I want you to think about a bolt of lightning.
When you see one in the sky you are often filled with emotions and feelings. It’s powerful, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and almost all too fleeting. Once the lightning comes it is as gone as soon as it came and you don’t really think about it anymore. Still when you saw that lightning you were just blown away by how much it affected you, or just how great that experience was. That is pretty much the series we are talking about today. Let’s waste no time and dive into 2018 series, the sharer of the Anime of the Year: Rascal Does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai.
I’ve talked about this show several times both on my blog and others, but I’ve waited to give it a proper overview because I wanted my thoughts to solidify. I tend to stay away from week to week episode reviews because I prefer to get the whole picture, the entire point of the anime before I give my thoughts. I am also glad I gave this show sometime after the final episode because I didn’t want my thoughts on that piece to affect my entire view of the series. Bunny Girl Senpai was a show that many people didn’t think they would like. One look at the poster could make you think this was another slice of life romantic harem comedy. What people weren’t expecting, and neither was I, was that it would be one of the most thoughtful, well written and just plain good series this year.
The plot is simple. We follow Sakuta Azsuagawa, a sort of ‘go it alone’ Holden Caulfield (with thankfully none of the angst or inflated self-importance) type of guy as he discovers that “puberty syndrome” a sort of scientific abnormality linked to teenage problems, is causing several different girls in his school to undergo strange events. Whether it is body switching, time loops, being invisible to anyone but himself or splitting yourself into two people. Sakuta has to help these girls figure out their issues, all the while trying to nurse and raise his bullied sister Kaede back to health.
Right off the bat, Bunny Girl Senpai had probably the best three episode run of any series in the last five years. If the series had ended right after those three episodes, it might have been completely flawless. The first arc centered around our titular bunny girl senpai Mai Sakurajima felt like an entire movie played out over three weeks. Mai and Sakuta’s romance and chemistry are some of the strongest I’ve seen in years, and both of these characters felt more realistic and endearing than almost any romance I’ve seen in anime. There are none of the tropes or moments that are so often attached to anime romances and despite the science fiction twist, Mai and Sakuta’s attitudes to each other feel earned, touching and most of all realistic.
That is the key word here. Bunny Girl Senpai is a very realistic show. No, not in terms of the science and puberty syndrome, but in the problems and atmosphere of its characters. I’ve said it before, but Bunny Girl Senpai is an anime about teenagers in high school, not an anime about teenagers in an ANIME high school and that is a very important point to make. The problems of the girls are things all girls I expect have gone through, whether it is wanting to escape the spotlight, feeling inferior to your successful older sister, obsessed with trying to fit in, being insecure about your body, or the fear of being abandon by your only friends. These are real problems that are thankfully portrayed by realistic characters in a realistic setting. Most of all, they are able to talk about teenage problems without coming off as pandering or “after school special,” something that is very difficult to do with viewers. To see high school students actually act normal in ANIME, where a high school is so often used as either a springboard for outlandish plots or a walking trope factory was absolutely refreshing to see.
Now Bunny Girl Senpai does have some faults. The science fiction elements can be hit or miss, and too often the show just has characters explain this through dialogue rather than visual examples. Some of the girl’s story arcs are stronger than others, with the third starring Sakuta’s scientific sidekick Futaba feeling the weakest of them, and the overall plot settled into a “Sakuta meets a new girl, identifies the problem, solves the problem” formula pretty quickly. These, however, are extremely minor when compared to just how perfect the show nails its characters, atmosphere, themes and pretty much everything else. Something frankly this good always ends up short so how, but never in a way that would damage it’s standing.
However, like a bolt of lightning, I wonder if something like Bunny Girl Senpai has a staying power. I won’t lie, it wasn’t a show I thought of much after I watch its weekly installment. I loved every single minute, but after the credits rolled I didn’t much think about. Just like lightning it appears in the sky, blows your mind and then is just gone and you move on with life. Will we be talking about this show two months from now? Five? Seven? A Year? I don’t think we will, and yet this show is one of the best anime I’ve seen since ReZero. Maybe that is OK, perhaps some pieces of anime are meant to simply be like that, doing what they have to do and then fading into history.
Rascal Does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is, as I have said in this blog post: a bolt of lightning. It’s beautiful, spectacular and deeply moving, and then just like that lightning, it is gone. It is one of the best anime I have seen since ReZero brought me back into this genre, and absolutely deserves its place as the best anime of 2018. A masterpiece of high quality, despite being something I think many will forget about, viewers of this blog and anime fans, in general, should absolutely not skip out on this show.