Puberty syndrome—abnormal experiences rumored on the internet to be caused by sensitivity and instability during adolescence.
This year, Sakuta Azusagawa, a second-year student at a high school near Enoshima, meets several girls that are experiencing this "puberty syndrome." For instance, he meets a wild bunny girl in the library. She turns out to be an actress on hiatus, Mai Sakurajima, who is also his senior at the school. For some reason, no one else can see this enchanting girl. How did she become invisible...? As Sakuta searches for answers to help Mai, they spend more time together, and he eventually learns of her hidden feelings...
This is an unusual story that takes place in a town of bright skies and glistening seas, where Sakuta encounters various intriguing girls.
#1: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" by Mai Sakurajima (Asami Seto), Tomoe Koga (Nao Touyama), Rio Futaba (Atsumi Tanezaki), Nodoka Toyohama (Maaya Uchida), Kaede Azusawara (Yurika Kubo), Shouko Makinohara (Inori Minase) (eps 1, 13) #2: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" by Mai Sakurajima (Asami Seto) (eps 2-3) #3: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" Tomoe Koga (Nao Touyama) (eps 4-5) #4: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" by Rio Futaba (Atsumi Tanezaki) (eps 7-8) #5: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" by Nodoka Toyohama (Maaya Uchida) (eps 9-10) #6: "Fukashigi no Carte (不可思議のカルテ)" by Kaede Azusawara (Yurika Kubo) (eps 11-12)
Bunny Girl Senpai is full of the same issues commonly criticized in most light novel adaptations, so why does it get a free pass? Harem tropes, waifu bait, incest teasing, thin characterization, vague pseudoscience, and an asshole deadpan protagonist who solves a bunch of girls’ problems for them. Most of all, the art and sound are incredibly mediocre excluding the many moments when CloverWorks chooses to bend over and spray shit in our eyes with its abundance of hideous CGI crowds.
First and foremost, I hate the writing in Bunny Girl Senpai, consider the '4' points I rated the
show overall to be a generous acknowledgment of its basic merits; it is watchable but flawed in so many ways. Right from the beginning, the series gave me a negative impression, but the overwhelming hype I heard for it throughout the season convinced me to continue watching. The story follows Sakuta, a second year in high school, as he tries to help girls afflicted by a supernatural phenomenon known as Adolescence Syndrome. If that sounds like a psychological disorder concocted by a pretentious teenage boy to try and sound smart, that’s because it is. If a character goes invisible or if everyone is stuck in a three-day long time loop, then it’s labeled Adolescence Syndrome, so more or less it’s the author’s fancy word for a cheap plot device. Rather than giving us a coherent explanation for the syndrome, the author just handwaves it with common quantum mechanics like Schrodinger's Cat and Laplace's Demon. It’s loosely defined as a supernatural affliction that manifests in people who are going through severe stress, whether it be cyberbullying causing physical cuts, or going invisible because you’re sick of attention. To the show’s credit, as a plot device, it is used to craft some intriguing character conflicts and give some tangible relatability to the cast. However, these conflicts aren’t executed nearly as well as they could be. The story is told through five parts, each with a new girl for Sakuta to help and flirt with. This standard setup is so unbearable to watch play out because of how terrible Sakuta is as a protagonist.
Sakuta is the average deadpan, cynical, uncaring protagonist, except he’s also an unlikable asshole. His one single tone of voice is monotone boredom, and he almost never wavers from it for the entire series. Keep in mind, this show is FULL of dialogue, but it has no goddamn clue how to make it seem interesting. Sakuta’s dialogue isn’t witty or clever like well written deadpan characters are, it’s just crass, vulgar, and gross. Except he acts like he’s being a terrible person ironically, and in turn, people don’t think he’s that bad of a guy; in reality everything he says is unironic, there’s no nuance, he’s just a bad person. Never is he punished for being an asshole, sometimes girls might comment on his behavior if he says something especially inappropriate to them, but right away they move on and act like he’s jesus-kun again. For example, when a girl says something rude to him he fires back with:
“Are you on your period or something?”
Did a twelve-year-old write this script? His dialogue is constantly like this when he’s not totally deadpan. He is rarely emotionally impacted by anything; very little makes him impressed or concerned. Viewing a story from the perspective of an uncaring asshole like Sakuta makes it impossible to get invested in anything, or even enjoy it. If the show had actually confronted him about his behavior and acknowledged how bad he was to his friends, then it could have been a character flaw and something to develop upon. But from what we saw adapted, his character development is satisfied with being permanently stagnant. He continues to hide his ugly personality behind a thick layer of snark and quips. Sakuta is just the rotten core of this story, surrounding him is the main attraction, all of the ladies who are strangely drawn to him.
