The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
Episodes 1 and 2
Rating: 4 of 5
Simulcasting on Crunchyroll Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Central Time.
The school romantic comedy revolves around a second-year high school student named Sorata Kanda who lives in Sakurasou, the dormitory for problem children at Sorata’s school. One day, Mashiro Shiina – a cute girl who happens to be also a cosmopolitan, brilliant artist – moves into Sakurasou.
Sorata thinks to himself that he should protect Mashiro from the weirdos at Sakurasou, but Mashiro has a surprising secret: she has no idea how to take care of herself. She gets lost if she goes out, and her room is a complete mess. Sorata’s dorm mates designate him as the “master” of Mashiro, and thus, an ordinary boy and a brilliant girl must live like “a master and his pet.”
When I saw the description of this anime earlier in the year, I was curious enough to look into the source material. What I found was a translation of the first three chapters of the manga adaptation. I found it funny and a bit surprising, given the level of cliche elements the story uses.
Now that the anime is available, my opinion has not really changed all that much. The show has a large amount of standard romantic comedy tropes, including the transfer student, the girl that is obviously in love with the protagonist without his having a clue, the 30 year old single teacher who is in search of a man, etc… However, the show also has quite a bit going for it. The first thing that struck me as a major positive is the protagonist: Sorata. He is not your average milquetoast boring guy. Yes, he is a milquetoast boring guy, but the fact that he has the self awareness right from the start to suggest that perhaps it isn’t his life that is boring puts him a cut above. Also, his inability to take a pass on helping a creature in need, cats in particular (which is the reason he is living in Sakurasou – he got caught taking care of stray cats in his dorm room), gives him a leg up in terms of the “nice guy” image. Yes, all milquetoast boring guys are “nice guys” unless the trope is subverted, but this is one that I actually can buy. I have known people that were unable to send a stray packing, even to the point that it put their apartment lease in jeopardy. (We ended up keeping her cats for quite a while after they were found. The fact that she was watching ours the weekend that the landlord found them did pile on the guilt a bit… Maybe it was our dumb cats that got caught?)
Then there is the female lead: Mashiro. Many people have commented on her as a major negative point in the show. I don’t see her as a negative at all. By the end of episode 2, we have a good feel for her as a character. She is flighty beyond all reason, has very little ability to function on her own in society, and very little, if any, modesty. But she also has a refreshing openness and a unique way of looking at the world which really pushes her character into a different realm. The portrayal of Mashiro is almost as a savant, similar to “Rainman”, but with art, instead of math, as the innate talent of the character. However, it seems to stop just shy of that. At the same time, she isn’t just a flighty slob who can’t take care of herself, she is a genius that doesn’t function on the same level as an ordinary human. There is a sequence where she is studying Sorata’s facial expressions that suggests she has a lot more going on upstairs than she gets credit for. She appears to be fully aware of what she is doing in that scene and manipulates Sorata to elicit the reactions she is wanting to study in a fairly deliberate and skillful manner. She also doesn’t come across as entirely naive and innocent in that scene. And, as Sorata finds out at the end of episode two, she is a world renowned artist. Having a brilliant artist character portrayed as having a rather loose grip on reality is not a particularly new thing, but it is also not something that detracts from the series.
The supporting characters are entertaining, from the over-the-top anime creator and her childhood friend, playboy scriptwriter to the computer nerd that only communicates through his “maid avatar” personal assistant program, to the “normal girl” with a crush on Sorata who dreams of being a voice actress, and the 30 year old, massively inappropriate teacher and dorm “mom”, who also happens to be Mashiro’s cousin. Some of them have the potential to become annoying, but for the time being, they add to the fun of the show.
The music is quite nice, but doesn’t really stand out in any way, though the ED does have a certain charm to it. The art is well done, with bright tones and a slightly washed out brightness to many of the scenes, but it is also not the strong point of the series. So far, what stands out for me is the character dynamics and chemistry between the two leads, the humor, and a surprising depth in the direction the story is going, with a strong emphasis on the difference between the thought processes of a “genius” vs an “average” person.