Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai initially came across as a Bakemonogatari imitation, but has it grown into its own over the past few months? This week, Nick and Steve put this rascal on trial.
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Steve, I've called you here for a very important reason. Today I finally snapped. I just can't take it anymore. Today I am officially mandating an international ban on Schrodinger's Cat references.
So from now on, if an anime wants to sound smart, it'll have to come up with something besides the Comic Sans of thought experiments.
Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Let's take all those references and shut them in a box and never open it. That should do the trick.
The other alternative is to somehow combine it with Pandora's Box so the metaphor no longer makes sense, but only Shoji Kawamori
could pull that off.
It's true, he is the human incarnation of Galaxy Brain.
But we're still a month out from talking about Last Hope
again, so I guess we'll cover Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
, this season's awkwardly titled supernatural school life light novel show.
I've uncharitably referred to it as "budget Monogatari
" in my first impressions, and while I do think Bunny Girl Senpai has come into its own since then, that still gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect: high school dude who's had a brush with the supernatural finds himself surrounded by girls who also have supernatural problems stemming from their psychological and social woes. It's apparently a tried and true concept that's sold enough light novels to warrant an anime adaptation.
It certainly hits a similar tone to Monogats in its premise, though its far more conventional visual direction and lack of pedophilia jokes lands it closer in execution to the equally awkwardly named My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
And not just because our protagonist is an even less charismatic Hachiman.
Well, it's definitely simpler to recommend than anything Monogatari-related. Don't get me wrong, I love Monogatari with all my heart, but there's a laundry list of qualifiers that go along with it, and 95% of them are Araragi-related.
Sakuta doesn't grope underage girls, so he's got that going for him. Otherwise, he's still a pretty big dirtbag.
Yeah, let me just lay this out up front: I do not like Sakuta. Now okay, his deadpan self-aware shtick is at times funny, like when he just no-sells terrible jokes.
But for the most part I find him insufferable, so being tied to his perspective feels like an anchor tied around this show's neck.
I have a lot of complicated feelings about Sakuta. He seems unlikable by design, if that makes sense. His prickly personality quirks and dry quips strike me as being tacked on because of the expectation that they should be there, rather than anything organic. I think it stems from an authorial awareness that you can't just write a story about a dude who swoops in and fixes all these girls' problems without him being either totally generic or genuinely unusual, so they went the route of making the dude pretty insufferable.
Yeah, for as much as the show tells us Sakuta is an asshole that most people dislike, it rarely seems to take issue with him doing crappy things like saying gross shit to the women in his life "ironically".
My hope is that, like Monogatari
, it's something the novels will directly address eventually, but as of now he's just constantly hiding his terribleness behind this snarky veneer. He's the kind of guy who unironically says mean shit but pretends he's doing it ironically.
I guess that brings us to our titular Bunny Girl Senpai, who Rascal Does Not Dream Of.
Yeah, it's kind of strange that it's the title of the whole show, since only the first arc deals with bunny girl shenanigans.
I guess Rascal Collects Half a Dozen Girls By Being Their Therapist wasn't quite as catchy.
True. I do like that Mai gets this genuinely great introduction that seems to be taking the piss out of NisiOisin
's writing style.
Is it really taking the piss if you just make your leading lady Senjougahara Lite though? Because I'll be honest, Mai's the other half of my big problems with Senpai Does Not Dream of Rascal Girl Bunny.
Mai very much falls into Sakuta's rhythm of talking like she always knows she's in an anime, turning even simple conversations into this bloated circuitous maze of quips and meta jokes before getting to any point, and boy is it frustrating when nobody talks like a person.
It's super weird to me, because a lot of Bunny Girl Senpai feels genuinely grounded in the reality of being a high school student, but then you have these long stretches of dialogue that would never be spoken between two actual human people. I do think that's a balance you could achieve if the execution were clever enough, but whether the culprit is the source material or the translation, it just doesn't work here.
Yeah, I should say that while I'm ragging on Girl Does Not Rascal of Senpai Dream Bunny, there are parts of it I genuinely like, even if the overall package feels lacking. I really liked the second arc.
Partially because Koga literally kicked Sakuta's ass.