Our first heroine for Sakuta to assist is Mai Sakurajima, the titular ‘bunny girl’ somehow makes the dialogue even worse, she is equally as dry and cynical as Sakuta. Throughout the series, the script parallels standard rom-com dialogue, except it is written to be as pretentious as possible with the pace cranked down to molasses. Rather than a simple sentence lasting a few seconds, it’s needlessly wrapped into a messy jumble of sophistry and weird unfunny jokes. Why can’t these kids just talk like normal human beings? That would sure as hell make them more engaging to watch, and you know, relatable. Mai is the typical tsundere archetype, with the intruiging bunny girl costume appearing the most in episode one, then rarely appearing for the rest of the series. The whole ‘Bunny Girl’ hook in the title is contrived for what amounts to little more than big budget clickbait.
There is one area which Bunny Girl Senpai is deserving of praise, its themes. At least from a conceptual standpoint, they add some nuance and relatability to cast. The execution of these themes, like the rest of the show, leaves much to be desired. Futaba is introduced early in the show as more or less an exposition dumper with the sole purpose of lampshading plot conveniences. Her character arc offers some intrigue but its relevant themes of insecurity and social anxiety are quickly muddled by the terrible hackneyed script. She is a scientist girl for the sole purpose of spouting tropey quantum theory pseudo-science to explain away everything that’s happening. It’s always painfully apparent that the author just read a brief summary about the theories he uses in his story without fully researching them in an attempt to seem intelligent, and these pointless self-congratulatory ‘science’ scenes occur almost every episode.
Nothing in Bunny Girl Senpai feels reall, it's all plastic. Mai and the rest of the girls don’t feel like fully realized characters either. They all experience some kind of turmoil yet this rarely shows through in their personalities. They are all plastic prepackaged moe archetypes, unaffected by anything they go through. Even if a character is visibly changed by their conflict after it’s resolved, it is usually undermined by the show’s terrible writing. Say for example there’s a girl affected by Adolescence Syndrome because she is so insecure with her body from how people have treated her, then after her affliction is resolved Sakuta interjects with another one of his good ol jokes that sexualizes her body and undermines everything the show was building towards. Another issue is the lack of lasting effects to each arc. They are paced too poorly for us to see how characters are impacted, rather a satisfying conclusion the story just moves on. When the author decides he’s bored of a girl he simply ends the arc, in favor of a new case of Adolescence Syndrome. Of course, with another stock standard girl taken off the shelves at A-1 Pictures’ waifu warehouse to become the show’s new main appeal for a few weeks, until she is inevitably relegated to the supporting cast in favor of a new poster girl.
It makes the author seem like an impatient teenage boy who just wants to shove as many beautiful girls into the arms of the cool guy bland protagonist. He pairs a girl with the protagonist and lets them flirt a little bit, and before he has to commit and actually develop said girl he gets bored of her. And writing a nuanced character is such hard work for him. So instead he just solves the issue by tossing aside the old girl in favor of a fresh new waifu to fawn all over his self-insert. This is, of course, a fundamental issue of most harem anime, a revolving door of waifus and a self insert protagonist. Being a light novel adaptation, Bunny Girl Senpai bears many structural similarities to a harem anime. Generally this is the reason why I avoid the genre, that and obnoxious fanservice which this series is thankfully frugal with. Eventually, it leaves off on a non-ending because this is an adaptation of an ongoing light novel. The show tries to wrap up the story as neatly as possible at the end of the last girl's arc, but it crashes and burns in its finale. The climax is a filled with overwrought crying, forced drama, and the cheesiest and most cringe-inducing writing in the whole show.
In a better series, this barren wasteland of a script could be saved by a larger budget, or a more experienced director. However, this show’s decidedly unimaginative directing style leaves much to be desired. The art is mediocre, it’s in no way vivid to look at, the directing fails to make the long stretches of dialogue remotely interesting. Aside from the abhorrent CGI crowds, it isn’t a visual disaster, it could be worse, but it could be so much better. Other dialogue heavy anime like the Monogatari Series utilize unique directing techniques and plenty of visual storytelling to engage the viewer in lengthy conversations between two characters. Strangely, Bunny Girl Senpai desires to be watched as a thoughtful supernatural character drama, but it plays out like a generic light novel romantic comedy, taking the worst aspects of each and failing to craft an original or worthwhile series.
