I underestimated Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai when the anime series came out. Completely judgmental of the title, the fact that it featured a mostly female cast and that the key visual displayed Mai-senpai in a bunny playboy costume, I almost skipped this hit if light novel readers hadn’t sworn on the good material. Last year, I would’ve never dreamed that I would be eagerly waiting in line for the sequel movie, but as fate would have it, I fell head over heels in love with the entire series and made sure I would attend to see the finale to the big story arc.
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl starts directly after the anime series and doesn’t give any room for recap. I am extraordinarily thankful for that decision as I definitely wanted to feel the entirety of this ending arc without any rushing, but I will say that newcomers should not watch the movie without watching the series first. The attachment to the characters and understanding of where they all stand in their relationships heavily relies on previous knowledge from the anime episodes.
The movie covers the overarching question that had hung over viewers’ minds throughout the series: who exactly is Shoko and how does her presence tie in with the mysterious scars across Sakuta’s chest? However, it is not Shoko’s story that drew me in the most but rather Sakuta and Mai’s romantic relationship.
Sakuta and Mai are, in my opinion, the greatest assets to the entire series. Not only are the characters unique and three dimensional, but their relationship also remains one of the best and healthiest romances I’ve seen on screen when it comes to anime. They fully respect each other’s opinions, they openly communicate their situations, and conflicts that crop up between them are always resolved through mature means. This movie only enhances their healthy relationship further with sincere and heart-wrenching performances from Kaito Ishikawa and Asami Seto as tragedy hits throughout the course of the story one after another. Sakuta and Mai’s relationship is, and likely will always be, the biggest and most successful focal point of the series itself in the future as well.
However, the movie did have more to offer than just the relationship. The Puberty Syndrome, mixed with theoretical science, returns to explain the strange phenomenon behind young and teenager Shoko’s existences. With the mysteries piling up even further, the movie is able to successfully come upon a resolution for their double presences and how they both tie into Sakuta’s mysterious claw-like scars.
The execution, on the other hand, is not perfect. Sometimes, the series gets too bogged down in trying to explain the exact “science” behind the syndromes. While it is clever and cool to tie real scientific theories behind these supernatural syndromes, no one watches the show to actually understand it. The explanations interrupt the snappy dialogue that the series is known for in a clunky way that doesn’t help enhance the plot, dialogue, or character development.
When the scientific parts finally are pushed through, the movie really begins to shine with a focus on Sakuta’s character and his relationship with the supporting cast. Futaba remains an important force to the actual storyline as Sakuta’s close friend who investigates the situation with him, and Koga also receives an incredibly important moment to help Sakuta move forward. The movie ensures that it does not forget every character has an important role to play in guiding the plot along, and since the entire cast is likable, it becomes an added bonus.
The art and animation lend well to the emotional scenes. One of my favorite parts is when the background gradually becomes less focused while the colors start fading, and all that remains on screen are the simple outlines of the characters and their body positions. It’s a type of simplicity that works better than the colorful art we’re used to seeing as it allows the audience to focus on the characters and nothing else around them. There are certain moments where the animation had a drop in quality, but it happened so sparsely and in very unimportant moments that I could care less about. Where it mattered most, CloverWorks made sure to keep their quality and style on point.
The soundtrack with songs from The Peggies returns as well, much to the entire crowd’s delight as they cheered enthusiastically when “Kimi no Sei” began to play. Till the very end, the soundtrack, animation, story, and characters continued to keep the audience engaged. I think it’s a solid addition to the ending story arc in the series, and while I do have small critiques, I think fans will be relatively happy by the end as the movie makes sure to milk every strong point they can to great effect.
Rascal Does not Dream of a Dreaming Girl will be showing in theaters October 2nd and 3rd. Check out the website for tickets and showtimes here.