Welcome to our Light Novel Club discussion of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai!
As a reminder, the Light Novel Club discussions are now held publicly on the Beneath the Tangles Discord server. I bring this up because this time around, we actually have a number of participants in our discussion on Discord, which made for a very lively discussion this time around! That said, because of the sheer volume of the discussion, we cannot post the entire discussion here without making the post way too long, so we instead have a highlight reel of our discussion. So let’s jump in to the discussion on this light novel that inspired a popular anime, featuring a rascal, a bunny girl, and a strange take on Schrödinger’s cat!
1. What are your overall thoughts on the novel?
Firefox789: My overall thoughts on the novel can be summarized like this: it was an enjoyable and addictive light novel to read. The character interactions really made me enjoy the novel even more than I expected, as some parts of the novel couldn’t be adapted into the anime whether due to the challenge of including them or time/budget contraints (ex. Sakuta’s inner monologue). Character interactions were definitely one of the strong points of the light novel.
Closet0taku It’s interesting to approach a light novel after having seen the anime (and movie). I enjoyed the LN as it gave more depth to all of the characters I encountered in the anime while also setting up the mysteries that would take another half-dozen light novels to solve. I think, though, that had I read LN #1 first before the anime was released, I’m not sure I would have continued on with the books; the scars on Sakuta’s chest and Kaede’s syndrome might not have intrigued me enough to continue. On the other hand, the denoument with Koga might have been the hook to keep me going. Having very much enjoyed the anime and movie, I find the LNs are indispensable in fully appreciating the whole story, and what points the author was trying to make about culture and relationships.
RyanDH: I thought the novel was very fun and relatable. Lots of times, depictions of teenagers can be cringey or out-of-touch, but I found all of the dialogue and characters to be believable and well-written.
Twwk: I mostly enjoyed it! I sometimes got caught up in how poorly the series functions as science fiction—more on that later— and in what I felt was novice-level writing from the author, but when I wasn’t tripped up by those foibles, I blazed through the volume, ravenous for one page after another. It was a fun read.
BambiBethy I have a confession…I’m only on chapter two because busy mom life! So it’s too soon for me to assess the book as a whole.
2. What made the light novel an enjoyable read for you? (via Firefox789)
stardf29: One reason I like light novels as a medium is how we get to see the thought processes of the characters, and getting into Sakuta’s head here definitely added to how much I enjoyed the novel.
RyanDH: Sakuta was an extremely relatable protagonist for me. I was in a similar situation while still in high school: no phone and a bit of a cynical view of the atmosphere and politics involved in being a teenager. Phones open up so many doors for social interaction, but it also means that nearly every second of young peoples’ lives is now dedicated to maintaining and improving their relationships with their classmates. Look at Kaede’s situation: one missed message and suddenly her friends and her whole class had turned on her. They never get to be truly alone, and I find the whole concept really interesting to try to understand at a deeper level.
BambiBethy: So far I am really enjoying the banter between Mai and Sakuta.
3. If both an anime and LN/manga for the series is available, do you have a preference as to which order you approach them? (via Closet0taku)
stardf29: So I’ve had the opportunity to approach anime adaptations from all angles: seeing the anime first and then reading the novel, reading the novel first and then watching the anime, and a “hybrid” approach where I read some of the novel, and then watch the anime which goes beyond the point where I read. While I would generally prefer to read as much of the novel as will be adapted in the anime before watching said anime, realistically I often don’t have the time to read that much with all the other stuff there is to read. So the “hybrid” approach is a nice way to see how much I might be interested in an anime adaptation in the first place, and get a feel for how good the adaptation is.
RyanDH: I definitely like to read something before watching it, if possible. It gives my imagination more creative freedom to create the world and characters on my own, rather than just imagine the ones I’m already used to seeing.
BambiBethy: I actually just finished the anime and movie. I usually don’t like reading books if I’ve already seen the live or animated adaptation, but in this case it’s ok since I can imagine the characters from the anime. Also there’s a lot more depth in the LN.
4. In the first chapters of volume, it’s revealed that this novel would be almost a nonlinear story. What was your reaction to this literary writing style? (via Firefox789)
Twwk: That’s really interesting that you make that connection to Monogatari, stardf29. I don’t recall thinking it when I watched the anime series, but while reading the light novel, I kept returning to Monogatari and thinking that it must have influenced it. Rascal is almost a more palatable version of Monogatari, easy to engage with but also less creative (not that a bunny girl isn’t an interesting way to begin a novel series!).
5. The novels get a lot of praise for portraying the relationship between our main duo, Sakuta and Mai, very well and with an entertaining writing style. What do you think makes their relationship so special? (via Firefox789
RyanDH: What was so funny and likable about their synergy was the shock factor involved in some of their banter. I could NEVER imagine saying to a girl some of the things Sakuta says while poking fun at Mai, but the fact that she responded similarly always made me laugh.