[Overall Score: 4/10]
Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai presents intruiging themes of how people treat and mistreat one another during adolescence. However, it fails to execute its best ideas successfully or in a compelling way due to terrible pacing, narrative structural issues, needlessly convoluted dialogue, and a thoroughly unlikable main character. If the author possessed half of the self-awareness he seems to think he has, this may not have been an overrated, cringy, bore-fest.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS NON-CRUCIAL SPOILERS FROM ONE EARLY EPISODE
Raskal Does Not Dream of Copyright Infringement
There is going to be a lot of mentions of Monogatari series in the review, because you need to understand that this series is not just similar, or inspired, or derivative. No - it’s an unbelievably blatant plagiarism, it steals everything from Monogatari, and I mean EVERYTHING, except for a couple of elements stolen from Oregairu and Haruhi instead. Comparing it to the famous cases of literary plagiarism ruled by court (Like Harry Potter’s rip-off called Tanya Grotter), it would 100% be ruled a copyright infringement if Nisio Isin/Kodansha ever bothered
to sue (and it baffles me that they didn’t). If you’ve seen Monogatari before, you might get a kick out of spotting entire scenes and minute-long dialogues meticulously copypasted word-for-word (don’t make it a drinking game, you’ll die) but there really isn’t much point in doing that over an actual rewatch, because production values are not as good as Studio SHAFT.
Well, one might ask, wouldn’t a carbon copy of a good series also be good? No, because there is another element in play - the author is a talentless hack. Something called “stupidity” manifests in multiple aspects of this story making it impossible to enjoy. Here are some examples:
1. Primitive surface-level copying results in nonsense. The best example is the show's title - it’s terrible for marketing purposes because it made many people believe this is going to be some ecchi harem. Well, the title comes from the female lead wearing a bunny-girl suit ...for approximately 15 seconds that basically amount to nothing plot-wise. You see, in Monogatari heroines have animal leitmotifs, and that got copypasted - except the writer couldn’t think of any actual reason for this inside the story, so it’s just an awkward non sequitur, sitting there, doing nothing except making the title stupid - and there are many other examples like that.
2. Insufferable protagonist. There is a certain trope familiar to most anime watchers - “badass loner”, aka “Gary Stu”, aka “Self-insert Jesus-kun”, aka “literally me”. Araragi from Monogatari looks like one - until he isn’t, because writing anime cliches as complex real people is what that series does. Hachiman from Oregairu is another take - he is also real, i. e. an awkward teenager who has trouble socializing. Being a talentless hack he is, the writer of Aobuta couldn’t do anything but write this trope completely straight. The MC is supposedly antisocial pariah, but he has social skills and confidence of a god. When some dumb females give him shit he just says “begone thot!” and they run away in shame, defeated by his awesomeness. He beats a jock twice his size in a fist fight by “outsmarting” him, nevermind a gang of jock’s friends standing there doing nothing. It’s just so cringy to watch. Kirito from SAO is a better protagonist, at least that guy farmed levels or something.
3. Idiotic non-logic. Monogatari has supernatural phenomena explained with ghosts. Aobuta has supernatural phenomena explained with quantum mechanics. That is, dumb and cringy “is math related to science?” level of quantum mechanics understanding. That’s not my point, pseudo-science is just a particular case of a bigger problem of nothing making sense. This is also better explained with an example. Spoiler ahead:
**Spoiler begins here**
Here is a conversation between two characters:
Person A: “I’m trapped in a day-long time loop.”
Person B: “That means there is another person also trapped in the same loop.”
Nonsense, right? Well the conversation is slightly longer but boils down to exactly that. Here is a full version with my play-by-play:
Person A: “I’m trapped in a day-long time loop.”
Person B: “What if you're not trapped, but instead perfectly predict the future, and experience it as an advanced form of jamais vu?” //How could this possibly be a first idea in reaction to the time loop? How does that work? Why is it a time loop that repeats multiple times instead of just being clairvoyant? You what?
Person A: “How so?”
Person B: “Laplace’s demon. A theoretical intelligence that can perfectly calculate position and behaviour of every particle in the universe, therefore, can predict the future.” //But why would it make a repeating loop instead of just being clairvoyant??? Why would Laplace’s demon be your first idea if it doesn’t actually fit the nature of the situation?
Person A: “But I’m not a Laplace’s demon, I’m a normal human”
Person B: “That means some other person is Laplace’s demon and they do the calculations. You’re quantum entangled with that person so you experience their time loop.” //Again, how could this possibly be your first idea? Other person being Laplace’s demon doesn’t actually answer any of the questions posed. Also, quantum entanglement... a) Is an actual physical phenomena, not theoretical construct, and it doesn’t fit the situation at all, so it wouldn’t be a thing that comes to mind here; b) Doesn’t have anything to do with Laplace’s demon, so it wouldn’t come to mind based on that; c) DOESN’T EXPLAIN WHY THE TIME IS REPEATING IN A LOOP, INSTEAD OF TWO PEOPLE BEING CLAIRVOYANT.
