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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. You can follow more of his work at his blog and budding YouTube channel below.

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 Ichiban 24: Forecasting the Anime Awards

Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You.

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Weathering With you

Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You. The Crunchyroll Anime Awards are also a thing happening which means it’s time for the crew to demonstrate once again how off their tastes are.

TIMESTAMPS

13:41 – Satoshi Konposthumously honored
18:14 – TRIGGER’s Brand New Animal project
28:20 – Netflix adds the entire Ghibli library to their catalog!… in some places
31-37 – Weathering With You impressions and thoughts
1:02:33 – Crunchyroll Anime Award Predictions
1:38:36 – Closing remarks

TRACKS

Intro – “Kiss Me” by Vo.Nai BrXX&Celeina Ann (Carole & Tuesday opening theme)
Outro – “Drown” by milet (Vinland Saga ending theme 2)

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‘Weathering With You’ Isn’t Quite the Storm It Wanted to Be

Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You delivers a gorgeous film that doesn’t quite resonate as much as it wanted to.

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Weathering With You Hina

Climate change and global warming have been topics of concern and discussion for years now, with melting ice caps and rising ocean temperatures being some of many signs. Director Makoto Shinkai — acclaimed the world over for his 2016 work Your Name — aims to show just how at the mercy humans are to the weather with his newest animated film, Weathering With You. Although he presents a visually stunning depiction of Mother Nature in all her various moods, Weathering With You ultimately lacks the storming power it seeks to bear upon its audience.

Tokyo has been having a particularly rainy year, seeing precipitation almost every day and nary a sight of the sun or clear blue skies. It’s during this unusual time that high school boy Hodaka arrives in the metropolis seeking escape from the suffocating life he had on his island. The young teenager naturally has trouble finding his bearings on his own in the oftentimes unforgiving hustle and bustle of the city. It’s in these early scenes that Weathering With You has some of its strongest moments, depicting the uglier side of Japanese society not often seen in anime, while also highlighting Hodaka’s strength of character to make it on his own. 

Weathering With You Hodaka and Hina

As Hodaka gradually carves out his own place in the city, he eventually has an encounter with a young girl named Hina. Matching her sunny and cheerful disposition, Hina has the ability to make it stop raining and have the sunshine in very localized spots by praying to the sky. In a place where the rain never ceases, it’s easy to see why Hodaka latches onto Hina to use for the greater good (while also making a little pocket change along the way).

“The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air caught by the leftover humidity.”

Gloomy skies and damp grounds can take their toll on one’s mood and psyche, which someone who lives in such a climate can surely relate to. Even the briefest moments of sunshine revitalize us and give a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Hodaka and Hina’s “100% Sunshine Girl” services to those in need of that light boldly underscore that fact, and make for a strong argument for how the weather affects us all beyond its objective physicality, along with providing some much-appreciated levity to the story. 

That power of weather is beautifully illustrated by CoMix Wave Films’ stupendous animation efforts. The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air, caught by the leftover humidity. Tokyo itself isn’t to be outdone either, with its streets running the gamut between peaceful neighborhoods to grimy and dark back alleys with dilapidated buildings. The animation is punctuated by the return of Japanese band RADWIMPS, who create numerous memorable tracks to complement the wild swings in mood that weather can elicit.

That makes it all the more unfortunate, however, that the greater narrative is so weak.

The progression of Weathering With You is made painfully obvious right from the outset of the story — so much so that it’s hard to wonder if it’s actually the set-up for a bait-and-switch. As a result, much of the first half of the film is simply waiting for the other shoe to drop, making it difficult to really settle in and become intimate with its characters. 

Weathering With you Hodaka and Hina

This would be less of an issue if the cast had smaller interactions that were a delight to watch, but they fall short in that regard as well. All of the characters have a charm to them for sure — with Hina’s younger elementary school brother, Nagi, putting modern playboys to shame being a particular standout — but the story never quite makes a compelling case as to why they are as close as they are, especially Hina and Hodaka. They’re fun enough to watch be together, but don’t quite make that emotional attachment with the viewer that the story wants to create.

That lack of an emotional connection is distinctly felt in Weathering With You’s second act, when unnecessary confrontations and bizarre plot directions converge to create an artificial sense of stakes amidst a central conflict that would have been fine on its own. What’s meant to strengthen the impression of the characters’ bonds instead cheapens it, undermining the already faulty progress the first half did make. The result is a narrative that’s hard to care about, although its ending does leave the viewer with some potentially interesting questions to ponder.

Weathering With You is far from a bad movie, however. It has a clear direction and vision with a message to say about our climate crisis. The characters are endearing enough, and there are a handful of heartfelt scenes because of that. It also cannot be understated just how drop-dead gorgeous the animation is. The story, however, is simply too straightforward for its own good, resulting in an experience that is at times enjoyable, and at others plain boring.

