If you’re a regular reader of the site then I’m sure you’ll have heard me talk about The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, a series I adore. Today I’m here to talk about the first volume of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, a new light novel series from the author behind Pet Girl: Hajime Kamoshida. Does it deliver a lovable story? Let’s find out!
Our story begins with Sakuta Azusagawa picking up a book for his younger sister at the local library. Here he runs into his classmate, Mai Sakurajima who is wandering around in a bunny girl costume.
Despite her weird attire, it seems that no one but Sakuta can see Mai. Realising that something strange is happening, Sakuta approaches Mai to help her. He explains that what she’s going through is a phenomenon called “Adolescence Syndrome”, which seems to be caused by an emotional shift in a person’s life.
Mai explains that the number of people who can’t see her used to be a small amount, but lately it has been growing. Scared of becoming invisible to everyone eventually, Mai spends time with Sakuta as the two try to get to the bottom of her problem.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a story about adolescence, growing older and fitting in. These characters are going through some of the most important years of their lives when it comes to figuring out who they are and what they want to do.
If you’re familiar with The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, then these themes will be something you recognise. The casts in both of these series are outcasts, dealing with various problems related to finding themselves and struggling to cope.
The real allure here is how the characters overcome their troubles. It’s never easy and it takes hard work, but it’s always realistic (the Adolescence Syndrome stuff aside). Throughout this book, Sakuta helps Mai unearth long-buried feelings which, when resolved, will help her overcome the situation she’s found herself in.
It’s not just Mai who grows a lot in this volume because Sakuta does too. He begins the book as someone who tries not to stand out and who only has two friends to his name, but by the end, you can tell he’s matured. He and Mai build a strong relationship, one that changes him for the better. Toward the end of the light novel, he’s a little more outgoing and more likely to take notice of those around him than he was before.
The one thing that may put readers off is that Hajime Kamoshida’s writing is quite wordy. The author talks in-depth about the train routes Sakuta takes in his daily life (such as going to school) and about the scenery. It paints a clear picture of where the characters are and what’s around them, but I can see it being a bit overwhelming or dull for some people.
For me, Kamoshida’s writing is full of everything I love about his stories. These little peeks into the cast’s lives, into the mundane everyday, help fill out the personalities and habits of the characters. I also really appreciate how well written the dialogue is whenever Mai and Sakuta interact. The witty back and forth they have is similar to things you’d hear teenagers say, rather than being written for comedic effect. It makes it easier to relate to them, which in turns makes for a more believable read.
Where Pet Girl jumped between crazy comedic moments and heartfelt gut-punching storylines, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is much more grounded. I hesitate to say it’s a more serious story when it still has Kamoshida’s flair for quirky characters, but I think it’s just more appealing to the mass market on the whole. I could make comparisons between his works all day, but ultimately this is just a great book.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Andrew Cunningham. The translation reads well with no issues to speak of and I think Cunningham has done a fantastic job of capturing all the characters’ ‘voices’ in the dialogue.
The series has been illustrated by Keji Mizoguchi (who also worked on Pet Girl) and their illustrations strike a nice balance between capturing the more emotional scenes of the story while also depicting some of the comedy. This light novel series is on-going in Japan at 10 volumes and Yen Press have Volume 2 scheduled for release in August.
Overall, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a must-read. Fans of author’s Hajime Kamoshida’s other works will enjoy seeing similarities in this new story, but newcomers are also sure to fall in love with the cast and tale on offer. This isn’t the type of light novel we see often and it’s one desperately needed in the current market.