Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai ?
Although Sakuta comes across as an ass much of the time, there's been some recent debate about how much of his attitude is actually an act. I'm now leaning toward believing that most of it is voluntary, as he has shown to be quite capable of dialing his snark up or down as the situation warrants. Last week, he mostly eschewed it in helping to resolve Nodoka's issues, and he's always had a sensitivity and care for Kaede that belies his sharper attitude with others. That comes into play for this episode as the focus finally shifts to Kaede's problems, and the result is the most genuinely emotional content that the series has managed to date, making this one of the best episodes of this anime season.
Kaede's situation is sadly not uncommon in the world: extreme social anxiety stemming from bullying so bad that she was driven to self-harm and to become a recluse. In this episode, we learn from one of her former classmates that the rest of the class turned on the bullies and were driven out themselves after Kaede left, but the damage was already done. Kaede has previously shown some signs that Sakuta's interactions with the other girls have been gradually pushing her to do something about her situation, and now her resolve's firmed to the point of taking action. The extent to which Kaede micromanages the process in her own idiosyncratic way could be silly if any of this was played for true comedy value, but her seemingly light spirits don't undercut how serious and important a process this is for her. This is best summed up in one key line of dialogue: “It's scary to step outside. It's scary, but not being able to leave forever is a lot scarier!”
The care, patience, and sensitivity with which Sakuta handles Kaede is wonderful, and Mai stands out as well for her understanding in the process. The story also wisely does not suggest that Kaede is “fixed,” only that she's made major progress. The biggest sign of the revelation at the end of this episode that Kaede has apparently blocked out all memories of that time, to the point that she doesn't even recognize the former classmate who wanted to help her but couldn't. The mark on Kaede's neck also suggests that she's not so far divorced from the psychological damage that led to her version of Puberty Syndrome. Big steps have been taken, but more work remains to be done.
The opening scene with Mai at a press conference for her new movie resolves the potential issue lingering at the end of the episode quickly and perhaps a little too painlessly, but it also shows masterful damage control on Mai's part, serves as an example to Kaede, and may be intended as a statement about where the boundaries of press interest should lie. Also worked in is further setup for the post-season arc about Shoko, with the implication being that there are either two of her at different ages or else two girls a couple of years apart with uncannily similar appearances and identical names. Sakuta also gets to have at least minimal exchanges with both Tomoe and Rio, if for no other reason than to assure that we haven't forgotten about them.
The episode's quality also comes through in little details like the adorably convincing behavior of the cat Hayate and the voice work by Yurika Kubo (a Love Live! alumnus who also voices DanMachi's Loki) is a stand-out effort. Overall, this is the kind of culminating delivery that I would normally associate with an arc's climax rather than its opening act, so I have to wonder what more the story can achieve after this.
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