English Title: Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
Japanese Title: 青春ブタ野郎シリーズ — “Seishun Buta Yarou Series”
Author: Hajime Kamoshida — 鴨志田 一
Illustrator: Keeji Mizoguchi — 溝口ケージ
Translator: Andrew Cunningham
Genre: Comedy, Romance, School Life
Original Run: April 2014 – ongoing
English Run: April 2020 – ongoing
Japanese Publisher: Dengeki Bunko
English Publisher: Yen On (Yen Press)
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is one of those books that uses the odd or supernatural to address real life issues. It is also a surprisingly sweet slice of life light novel with engaging characters.
Our story begins when main character Sakuta Azusagawa finds something very strange at the library. One of his senpais, famous childhood actress Mai Sakurajima, is wandering around in a bunny-girl costume. Perhaps even stranger is the fact no one else seems to notice. As Sakuta and Mai become closer, he discovers she suffers from a mysterious affliction called Adolescence Syndrome. And that particular syndrome seems to be causing more people to not notice her.
For a story with a supernatural event at its core, Rascal spends a surprising amount of time focusing on the everyday, slice-of-life, aspects of Sakuta’s and Mai’s relationship. The tone is often sweet and funny.
Sakuta is very straightforward. The kind of character who has little in the way of filters and gives little thought to the words coming out of his mouth. Part of this is in response to his personal withdrawal from the “rules” of society. While I heard him compared to the likes of Araragi from Monogatari and Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected, I would say he’s the better of the three as he’s less cringy and less damaged. What we are given of his backstory makes him relatable and provides a good foundation for his character.
Mai flirts with the tsundere archetype, but never gets there enough to truly be one. Like Sakuta, her backstory informs who she is as a character. Growing up in show business, feeling used by those close to her, or having lip-service paid toward her has left her with a prickly defensiveness.
These two work because they seem like sincere results of the backstory they’ve been given. The way their opposite personalities compliment each other makes their dialogue a treat. Overall, their relationship was a highpoint I was pleased to see the book dedicate most of its time to. It provided a stronger emotional tie to the characters and so made me more invested in the solution to Mai’s problem.
While the book dips its toe into Quantum Mechanics to try and explain its supernatural element, it thankfully never goes too deep–even the science-oriented character who proposes the theory isn’t sold on it. But what it does demonstrate is there are dangers with subverting our own sense of self with the beliefs of others. The negative ways others see us is hurtful, yes, but the greatest destruction happens when we believe it ourselves and live our lives in service to it. It’s a solid and timely theme even though this volume was written six years ago. There was also something refreshing about the main challenge being more personal and intimate as opposed to “save the world,” “save the kingdom,” or “save the town.”
About the only minor complaint I would have with this book is that it leaves a number of characters, mysteries, and to an extent the syndrome itself, underdeveloped. However, looking at future covers, it seems pretty clear we’ll be seeing far more of those characters and their issues with Adolescence Syndrome. I think the author wanted to use this first volume to setup Sakuta’s and Mai’s relationship, while also getting a number of pieces into play for later in the series (including a cliffhanger ending that sets up volume 2). It would be a larger complaint had this been a single volume release.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai works on a number of levels. It is a romance, a sweet slice of life, and a supernatural mystery. With decent pacing, engaging characters, some laughs, and a solid theme, it’s a fun and rewarding read that I look forward to enjoying more of.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justus R. Stone has been running a light novel dedicated YouTube channel since 2014. He’s also the founder of the Light Novel Podcast, one of the first English language podcasts dedicated to Light Novels. In addition to his love of Japanese light novels, he is also the author of his own light novel-inspired series, The Bleeding Worlds.