For once, Senpai is the one who wants to be noticed.
A fair amount of anticipation was surrounding Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. When I wrote my Season Preview, it was in the Top 10 on both MAL and LiveChart. I imagine that has to do with the reception the Seishun Buta Yarou light novels have; they seem to be well-liked and clearly they must be a hit in Japan if a film adaptation has been greenlit ahead of the anime airing on TV. Either that, or people were just really drawn to the cute bunny girl in the promotional materials…I’ll admit to being one of them.
I do think the premise has quite the hook to it. Bunny Girl Senpai begins with its main character, Sakuta Azusagawa (Kaito Ishikawa) minding his own business until he sees upperclassman and actress, Mai Sakurajima (Asami Seto), walking around in a bunny girl outfit in broad daylight. Odder than that though is that Sakuta is seemingly the only one who can see Mai and soon he realizes that what she’s experiencing is connected to a phenomenon called “Adolescence Syndrome”. It’s an odd plot, one that you’ll just have to roll with it, but it’s certainly one that’ll grab your attention for at least an episode.
As for the execution, well, I’m very torn over it. To be fair, Bunny Girl Senpai does immediately feel like it’s a cut above a lot of light novel anime out there. It at the very least doesn’t come across as overtly pretentious the same way that, say, Classroom of the Elite‘s first episode did. In fact, I actually do think this anime has its fair share of solid commentary. For example, Sakuta likening the bad rumors surrounding him to the atmosphere is, a sound comparison. He’d like to defend himself over an allegation that he sent three people to the hospital but he chooses not to because public perception is just as polluted as air. Even Mai’s whole bunny girl shtick surprisingly has meaning to it. Having grown tired of the pressure and visibility being an actress brings, Mai chose to take a hiatus only to now find that Adolescence Syndrome is taking her wish too literally and making her seemingly invisible to almost everyone. The bunny girl outfit thus works as a symbol for Mai to desire to be seen again, even if outlandishly so like the celebrity she detests being. All things considered, this series does pique my attention in some areas.
So what’s bothering me? Frankly, I think the dialogue is really bad. Some of it is fine; I particularly find the banter between Sakuta and Mai to be pretty enjoyable. But for the most part, when someone is talking, it feels bloated and unnatural. Take this scene for example. Sakuta helps shrug off someone trying to take a picture of Mai and to his surprise, Mai thanks him. The simple and most efficient follow-up to make would simply have Mai look agitated at Sakuta’s surprise to establish that she’s still on the fence about him. What you get instead is Mai directly saying, “You thought I’d get mad and say to mind your business?” followed by “‘I thought it, but I’m holding it in”. In general, character attributes are told more often than they’re shown and dialogue is is heavily relied upon to convey what someone is feeling or thinking. Many times throughout the episode I was asking myself “Who actually talks like these characters do?” and that breaks a lot of the immersion this series could possibly warrant.
This is really a weird impasse to face. I think the series is smart in a number of ways and yet it is still trying way too hard to act smart. It’s still one of the better premieres I’ve seen so far in the Fall 2018 season so I’ll give it another episode or two but commitment feels like a tall order right now.
OP: “Kimi no Sei” by the Peggies
I won’t lie, this song is really damn catchy and the fast cutting of this OP works really well as a contrast to the seemingly more methodical nature of this show.
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