To be honest, I didn’t think I would write another one of these posts where I ramble/rant about an anime I had some problems with. Usually after I watch a TV series or movie, I don’t have a burning desire to talk about what I didn’t like about it (with the mild exception of that one post I did about Tamayomi)… but this time around, so much was going through my head after I saw this film that I needed to write my thoughts on it.
(If you haven’t watched the Bunny Girl Senpai TV series and movie, I’d suggest not continuing since there will definitely be major spoilers ahead lol)
During my Thanksgiving break, one of my friends convinced me to watch one of the most popular shows in the Fall 2018 anime season, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai (transl. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai). When I first saw it on the seasonal anime list back in 2018, like some people, I kind of just saw it as some ecchi garbage that wasn’t going to fit my tastes. I mean, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but when the main visual has a girl wearing the obviously-erotic-looking bunny girl outfit, it’s hard for me to not think that that show would be full of dumb fanservice moments.
However after hearing some great praise about it from another friend, as well as from some people I know on Instagram, I decided to finally give it a shot…
…and I loved it. I really did enjoy this show. Each of the storylines were well-written, almost all of the characters were interesting and fun to watch (ESPECIALLY the protagonist), great balance of comedy and drama, had amazing opening/ending songs, the voice actor cast was phenomenal… I’m glad this anime absolutely destroyed my low expectations. I haven’t watched much non-seasonal anime this year but I think it’s safe to say that Bunny Girl Senpai was the best thing I watched in 2020 (even among all the seasonal stuff I saw).
But when it came to the series’ feature film that released a few months after, it wasn’t as easy to praise like the TV series.
Synopsis (courtesy of MyAnimeList)
Six months ago, Sakuta Azusagawa had a chance encounter with a bunny girl in a library. Ever since then, he’s been blissfully happy with his girlfriend: Mai Sakurajima, that same bunny girl. However, the reappearance of his mysterious first crush, the now-adult Shouko Makinohara, adds a new complication to his relationship with Mai. To make matters worse, he then encounters a middle school Shouko in the hospital, suffering from a grave illness. Mysteriously, his old scars begin throbbing whenever he’s near her.
With Shouko’s bizarre situation somehow revolving around him, Sakuta will need to come to terms with his own conflicting feelings, for better or worse. With a girl’s life in his hands, just what can he do?
First off, let’s start with the good things. To be honest, a lot of what I liked about this movie could also be said when talking about the first season. The twists and conflict narratives kept me interested, the interactions between Sakuta and the others were great to watch, the voice actors did a fantastic job (but that’s a given with this stacked cast), etc., etc. Even though this film was more on the heavy, emotional side rather than having that balance of drama and comedy in season one, I think the story still felt like this was simply another episode arc you’d see within the TV series. Depending on the person, that can be seen as good or bad but to me, I’m just happy that they didn’t change much in general and stuck with the original anime’s atmosphere. Unlike a lot of feature films for TV anime series where they try to significantly make the visuals look better and such, the AoButa film kept it the same and I think that was the best decision. Like the saying goes: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Although, I can see why people think making an entire feature film for the Shouko storyline was a bit unnecessary.
That’s honestly all I can say about the good aspects (at least for now). So you may be asking: what’s the big idea, Al?
Well, disregarding my use of outdated phrases, I’ll tell you. Similar to what a lot of other fans thought after they watched this movie, I felt very uneasy at first about how the film ended. As you probably remember, the result of Sakuta’s actions when he went back in time was that both him and Mai would survive but Shouko unfortunately would not get a heart transplant in time. However when Shouko is in the ICU and nearing death, she confesses to Sakuta that she knew EVERYTHING that happened (via simulations) and decides to make a future/timeline where the two never met, so that Sakuta doesn’t have to grieve over her death.