**Spoiler ends here**
Notice the pattern? Wrong physics aside, none of the conclusions of Person B logically follow from previously reached conclusions, it’s a bunch of random lines arranged one after another. Either the author is a moron and “lines arranged one after another” is his understanding of how logic works, or he thinks the audience are morons and he can scam them with this garbage if he talks fast and sounds confident. Incidentally, if someone tries “but that’s just Person B’s theory, it doesn’t have to be true” on you - spit them in the face because the characters act on those assumptions and they are proven to be 100% correct.
2/10 because this series provides nothing of value and has no reason to exist, except to give an answer to a weird thought experiment - what if some acclaimed series was the same, but written by an author 50 IQ points lower.
Anime about teens in high school are a dime a dozen in this medium. You could say, if your anime isn’t set in some sort of school setting, then chances are it’s not really an anime—unless it has Bankai’s or something. While on the surface, this would look like a run-of-the-mill show, it dares to offer something different than most high school anime doesn’t dare touch—and that is reality itself.
With a (translated) title such as Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Bunny Girl Senpai for short) and the promotional poster of an attractive girl in a sexy bunny outfit, you would think that
this would be a slice-of-life comedy with all of the tropes tossed into the pot in order to generate merchandise sales, right? That is where you are seriously mistaken! Despite the red flag in the title—very long titles tend to be disappointing anime—it prioritizes storytelling before fanservice and otaku pandering, giving the audience an atmosphere and characters that we can sympathize with and relate to on a deeper level than their appearance. The reality is showing how to deal and overcome some of the issues we go through in adolescence, and not all resolutions are happy endings. These issues come under the guise of a supernatural phenomenon called Puberty Syndrome.
With a straightforward plot, the story revolves around our main protagonist, Sakuta Asusagawa, who meets girls with Puberty Syndrome, and must help them overcome their emotional instability in order to save them. It’s a fictional illness which can cause a slew of problems for adolescents. Mai Sakurajima (Bunny Girl) is at the centre of this as she experiences invisibility to everyone. Mai is a well-known celebrity, and yet very few people but Sakuta is able to see her, are able to remember she even exists. We all know that feeling of being invisible. We know we physically aren’t, yet all the attention is directed at everyone else, we feel stuck, having to take it all in, without actually being a part of it. It’s heartbreaking for Mai who is a social star and is used to been seen all the time. The people she wants to notice her don’t, more so they can’t. Despite her success—she’s totally alone. Sakuta can relate to this since he’s vicariously experienced it through his sister, Kaede. It’s soul-crushing, and he wants to help.
Puberty Syndrome is a culmination of all the things we hate about growing in adolescence, mainly the things we’ve gone through at our lowest points. It’s a visualisation of them, placing a magnifying glass on the invisible, examining what makes these particular things so painful. Sakuta’s friend, Rio Futaba acts as the show’s narrative device, offering exposition on this phenomenon and quantum mechanics that might otherwise come from a floating voice from the sky. Information is always better revealed through character interaction since we’re experiencing the story through the eyes of Sakuta. Futaba doesn’t just serve that purpose, she slots into the dynamic, falling for people, just as other characters do and experiences Puberty Syndrome herself. Although this supernatural occurrence is fascinating, it isn’t the selling point. That belongs to the characters, their dialogue, their interactions and chemistry together—especially when it comes to Sakuta and Mai.
There is a ‘spark’ when our main protagonists are together, it’s like a captivating dance. They are always in sync, but they are always moving. One pushes, the other yields. Then the roles are reversed. Back and forth, back and forth. They’re not fighting. Their energies are harmonized—towards the mutual goal of a seamless performance, eventually, they're perfectly balanced against one another. Even in instances where the pair is fighting—whether it be sub textual, verbally, or physically, the balance remains. They are evenly matched. Each gives as good as he or she gets—and there is inevitably a certain measure of respect, one for the other’s skill. They spar almost from the moment they meet. Their arguments are earnest, but their energy is always aligned, the chemistry between them is the best thing that Bunny Girl Senpai has going for it. This is the result of putting two lively characters together where they create a dance of opposition and harmony, having a focus on dynamic character archetype, creating coherent conflict, and lastly, enacting change.
