If you are enjoying this season’s Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, you might also want to check out The Pet Girl of Sakurasou. The same author, Hajime Kamoshida wrote the original light novels for these adaptations, and he seems to have a knack for strong character writing. The strong source material is further amplified by the great direction of Atsuko Ishizuka, who earlier this year directed the critical hit A Place Further Than The Universe.
You do have to get past the “pet girl” bit, with the main girl Mashiro being so absorbed in her manga work and generally socially inept that she is like “pet” that needs to be taken care of, but the “pet care” drops off fairly soon. Instead, the story becomes all about creators of various sorts: game designers, mangaka, animators, voice actresses, and more, all dealing with various aspects of the creative process and how they affect their relationships.
Slight spoilers for episode 14 from here on out.
The Christmas episode for this show is episode 14, which serves as something of a mid-show climax. A lot of things are going on, with five characters’ storylines all making progress, one way or another. To start with, the main male lead Sorata finds his relationship with Mashiro getting strained, as it seems to him that the otherwise hardworking girl he’s come to admire is slacking off. The reason Mashiro seems to not be working as hard on her manga is because her thoughts are being preoccupied with Sorata, and with her lack of social skills, she doesn’t know how to process her feelings. There is another girl, Nanami, an aspiring voice actress who also has a crush on Sorata; however, a letter she receives means that a love triangle might be the least of her worries… Two other characters also have an important storyline here, which I will get to later.
One thing I must note here is that Mashiro, while not explicitly stated to have anything specifically, definitely seems to have some form of autistic spectrum disorder. Her difficulty understanding how others think, her general lack of social skills, and her savant artistic skills definitely seem reminiscent of a somewhat high-functioning autistic person. As someone with some degree of Asperger’s himself and in general likes to see more portrayals of mental disorder in anime, Mashiro is definitely a character I am glad to see, and is perhaps one more reason to watch Sakurasou.
The Pain of Christmas
Misaki and Jin are childhood friends. Misaki is a talented animator who has already made quite a name for herself, and she is very much in love with Jin and is very open about her affections for him. Jin, however, in addition to being an aspiring scriptwriter, would rather play around with other girls without any sort of commitment. At least, that was what he was like at the start of the show. By this point, though, he is starting to consider his feelings for Misaki more seriously, to the point where he has broken up with all of his girlfriends. He also is taking his scriptwriting more seriously, attempting to get accepted to a good college for such a path. That much is good on him. When Misaki confesses to him on Christmas (rather provocatively), he even responds with his own honest feelings.
However, despite confessing his love to her, Jin refuses to take their relationship any further, saying that as he is now, he is not worthy of being her boyfriend and will only hurt her. Given how much more skilled she is compared to him, he feels that until he catches up to her, he would just drag her down. Unfortunately that is not what Misaki wants. She wants to be with Jin, regardless of how his skills are. She wants him to hurt her; the implication is that she wants him to “hurt” her physically (in that way) but she could also mean she wants to be close enough to him that he can hurt her in their creative careers, and elsewhere in their lives. (As for whether Jin eventually comes to realize this
If you overlook the physical relationship part, this scene actually reflects fairly well how we can miss God’s grace. Becoming a Christian may be the point where we stop “fooling around with girls” (a.k.a. indulging in sin) and start to take our faith seriously, but it can be all too easy to take things too seriously, in the belief that we must somehow “earn” God’s love. Perhaps we think that we “hurt” God too much if we are not living “good” Christian lives (whatever “good” might mean). However, this completely misses the point of God’s grace; He gives us His grace because He wants to be closer to us, even if it means we will inevitably hurt Him with our sin. We do not need to wait until we are “worthy” to be close to God.
When you think about it, Christmas must have actually been very “painful” for God. He was sending His Son to Earth, subject to all of the discomfort of life and temptations of sin, all to eventually be brutally killed on the Cross. Yet He did it anyway, because He loves us that much and knew that was the only way to reconcile our sinful souls with Him. Christmas, then, is a celebration of God’s love, which was so great it literally hurt Him. And while we can definitely be inspired by that love to do great things, doing great things is not a prerequisite for God’s love.
We can also extend that love to other people, showing that they do not need to be perfect or “worthy” for us to love them. People with mental disabilities, like Mashiro, may be in particular need of that kind of love, so if you know someone with such a disability, perhaps show them some extra love this Christmas. Of course, just because someone is not officially diagnosed with a disability does not mean they are not struggling with their self-worth, so share that love with everyone you celebrate Christmas with!