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Nov 20

Anime Review – Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Blame this guy right here

So what with it being Jake week and me looking for any excuse not to sit through more first episodes, I gave him an open floor, to name any one anime which I would watch and review. Which is why I’ve spent the last two days almost religiously watching The Pet Girl of Sakurasou.

This show originally aired back in Fall 2012, the first season where I decided to watch episode one of everything, where I ranked it as a “maybe” (before I changed to the possibly / unlikely system I now use). Sadly I’ve lost my writeups on the shows from that season, so with little more than several year old flashbacks, I set off for Sakurasou.

Where to begin? Well, you see, at Suimei Uni’s affiliated highschool, there are a few, let’s say exceptional, students. Students who wouldn’t or couldn’t fit in with everybody else in the regular dorms. Those people are shipped off to Sakurasou, a special dorm for special people.

People such as third-year Misaka, an ultra-popular and eccentric anime creator, beating to her own mad drum 24/7, and her childhood friend Jin, who maintains an ever cool yet passionate demeanour and always finds new girls to while away the hours with.

And then there’s our lead guy, Kanda. A fairly normal person, who one day saw a poor abandoned kitten and took it in. Faced with either throwing away his new feline friend or moving to the madhouse, he jumped onto the crazy train without a second thought, and while his goal when we join him at the start of the school year is to get out of there, he eventually comes to accept that he prefers this new abnormal way of living.

It’s at the start of the year that they also add another new nutjob in Shiina. An extremely talented artist with no common sense whatsoever, leaving her room in a constant tip of clothing and paper, working as and when inspiration strikes, barely able to dress herself without Kanda’s help.

Elsewhere we have Ryunosuke, a shut-in programming mastermind who you don’t even see for the first third of the show, instead interacting through his “Maid” AI. Then there’s Chihiro, the teacher overseeing the dorm when she isn’t on the pull or getting drunk, sometimes even offering genuine advice through a wave of snide comments and selfishness. Finally, there’s Aoyama, a friend of Kanda’s who moved in as she needed somewhere cheap so she could save money up for voice acting lessons, and totally not because of how she feels about him.

The first few episodes do somewhat predictable anime things, establishing the residents amongst fanservice and other insanity that seems to go with the 2D territory. But after that initial throe of madness, the show starts to calm down and focus on the relationships within the cast as the year progresses.

You watch as Aoyama and Kanda try their best to even be in sight of the ultra geniuses they live with, and fail time after time as life deals them a crap hand, with both of them breaking down at various points and cursing the world they live in. You see everybody try to help Shiina despite her regularly meaningless actions and complete inability to communicate in a normal fashion (which makes her role as lead female all the more frustrating).

Then there’s a bunch of romance stories, as Jin tries to live up to the talented Misaka’s abilities to in his own mind become a man worthy of her, despite her already clear undying love for him, and Ryunosuke learning to accept the outside world once again thanks largely to one of Shiina’s childhood friends paying a visit and falling for him. The series closes it off with the final arc having Sakurasou put up for demolition, and the kids try desperately to fight its fate and save the memories they’ve made there over the past year and beyond.

All of that on paper should be good (and maybe it is, this is a light novel adaptation), but the interesting storylines are frequently drowned out and negated by animeisms. Oh look she’s not wearing any clothes, oh look Misaki’s doing something totally zany, oh look Kanda’s little sister wants to bone him (seriously, why is that a thing, why was it ever).

And then you have the lead relationship itself. Supposedly over the course of the show Kanda and Shiina are meant to be falling in love with each other, but her completely nonsensical personality means you can never see it as anything more than that of a pet and its owner, or maybe even Stockholm Syndrome, than romance, hammered home even more by the far better match for him, and in many ways better developed, Aoyama who-wait I’m getting dangerously close to shipping here.

Let’s change beat. The animation doesn’t do anything original in the style department, but it’s always bright and vibrant, with each character being visually distinctive, if nothing else. And while the opening and ending themes are mostly generic fodder (though the first ending looks good in the visuals department), the show does have a few piano pieces that always strike the mood well.

So, how to summarise. There’s a lot of good ideas going on here, and I really liked Misaki and Jin’s story having no easy resolution, along with the multiple failures of Kanda and Aoyama showing that even working your hardest doesn’t guarantee a thing as opposed to a sunshine and rainbows style of storytelling so many shows adore. But for each of those highs there’d always be something to shatter my immersion and remind me I was watching an anime, for better or worse.

In short then, a flawed execution for what could’ve been a great show. I don’t think it’s bad, and I certainly don’t regret watching this show (well, maybe watching it all in two days), and if something in this review has peaked your interest, by all means check it out. Just don’t go in expecting Sakurasou to leave a lasting impression, because it’s a show defined by how good it could be, rather than how good it is.

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Am I done? I think I’m done. Less than two days to acquire, watch and review a 24 episode show, that’s a record. Enjoy the rest of Jake week, and as always don’t forget to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and pleeeaaaase sign up to the forums, especially if you still need to do your Secret Santa post. Catch ya around! =D