What’s to appreciate here is that Bunny Girl Senpai manages to avoid delving too far into that cliché by keeping Sakuta solely interested in Mai. In fact, they become a couple, and early in the series. It’s very refreshing to see an MC who isn’t so easily swayed by other women and instead tries to keep things platonic between him and the other girls struggling with Puberty Syndrome. Sakuta treats people the same, and while his smug and sarcastic nature usually enjoys poking fun, underneath his deadpan persona is a genuine guy who is caring and respectful. Mai is a character who goes through a great deal of development, she has changed so much throughout the course of the show without sacrificing her traits to be carried by Sakuta; she’s strong-willed, intelligent, independent and honest. The dynamics between them and the casualness of their relationship is a refreshing change of pace from the hyperactive romance we are used to seeing. You feel invested in not just the plot, but how the plot affects all these characters.
Cloverworks got the opportunity of adapting Hajime Kamoshida’s Light Novel. The character designs are very much like a hodgepodge of styles, to the likes of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and Monogatari. They look great, they feel great and they sound great—thanks to a talented selection of seiyuus that bring their given character's personality to life, making them believable and hitting comedic scenes out of the park. The colour palette is pulsating with vigour and energy, the background art, the layout of the architectural designs and shot composition is gorgeous and all combine to complement the alluring atmosphere of Bunny Girl Senpai. The animation has had consistency issues, but never in important moments, it’s very scarce. Most of the soundtrack is casual, relaxing and suits the light-hearted tones and pacing. There are also tracks for the ‘gut punch’ scenes that evoke emotion, especially in instances where characters have melancholy reflections. The OP "Kimi no Sei" by the peggies is a perfect song choice, it’s a very catchy acoustic rock ballad. The ED “Fukashigi no Carte” is sung by the seiyuus of Mai, Futaba, Kaede, Tomoe Koga, Nodoka Toyohama and Shouko Makinohara at the end of their given arcs. It gives an eerie and whimsical feeling equal to the story they're telling.
Bunny Girl Senpai’s message is incredibly relevant to the difficulties of teens today. It manages to be a surprisingly poignant metaphor for the effects that issues such as bullying and ostracization can have on youth. It manages to keep a consistent quality of the plot without sacrificing anything to adhere to quotas of fanservice and otaku pandering. The dialogue, the characters, the progression, the music and visuals are operating as powerfully and effectively as possible. The “Sakuta Effect” works because he is a strong character who handles situations maturely, he’s not pessimistic nor arrogant in the sense he tries to do everything himself. He reaches out for help, he knows his limitations and flaws, he’s self-aware, he’s genuine and honest. Great characters make for great writing, and Bunny Girl Senpai is definitely a smash hit from Cloverworks and joins the discussion of Anime of the Year.
Puberty makes us do some crazy things. For example, oft times when I’m taking a stroll through my local library in my double XL, extra cleavage bunny boy costume and I’m being ignored, I think to myself “this must be just another Quantum Mechanics issue!”. I’ve consulted a multitude of other people on why I’m being socially outcast, but they seem to think I’m the problem! Can’t be, right?! That was the moment in which I was so graciously blessed by this anime, to save me from myself, and help me understand what I’d known all along. That of course, it was the cat.
Bunny Girl Senpai, Cloverworks’ wildly popular light novel adaptation, is the type of anime to present itself as something to be desired, only to constantly undermine itself with every waking moment. It takes any amount of credibility you could attribute to its core themes and tells you to go elsewhere. It’s the type of show I so desperately wanted to enjoy, something that I could wholeheartedly say earned my AOTY, but turned me away at nearly every step of the journey.
Sakuta, our story’s protagonist, is generally an inexpressive, unintentional lady killer. His intentions are deceptively pure, and most notable of all, he consistently manages to be the most inconsistent character in the series. He takes on the persona of a perverted, dense teenage boy. His demeanor is relatively cynical, and his method of solving issues is bizarre… ninety percent of the time. The other ten percent, he takes a full 180, falling victim to the notion of dramatic climax. In these times, he expresses his cathartic side, often tearing up or yelling wildly. His outbursts come off as less of a part of his character, and more as an effect of the story. Sakuta receives what some may call “development” throughout the course of the arcs, and while I can see why it may be perceived as such, it falls short on a few fronts. First and foremost, Sakuta does not change at all in between or during the arcs. He maintains the same outlook, attitude and demeanor throughout the entirety of the show. The only development that is visibly noticeable is Sakuta’s life changing interaction with Shouko. The Sakuta the viewer is made known to, is as I described above. The Sakuta we are exposed to in his occasional flashbacks, is not the same person. This meaning, while the two Sakuta’s we are made known to are different when compared before and after, it has nothing to do with Sakuta’s character in the story at large. All this interaction serves as, is a justification for why his current attitude is the way it is. It’s two contrasting personalities, that are inferably conjoined, but not detailed enough to connect on a developmental level. Sakuta does not change over the course of the story, but rather changes before the story, and uses that as a lame justification for lazy character writing. Sorry for the redundancy, just wanted to make that clear. I’ve heard arguments as to the change in his optimism as a result of meeting Mai. Considering Sakuta was by no means “sad” before meeting Mai I believe the scenario speaks for itself. Being happy is not development, happiness exists as a by-product of being alive.
