After several months, the Light Novel Club reconvenes!
Apologies for our long absence. We indeed have been reading and discussing (if just a bit behind and with a break as well), but haven’t posted our discussions. We’ll be catching up over the next few weeks and introducing a different direction our club will take—something to anticipate!
But for now, we’re diving into the second volume of the Rascal Does Not Dream… light novel series, Rascal Does Not Dream of Petite Devil Kohai. Enjoy the discussion below based on questions from our light novel prez, stardf29, and look forward to our next one, over The NPCs in This Village Sim Game Must Be Real, Vol. 1!
Q1: What are your overall thoughts on the novel?
stardf29: Ah, the classic time-loop storyline. Though time didn’t loop all that many times, all things considered, and it was focused more on the why someone wants to turn back time and how that is worked through. Overall I thought this was a good follow-up to the first volume, allowing Sakuta to deal with a different form of Adolescence Syndrome while interacting with a different focus girl. In that way it definitely has a structural similarity to the Monogatari series, which isn’t a bad thing in my book, and the story itself works well in its own regard too.
Twwk: During our last discussion, I was the Negative Nancy, giving reasons why I was up and down about volume one. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading volume two, which stayed away from what I saw as some of the weak points of the initial release, while creating a surprisingly compelling story. Petite Devil Kohai is a fun and thoughtful read.
Jeskai Angel: To large degree, this volume is “more of the same” as vol. 1, high school romantic comedy with paranormal mystery elements, plus tons of witty dialogue and a lot of heart. In the original anime, this was my least favorite arc, and while I still can’t say I’m a huge fan, I actually think the novel pulls it off more plausibly than I recall the anime doing.
Q2: What do you think of the characters?
Jeskai Angel: Umm…they’re all good? Sakuta remains (often awkwardly) honest and open, but also surprisingly perceptive and impressively compassionate. That said… In this volume, both Mai and Rio call out Sakuta for the Tomoe charade by pointing out how out of character it is for him to engage in such a deception. If multiple characters within the story call out the protagonist for acting of character, shouldn’t that maybe be a warning sign to the author to reconsider whether this is really the best way to tell the story?
It’s totally in character for him to want to help Tomoe. It’s also fine for characters to make bad choices–but their failings or unwise decisions should make sense in character. The way Sakuta goes about helping Tomoe just feels too jarring. I think the novel handled the justifications better than the anime did, but I’m still not convinced it actually makes sense for him to act as he does.
Mai is great; I think perhaps the most shocking part of the story is the way she agrees to put up with the Tomoe charade. That, more than anything, reveals how much she trusts and cares about Sakuta. I also loved how she brought new clothes for Kaede; she tries to play the ice queen role, but her real kindness shines through.
Kaede and Rio are still kind of side characters, but both are prominent enough to hint that they will be significant in the future (especially Kaede, with Sakuta’s ongoing investigation and efforts to help her). Rio was quite funny, with some really great retorts to Sakuta’s silliness that wouldn’t make sense coming from anyone else; she’s also pretty insightful, showing a good grasp of what’s really going on with the Tomoe charade even without being told.
Tomoe is one those “I can’t believe I don’t hate her more” characters one sometimes encounters. I feel like she’s the sort of character I’d expect myself to dislike, but she’s just too real, and goodhearted, to really feel that badly about. She’s also the character with the most development in this volume, and character growth is always great. Whatever her flaws, she is visibly making progress and trying to improve.
stardf29: Tomoe is definitely the highlight character here, and she has the challenging prospect of being a “love interest” that has no realistic chance of actually ending up with the protagonist, which is why it’s a good thing she has her own troubles to deal with beyond her romantic feelings. I will look more at that in a later question, but for now she’s overall a great character and I’m glad she was able to come to terms with her feelings and still have her “place”. Sakuta continues to be a good mix of cheeky and thoughtful. His way of defending Tomoe was amusing, and definitely brave on his part, though I suppose the fact that he figures he has nothing to lose socially as it is helps. Mai, meanwhile, is nicely understanding of Sakuta’s whole fake-dating event, when I certainly wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to understand.
Twwk: I enjoyed getting to know the characters better through this volume. Although sleepminusminus wasn’t real high on some of Sakuta’s actions toward Tomoe, and I tend to agree in some ways, I still definitely admire his courage at the train station (the anime version is a favorite scene for me). Mai was great—no surprise. But what surprised me was how much I appreciated Tomoe’s character. She could easily come across as obnoxious and spoiled, but I thought she was written as well—compassionate, open, and earnest.
Q3: What do you make of Tomoe’s feelings about being afraid of losing her “place” in her social group and how she acts because of it?
Twwk: I kind of went back and forth with it, and reached a far different conclusion than that with which I started. It felt quite superficial at first, a bit like the author was digging for something that didn’t really ring as authentic. And maybe he was—I’m very up and down about the quality of this series—but the issue felt more and more genuine to me the further I read. There’s an intense pressure on kids, of course, to fit in. And with social media now a part of teenage existence, I have no problem buying that this pressure may be higher than ever, and it also feels very plausible that it’s a minute by minute kind of thing, as demonstrated about Tomoe’s worries about responding immediately.
