I used to question how much a single anime could accomplish in a season. Some of the best shows out there are fantastic because of their length; the heavy hitting scenes of a characters’ lifetime and intense world-building tend to make a series. As opposed to quality being the main focus, it tends to be a lot easier to ensure consistent delivery of medium quality content. RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI takes this trend and completely smashes it. This is the first anime I’ve seen in quite some time that I wished was a movie. The experience of it on my laptop screen in a bedroom seemed to be disrespectful to the cinematic quality of its characters, scenery, and intense emotions. What RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI does well is incorporate emotion into the uncanny.

Subtle departures from the real world are familiar enough to be immediately understood by anyone. By creating only slight departures from the norm as the impetus for a story, the magic and allure of this show feels incredibly strong. However, even though the story itself is rather simple, the execution is perfect.

Unlike the more common trend of inserting heavy doses of decent content, RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI packs everything in. It then bookends moments of intensity with lighthearted humor and slow but steady scenes. Every facial movement, or even tone of voice, has an impact. I found myself looking at the screen so intensely at times that the sight of the ending credits felt like coming out of a daze.

In a time where a lot of anime are really just mediocre, there are three lessons to learn from RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI, in no particular order.

1. Stories Need Not be Complex

RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI revolves around the concept of puberty syndrome. This phenomenon describes strange happenings during adolescence. Supposedly, the tenuous nature of becoming an adolescent is very powerful. It’s so powerful that it destabilizes the natural world.

RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI goes through several episode arcs to progress. Each one describes the story of Sakuta Azusagawa helping someone resolve a case of puberty syndrome. But, the things that happen as a result of puberty syndrome aren’t massive in scope. Mai Sakurajima finds herself invisible to everyone but Sakuta. Others experience supernatural phenomena like body switching.

Mai wearing a bunny suit beside Sakuta in RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI
Mai is invisible to everyone but Sakuta | Image: Crunchyroll

The reason that simple episodes can feel so deep is because RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI executes them well. Every aspect of each character shines through. People introduced minutes prior feel like longtime presences by the episode’s end. And, even though the “problem” of the episodes tends to be outright supernatural, the solution isn’t. RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI makes subtle observations about the way standard life ruins people. Basic things that make us human are the root of terrible outcomes. Since the root of puberty syndrome is a real-life problem, the effects of the uncanny are more a feature of an episode rather than the entire focus. That makes what is really a pretty basic premise appealing and fresh.

This is super important given the struggle to be unique in anime. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. The idea of strange phenomena happening at a school isn’t new. Hell, mixing magic and romance is ridiculously common. But the execution of RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI makes it unique.

2. Good Anime is More than Fight Scenes

When we think of strong animation, we think sakugu. Some think of the big, bad, shonen villain fighting the equally strong protagonists. Many think of the details of battle coming through crisply despite their volume. Most think of fast movement and flashy attacks. But RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI doesn’t have much of these at all. Like almost all non-shonen anime, the majority of the artistic merit of the show stems from subtle detail.

Oft overlooked aspects like facial animation and color pop with this anime. Characters in motion really move, making things like background characters better than ever. In that same vein, it’s pleasant to watch even something like a conversation on a train when even the buildings in the background are well crafted. Music is also light. Piano fills the background between sentences. Add distinctive facial features and eyes with a hint of brightness to that and the scene is perfect.

Mai leaves Sakuta's apartment in RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI
Simple goodbyes become memorable scenes when done correctly | Image: Crunchyroll

Shows like this illustrate more than how underrated romance anime are. It also proves that the things that make shonen overhyped aren’t even all that needed for a good show. Recently, plenty of shows get by with shoddy animation most times and acceptable animation occasionally. Yet here we see how crafting careful detail in all the right places can make mundane scenes extraordinary. This, combined with neat storytelling and fantastic character building comes together for an incredibly strong series.

3. Dialogue Matters

Dialogue, in my opinion, is the best part of RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI. Characters speak rather flatly, and at times quickly. Jokes aren’t necessarily knee-slappers, but they’re funny. Eyes seldom lock in the beginning, and talking is in small settings. Nevertheless, every bit of speech seems spellbinding.

More than anything, the exchanges we see aren’t instrumentalized for anything other than the conversation. This is to say, conversation occurs because conversation is happening. Nothing more, nothing less. Oftentimes, an anime conversation is used to introduce characters with relevance to the story arc. Characters in fantasy series might discuss a battle plan as they approach an enemy. Partially due to the simplicity of the story, this lets the show advance in very direct ways.

Goals | Image: Crunchyroll

Sakuta and Mai develop a romance where their conversations are warm. Something as small as checking in over the phone feels real because their relationship is so natural. Even though the circumstances of their meeting were uncanny, the relationship isn’t. Like any real-life couple, they fell in love by exploring each others’ deeper selves. Their conversations reveal shared pain at struggling to place themselves in the atmosphere of their environment. Unlike a lot of other shows, where the resolution of a problem causes a romance between two characters, the romance became the solution. Every bit of story, especially in the first segment of the show, was perfectly interwoven.

Quality Anime in the Strangest Ways

RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI is beautiful while so, so uncanny. Yet the emotional appeal is strong. My own verbal approximations of how much I enjoy this series don’t do it justice. This is something that you must see and experience to understand. There’s a reason why even the most diehard shonen fans watch shows like this. When a series breaks the bounds of genre and is amazing regardless of who watches it, that’s a series worth binging through.

Ultimately, anime is good right now and often will continue to be. But, with the ridiculous amount of new shows coming out season by season, the bar can be higher. Series with simple concepts can do more for themselves. Shows that try to reinvent the wheel and fail don’t have to try quite so hard. The right combination of story elements and careful execution can make anything fantastic. RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI is proof of that concept.

Featured image from Crunchyroll.

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