Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Tagged: Film | TV

Japanese animated tv series (2018); original title Seishun Buta Yarō wa Bunny Girl-senpai no Yume wo Minai. Based on the Light Novels by Hajime Kamoshida. CloverWorks. Directed by Sōichi Masui. Written by Masahiro Yokotani. Voice cast includes Kaito Ishikawa, Yurika Kubo, Inori Minase, Asami Seto and Atsumi Tanezaki. Thirteen 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Two years ago, high-schooler Sakuta Azusagawa's (Ishikawa) little sister Kaede (Kubo) suffered from cyberbullying, resulting in personality change, memory loss (see Amnesia), inability to leave home – and spontaneous cuts appearing on her body. She was experiencing Adolescence Syndrome, caused by a sensitivity to social pressure, whose symptoms include such genre tropes as Invisibility, Time Loops, Doppelgangers and Identity Exchange – as well as known psychological problems, including dissociative disorder (see Psychology). Though the syndrome mainly afflicts adolescent girls, Sakuta has severe scarring on his chest, a sympathetic reaction to his sister's condition.

In the course of the series Sakuta meets and helps other young women affected by Adolescence Syndrome. Mai Sakurajima (Seto) dresses as a bunny girl to confirm no one can see her, only to discover Sakuta can (strictly speaking, she is not invisible: but rather, not noticed). Mai's invisibility to others is eventually resolved by Sakuta yelling loudly at school that he loves her, which indeed he does, and she grows to love him: their romance is one of the show's main arcs. The other is Kaede. One morning she wakes with her pre-syndrome memories and personality returned, but the post-syndrome ones lost: for Sakuta the sister of the past two years has gone (see Identity): he grieves and his scars bleed again. He is comforted by his first crush, Shoko Makinohara (Minase), who had helped him when everybody else believed his scarring was self-inflicted: her mysterious reappearance is not explained in this series (but see below).

Rio Futaba (Tanezaki), sole member of the school's Science Club and one of Sakuta's few friends, theorizes on the scientific explanations for the syndrome's effects (see Imaginary Science; Physics), invoking the Schrödinger's Cat Thought Experiment (invisibility), Laplace's demon (time loop), quantum entanglement (for a one-off time iteration) and quantum teleportation (body swap). She too experiences the Syndrome when her insecurities create two versions of herself, which she suggests might also be quantum teleportation on a macroscopic scale.

Some worrying elements in the first episode fortunately go nowhere – for example, the bunny girl costume only makes one more brief appearance. The Anime's main theme is the importance of kindness: Sakuta's surface cynicism hides a compassionate heart, learnt from Shoko. Though not original, the series uses familiar tropes well to create its own identity: it is emotional, amusing and charming.

A film sequel followed: Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (2019), original title Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yume-Miru Shōjo no Yume wo Minai, also based on Kamoshida's light novels. It concerns the appearance of two versions of Shoko, as a middle-schooler and adult; Time Travel is used to change events and avoid a tragedy. [SP]

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