It turns out the entire crux of the second arc is that Koga and Sakuta get quantum entangled because of literally kicking each other's asses, and it's one of the best punchlines ever.
It's also the arc where it feels like Sakuta has something resembling a rapport with another character instead of just constantly insulting and being insulted by them. His constant stance of superiority feels at least a little earned, since he's been through something similar to Koga's struggles in trying to maintain an image and friendships when it doesn't come naturally, and his advice to her feels the most earned of any arc so far.
He's still a dick about it though.
Sakuta gonna Sakuta.
He's a man of many depths.
I mean, same tho.
But yeah, when you dig into the show's themes, there's a lot of good stuff about the ways teenagers (and people in general) treat each other. Mai's a victim of the rumor mill and becomes enough of a social pariah to literally disappear from people's sight and memories. Koga is so concerned about fitting in that she follows social cues not merely to the point of stretching herself, but also to the point of becoming a reality-bending Laplace's Demon. Futaba is a victim of the contradictory and hypocritical ways that society objectifies or demonizes women, and it literally tears her in two. For all of the show's weaknesses, it does have a good head on its shoulders.
I just wish the series was more cognizant of how to handle those ideas when it's not stating them out loud directly. Like you mention Futaba, who straight up says that she hates her body because of the way that men in her life have objectified her, and then after her supernatural problem gets solved, we're back to "ironic" jokes about her figure.
That's a big "yikes" from me, Sakuta.
And that's the major hangup keeping me from engaging with Dream Bunny Does not Senpai of Rascal Girl - regardless of how nuanced its actual conflicts are, the end result is always Sakuta explaining a woman's problems to her until they're fixed, and then he never grows from the experience.
To quote a much
worse show from this season:
Along those lines, I liked Futaba's climax the most. It's a surprisingly nuanced scene where she admits that she hates herself, and Sakuta has the emotional intelligence not to weigh her down with platitudes, but to validate her feelings and reinforce his position as a friend who understands and supports her.
It just sucks that he has to go back to being Sakuta afterwards.
It could be worse, I guess. He could be Kaede instead!
Ah, yes. No light novel is safe from the imouto menace.
It's a shame because Kaede was actually one of the things that initially got me interested in Rascal Senpai of Bunny Girl Does Not Dream's premiere. The idea of being physically harmed by the barbs and rumors of bullying on social media is a visceral one that's also distinctly modern.
But while there have been occasional hints that Kaede's cutesy sister act is a coping mechanism, the series still sees her climbing into bed with her brother every episode. Literally.
I'm hoping we get a full flashback arc about her, because I totally agree that it's a good marriage of societal and supernatural damages. She definitely has issues that still need to be worked out.
I just don't have much faith that the resolution won't include her clinging to her brother "but like in a healthier way" by the end.
You're probably right. [sigh] In the meantime, one point I will unequivocally give in Bunny Girl Senpai's favor is how often Sakuta goes shirtless. It's only fair to balance the fanservice
They even had the courage to draw him with nipples.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the OP theme by The Peggies
. Not only is it a goddamn bop, but the lyrics are exactly how I feel after every episode.
It is really good! I've had it stuck in my head all day after catching up, and I can't say I'm upset about it.
On the subject of positives, Bunny Girl Senpai also displays a keen understanding of cat behavior.
You can do it, Hayate. Kill him in his sleep and become the protagonist we deserve.
We'll just have to hope that one day Mai steps on his foot hard enough to end his life. (And to be fair, he probably hopes so too.)
In the meantime, I am interested in seeing how the latest arc plays out, where Mai body-swaps with her estranged half-sister. If only because now someone's asking the important questions in My Bunny Girl Senpai Is Rascal, As I Not Dreamed.
Yeah, let's see quantum physics try to explain THAT one.
TFW even the show is getting bored of its own formula.
That's also the correct reaction to puberty problems in general.
I do like parts of Bunny Girl Senpai, but on the whole I wish its self-awareness extended beyond patting itself on the back or hand-waving its own tropes. There's some worthwhile material to be mined here, and I think the show just needs to be more sincere to be good.
I like it more than I don't like it, but I think it needs the confidence to come into its own and stop trying so hard to fit some other mold. But whatever your feelings on the show, I think we can all come together to show some love for Benny's.