And that’s only when being judged in a vacuum on the movie’s own merits. When compared to Shinkai’s recent masterpiece that is Your Name, it’s hard to see Weathering With You as anything but a disappointing follow-up. That’s perhaps the film’s greatest weakness, but fortunately, it’s one that Shinkai’s next work won’t have, and we can still look forward to it because of that fact.

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How Rimuru Tempest Changed the Game for Isekai Protagonists

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime shines within the vast sea of generic isekai thanks in no small part to protagonist Rimuru Tempest.

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that time i got reincarnated as a slime

The core premise of the isekai genre–a character being transported from their everyday life on Earth to a parallel universe–has become wildly popular for a reason: it’s an immensely appealing fantasy. Just as audiences everywhere fell in love with the seminal Spirited Away in the early 2000s, it’s still exciting to fantasize about discovering a new world and going on all manner of crazy adventures. However, the incessant flood of new isekai every season to capitalize on this trend has resulted in some of the most generic, overly-manufactured protagonists in any genre.

Though this sea of formulaic main characters is vast, it makes it all the easier to recognize when one bucks the typical conventions and actually proves that there’s room for unique takes on the genre. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime adheres to a few cliches, but it also manages to set a new bar for what a captivating isekai protagonist can be.

Rimuru in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Breaking the Mold

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as wholesome and optimistic an anime as they come. The tone can be deceptive at first; when Satoru Mikami is suddenly stabbed when trying to protect his junior, his dying wish is for his computer’s hard drive to be destroyed. But after being reincarnated as a slime–and gaining the new name Rimuru Tempest–his true desires become clear: world peace and a simple, comfortable life with friends.

What’s immediately striking about Rimuru as the main character is that he starts off as an average 37-year-old man. He spent his life working hard and appeasing his higher-ups to climb the corporate ladder. Shady hard drive aside, he lived a respectable and long life compared to the vast majority of protagonists in the genre. This significant age difference is evident in nearly every action and major decision Rimuru makes; he looks at situations practically before jumping headfirst into conflict.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

When Rimuru gets a drink poured on him by a noble in a bar, for instance, he quells his anger in consideration of the bar and the friends around him. When someone asks for his aid in an impending battle, he pauses to go over all the available information and reaches a consensus among everyone before agreeing. And when protecting a goblin village from a pack of wolves, he doesn’t just mindlessly slaughter all the wolves; he looks for the way of least resistance (killing the leader of the pack) before ultimately integrating them with the goblins as equals. Though his human form looks young, it’s the wisdom behind his actions that makes those around him respect his leadership.

This is especially impressive considering just how overpowered Rimuru is. His transformation into a slime came with resistances to fire, cold, electric currents, pain, paralysis, and the ability to absorb, analyze, and take the form of anything he wants. In other words, he could go down the path of the typical shounen protagonist and solve his problems with his fists, but he never lets his overwhelming power dictate his decision-making process.

Rimuru meeting with his commanders.

Leading a Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as much about Rimuru’s adventures as it is about the rise of the independent monster nation he helps establish. Instead of running off in search of adventure, the little slime decides to nurture the goblin village he protected at the outset. He helps the goblins and wolves “level up” by naming them, shows them sustainable ways to gather food and build makeshift defenses, and even brings back dwarves to introduce blacksmithing and carpentry.

Through expansion, industrialization, and conflict, Rimuru manages to orchestrate the creation of his country in a way that’s genuinely believable. His ambitions for a peaceful and integrated world play out in his willingness to accept other goblin tribes, ogres, lizardmen, and even friendly humans in his country. Being able to rationally read situations makes forging alliances and negotiating with neighboring nations possible. When a major calamity threatens all life in the forest, Rimuru wastes no time in holding a summit and allying with other forest dwellers over a common interest.

None of this would be possible without the uncanny, Luffy-like ability to inspire a sense of trust and reliability in those he comes across. Just like the members of the Straw Hat Pirates follow Luffy out of respect and loyalty, Rimuru’s commanders follow him because of his sound judgment and dedication to seeing everyone in his nation be happy. It’s satisfying seeing members of Rimuru’s guard take personal offense when others talk poorly of him because it’s clear that he’s earned the respect he’s given.

If isekai is to continue growing in popularity and thriving long-term, room must be made for different types of protagonists. Be they depraved, refreshingly honest characters like Kazuma or upstanding yet easygoing leaders like Rimuru, both demonstrate how valuable it is to shake up the formula and try new approaches to the genre. If the constant barrage of isekai has bittered your tolerance to it as a whole, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime is well worth giving a shot.

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