Bunny Girl Senpai, or it’s awfully long Japanese title…
Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai
Is one of – if not the – best shows of the Fall/Autumn 2018 anime season. Its studio Cloverworks is more or less new, splitting from its parent studio of A1-Pictures earlier this year. Cloverworks wants to bring a “renewed focus on being a unique animation studio in response to diversifying animation” And, it shows. Bunny Girl Senpai’s animation is on point, as is its chill, laid-back soundtrack. Though, more than anything else, the true value shows in its writing, and in the depiction of its characters. There’s also a large element of nostalgia to the show, considering that it gives me major vibes of both Haruhi and Toradora – which of course can never be a bad thing.
Bunny Girl Senpai’s Characters
Characters are by far the ultimate metric by which I judge a show, or any piece of media. I need the characters to be fleshed out – to have stories that make sense on an emotional and physical level. For them to be a part of something in which the stakes are never certain nor predetermined. I want characters to be believable, that if they were stood beside me, I would have no trouble in affirming their existence as real people, as people who I can have conversations with, laugh with, cry with. I have to believe that there’s something about them that can have a lasting impact on me.
Characters are everything.
Bunny Girl Senpai just gets its characters right. In a sense, they’re decidedly un-anime. There are no moments of huge drama, spanning episodes and episodes. There are no situations where I think “oh god, anime, of course.” Instead, the character rely upon ‘real’ moments of interaction between each other. Conversations which – for the most part – could be a believable aspect of teenage relationships. Bunny Girl Senpai isn’t oversexualised just for the sake of it, either. Sure, it’s cheeky (as Sakuta is), but teenage kids are cheeky, and they do think about sex – things which are lewd and maybe better left unsaid. But in saying them, there’s comedy. Sakuta’s off-the-cuff remarks about Mai are playful and sarcastic, and more often than not, hilarious. It’s these things that connect me so tightly to the characters, in a way that is completely endearing. Not many other shows manage this, those that come to mind: Welcome to the N.H.K, Anohana, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Koi Kaze, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 are my immediate mentions.
I love how deadpan Sakuta is, seemingly shrugging off any pressing situation. It might be taken for nihilism. I’m sure to those who don’t know him, it must seem that way. In reality, he cares about everything: His sister, Mai, Koga, Futaba. Sakuta cares so much about all of them, he’s more than a good person, he’s a great one.
Bunny Girl Senpai lumps together a number of teenage issues and places them under the moniker of ‘Adolescence Syndrome’ a fictional illness which can cause a slew of ‘problems’ for adolescents. Key amongst these being Mai Sakurajima’s semi-disappearance/invisibility. She’s a star, a celebrity, and yet very few people but Sakuta are able to see her, are able to remember she even exists.
At some point in our teenage years, we all feel invisible. We know we aren’t, yet everyone seems to pay more attention to everyone else – we’re just stuck there, having to take it all in, without actually being a part of it. It’s worse for Mai – people see her all the time, or at least they did in the past. Still, the people she wants to notice her… don’t, essentially – despite her success – she’s totally alone. Sakuta knows what this feels like. In part, he’s vicariously experienced it through his sister, Kaede. It’s crushing, and he wants to help, that’s all he can do. Not to mention the mysterious scar which spans his chest. This is Adolescence Syndrome – a culmination of all the things we hate about being young, all the things that we say were our “worst times.” Adolescence Syndrome is a visualisation of them, putting the invisible under a microscope, examining what makes these particular things so painful…
Futaba’s great. A mad science woman who appears to perpetually boiling something in a flask. It took me a few episodes to realise she wasn’t a teacher… but a student. Essentially, Futaba acts as a narrative device, offering exposition that might otherwise come from a narrator – vital considering we’re experiencing the story through the eyes of Sakuta. Information is always better revealed through character interaction rather than a floaty voice in the sky. Still Futaba slots into the dynamic, falling for people, just as other characters do. Also she’s your go-to for information regarding quantum mechanics if you’re into that kind of thing!
I doubt anyone managed to get through their School Days without falling for someone, be it a simple crush, or something more substantial. We’re ignorant in those times, though… We think we know what love is, we think we’re the only one to feel that specific way – when in fact, we’re the very opposite of special… Does Sakuta love Mei, and vice versa?
I don’t know, is love that simple?
Mai instructs Sakuta to wait for thirty days, before asking her to date again – if she says yes. Is that how love works, does it build up, towards some ambiguous crescendo? Sakuta of course feels something towards Mai, his reaction and ‘confession’ show that much, as does his dedication to her. And yet, he shows these same values towards other characters, especially Koga. It’s this all-round ‘Sakuta Affect’ which has me so in love with his character, so in love with how his character is presented, and the idea of love that is conveyed through him. The things the characters feel are never exaggerated to a point where they become caricatures of themselves… Everything feels just right. And this is how Bunny Girl Senpai presents itself as a whole, as a show.
Real but with just the correct amount of fantasy.
Oy! you little Rascal!
Bunny Girl Senpai caught me off-guard. I thought it was going to be “just another one of those shows.” It’s not necessarily what it is which impresses me so much, but in how well done it is. The animation in particular stands out, not necessarily in a ‘flashy’ way – because it’s not that kind of show – but in the depth of it, the movement and motion that didn’t have to be there, but is. It makes the show, and therefore its characters, feel more alive. In the slight movement of the eye, or an expression that shows the exact emotion for the exact situation. There’s life bursting from it, and that’s the hightest praise I can give it! So… watch it!!
What do you think about Bunny Girl Senpai?
-Chris Peach (Follow me on Twitter, and consider supporting Peach’s Almanac on Patreon!)