Closet0taku Sakuta has almost no filter. He often says what he feels. He has a lot of respect and integrity where Mai is concerned, but he can’t turn off his teenage self, either. He’s unapologetic about trying to steal a kiss from Mai (he’s unsuccessful in LN 1), if not more. Mai tries to match Sakuta’s frankness, but falls short, and embarrasses herself when she does. It’s this twisted repartee where both are learning about the other through a variety of trying circumstances as they both come to grips with the strange goings-on.
stardf29: There’s something to be said for the gap in Sakuta’s and Mai’s statuses: Sakuta is kind of the loser guy in school (for various reasons), while Mai is a famous actress. Under normal circumstances, the two shouldn’t even ever talk with each other, but because of the whole Adolescence Syndrome, they find not only a reason to talk, but also a chance to understand each other beyond the statuses they have. As others have said, they also play off each other well, which helps balance out the more serious moments between the two.
BambiBethy: Their personalities are amazing! The way they just clicked when they first met is really special. I love imagining their banter and facial expressions.
6. What do you think of Sakuta and Mai individually as characters?
Firefox789: Sakuta is definitely a great portrayal of a non-typical male teenage light novel protagonist. What makes Sakuta a great character isn’t that he manages to get the girl, but how he does. Sakuta has enough self confidence in himself that he can approach the beautiful actress, Mai Sakurajima, without having second doubts about how he sees himself in comparison to others. He never compares himself to Mai or gets down on himself for wanting to approach her. Sakuta felt attracted to Mai and just approached her without any second thoughts. A reason why Mai was willing to open up to Sakuta was because he was honest to her about why he was approaching her and why he wanted to help her. If Sakuta had lied to Mai even once, it would have been game over for him, so him being honest to her was the one reason why his relationship with her was so successful. A minor complaint about Sakuta is that he can sometimes blurt out the most blatant and inappropriate comments known to a teenage boy, but he has enough good qualities to himself that most readers can overlook his flaws.
Closet0taku Sakuta is a noble soul trapped in a teenager’s body. “I just can’t ignore someone in trouble,” is his life philosophy. He’s proven it with Kaede, and will demonstrate it again with Mai. I think the consistency of his character is maintained throughout the LN. As far as Mai is concerned…she’s a little more undefined as a person—we don’t get to hear her inner monologue, so we have to take her at face value. I can’t say whether a celebrity would really act this way, but I am happy Mai is doing so.
7. What do you think of the other characters that appear in this volume?
Closet0taku I like how all the other characters have their quirks—the dismissive Futaba, vulnerable Kaede, brash Koga, reliable Kunimi. They’re not terribly well-developed yet—that will happen in the future—but they are good touchstones for Sakuta to interact with as he moves throughout his day trying to get to the bottom of Mai’s Adolescent Syndrome.
Twwk: Aside from the mains, I definitely found myself liking Tomoe. As stardf29 notes…so silly. What an unusual introduction!
8. What do you think of how the story uses the idea of “Adolescent Syndrome” in general, and the concept of Schrödinger’s cat in this volume?
Twwk: It confused me—though that’s not the novelist’s fault. I thought Adolescent Syndrome was a referrence to being a chuunibyou, as if these occurrences were chuunibyou come to life. But I later gathered that the syndrome is actually completely made up for this series. I do think that using this invented syndrome though, along with the use science elements, weakens the story. Before the discussion above comparing the series to Monogatari, it was more The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I was most reminded of. That series—and Monogatari as well—uses the supernatural in a way that makes the science fiction possible, and thus veers it toward a direction where the novel doesn’t much have to explain its science. But here, it feels like we’re supposed to accept the science presented, and that’s problematic because it’s not written particularly well. It feels like the writer did about an hour of research and just went with it, which is fine if your story involves espers and goddesses along with aliens and time travelers, but not when Sakuta turns to Rio for “hard science” advice. If the author just forgot the science angle and say, made Rio into some other type of character (she doesn’t particularly seem a good scientist as she is, by the way, guzzling coffee from beakers), I would have more readily accepted Schrödinger’s cat as an idea just put forward by an adolescent, and it would work in this supernatural environment.
Closet0taku I’m fine with the scientific parallels to quantum theory and relativity, and in particular the theories of observation (which go beyond physics and into philosophy) that give rise to Mai’s manifestation of the syndrome.
9. How much can you relate to the struggles that Sakuta or Mai go through?
stardf29: I think what I relate to most, moreso than the characters’ Adolescent Syndrome-related issues, is the whole idea that there’s some kind of “atmosphere” within a certain group (like the students at a school) and how people will get looked down upon for trying to ruin that atmosphere by doing something that “stands out.” That is definitely something that I feel is stifling about socializing, and Sakuta breaking past that to confess his love for Mai was a great “ruin the atmosphere” moment in the book.
Closet0taku: I don’t know that I can relate to their particular struggles, as I think high schools in the U.S. are somewhat less focused on the “atmosphere” and the impenetrable cliques that form. I won’t say it’s unique to Japan, but it is certainly endorsed by its culture.
Thanks for reading, and special thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion! I would love for future discussions to also have readers like you joining in, so if you are interested, join our Discord server and check out the Light Novel Club channels! You can also join to peek in on our discussions live, to make sure you don’t miss anything we talk about.
Featured illustration by ますお (reprinted w/permission).