It then starts back at the beginning of the movie where instead of not writing anything down on her homework (the ultimate cause of her puberty syndrome), Shouko finishes it and a new “present” starts. All of the events from season one happen like normal and we then find ourselves seeing Sakuta and Mai together, living life as a happy couple. The two end up at the beach where Sakuta sees a young Shouko with her parents, who isn’t recognizable at first. But because of the cognitive dreams Sakuta received from Shouko’s future simulations, he suddenly remembers who she was and calls out to her.
Right after watching this film, confusion was what raced through my mind for the rest of the night. I had many questions like ‘how did Shouko survive?’ and thoughts such as ‘I think the ending was a bit of a cop-out’. But instead of just dealing with this uncertainty and calling it a day, I decided to read some explanations for the ending cause I was seriously puzzled. And after reading many interpretations from different people (as well as looking at this well-created timeline), I finally got it. While still a bit confusing, I understand why the movie ended like that and I definitely saw it in a better light…
…but deep down inside, I feel like I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I wanted to.
In my opinion, the pacing of this film was a bit too fast. I know that an hour-and-a-half isn’t much to work with, but I feel like they didn’t take the time to further explain a ton of things that probably would’ve helped me better comprehend the story’s ending. Things like how quantum physics helped memories cross to different timelines or how Shouko knew everything that happened with her older self… I know I have a pebble-sized brain and tend to let some important parts of a story go by my head but even to me, these were legitimately not fleshed out enough. Another instance was the part at the end where it’s implied that Shouko got a successful heart transplant because of Mai’s movie encouraging more people to become organ donors… I just don’t see how I could’ve caught those kinds of details the first time around.
And even though I learned more about this ending and fully understood why it ended the way it did, I personally feel like they still could’ve done it a different way. Don’t get me wrong, happy endings are great. But I would’ve loved to see a more emotional-centered ending where Shouko doesn’t survive, Sakuta lives with his decision and learns the harsh truth that not everything can go the way we want it to. Everything seemed like it was being explained with quantum mechanics, which got a little confusing at times. And I think taking a break from all the science and expressing a more bittersweet end would’ve been a little more interesting and fitting, since it would also help solidify Sakuta’s true love for Mai.
And to be honest, Shouko didn’t have much of an emotional connection with me which is why I would’ve preferred to see the alternative ending I just described. Compared to Mai or any of the other characters, she was mainly seen as this girl who came back into Sakuta’s life and also happens to be dying. While this film did give us the overall closure for Shouko, I feel like they didn’t give her enough opportunities to develop as a character. Because the movie was focused on Sakuta’s decision-making and time traveling, there wasn’t much for me to see in terms of why I should’ve cared about Shouko. I guess the main reason why I felt bad for her is because most of her narrative felt kind of overly melodramatic. It’s like the writers just made Shouko have a sad backstory for the sole purpose of making the audience feel sad for her.
That being said, I… still don’t feel satisfied with this film. Me having to read a bunch of explanations in order to understand how the story ended, as well as having a different opinion on how it should’ve ended; these issues don’t sit well with me and feel like it severely hurt my enjoyment of this movie. And the worst part of it all is that these issues could just be something only I’m experiencing. Did I not pay enough attention? Is watching a movie for a second time, in order to fully understand it, normal? I may be worrying too much about this but these are my overall feelings.
Also, I personally believe that I enjoyed watching the TV series a lot more than the movie. But that’s my opinion. 🙂
And that’s all I got for you today. (Allow me to include the AoButa ending song here since it’s pretty much been the only thing I’ve listened to for the past week!)
I don’t usually insist that people leave feedback or comments but I think this time around, I’d REALLY love to hear other people’s thoughts on this. Cause in my mind, I feel like I just wrote a bunch of nonsense so it would be amazing to hear if I said something wrong 😛
On another note, it’s December! Alongside this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate review and my 2020 music roundup, I’ll be writing a few other posts about… something (lol). I haven’t decided what they’ll be about yet but I’ll make sure they’re fun/interesting to read.
Thanks for reading!! 😀