Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai – Anime Review
Synopsis: “Puberty syndrome – Abnormal experiences rumored 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 meets 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…? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Rascal Does Not Dream looked like generic light novel content at the start of the season. An attractive female lead in a revealing outfit, a young man with a clingy sister, and a host of other girls displayed in its opening title gave the impression Rascal was yet another male fantasy harem. But the truth is Rascal stands as one of the fall’s strongest offerings, filled with fun, witty banter, engaging characters and a focus on turmoil that speaks to real issues teens face in today’s climate. The series focuses on Sakuta as he meets girl after girl suffering from puberty syndrome, detailing his efforts to gradually free them from the emotional struggle that’s sparked whatever supernatural issue they’re suffering from. This focus on what ails each girl creates a character driven atmosphere, allowing our characters to often take full focus and allow each to be fleshed out to an impressive degree.
Linny: Though some might dismiss Rascal as another predictable and fan service filled harem, it actively bucks trends and tropes normally associated with the genre and instead offers female characters with enough personality and back story to make them feel like actual cast members. What’s truly great is they’re definitely NOT there to simply be one more member of Sakuta’s harem. Almost all of them avoid ever developing sexual or romantic feelings for him. While there is a younger girl from Sakuta’s school who maybe has a bit of a soft spot for him, she gets over it. The other girls never develop intense feelings for Sakuta and one of them is even shown to have clear and deep feelings for someone else completely (although I will admit he looks very similar to Sakuta). This allows each female character to feel more unique, and to give them more focus outside of quick and dirty love interests that gradually get added to an ever building pile.
Tom: Rascal has a lot of thought put into it, often used to justify certain tropey elements a number of characters express. These tropey elements become hints, or character flaws, spurred on by what’s really ailing each of the girls. This makes Rascal feel a little deeper and more layered than other light novel romance stories, allowing audiences to peel away at mysteries teased early in the series. It also helps to lend authenticity to characters that would normally be aggravating, like a clingy sister character who may or may not harbor romantic feelings for her brother. By having an explanation for why she is the way she is, the series turns what would normally be an annoying trait into an understandable one. That said, if you truly hate that kind of character, it’s a long slog to get to the explanation.
Linny: If you decide to pick up Rascal out of curiosity revolving around the puberty syndrome, the sad truth is that the show never truly addresses it. While it is a major component, we never get an explanation of what exactly it is and how or why it ‘activates’ in some people and not in others. The best we get is a series of hypothesis from Sakuta and others. Otherwise it’s merely a catalyst for the various stories and leaves me to wonder if the story will ever address it in the ongoing light novel series.
Tom: Rascal easily takes a spot on my list of best Fall 2018 anime, even if its final arc feels a little rushed, particular the last episode. Still the shows insistence on focusing on one girl and her problems for 3-4 episodes at a time gives a nice episodic feel to the narrative, allowing us to focus on a handful of characters at a time, and really dive into each, making them feel deep and layered. Ultimately if you only watch one anime from the Fall line up, I have to insist it be Rascal.
Linny: While Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai impressed me throughout its run, it stumbles in its final episode, making for a shaky wrap up and leaving less of an impact than it should have. The finale deals with Sakuta’s disappointment and heartache revolving around his younger sister’s condition. However, the show never really delves into a more detailed look at their relationship, so watching Sakuta have an intense emotional breakdown over it makes for a less convincing scene than normal. His utter sadness feels puzzling and under defined rather than heart wrenching. Not only that, Sakuta’s first love, mentioned prior in the series, appears only to then disappear completely by episode end. The show gives some explanation but it’s crammed in, with the resolution feeling sudden and unsatisfactory. Both of these factors speak to a cramped adaptation and the ongoing nature of the source material with the show forced to abruptly end when the story itself isn’t truly complete. These are not deal breaking but deserve mention least they mar an unprepared viewer’s experience. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is not perfect but for anyone seeking a light novel adaptation that isn’t just generic male fantasy/harem garbage, it’s most definitely a must try.