Seishun Buta Yarou / Bunny Girl Senpai Review

Here, I’ll be referring to Seishun Buta Yarou as Rascal Doesn’t Dream or Bunny Girl Senpai. When it was airing in Fall 2018, I asked around for why I should watch Bunny Girl Senpai, and all I got from anyone was that the guy main character was cool and there were a lot of really cute girls. That sounded boring and shallow. So I didn’t start watching the show until early May 2019, and my reason for watching was mostly to criticize it. I finished the show just in the last week. To my surprise, I liked it alright, and from an amatuer critic’s perspective, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, Bunny Girl Senpai is a well-made and enjoyable show.

For my reviews, I usually examine the story, visuals, audio, characters, and enjoyment. It’ll be the same this time except the story category encompasses more than just the plot, its originality, and how it progresses. It also includes how the show is written, and how it compares to similar anime of the same genres. Personal enjoyment category includes some things I loved as well as things that took away from my sense of satisfaction. Number scores are given for each of the five categories, ranging from 1 to 10. Taking the average of those numbers, I arrive at an overall series rating from 1.0 (apalling/shouldn’t exist) to 10.0 (masterpiece/perfect).

Story, Structure, and Writing: 8/10 Excellent

I’m not the first one to say that Rascal Doesn’t Dream is somewhat similar to Haruhi Suzumiya. Both have one central male character and one central female character, both of whom are unusual, plus several important female characters who conveniently gather around them. Both shows are school comedies with some serious drama, plus supernatural elements forming a key part of the story.

In Bunny Girl Senpai, the supernatural/fantasy piece is the concept of Puberty Syndrome, which I find an interesting premise. It’s a temporary Syndrome that makes scientifically impossible things happen to middle-and-high-schoolers afflicted with emotional or psychological issues. Examples include phenomena like body swapping, time loops, having a double or clone, or having strange wounds and markings appear on your flesh.

The plot of Bunny Girl Senpai is structured, well-planned, easy to follow, and refreshing in the way it doesn’t follow tropes of other school rom-coms. (There’s no fanservice episode, no fillers, etc.) The story is divided into 5 arcs, with episodes 1-3 about Mai, episodes 4-6 about Tomoe, episodes 7-8 about Futaba, episodes 9-10 about Nodoka, and episodes 11-13 about Kaede. The events make optimal sense in the order that they are presented, and each arc builds a little more on the next. There’s one problem: the most emotionally powerful arc was probably the first. The last was perhaps about equally impactful, but it didn’t move me as much as the first.

Actually, the original way that Haruhi Suzumiya was aired had a similar issue. It seems like the ultimate climax of the series is within the first half of it. I’m not sure that this is always a mistake, though. There’s a clear benefit to having a captivating high point in the series early on, and that is that the show can “hook” its viewers to watch the rest. In my opinion, this worked extremely well for both Haruhi and Bunny Girl Senpai. However, it’s still a risk. Viewers might be disappointed by the lack of excitement in later episodes if this plan is used. Some fans felt that way.

Speaking of Haruhi Suzumiya, many fans were annoyed by the Endless Eight in the 2009 continuation. Rascal Doesn’t Dream had a time loop arc as well, but it only lasted 3 episodes at most and was much less repetitive. I’ll always vastly prefer Haruhi to Bunny Girl Senpai as a series, but I must admit: the latter had a plot that was planned and presented better than the former.

Even with some fantasy added for spice, this show is still a school drama and romance, so I would say the story is 7/10 at best. But, thanks to the way the show used the plot and the characters to explore many interesting aspects and themes of adolescence, I must give it more credit. I also want to note that the script was nearly perfect for Rascal Doesn’t Dream, and thanks to actually having good subtitles on Crunchyroll for once, most of the brilliance came through the language barrier.

Art and Animation: 6/10 Fine

(Kaede has a very cute character design)

The show features cute character designs but nothing special or unique, in my opinion. The color pallet was well-coordinated but didn’t suit my tastes. Frequent CGI was used for background people and crowd shots, but that’s pretty standard now, and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The character designs weren’t all that original, but they were cute.

