to him.
The design work is decent, featuring a mostly understated feel to the characters. They fit with the modern world setting, feel standard enough to be familiar, but are still fitting enough not to come across as entirely cliché. The animation is mostly fine. It certainly doesn’t reach the heights of some of CloverWorks other efforts, but there isn’t anything that stands out as bad enough to take you out of the show at all. In much the same way, the soundtrack fits fin, but doesn’t standout outside the excellent opening theme ‘Kimi no Sei’ by The Peggies.
The ones tumbling block for the series is perhaps the character of Shoko. While undoubtedly important to the story, her arc isn’t actually resolved at all by the time the thirteenth episode airs. It will be by the film follow-up Rascal Does Not Dream Of A Dreaming Girl, but it was a shame that it was left hanging here. And yes, Kaeda does give us that terrible little sister loves her big brother trope too, but somehow, it doesn’t feel as bad as it does in other shows. The way Kaeda’s arc plays out at least makes it a little more understandable, and it does disappear as an angle.
Overall, this series is all about the story, and in that regard, it’s executed well. The characters are interesting, the set up is cool, and the individual arcs are just the right balance of modern hurt and understated supernatural drama. Even without any aesthetic standouts, Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai clearly deserved the praise it garnered when it first aired. This gets a 4.5 out of 5 for me.