Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai ?
With this episode, the series moves into adapting the fourth novel, which results in a focus shift to Nodoka, the blonde up-and-coming idol first seen last episode. (She's also been in the opener, of course.) As some surmised based on the end of last episode, this is a full-blown body-swapping story.
It's not just a coincidence that Mai is body-swapping with Nodoka, either. She reveals early on that Nodoka is her younger half-sister mentioned in an earlier episode. This expands what we know about Mai's family situation, which also seems to lie at the core of why the body-swap happened. Nodoka probably wasn't exaggerating when she mentioned in the TV interview that Mai was her favorite person, and it's clear that she has idolized her older sister. However, that also comes with living in Mai's shadow. Based on her behavior, that seems like something that Nodoka could have handled if not for the parental jealousy involved as well. Mai's mother pushes her daughter, but Nodoka's mother is strongly implied to be much worse. She is envious of her stepdaughter's success, so she pushed her daughter into the performing arts, even though she's not as gifted. The 50 messages on her phone in a single day imply a hovering presence as well.
Given that, it's easy to understand why Nodoka would want to escape, and her body-swapping could merely be a manifestation of how much she envies her sister, though I'm guessing that there's more to it than that. Characteristically, Mai doesn't pull any punches in expressing how much she dislikes Nodoka because she perceives her father as abandoning her mother for Nodoka's, although she doesn't deeply hate her stepsister either. So Sakuta winds up being the sardonic go-between for them.
For not having much intensity or melodrama this week, this is a remarkably entertaining and well-executed episode. The script is hardly subtle, but it smoothly keeps all the core cast members involved without things seeming forced. The little idiosyncrasies that have been established so far – like how Rio heats up water for her lunch using a Bunsen burner, Sakuta's comments about Mai's legs while Nodoka is in her body, or Kaede's reaction to Sakuta seemingly bringing over yet another girl (when it's actually Mai in Nodoka's body) – are delightfully sprinkled throughout, as are softer moments of humor like the cat sleeping on Sakuta's face. The artistic effort isn't the sharpest this week, as a handful of scenes look rough and rushed, but the animation is just right when conveying that Mai's body language isn't normal, and Nodoka's body has adapted Mai's mannerisms as well. Combine that with a satisfying portrayal of Nodoka and the production's consistent style, and you have a very solid episode.
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