I’ve seen tons of seasonal anime constantly being talked about while they air, but ultimately forgotten as soon as the season ends (which I personally call “post mortem”). Nonetheless, I must ask if anyone remembers an anime called Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. That one was a big cult hit. On the ol’ message boards, a lot of people said it was “deep” and “profound”. Almost two years later, Yen Press finally published the original novel in English, so now I get to see what all the hype was about.
In Rascal Does Not Dream, a boy named Sakuta Azusagawa sees his celebrity senpai, Mai Sakurajima, wearing a bunny suit. Bizarrely enough, he’s the only one who sees her. When he talks to her about it, he theorizes that she has Adolescence Syndrome, which in her case, is making her appear invisible as a result of her deepest fears (or whatever). And because you can’t have a male protagonist without a desire to help waifus, he wants to help her… because she’s his waifu I guess (it actually gets explained later but it’s a spoiler)?
If you couldn’t tell just from the name “Adolescence Syndrome”, Rascal Does Not Dream has social commentary written all over it. It’s not just a commentary on the emotional insecurities of teens, but on how easily lies can become the truth over social media. It’s not deep nor profound; it’s merely “topical”, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this stuff. Literally every human who’s ever lived past age eighteen has experienced the turbulent times of teen years, and anyone who has a social media account would know the mental anguish it can cause.
But how good is the actual story, from an entertainment perspective? Well, as someone who has been known to not like slice-of-life and to SEVERELY dislike romance, Rascal Does Not Dream… is an experience. I tried to go into it with an open mind, but TBH, this is not the best series opener. The whole “What even is Adolescence Syndrome?” thing is cool, but it could easily end up being something that goes unexplained; a means to an end. I assume that in the subsequent volumes, Sakuta will have to help more girls than just Mai, which would make it similar to Monogatari in a way.
For the most part, it’s typical slice-of-life… slowness, with not much in terms of the supernatural. Factoring out the Adolescence Syndrome, it’s really just some boy helping some girl with her emotional problems. And like I said before, the commentary on the whole social media thing isn’t very interesting or insightful. Part of me wants to say that fans only said it was deep to justify their enjoyment of something that had the “taboo” of women in skimpy bunny suits (because apparently, what media you consume showcases who you are as a person). But that’s only my interpretation.
The character interactions also bored me, but it was mostly because of the characters themselves. They, for the most part, have no defining personalities. Sure, while Sakuta does have an explanation for why he’s the umpteenth “savior” trope, he’s still pretty unremarkable. Mai is definitely a tsundere, but that’s about it. She says some sassy things from time to time, but I don’t really feel anything for her. Also, Rio Futaba, who greatly contributes to plot progression, is literally Hanekawa ripped right from Monogatari, except less likeable. A lot of other characters, like Sakuta’s sister, Kaede, are kind of just there. One thing that I can at least appreciate is that they feel more like real teens than the highly stereotyped, angst-spewing things seen in most Western YA novels, but that seems to be something that most Japanese writers have a knack for over Western authors to begin with.
The artwork is average. It has a dreamy color palette (get it? Because it’s Rascal Does Not DREAM), but it’s kind of meh overall. The character designs are all your typical stock teenager designs as well.
I’m giving it some leeway thanks to sheer benefit of the doubt, but overall, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is pretty mediocre. It has all the pretentiousness of Monogatari, but none of the charisma. If I didn’t “understand the profound, life-changing, cosmic message hidden in between its text and subtext”, then please enlighten me as to what I missed. Because as far as I know, this was just a typical “boy meets girl, boy helps girl with her problems, audience wants to be the boy who helps girl or vice versa, author makes fat stacks as a result” piece of media. But for now… I’ll give it one more volume to impress me.