PopLurker Reviews: Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai by Hajime Kamoshida

PopLurker would like to thank Yen Press for providing us with a sample copy of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai by Hajime Kamoshida. You can purchase a copy for about $15 from a number of retailers by visiting the book’s official Yen Press page.

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Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai– a long-winded pretentious name for a long winded light novel that thinks it’s very clever. To be fair, I knew going into this book that it was going to be a strange and wild adventure. I’ve never read a light novel before, and was excited for the opportunity to try one out.

Light novels are a funny thing. I’d actually never heard of them until PopLurker contributor Caesar Orzell wrote a piece about the Monotagari series by Nisioisin (sweet palindrome, bro) and it opened my eyes to the world of this genre of books. Somewhere between a novella and a pulp comic book, the Light Novel has a relatively low word count, are targeted toward middle and high school aged children, and feature characters described using a anime/manga aesthetic (with corresponding artwork peppering through the story). This isn’t a generalized statement, but from my experience with the genre thus far, many of these stories seem to be Slice of Life stories, which as we discussed in one of our Pop Culture Infiltration articles, has been an extraordinarily popular means of storytelling in Japan for the last 8-10 years or so.

While I don’t have any staunch beliefs that certain media is for certain age groups, I can say with confidence that I’m too old for this shit. There’s a certain smugness that Slice of Life stories from Japan have (oh, that magical pixie dream girl is so kooky) that I really don’t enjoy, as well as cultural frustrations that are a result of the (never evolving in media) male and female dynamics. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai was no exception to that, and in fact, its outlook and awkwardness comes from a (no surprise) male gaze. I found myself craving a traditional manga/graphic novel format and therefore wasn’t surprised to learn that 4 manga volumes were released in Japan from 2016-2018. To date, there are 10 of these Light Novels released in Japan, the first published in 2014 and the most recent in February 2020, all starting with the Rascal Does Not Dream of… gimmick.

So, what is this book actually about? Thank you for asking, please see the below synopsis.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Description:

Out of sight, out of mind!
Bunny girls do not live in libraries. This is simply common sense. And yet, that’s exactly where Sakuta finds one in the wild. More bewildering is who the bunny girl is: Mai Sakurajima, a girl one year older than Sakuta, famous at their school for her acting career even though she’s currently on break. To top it all off, it seems like no one else in the library can see Mai at all, no matter what she does or…wears. Wanting to find out more about this mystery and maybe get a little closer to this beautiful upperclassman in the process, Sakuta launches an investigation to discover why an unforgettable bunny girl keeps becoming totally invisible.

 

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Call me totally dumb, but I can’t pluck a plot out of this mashup of words. Also a Light Novel convention that drives me batty is the info dump of character bios that appear before the actual text and introduction of the character and scenarios. Because of the endless rambling and dialogue between characters, I found Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai‘s pacing dull and the story difficult to follow. To keep me engaged, I need a nice balance of exposition and dialogue. I typically lean toward heavier dialogue because too much description and you have that famous example of Anne Rice spending too much time describing heavy curtains and drapery. Or when I tried to get through Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea novels, which I think had fewer than a dozen spoken lines when I tapped out in the middle of the book. The characters, which I found unsympathetic, and the theme of “Adolescence Syndrome” (Arrested Development, right?) just wasn’t enough to keep me hooked. These are high schoolers. Is it a problem they’re behaving like…I don’t know…adolescents? 

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Me and my shitty opinions aside, this IP does have its fans and is seemingly very popular. Again, there are 10 Light Novels and 4 Manga issues. There are also 13 episodes of an Anime series based on it entitled (duh) Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. It came out in 2018 and I had no idea because I don’t do Slice of Life and again, I’m too old for this shit. Which is snark speak for “I’m not the target audience”. However, one of my favorite pop culture writers, Vrai Kaiser, wrote an amazing review of the first episode that reflects some of the themes I caught when reading the light novel. Smugness from the main character Sakuta and experiencing the world through his sneering and sighing, mostly.

51oDWekvVwL._AC_SL1000_But you know a franchise is successful once a toy is released, and Rascal Doesn’t Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (may I stop writing that full title now, please?) is no exception. Here we have Mai Sakurajima, former child star and invisible bunny girl with Adolescence Syndrome (Utena called, it wants its disease name back) in question. She is in Nendoroid form from Good Smile Company, but out of general rotation and therefore pretty pricey, even for a Nendoroid.

There’s a lot of material here, and this franchise is big, vast, expansive, and sprawling. But for me and my personal sensibilities, I wish it were more engaging.

I give Rascal Doesn’t Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai by Hajime Kamoshida 3/5 stars.

 

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