*sits down with a bucket of popcorn*
Bunny-girls, huh? I bet this is just going to be one of those forgettable, dime-a-dozen, fanservice-centered romcoms where I can turn my brain off completely. Stupid Fluff for the Fluff God, right?
*watches for five minutes*
*throws bucket aside, gets popcorn everywhere, starts taking notes furiously*
Talk about appearances being deceiving, I don’t think anyone saw this coming. The show that proudly sports a scantily-clad bunny girl in its promo art is quite possibly the smartest, classiest show of the season.
There’s nothing that unusual about the set-up: pretty girl has supernatural problem, boy tries to help, turns out boy has a supernatural secret or two of his own. In fact, when you look at the plot thus far on paper, the show is very similar to Bakemonogatari— a more down-to-Earth, street-level Bakemonogatari, but still. The dialogue between the two leads is even reminiscent of Araragi and Senjougahara. But Bunny-girl Senpai still feels very much like it’s own show.
If I had to pick one thing that sets this show apart, it’s the way the two leads are wise beyond their years, yet still believably come across as teenagers. For Mai, the celebrity, she has the kind of world-weariness you would expect from someone who’s been in the public eye since she was a small child, but she can also be naive at times; since, for all her experience, her opportunities to interact with people her own age have been limited. Sakuta, the “rascal,” has had to become a parent figure for his little sister, and has endured no small amount of hardship for her. He’s quick with a sophomoric joke, but it’s clear that his experiences have granted him a greater reserve of empathy than most teenage boys his age would have.
The two of them recognize kindred spirits in each other, and though their dialogue can be flirty and playful, there’s clearly an underlying mutual trust there that’s rare to see in two characters in this age bracket. It’s also clear that while the two are interested in each other romantically, there’s a lot more to their relationship than teenaged attraction. Sakuta may be very attracted to the beautiful Mai, but his primary interest is to support her and help her, not to get in her pants.
That’s not to say that the show is devoid of sexual humor; a few of Sakuta’s lines left me blinking, like “Wow, did he seriously just say that?” But it’s like this show manages to properly acknowledge sexuality without being overwhelmed by it. In one of the most memorable scenes, where Mai traipses around the library in her revealing bunny suit (it makes sense in context), she looks gorgeous as can be in the outfit, but the anime never resorts to using lewd camera angles to play up her sex appeal. I’m not saying that using that opportunity for fan service would even be a bad thing, necessarily, but that’s just not something this show appears to be interested in.
The real fan service is the dialogue between Mai and Sakuta, which sparkles and crackles with wit without losing all sense of realism. In theory, it would be a boring show if these two kids just talked to each other for the next ten episodes, but honestly? I would probably be okay with that. It’s just fun to watch them bounce off each other.
In addition to all it’s other virtues, this show reminded me that sometimes my assumptions about a show (or a game. Or a book. Or any piece of art.) will sometimes prove completely wrong. And that’s a fantastic thing.
After two episodes, I’m ready to declare this title to be one of the “winners” this season. There are so many great qualities to this title which should please even the most cynical anime fan; deadpan humor, mature and relatable characters, a solid story (so far)… the list goes on, really.
The one thing that bothers me about Bunny Girl Senpai is that it has a VERY slow, methodical pace. This is a series that absolutely enjoys lingering and taking its time with the delivery, which might bother some people. Every episode feels like it’s double-length because of how slowly everything moves.
I know that there are a lot of good shows this season, and not everyone has hours and hours to devote to weekly anime. This is one of the shows that you should absolutely be paying attention to, however. A solid pick up, I think that this one is really going to pay off in the end.
Supernatural anime problems that explain themselves with Schrodinger’s Cat tend to be awful. It’s too early to say this one won’t go down the same path, but at two episodes in I already suspect it won’t.
More than anything else the dialogue of this story is what locks my attention in place. The way the two characters interact is a joy to watch, weaving together mystery and drama all in the same breath.
The way the storytelling manages to introduce new elements is impressive. To build up a mystery we have a girl who is vanishing from existence, and the backstory of another girl who has already gone missing. All done while two characters flirt their way through scenes in a charming, low-key kind of way. The slow pacing is disarming. After two episodes, the story already feels ready to explode in a new and tragic direction.
I find myself impressed by the lack of anime cliches in the dialog. The weird elements at play are not what I expected. Before starting the premier episode, I read something about “Adolescence Syndrome” in the premise. I had assumed that meant this was another anime where the characters believe special things are happening to them that aren’t real. However, vanishing from existence is a real problem in this story. It’s something that’s happening to Mai, and the why and what of that story is compelling.
I already have more expectations for this anime than anything else out of this season. It feels like someone took the dialogue-driven mystery of the Monogatari series and introduced it to the existential crisis of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s a bit too soon to say if it can hold a candle to either of those stories in the long term, but we’re off to a good start, and I can’t wait to see more.