I don't understand the hype for this one.
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 monotonous 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 vulgar, gross, and offensive. Deceptively, he acts like he’s being a terrible person ironically, and in turn, people don’t think he’s that bad of a guy. However, in truth, 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? Sakuta's shallow quips always like this, juvenile and crass, and the rest of his dialogue is completely 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 she 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 in an attempt to seem intelligent, but it's so clear he didn't bother to fully research them so instead it makes him look stupider. These overlong, cringe-inducing, self-congratulatory ‘science’ scenes occur almost every episode.
Nothing in Bunny Girl Senpai feels real, 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.