Some of you may remember the anime series Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai from when it aired in 2018. What started as a light novel adaption with a strange name quickly stole the hearts of many with its intriguing storylines and relatable cast. Today I’m here to review MVM’s release of the show and find out if it’s still as good as when it aired!
The story follows Sakuta Azusagawa, who one day finds fellow high-school student Mai Sakurajima wandering through the school library in a bunny girl outfit. Mai is surprised to find that Sakuta can see her, as she explains that currently no one else seems to be able to see or hear her, no matter what she does.
Sakuta quickly realises that Mai must be suffering from a phenomenon called “Adolescence Syndrome”, which our protagonist is familiar with, thanks to his little sister going through it. Not wanting to see Mai suffer, Sakuta offers to stay by her side and help get to the bottom of the problem she’s facing, an invitation she reluctantly accepts. Can Sakuta return Mai’s life to normal or is she destined to only be noticed by him forevermore?
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai has a great deal in common with the Monogatari series. While it doesn’t lean into the supernatural quite as much, the idea that Mai and later other girls are suffering these phenomenona is a lot like the cast around protagonist Araragi in Monogatari.
Another similar theme between the two shows is that Adolescence Syndrome is something that doesn’t have any particular cure. It seems to be caused by an emotional shift in a person’s life and they usually have something they need to overcome to stop the phenomenon. While Sakuta can help lead those in need in the right direction, ultimately they must overcome their struggles themselves.
The first story involving Mai lasts for three episodes and after that, we move on to a time loop arc with another classmate: Tomoe. Sakuta first notices Tomoe when she’s being asked out by a member of the basketball club, Maezawa, and while this would normally be a happy occasion, Tomoe is upset to be asked out. It turns out that her best friend has a crush on Maezawa and Tomoe is afraid of hurting the friendship if her friend were to find out that Maezawa likes Tomoe instead.
The time loop story does a good job of differentiating itself from the first arc and benefits from the viewer being able to watch it in one go, as opposed to weekly as I did before. There are enough differences in the day-to-day loops that it can be fun to notice what’s changed due to Sakuta’s action or how he and Tomoe approach the phenomenon.
One of the best things about this series is how realistic the characters are. Their problems are ones we have surely dealt with ourselves: issues with body image, anxiety, bullying, worrying about being forgotten. Even with the supernatural elements of the Adolescence Syndrome, these problems are always talked through with Sakuta and dealt with gently. For anyone who can relate, the anime is inspiring and uplifting. It aims to reassure its cast and audience that these problems they face now can be overcome or accepted.
The anime runs for 13 episodes and covers five different stories, which are all fascinating tales. As the cast grows it can be a bit overwhelming to keep track of everyone, but the large cast does become a benefit on a rewatch where you’re more familiar with the characters. The only disappointment is that the final episode of the anime is quite open-ended, to the point where it doesn’t feel like a conclusion at all.
Perhaps not having a satisfying conclusion isn’t as big a problem now as it was when the show aired though, as since then the original light novels have been licensed by Yen Press and a follow-up film has been released in Japan (with a limited streaming run in America). If or when this film comes to the UK, it will no doubt bring a more satisfying conclusion to some leftover plot threads.
Animation for Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai has been handled by studio CloverWorks. The animation isn’t amazing, but it certainly does the job. Character designs are distinct and the series makes use of a bright colour palette. It’s not the most impressive animation you’ll see, but for a slice-of-life series, it does the job.
Where music is concerned, this has been handled by fox capture plan, who are a three-piece band known for their mix of modern rock and jazz sounds. This comes through well in the anime’s soundtrack and blends in with the strong emotions we see on-screen. Their music draws you into a scene and heightens the tension; it’s a very good collection of tracks. The opening for the series is “Kimi no Sei” by The Peggies, while the ending is “Fukashigi no Karte”, which is sung by the various female voice actors in the series. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the ending theme, but the opening will be stuck in my (and your) head for weeks to come.
The voice actors for the series also do a great job, with my favourites being those behind Sakuta and Mai. Our protagonist is played by Kaito Ishikawa (Nine in Terror in Resonance, Tenya Iida in My Hero Academia), who gives Sakuta a very mature and carefree personality with just a hint of playfulness, which fits the character well. Likewise, Mai’s actor Asami Seto (Yui Michimiya in Haikyu!!, Miyoko Hojo in Food Wars) gives Mai a voice befitting her mature but gentle temperament. The two leads play off one another well and even once Mai isn’t the focus of the story anymore, she’s still a fantastic recurring member of the cast.
This release comes to the UK thanks to MVM Entertainment and is available as a collector’s edition, with a standard edition to follow later. The release includes all 13 episodes of the anime with Japanese audio and English subs as well as clean opening/ending videos and some trailers. The collector’s edition contains 5 art cards and a 36-page artbook.
Overall, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a great series that is sure to attract Monogatari fans and those who are looking for a solid slice-of-life story. Full of mystery and intrigue, this anime will keep you coming back to rewatch it and catch things you may have missed the first time around. Highly recommended!