Where Sakuta’s inconsistency comes in (other than the outbursts) is how his methodology of dealing with conflicts changes as the story progresses. Keep in mind that the basic frameworks of his character are not changing as these solutions change. Initially, Sakuta is displayed as someone willing to go to the ends of the earth to solve a problem he is invested in. He believes that if he can assist in someone’s woes, he inevitably will intervene. He maintains this mentality for the next arc, going as far as to publicly embarrass himself for the sake of Tomoe. After this though, he takes a sharp turn in how he approaches issues. He begins allowing those he’s helping to fix their own situations. He “adopts” a mentality in which he believes that there are times when people can only truly help themselves. He isn’t conflicted over this change in world view, just accepts it as though it never happened. Had he consistently used this philosophy or any philosophy for that matter, there wouldn’t be a problem, but then after a couple arcs, he slowly begins gravitating back without any apparent thought process, intervening at some points, withheld at others. Inconsistent character philosophy is not development either. It’s frankly the exact opposite and removes possible room for development by creating a gray area in the projected principles of the character.
Mai, the main heroine and incidentally the “bunny girl”, is a character design with a voice actor. She has no feasible motive or desire that’s worth caring for aside from her relationship to Sakuta and wanting to be in show business. Once her character arc is over, she becomes a cameo. She shows up whenever Sakuta needs motivation or inspiration and helps him tie up the loose ends of whatever he’s dealing with. That’s seriously all there is to her.
Regardless of whether you found these characters likeable or not, they remain unexplored throughout the entirety of the show, with a frighteningly scarce amount of decipherable insight as to the purpose of their actions, or how to interpret their occasional manic episodes.
In my mind there lies a cut and dry line between characters that are memorable, and characters that aren’t, and this applies to the supporting cast as well. When the sole purpose of a character’s existence is to be ‘acceptable’ and convey the story in a way that is admissible, I think that character is worthless. With no hyperbole intended; most of the characters in this anime are arbitrary. This is not Sakuta’s story. Nothing about this story is Sakuta’s, in the same way that any other run of the mill character with a C-cup could replace Mai and be just as effective. I can best describe this as a story told through Sakuta’s mouth, not his character. He, and everyone else are approached as though they are merely liaison between the writers and viewers, not vital to the story.
Taking the cake for the worst character introduction ever written, is Rio Futaba. For the first six episodes, her entire character is based on the idea that she is “smart”. She solves the mysteries. She knows, realizes and explains things that only the most omnipotent of light novel characters could imagine. You thought hacker Kirito was obnoxious? Well this is Kirito’s brain on drugs. She’s (not) well versed in quantum mechanics. She knows the ins and outs of other’s relationships and how they think, yet she is as emotionally aware as a stick of glue when it comes to herself. She is essentially included as a means of easily explaining the content that the writer didn't know how to include in the dialogue (for good reason). To be fair, her personal arc is decent. For a brief non-spoiler synopsis, she encounters an issue in which she is forced to confront romantic feelings and deals with them accordingly. This at the very least makes use of her emotional obliviousness to expand on her character depth (ever so slightly) and create some sense of human existence within her robotic air. This, in my opinion was the only way to salvage her character, and I appreciate Kamoshida’s basic understanding of the characters he had created.
Kaede is in fact a decent character, in both design and execution, and managed to outclass both main characters in her first five seconds of screen time. She has the only interesting character introduction that isn’t butchered soon after, and her panda pajamas were an awesome complement to her shut-in status. She exemplifies both the irritating younger sister, as well as the retrospectively mature one once she undergoes her character arc. She receives the season finale, and deservedly so.
The plot structure of this show is both interesting and immensely disappointing. Much like the Monogatari Series, the main character encounters some sort of supernatural issue with a future member of his mock-harem every few episodes and assists in resolving it. Coming from someone who only liked one member of the supporting cast, and none from the main; I found every piece of character interaction in this anime to be uninteresting. Stories with no overarching plot rely heavily on character interaction. So, you might be able to tell where the “immensely disappointing” part came from.
