I was hoping to get this episode review out sooner but it turned out to be really hard to write about. I’m still not entirely satisfied with it; but with my limited amount of free time, this is the best I can do.
Kaede is immediately admitted to the hospital after regaining her previous set of memories, and the doctors there confirm that she’s completely lost her memories of the past two years. Thus, the Kaede that Sakuta knew and lived with for the past two years—the one that talked in third person and loved pandas—has essentially been completely erased from existence.
Sakuta does not take this news well, and runs from the hospital after suffering a big emotional and mental breakdown. Amazingly, Shoko-san shows up, and takes care of Sakuta while he tries to cope with his inner turmoil. Shoko-san reads Kaede’s dairy to Sakuta, revealing that Kaede knew all along that Sakuta would take her “disappearance” badly. This was the reason why Kaede devised the list of goals to accomplish, so that Sakuta wouldn’t feel like he could have done more for her.
Eventually, Sakuta manages to return back to his “usual” self. He soon finds out that Shoko (both the older and younger one) appear to have completely vanished from existence. And then his life hits another snag after Mai finds a note left to him by Shoko-san. Mai appears hurt and suddenly begins acting coldly towards Sakuta. On December 2nd, with some help from Nodoka, Sakuta rushes to Mai’s filming location to wish her a happy birthday—and Mai apologizes for her previous behavior. She explains that she was merely acting out the way she did because she was upset she couldn’t have done more to support Sakuta in his time of need.
The episode and series ends with Kaede leaving the hospital and wishing to go back to school. She’s no longer afraid because she knows she has the support of her brother behind her.
While this episode still packs an emotional punch, there were also quite a few things I wasn’t too happy about. I’ll talk about the things I liked from this episode first.
Sakuta’s breakdown is extremely ugly and painful to watch; but it was also one of the most realistic portrayals of depression or an emotional/mental breakdown I have ever seen in anime. While Sakuta is moping, he looks truly pathetic; but it’s not played off as a “look how weak he is” moment. Rather, it’s used to show just how badly Kaede’s situation has affected him. As someone who has gone through some really bad depression and a really bad emotional breakdown myself many years ago, Sakuta’s actions during his moment of despair were extremely relatable. And again, I really laud this series for allowing its main male character to have so much emotional depth. It wasn’t until this episode that we really see the full extent of just how much Sakuta cares about other people. Throughout the series, Sakuta tends not to show much emotion (he has a “dead-eyed look” as Tomoe describes it) and can initially seem kind of flippant about things. But in this episode his façade breaks due to the trauma of losing his sister a second time and he is left a sobbing mess in the aftermath. And it made me think: how long has Sakuta been hiding his sorrow over the past few story arcs, so as to not upset the people he was trying to help? Oof, that’s almost too painful to think about…
The ending to Kaede’s arc is ultimately a bittersweet one. It’s pretty apparent at this point that the Kaede we knew is never coming back. Now that I think about it, it was rather genius to start the series off with the “new” Kaede (who had amnesia of her previous life). Over the course of the series, we got to know this “version” of Kaede. So when we find out that this is actually a persona of sorts, that gets erased after Kaede regains her old memories, it feels as shocking to us as it is to Sakuta. As I mentioned in my last review, it seems to be implied that Sakuta and Kaede did not have a super close relationship before Kaede’s amnesia and dissociative identity (which is probably another reason why Sakuta took her “recovery” so badly at first). However, Kaede’s story isn’t entirely hopeless; as Kaede becomes more appreciative of her brother after finding the “new” Kaede’s dairy writings.
Alright, now that I’ve rambled on about the things I liked about this episode, here are the things I didn’t like so much: This episode felt really rushed. I think the producers were trying to cram way too much story into this one episode. Some of the previous Bunny Girl Senpai episodes also had a rather brisk pace, but those episodes still at least gave us time to breathe. This final episode of Bunny Girl Senpai was basically bouncing from one plot point to another in the second half. The most rushed scene (I felt) in this episode was the minor “break-up” and “make-up” involving Mai. Which is another thing that really annoyed me: WHY does this series keep devising new ways to keep Sakuta’s and Mai’s relationship strained? The drama with Kaede and Sakuta’s breakdown would have been enough; but no, we need to have Mai suddenly abandon Sakuta too. And this scenario seemed especially pointless to me because the two end up resolving everything so quickly and easily anyway! What. Was. The. Point???
Apart from all that, there are also the unresolved plot threads involving Shoko. This is something I actually won’t criticize the show for, because a movie has been announced for next year and it is confirmed to cover Shoko’s arc. While it would have been preferable to not have ended the series on such a giant cliffhanger, I think Bunny Girl Senpai did all it could to set up the story for the upcoming movie.
Overall, I’d say that this was a pretty good ending to a mostly great series.
Out of five for this episode, I give:
Going into Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai at the start of the season, I really was not expecting the show to be as well-written as it was (especially with a title as long and nonsensical as that). It turned out to have great characters, good story arcs, and some nice plot twists. People have said that this show reminds them of the Bakemonogatari series—having never seen/read that series, I personally thought that Bunny Girl Senpai was kind of like The World God Only Knows; except with a much more likeable protagonist. This probably explains why I was so immediately intrigued by this show, and ended up blogging it in full.
Taken as a whole, there were definitely places where the show faltered a bit. Some of the girls’ arcs were less impactful than others (why did Tomoe get three whole episodes for such a mundane problem when Rio and Nodoka only got two for their rather serious situations?). The animation quality got pretty bad at times as well. And the series can still be a bit too painfully “anime” at times (i.e. the Puberty Syndrome stuff; Sakuta making pervy comments at all the girls; and Sakuta essentially having a sort of pseudo-harem). But at other times, this anime feels surprisingly fresh with its mature cast and rather realistic character reactions.
I have already expressed my love for this series in detail in my previous reviews, so I won’t bore you all with more of that stuff. I know that not everyone will enjoy this series because it’s relatively low-action and has a much greater focus on character-driven plot. But if you are looking for an anime to surprise you, or an anime that has engaging plotlines; and don’t mind a few fantasy elements in a mostly mundane world, then it wouldn’t hurt to give Bunny Girl Senpai a try.
Out of five: