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‘Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai’ Is a Show Designed to Trick Seasoned Anime Fans

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The more anime someone watches, the more they come to accept its… eccentricities in storytelling. They become more willing to suspend their disbelief of common tropes and plot devices and write them off as, “Well, that’s just anime for you.”

Once in a blue moon, however, there comes a series that takes advantage of those numbed perceptions. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai is exactly that show. It takes advantage of the fact that so many of these tropes have become little more than background noise to anime fans to sneakily pull a fast one over and over and over again.

The Bunny That Plays With Expectations

This deception starts right from the title itself, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai, which one could draw any number of conclusions from alone. This is not a show about a girl traipsing around in a playboy bunny outfit, but more like a series of case studies concerning various social dilemmas commonly confronted by adolescents, such as public perception vs. self-perception, feelings of inferiority in the presence of talent, and perceived “atmospheres” that can’t be broken.

Each of these dilemmas is represented by a girl whose problem is manifested in some physical manner, ranging from becoming invisible to those around her, to cuts and bruises suddenly appearing on her body in reaction to cyberbullying. Despite the supernatural circumstances, the root causes are very much real and serious, and series protagonist, Sakuta, treats them as such.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai

Sakuta is a snarky and sarcastic individual, but he’s also a tad jaded. It’s this jaded nature that allows him to speak his mind in situations that many drama series protagonists would shy away from, and that results in getting to the heart of the matter much faster.

This also applies to his relationships. Where many a drama will build its entire story around the development of a romantic relationship between two characters, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai compacts that arc into a tight, all-killer, no filler, opening three-episodes when it could have, for all intents and purposes, gone on the entire series. All without even remotely feeling rushed. This is just one of the many surprises the show has in store for viewers who have come to know what to expect from anime stories.

The real star of the show in terms of viewer subterfuge, however, and the real reason for this article, is Sakuta’s younger sister, Kaede.

The Dream That Deceives the Dreamer

From the start, Kaede has been the definition of an over-affectionate little sister arch-type. She clings to Sakuta in an almost unhealthy manner and dotes on him while speaking in third-person and throwing around the all-important Onii-chan term whenever she can. It’s an overused character trope that regular anime watchers are all too familiar with.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-senpai Kaede

The reason Kaede is accepted in Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai is partly due to this developed numbness, but mostly because of the sincerity she puts forth in her actions. It doesn’t come across as a facade, and the execution of the stories around her are done so well that it becomes easy to just file Kaede away to the back of the mind as one of “those” characters, not giving it any more thought than that.

But then episode twelve aired, ‘Life is a Never-Ending Dream,’ and all of those facets of Kaede’s character were suddenly given reasons for existing, and highly valid ones at that. The cliched character Kaede was given belies a reality far more dire and severe than was ever indicated before.  At least… more than what seemed to have ever been indicated to most seasoned anime fans.

Here’s the thing, though, the hints that something lies beneath the surface would be plain as day to someone unfamiliar with the little sister character type, or even anime in general.

Why does Kaede speak in third-person? Where the anime fan would probably answer, “Because that’s a common thing for her kind of character. That’s just anime for you,” someone new to the medium, or even just a casual watcher of it, would be far more perplexed. It would be much harder for them to write it off and more likely to become a sticking point throughout the series. This is emphasized even further by how realistically the characters surrounding Kaede are portrayed, so why is she alone the exception?

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-senpai Kaede

Is the trauma she experienced really bad enough to create this crippling fear of the outdoors? Why is Kaede so overly-affectionate towards her brother? These kinds of questions would all serve as red flags outside of the anime medium, but because they are in an anime they end up flying under the radar.

This is where the brilliance of Kaede’s personality truly shines through. From the get-go, her character was designed to deceive and distract the regular anime watcher. The more anime one has consumed, the more likely one is to fall for this ploy, taking “hiding-in-plain-sight” to a new level. It’s a trap tailor-made for the show’s target audience, utilizing their own jaded nature in a glorious Trojan-horse tactic to catch the viewer completely off-guard.

This is a delightful little trick that reiterates the creativity anime still has to offer. People often talk of how series turn tropes on their heads, and the surprise that results, but Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Senpai did one better, using a trope in all its unmodified glory for a specific, poignant purpose. It demonstrates a level of awareness of the anime community, and the willingness to use that to the show’s advantage, and that is a trap I’d love to fall for again.

You can watch Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl-Senpai on Crunchryroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed).

For another show that deceives veteran anime fans, check out SCHOOL-LIVE!

 

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kyle Rogacion

    December 22, 2018 at 11:57 pm

    The skill that the author has shown in Bunny Girl Senpai shows a marked improvement over his previous wark, Sakurasou. He so clearly embraces anime tropes; the key difference this time around is that he explores them and digs deeper into how they relate to the characters.