Story-telling is far from my specialty, but I have to say, introducing a concept, not defining it, loosely basing it on a bunch of random things and then running with it isn’t such a good basis for a plot. The million-dollar question: What is puberty syndrome? In short, it’s whatever fits the direction that the story goes in. “Abnormal experiences rumored on the internet to be caused by sensitivity and instability during adolescence.”, is how MAL chooses to define it. However, Rio likes to think outside that limiting box. Kamoshida (LN author) created a drinking game where every time a character is affected by the ambiguous “puberty syndrome” he’d take five shots, get out a different high-school textbook and vomit some Rio dialogue.
The first “encounter” is that of Mai becoming ‘invisible’ and forgotten by the world around her. Hundreds of interesting metaphors could be drawn from this. Hell, you could derive a social commentary on celebrity culture in a heartbeat, and my god the list goes on. Honestly it looked like the show was heading in the direction of using metaphorical insinuations as a means of explanation. Instead, off the rails it went. Schrodinger’s cat. Yes, that Schrodinger’s cat. Why? Cause Rio said so. I understand the idea of using real concepts to ground fictional ones in the same reality, but the concepts must be at least somewhat related. It’s because they take such a farfetched grab at using this repeatedly, that it comes off as a lame gimmick that ignores basic knowledge on the subject. Just as an example, for Mai’s arc, the writing excludes the concept of a half-life, radiation emission probability not being linear; point being, why use a real concept if you’re going to alter its factual basis? Like I said before, it makes it seem more like a gimmick than a tactic. This all to further prove my theory that the pseudo-science exposition is used only to make Rio sound smart and bait the viewer into believing whatever nonsense she cooks up. I used the first encounter as an example to avoid spoilers, but I assure you, none of the other encounters are resolved with any sense of clarity in mind, and almost play out the exact same every time. Some of you may be like me, in that you find the metaphorical insinuations much more interesting. I fully understand and would love for that to be all there is to it. Unfortunately, though, the writer decided to use this method of half-assed pseudo-science to explain puberty syndrome, or at least ground it in some way, shape or form. I hope I don’t have to explain why saying that “the reality of a concept is unimportant”, is completely ridiculous when the intent of the concept is to be made realistic by comparing it to other real concepts. In all honesty any attempt at clearly defining Puberty Syndrome will be haphazard at best, because the author is hell bent on basing it on real concepts that just don’t relate.
Romance is a tricky genre to tread. In this I think Bunny Girl Senpai is at its finest. As a once upon a time fan of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, I know for a fact that Kamoshida is capable of writing somewhat captivating romances, which is the main reason I picked up this anime. There is a substantial amount of embarrassingly uncomfortable confessions here if that’s your thing. If you are willing to put up with the rest of the shit-slinging, there is a romance story to be had.
High-school rom-com anime have the world’s worst track record for horribly integrated settings. The characters in this show have no interaction with the world around them. There is an unwritten standard for both emotional and striking scenes in anime, or any medium for that matter. The iconography/detail of the background and location plays a huge part, and obviously a plethora of other factors contribute as well (BGM, etc.). For the most part though setting is hugely related to the impact of a scene. I’ve racked my brain over and over, to arrive at the conclusion that the only scenery that could hold emotional value in this anime is the beach. The reason being, Sakuta receives his adopted world view from Shouko there, and most of the arcs end up in that area. This is fine, they succeeded in created one area that, while being scarcely occupied by them, holds some value to the viewer. Where the issue lies is that there is nowhere else in this show that is iconic in any meaningful way. Nowhere in the entire world. Not the school in which they spend most of their time, not Sakuta’s stark bedroom. Nowhere. This is one of those instances where this show represents itself as desirable, and then immediately undermines that sentiment. There are plenty of examples of how secondary settings in school anime can become emotionally valuable to the viewer. Take Yui’s bedroom from K-On!, 3-Gatsu no Lion’s stairwell, Clannad’s clubroom, Oregairu’s roof top, Love Live’s roof top/stairwell/school, or any other show known to have massive emotional attachments to their respective fan-base. They all have at least a few locations that manage to create a summative semblance of a world around them. When every background is as bland and unimaginative as possible, the characters become painstakingly vital, and we just established that the characters aren’t even treated as characters at all. Because of this, even when it’s time to reach the heights of the show’s respective arcs, everything is trivialized by the fact that nothing about the world around the characters is important. On top of this, every bit of melodrama incorporated in the scene is amplified infinitely. Melodrama and characters that I don’t like are not a combination I’m too fond of.