I liked the expressions of the characters. They are still pretty anime-ish at times– particularly with angry or embarrassed reactions of the girls– but mostly, they are subtler, more original, and more complex. The expressions of Sakuta, Mai, and Futaba were especially good. The backgrounds are easily forgettable in style, but they look alright. They fit in. Overall, the art and animation are simply average for 2018 anime, which doesn’t mean they’re bad– just run-of-the-mill.

Sound: 7/10 Good

(Shoko is played by Inori Minase)

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that opening and ending songs should carry more weight in my reviews than they have in the past. The OP and EDs for Bunny Girl Senpai were memorable. I like the Peggies band, and they performed the opening song “Kimi no Sei,” which I prefer to the ED(s). I won’t be forgetting “Kimi no Sei” anytime soon. There are multiple ending songs, and they’re all kinds of fun to listen to, because most are sung by the female seiyuus of the characters. The sound effects were interesting and unusual in a good way, like when Nodoka and Mai switch back after trading bodies. The instrumental music was pretty forgettable, though.

The voice-acting was more than adequate enough. Main leads Sakuta and Mai are played by Kaito Ishikawa and Asami Seto, respectively. Ishikawa is known for roles like Iida-kun in My Hero Academia, Urie in Tokyo Ghoul Re, Kageyama-senpai in Haikyuu, and Genos in One Punch Man. I’m a big fan of Asami Seto, and her roles include Chihaya from Chihayafuru, Chiyuki from Death Parade, Raphtalia from Shield Hero, Kagari from Witchcraft Works, and more.

I love Rio Futaba’s voice, Atsumi Tanezaki. I recognized her as Chise from Mahoutsukai no Yome and Moe from Subete ga F ni Naru. She’s also apparently voicing Satowa Houzuki in Kono Oto Tomare, and has played supporting roles in various other anime series. Shouko Makinohara was voiced by Inori Minase, who played Rem in Re:Zero, for one example. I liked Kaede’s voice for most of her lines, but at times it sounded a little forced. I was less than impressed with her crying. It doesn’t sound genuine; it’s too exaggerated.

Characters: 9 Magnificent

(My favorite character, Rio Futaba)

I’m pretty sure the characters are the driving force of Rascal Doesn’t Dream, and the main reason the show is so popular. First there’s Sakuta. He always teases people, but is only mean-spirited in extremely rare cases. He is much more honest and straightfoward with his words and actions than the other characters. People call him “Buta Yarou,” which I think means something like Pig Bastard, but was toned down and translated to “Rascal.”

Anyway, his friends only call him that in good fun, to get back at him for his constant, clever teasing or the way he embarrasses them or himself. Sakuta isn’t a bastard or a pig or even a rascal, really. He’s extremely kind, patient, understanding, welcoming, and mature for his age. He is unconventional in the way he says his feelings so frankly, the jokes he makes, and how vulnerable he lets himself be in a psychological sense. So it’s only natural he’s a bit deadpan and sarcastic, and looking for ways to get reactions out of others. It’s his social defense mechanism and he’s very good at it. I admire Sakuta as a character.

Then there’s Mai, the poised and professional, yet still very girlish young woman. She was a child actress and is now looking to get back into showbiz. Compared to Sakuta, Mai doesn’t express herself as much and has a harder time explaining why she feels the way she does sometimes. She’s calm and confident, being an actress and all. However, she still shows that she’s a cute or emotional young girl from time to time. For example, she blushes or gets a bit flustered when Sakuta says he’s turned on by something about her or was fantasizing. She’s stubborn, and with Sakuta, she can be cold and/or demanding, but mostly just because that’s how she reacts to someone as kind and funny as him giving her so much attention.

Other great characters include Kunimi, Tomoe, Rio Futaba, Nodoka, and Kaede. My personal favorite is Futaba, since she’s a smart cookie, likes science, respectfully listens to the concerns of others, and often gives them advice. I’m betting she can make a mean cup of coffee too, because gods know she gets enough practice. Pretty much every scene with Futaba at school has her making or drinking coffee or red tea. She makes it using chemistry classroom equipment, of course, rather than a coffee maker or press. Futaba is about as witty as Sakuta, though a bit gloomier and less open with people about her private life.

Personal Enjoyment: 8/10 Excellent

(“Not the Face, please,” replies Sakuta.)