    In Kaede’s case, how she’s written is wonderful because not only does it explain her behavior, but you grow to legitimately like her in the imouto archetype. There’s such a refreshing sense of casual relaity that the show adopts. I was a bit concerned with the first couple arcs that Sakuta would be portrayed as a knight-in-shining-armor savior, as happened in Sakurasou. However, all of the little things (his phone calls with Mai, his open conversation with friends, and his sincere affection for them) add up to create one of the most well rounded protagonist I’ve seen in a while.

  2. Alan Friend

    September 28, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    there is no dub of this show at the moment. crunchyroll and funimation only have the subbed version

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 33: Coming into Maturity

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Anime Ichiban welcomes our anime waifu overlords, old and new. Join Matt and Kyle this episode as they discuss the return of the Goddess of Anime, Haruhi Suzumiya herself, then hop on over to the new virutal sensation that’s finally sweeping English-speaking nations: Hololive Vtubers!

For this episode of Anime Ichiban, the SHITSUMON! topic will have the duo diving into recently released Aggretsuko Season 3 and The Great Pretender and explore how the two shows work with mature themes.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions and what we’ve been up to
23:33 – The Return of Haruhi Suzumiya(‘s light novels)
37:23 – The Debut of Generation 1 of Hololive English Vtubers
53:07 – Minor news roundup: (Shenmue anime announced; Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Part 3 movie debuts to huge success; KyoAni fire updates)
58:35 – SHITSUMON! How does anime portray mature themes in its storytelling?

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 32: The Art of Following a Formula

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry.

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diary of our days at breakwater

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry and that the crew digs into along with how a series can effectively perform within its genre conventions.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions
12:28 – Legacy piracy site KissAnime shuts down
28:45 – AT&T reportedly looking to sell Crunchyroll
43:27 – Galapagos Syndrome: Is anime in danger of losing its global identity?
58:41 – News Reel
1:02:20 – SHITSUMON! How do shows perform effectively and still entertain in genres whose formulae are already well known and expected?

TRACKS

Intro – “Cagayake! GIRLS” by Houkago Tea Time (K-ON! opening theme)
Outro – “Tsuri no sekai e” by Umino High School Breakwater Club (Our Diary at the Breakwater ending theme)

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Anime

‘One Piece: Stampede’ is an All-Star Behemoth Buckling Under Predictability

Does One Piece: Stampede sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

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As the fourteenth film in Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece saga, One Piece: Stampede was released in 2019 to critical and financial success. As a big-budget commemoration of the anime’s 20th anniversary, Stampede has lots to live up to, from successfully stamping a momentous two decades, to satiating the hype of a passionate global fanbase. Does it sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

It’s party time at the Pirate Fest!

The Pirate Fest, a grand gathering of the sea’s most infamous individuals, is underway! At the festival, the Straw Hats compete with their Worst Generation rivals to retrieve a treasure of Gol D. Roger. But behind the scenes, festival organiser Buena Festa and legendary pirate Douglas Bullet are scheming something sinister.

Cutting to the chase, One Piece: Stampede soon kicks into an all-out battle against said Douglas Bullet, with Luffy working with friend and foe alike to fell his opponent.

Much like Dragon Ball Super: Broly, also animated by Toei Animation, each frame of One Piece: Stampede is a treasure to behold. Fluid animation and colors spell eye-candy magic, and the odd bit of 3D animation isn’t (too) visually jarring.

One Piece: Stampede nails its mission statement of lightning-paced popcorn entertainment to a tee. Goofy shonen films don’t have to transcend ‘awesome action and silly superpowers’. Rather than shooting for the moon and coming up short, Stampede settles for smashing the sky. With white-knuckle fights and satisfying character moments conveyed with a zippy pace, One Piece: Stampede assuredly brings what fans want. And whilst not as developed or memorable as other film baddies (One Piece: Strong World’s Shiki or One Piece: Z’s titular Z), Douglas Bullet is terrifyingly tough enough to tick the boxes.

Playing It Safe

Whilst the ‘playing it safe’ ethos of One Piece: Stampede succeeds on the surface, the imaginative innovation of One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is missing, and the excess of characters prevents the possibility of channeling the simplicity of One Piece: Dead End Adventure. Stampede works as anniversary celebratory bombast but isn’t the series’ smartest, and with the core of the film occurring in a single spot and under dull skies, location fatigue rears its head.

For some, the draw of One Piece: Stampede is its constant character cameos. From the instantly recognizable to the deep cuts, it’s a fun gimmick for fans, although the absence of big names like Kuzan and Jinbei are noticeable. Some cameos fall on the side of groan inducing-ly forced, shoehorning a requisite Zoro fight, or overtly shouting to audiences “Remember them?!” Having no effect on the story, these cameos are clunky and break narrative immersion.

Far from the worst of One Piece’s wildly varied films, Stampede is what it needs to be. It lacks the creative spirit of One Piece’s heights and is dampened by its inconsistent cameo execution, but it’s a fine anniversary celebration for one of manga and anime’s, if not the world’s, best works of fiction. For the uninitiated, it’ll be like an avant-garde acid trip, but for those clued-into Luffy’s antics, it’s a barrage of ballistic glee!

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