It’s been three years now since Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai aired, but the series is experiencing a revival as of late—at least when it comes to our site. I’ve been rewatching the anime and posting screencaps on Instagram; we’re discussing the second light novel in the series, Rascal Does Not Dream of Petite Devil Kohai, in October for Light Novel Club (join us on Discord to be part of the discussion); and starting today, for the next two weeks, we’ll be diving into each arc of the anime series and, in our unique style, explaining how our faith intersects.
Rascal Does Not Dream… really is fertile ground for such discussion. We’ve written several articles on the film, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl, for instance, as the character motivations, dynamics, and relationships, as well as the syndrome and situations presented, are interesting ground to dig into.
Sakuta, the protagonist of the series, is especially an interesting character to consider. He neither treats his “harem” as badly as some male characters do, nor is he as kind and thoughtful as he could be. In a very realistic way, I would say, he flirts and jokes and gets out of trouble by being sincere, authentic, passionate, and brave.
That reminds me of a conversation I had with my wife the other day, when I asked if she would have preferred the more Sakuta-like Koiwai from Recovery of an MMO Junkie or the sweeter, more thoughtful, calmer Sakurai of the same series. She said she would have liked dating Koiwoi better, but would have rather married Sakurai. I think the inference is that Koiwoi is fun, but neither responsible enough nor supportive enough for a foundational and covenant relationship like marriage.
Even though Sakuta isn’t necessarily ready for a committed relationship, Mai, who is made mature partly through her experiences as a child actress, still chooses him, even though she could almost certainly find someone who is the whole package: special, fun, and passionate like Sakuta, but responsible and committed like MMO‘s Sakurai.
So why would Mai choose him? What does Sakuta have in spades that others don’t?
Over and over in the series, and especially in the second arc, when questioned about his reputation, Sakuta tells those around him that he doesn’t care (cue Joan Jett). While struggling with all the sins that are part and parcel with being a human and all the weirdness and inexperience that comes with being a teen (“human” and “teen” sometimes feeling like two separate things!), Sakuta is still able to achieve a particular and high level of maturity that few of us have as adolescents—he is completely transparent, an authentic and open young man.
Let that soak in for a bit. I already mentioned this quality of his earlier, but think back to your own teenage years. If you were anything like me, those qualities—honesty, authenticity, openness—weren’t terrifically present or were maybe just starting to emerge.
I think that in addition to the intimacy they developed during her case of Adolescence Syndrome, Mai sees these additional and unique qualities in Sakuta. When he tells her of his feelings for her, she knows that she can trust what he’s saying. He means exactly what he says.
It’s so telling that Mai falls for Sakuta because of a simple characteristic like honesty. But it also makes sense—she doesn’t trust the love of her mother, who (as is revealed in the 4th arc, I believe) uses Mai to increase her own feelings of self-worth and to enact vengeance, and it can also be inferred that in an industry like entertainment, Mai considers many of those around her, especially males, to be disingenuous. Few likely care to know and accept Mai for who she is—they only see what they can get out of her. They treat her as a commodity.
It becomes such a troublesome situation, in fact, that Mai begins to disappear. Others literally can no longer see her. She can go to the public library in a bunny outfit and not one person pays her any mind—except for Sakuta, that is. He sees Mai, and then later, in the loudest possible way, declares that he loves though a screaming schoolyard confession.
Over and over again, Sakuta acknowledges Mai and shows his love for her, exactly as she is.
A longing to be acknowledged isn’t a foreign feeling for many of us. For instance, while there’s a massive movement to reject the “model minority” label, it’s one that many Asian immigrant parents continue to hold in high esteem. They desire their children to become rich and successful, and many push them toward those ends. It’s not uncommon for children in such households—many of my friends included—to struggle with their parents through adolescence and into adult life as they seek to feel loved by them for who they are, warts and all.
As embarrassing as it might be, I bet many would love for their parents to go full Sakuta, to yell out their love for them in front of a crowd.
Or maybe your struggle isn’t with parents, but rather with singleness—to find someone who loves you like Sakuta loves Mai, even when he or she sees all the baggage you might carry. Or maybe its work, to have a boss who acknowledges you in the good and bad. Or a church, or another place where you hope to belong.
What we do have—all of us—is a lover, a master, a father who does scream his love out to us. We are the prodigals, those who have gone their own way and found out that we don’t quite have it figured out as we thought we did, but God is the father who isn’t afraid of embarrassment, isn’t concerned with what others think, who runs to us like an old fool and embraces us, telling us how much he loves us. He is the one celebrating over one lost coin, who leaves the ninety-nine to rescue the one.
In Sakuta, we get a glimpse of God—pure, authentic, genuine, unafraid to call out to us at great cost to his own self, to his own reputation. His love is compelling and powerful. He acknowledges us as his beloved when we might not feel loved by anyone else. He tells us that he knows us through and through, and even so, he loves us.
That kind of love changes lives, and its one worth grasping onto with all our might, both for famous bunny girls and the rest of us as well.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai can be streamed on Funimation.