The unique characters, well-written and clearly strucured story, the seiyuus, and the idea of the creepy, supernatural Puberty Syndrome were all pieces of Bunny Girl Senpai which entertained me. So did the way the show seems self-aware; that means it won’t take itself too seriously. The humor in Bunny Girl Senpai was thoroughly amusing. There’s the witty banter of the characters, the silly situations Sakuta sometimes gets into, and the way Kaede makes satire of the role of the doting imouto (little sister) from siscon anime.

Dissociative disorders and dissociative amnesia were mentioned and discussed in eps 12 and 13. It’s refreshing to see any content related to real mental illnesses or psych disorders in anime. Something real like DDNOS felt a bit out of place compared to the supernatural or sci-fi explanations for all the other strange happenings in the series. Yet, I enjoyed seeing/hearing it, and it gave Kaede a lot of character depth.

There were some typical tropes of school anime aimed at men, though all told, there were less of them than in most anime. There were no “accidental” boob grabs, no instance. I just mean things like focusing shots on the waist, bust, legs, and butts of female characters, while for male characters they use less compromising angles and shots. I’m putting this parahraph under enjoyment, though, because the show did a good job appealing to girls, too.

For example, Sakuto was a genuinely likeable character and an amazing boyfriend. Someone that kind and witty, dedicated and patient would be a great partner. I know girls who find the teasing, snarky type of personality attractive, and it reminds me of the personality of my first boyfriend. Besides that, there’s “fan service” of Sakuta walking around in his apartment all the time with only shorts or boxers on. In body, Sakuta is the type girls like me and my friends would like, but for those who like them some meaty, muscle men, there’s Kunimi. Somewhere in Futaba’s arc, we get a nice scene of him shirtless and sweaty in running shorts. :p

I can’t mention the enjoyment category without saying just once how much I loved the relationship of Sakuta and Mai. They were so freakin adorable. I can’t even describe it. You should watch it for yourself and see how funny and cute their actions and interactions are.

Now for some elements–or lack thereof– that took away from my enjoyment. One example is that the phenomenon of Puberty Syndrome isn’t explored enough to satisfy me. I was hoping for more explanation of it, or a character who studies it and why it happens to only some people. Why is worse in some cases more than others? Futaba offered science-like explanations for, and psychological insight into, supernatural phenomena at various points. But she didn’t study Puberty Syndrome or learn anything new about it.

I was unpleasantly surpised at the way Sakuta reacted to Kaede disappearing and being replaced by Kaede-san. He was more devastated that the one was gone than happy that the original was back. If my little sister came back after being another personality for two years, of course I’d miss the other personality a little; but far more than that, I’d be overjoyed that the little sister I knew growing up was back. I did not expect Sakuta to start screaming in the hospital and then plummet into such deep gloom. I don’t like his first reaction, and I don’t understand it very well. However, at least he “got over” it for the most part within the last episode.

The final episode was poorly executed, and that left me feeling put out. So did the way the makers put the most emotional arc (in my opinion) first. On a related note, I was sorely disappointed that we never see Sakuta and Mai kiss. I appreciate not being shown exstensive or frequent make-out scenes, but this is a highschool couple that’s been together for several months and still hasn’t kissed. That’s only a minor complaint, though. Looking at the big picture, there were many more aspects I enjoyed than ones that displeased me in Rascal Doesn’t Dream.

Overall Rating 7.6/10

Most of my scores are between 5-point-something and 8-point-something, with especially bad anime in the 4s and especially amazing anime in the 9s. Anything in the 6s is fine/fair and anything in the 7s is good/enjoyable. School romance stories, even if they have something extra like fantasy, aren’t usually well received by me since I like unique and well-written characters and scripts, and stories with more defined plots. All things considered, it’s highly impressive that a school romance got a score of 7.6 from me.

If you like or don’t mind school dramas with romance, I most definitely recommend Bunny Girl Senpai. If you’re like me and don’t like that genre too much, this anime might still be a good watch for when you’re bored or if you ever need to kill time. It’s at least worth it for everyone to watch the first three episodes, which comprises the first arc of the story, and in my opinion, the most emotionally powerful one. I’m glad I watched Rascal Doesn’t Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai.

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