Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
Episodes 1-3

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai ?

This series comes in with an interesting pedigree; the original light novel author is the same man behind Pet Girl of Sakurasou and the writer for Just Because!, while the director may be known for Scrapped Princess, Chaika The Coffin Princess, and Sakura Quest and the series writer has had major successes adapting Re: Zero and The Devil is a Part-Timer!. So there's a lot of talent coming into this project, if from somewhat disparate sources. And all of that for a story about a girl in a bunny outfit.

That's not a criticism, mind you. Mai makes a strong visual impression wearing that outfit both in the early library scene in episode 1 and dancing in the opener. Girls in costumes styled after Playboy bunny outfits have been a thing in anime at least as far back as the landmark Daicon IV opening animation in 1983, but its use here serves two specific purposes. For one thing, Mai is illustrating a point about how people are no longer aware of her no matter what she does, and the costume also symbolizes the adolescent fantasies that this story revolves around. That said, I'm also not ruling out that the character is just meant to enjoy cavorting around in it. It makes sense in that former child stars wanting to show off their maturity as soon as possible is hardly uncommon.

Mai appears in the bunny girl outfit in exactly one short scene, so its use is more thematic than representative of the show's usual content. The show's title specifically refers to what's going on in the first three episodes, which are adaptations of the first source novel; later novels retain the “Rascal Does Not Dream of” part but update for the girl featured in that particular novel. The girls featured in the next four novels are all shown prominently in the opener, so those novels can probably be expected to be covered. A seiyuu is also listed for the girl featured in the 6th and 7th novels, but unless this series is going to be two cours, I don't see how that much story could be covered in a single season.

The format of the story was popularized by visual novel adaptations in the mid-2000s: a guy goes around interacting with girls who have often-supernatural problems and helps them solve those issues. This iteration takes more direct inspiration from the most successful example of this genre, the Bakemonogatari series, in its more philosophical approach to the nature of each girl's problems. The concept of Adolescence Syndrome – which is basically an outward manifestation of one's deepest desires or hangups – is used to explain how each girl could be in these situations, and famous philosophical arguments are used to frame each girl's problem. In Mai's case the example is Schrödinger's Cat, which essentially results in Mai's desire to be able to go incognito taken to its extreme. People can't acknowledge her presence, and because they can't observe her, she doesn't exist to them, so they gradually forget about her too. This is all tied to the notion that a school's atmosphere can unintentionally set protocols that are extremely difficult to go against, from more overt bullying to silent exclusion from various social circles.

In other words, this show is basically about playing up adolescent angst and insecurities to supernatural levels. It's hardly new territory, but other titles have shown that workable stories can stem from this premise. The most potentially problematic aspect of this approach is its heavy reliance on dry dialogue exchanges; until near the end of the arc, neither Mai nor Sakuta vary in expression or emotion much during their conversations. This is clearly a stylistic choice rather than any problem with the acting, and how well you tolerate this style will be a major factor in how well you appreciate the series in general. It didn't bother me, but I can easily see it being a barrier for others.

The artistic effort by studio CloverWorks (Persona 5 The Animation) is above average, with uniformly appealing character designs and a more active amount of background animation for a TV series. For a story that doesn't depend much on its visuals, this is a nice bonus. There's a lot more to discuss with this title, so I will save other potential discussion points for future episodes. For now, the climax of Mai's story arc wasn't flawless, but it was satisfying enough to warrant a thumbs-up to the arc as a whole. I just hope Mai doesn't get too far sidelined as Sakuta deals with the other girls.

Rating: B

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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