This movie has been on my watch list for some time, and I’ve finally gotten around to it. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, or gone back through the archives. I said that Rascal Does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai was one of my favorite series I’ve watched. It tied with Golden Kamuy for my anime of 2018, and I’ve likened the series to a bolt of lightning: beautiful and spectacular, but over in an instant. So when knew that the series would be getting a sequel film, I was pretty excited. So how did it turn out? Join me after the cut as I dive into the anime film: Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl.
Let’s rip off the band-aid right now. I didn’t really care for this movie, like at all.
I make it a policy here when I review series that I always wait a day or two to let my thoughts ‘settle in.’ Aside from my quick thoughts on anime news, I tend to stay away from knee-jerk opinions and hot takes. Mostly because I’ve always found that judging something on the initial reaction, good or bad, doesn’t allow you to be fair and objective. It is only when you let things settle, to let something stir in your head that, I think, you are able to give a full opinion. I honestly thought that after a day or so I would have turned around on Dreaming Girl, but instead my opinions have only hardened. I just didn’t like this movie.
One of the things that I loved about Bunny Girl Senpai was that it mixed up wacky science with realistic high school problems. The struggles of Mai, Kaede and the rest felt like issues that real high school girls deal with. Whether it is a inferiority complex, wanting to be a normal girl, or struggles with bullying. Coupled with two great main characters in Sakuta and Mai who had really good chemistry, Bunny Girl Senpai seemed to click with me. The movie? Not so much. Like with the recent Tanya the Evil film, Dreaming Girl is a straight continuation in the story, dropping viewers right back into the world with little time to get caught up or re-acquainted. This time we follow Sakuta and Mai as they once again come across Shoko Makinohara, a girl who seems to have created multiple copies of herself. One a child, one a teenager and one a college girl. and Sakuta learns that his fate is tied up with Shoko who is suffering from a heart disease. What happens next ends up being a confusing and strange story of time travel and fate.
I’ll be honest. Mother’s Rosario from Sword Art Online has probably spoiled me a bit on this movie, because while that story dealt with the idea of choice and death quite well. Dreaming Girl is quite the opposite. Whatever your feelings towards Sword Art Online are, it didn’t pull its punches when it came to Rosario and Yuuki’s story. It was a story about a dying girl, and the series was fully committed to that conclusion. Dreaming Girl meanwhile attempts very much the same thing, but always seems too hesitant, or to scared to go the distance. Much of the movie is about Sakuta having to confront the reality that he is going to have to choose: his life and happiness with Mai, or Makinohara’s future. Yet even when Shoko boldly decides not to let Sakuta give himself up, to resign herself to death, the series quickly decides to just make everyone happy instead. When all is said and done, Sakuta is fine, Mai is fine, and Makinohara is fine, and it all ends up feeling hollow.
Furthermore, Dreaming Girl is confusing as all fuck, and never fully explains its concepts behind time travel, or the alternate Makinohara’s. Bunny Girl Senpai absolutely had some interesting science behind it, but it was always able to explain its concepts pretty well by tying them together with all those high school problems. There were so many times during this movie that I had to stop the film to just process what was happening, and not in the good way. Like with Garden of Sinners, I ended up having to have a plot summary next to me, just so I could try and unravel the sheer confusion that I was experiencing, which is never a good sign. Not even the good points of the movie: Mai and Sakuta’s chemistry is enough to pull the series over the ledge.
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl feels too ambitious, too high concept, too confusing and too toothless to be something I could enjoy. I’m a very, VERY easy person to please when it comes to my anime. I don’t need much to enjoy a series, but Dreaming Girl just wasn’t doing it for me. It’s as toothless continuation of a series that, while not being overtly bad in of itself, just doesn’t have the magic and charm that the anime series found so much goodwill and success with. It could very well just be the story arc itself, but there is just something there that doesn’t work for me. It’s a damn shame, because I still believe that Bunny Girl Senpai deserves the being the best anime of 2018. I just wish its follow up film had been able to measure up.
Oh well, I guess you can’t win em all.