To put it bluntly, Bunny Girl Senpai introduces a jarring amount of interesting ideas and fumbles nearly all of them. The topic of being an outcast is referred to a few times in this story. Relatability aside, this is an easy and reliable way to create viewer empathy towards the protagonist’s cause. What would be the one thing that the author shouldn’t do immediately after introducing Sakuta as a social outcast? In my mind it would be giving him a decently large friend group. Guess what, he has the jock guy as a friend, Rio, Mai and the reporter all within the first two episodes. I’m sorry but that’s just sloppy writing. Next up on the list is sexual stigmatism. Sakuta is someone who likes to make puns out of sexually charged remarks. I like this aspect of the show. I think people are far too awkward about sex, and it’s always refreshing to see anime tackle this in a way that isn’t too obnoxious. So, let’s run through this again. What is the one thing that the writing must avoid in order to promote de-stigmatizing sexual remarks and make it ubiquitous with the dialogue? I would say choosing character tropes that have trouble confronting romantic emotions is a big one to avoid.
Mai - comfortable with sexually charged jokes.
Mai’s sister – uncomfortable with Sakuta’s humor.
Tomoe - can’t confront romantic emotions.
Rio - emotionally unaware and distressed
Kaede – emotionally distressed, but comfortable with Sakuta’s humor.
More than HALF of the main female characters not only can’t deal with sexual remarks, but also have some quantity of emotional ineptitude within themselves. I’m not so ignorant as to believe it would be natural to have every female character in the show be into raunchy humor, but more than half of them aren’t. There is the likely explanation of viewing Sakuta’s perverted attitude play off other character tropes. Unfortunately, when you give more than half the cast the same reaction, it’s tough to remain interested, which leads me to believe the raunchy comedy is indeed an attempt as destigmatizing sex among the demographic watching it. Either way, there were inherent flaws in the way this concept was presented, which is unfortunately the case the with the better half of every concept addressed in this show.
By far the most remarkable technical aspect of this show is its pacing. For a 13-episode light novel adaptation, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that genuine thought went into the storyboarding and layout of the episodes. Director Souichi Masui, having storyboarded on huge titles such as “Beck”, “Soul Eater” and “Samurai Champloo”, may have had a significant impact on how well the pacing turned out. However, this story is adapted from a light novel, and even premonitions aside, the additional effort that it takes to realize writing into animation with no layout of the authors thoughts in the form of scenes and direction makes for a more difficult time generating creative trademarking. This doesn’t mean that the sloppy cuts and uninteresting angles used are excusable, but certainly had a hand in the overall ineffectiveness of any intended artistic integrity. A comparable show like Monogatari (in plot structure, and the fact that they are both light novel adaptations) which uses style as a defining factor makes it known that it’s possible to combine light novel adaptations and individualistic direction, so why is this show so incredibly dispassionate? I can’t answer that question without some lofty speculation, so I’ll briefly summarize the point of this paragraph. Essentially, this anime is paced well, but lacks creative influence. Bunny Girl Senpai pays tribute only to the concept of storytelling, disregarding any sense of innovation. This is not a criticism, this is an effect of viewing common seasonal anime through a critical lens. Although the above will inevitably shorten this anime’s longevity, it’s more than possible that a large portion of viewers don’t care about this in the short term.
Another notable aspect of this show is its sound design. Bunny Girl Senpai’s OST falls somewhere just above average, with a catchy opening, decent – dramatized, albeit – but decent insert tracks, good sound effects, and decent audio engineering in general that does well to create some sense of professionality in an otherwise rudimentary production.
To say that the collective reaction to Bunny Girl Senpai was one of pleasant surprise, would be the understatement of the century. “A trashy bunny girl costume and a confusing, shoddy premise” are the thoughts I had going in. Although only one of those two expectations were made to be inaccurate, I can say with the utmost confidence that this show is much better than a lot of people would have assumed going in. It takes a good amount of blood, sweat and tears to create something greater than the sum of its parts, and frankly this show just didn’t make it there for me. It takes ideas that look acceptable on paper, and fruitlessly attempts to convert them to animation. There’s really nothing wrong with missing the mark but missing the mark in almost every category (characters, plot structure, setting, core concept) and being applauded for it seems rather counter-intuitive. I understand why this show comes off as likeable. It’s a very reticent, palatable show with enough charm to keep its fanbase interested. Beyond that though, there’s nothing. It’s a surface level show with exactly what meets the eye, and while some may consider that genuine, I can’t bring myself to call it anything other than uninspired. So, when all’s said and done, Rascal may not be dreaming of Bunny Girl Senpai, but you can bet that I will be… and with a few complaints he’s well on his way to a second season (that I won’t be watching) of “My Teen Romantic Calamity Pseudo-Science SNAFU”.