Jeskai Angel: Feelings are always real, but the thoughts that generate them, or are generated by them, are not necessarily valid. So, for example, someone diagnosed with an anxiety disorder experiences painfully real distress when their anxiety is triggered…but that anxiety is not actually based on any objectively valid threat (I mean, if it were, then it would just be natural fear, not an anxiety disorder). With that in mind, I think the novel actually does a pretty good job of balancing the validity of Tomoe’s feels against unreasonable social system and superficial relationships she’s focused on. No matter how irrational the world of high school girl cliques may be, what Tomoe feels is real, and Sakuta acknowledges that. It’s precisely because of the validity of her feelings that he can see her as a parallel to Kaede. That said, how she acts because of those feelings is really messed up. There’s no excuse for asking someone else’s boyfriend to pretend to be your boyfriend for three weeks in order to deceive the entire school.
stardf29: At the most basic level, her need of having a “place” to belong is very normal. Unfortunately, between her immature view of where that “place” should be and the unfortunate reality of high school cliques, she ends up trying to do this whole “fake boyfriend” ploy. I definitely agree that this is a case where I can sympathize with Tomoe despite not agreeing with what she did, because it’s pretty clear that she’s still growing. I also like how her character takes a look at the classic “popular girl” and the internal struggles she goes through to stay relevant to her social group. On a side note, I feel like “disagreeing with their actions but sympathizing with them because they’re immature teenagers” is part of the appeal of all these high school anime/manga/light novels…
Q4: Do you think it would ever be okay in real life to start a “fake” romantic relationship with someone?
Twwk: I’m willing to open myself to some exception to the rule, but I’d have a hard time finding or thinking of one. It was hard for me to even accept it while reading. When you read through material, and it takes longer than an anime and delves more deeply into character’s motivations and thoughts (usually) than in animation, you also consider more and more the situation at hand. Thus, I don’t think it bothered me so much while watching the anime—I just could join in the fun of it. But while reading, I kept thinking about how this A) isn’t really good for Tomoe and B) this really really isn’t good for Mai.
It’s funny—and I think this is flaw of the series—that it makes so much of how famous Mai is, but really doesn’t lay out the impact of her relationship ending with Sakuta and then magically picking up again months later, which in a rumor-filled world would make her look desperate. Mai needs Sakuta’s support (having her be away at a shoot just seems way too convenient and, if applied to real life, doesn’t make it any easier to know your beloved is asking lovey-dovey with someone else), and they should be progressing. So the light novel, as fictional as it is, just couldn’t help but make me think of real life as I read it, and how damaging such a fake relationship could be.
Jeskai Angel: Uh…no? At least not in practical terms. I mean, there’s probably some kind of super niche exception out there that only God knows (maybe something sort of like the spies Joshua sent to Jericho visiting the house of Rahab the prostitute to hid?), but it’s highly unlikely any of us will come within light years of such a situation. It’s unreasonable and wrong for Tomoe to ask Sakuta to do this, and it’s unreasonable and wrong (and out of character!) that Sakuta goes along with it, and the same would be true for you or me. This was my least favorite arc of the anime because of how wrong it all felt, in both a literary and a moral sense.
Twwk: No excuse except that she’s 16? I mean, that’s generally what leads me to accept her actions here, as immature as they are, because she’s just a kid. I was a pretty immature 16-year-old, moreso than Tomoe and with fewer morals—so while I likewise manipulated people to my own ends and deceived them, I know I’d also try to get away with everything she’s attempting to if I had stumbled upon adolescence syndrome.
Jeskai Angel: To clarify what I meant about there being no excuse for what Tomoe does… On the one hand, Tomoe’s immaturity doesn’t make what she does any more morally acceptable. On the other hand, recognizing her immaturity should make us more sympathetic and help us temper our judgment of her as a person. It’s just that showing mercy to Tomoe the person isn’t the same thing as saying what she does is remotely defensible.
stardf29: Fake relationships is one of those tropes which we can be amused with in fiction, but are a terrible idea in reality. Overall, I definitely feel it is wrong because it is ultimately a type of deception, and one that can ultimately harm people in significant ways. I feel like the only time it might be acceptable is some kind of ridiculous life-threatening situation where either you fake a relationship or you die for some reason, and this story definitely isn’t that kind of situation. (Though perhaps in Tomoe’s mind, it does feel like she would “die” socially otherwise, but again, that’s her teenage immaturity.)
I like TWWK’s note about how in reality, such a relationship would be awfully damaging. As I mentioned earlier, Mai was very gracious in allowing Sakuta to do what he did; I absolutely would not have blamed her if she just wanted nothing to do with him after that. I guess it’s a good thing that the time loop ultimately erased the whole thing in the memory of anyone other than Tomoe and Sakuta, so we don’t have to see what kind of consequences that would have. In a way, it’s the ultimate sign of Tomoe’s growth that she ultimately chooses a timeline where she doesn’t feel like she has to fake a relationship.
Thanks for joining us for this discussion! We’ll be following up with a couple others in the near future, and then big news about the Light Novel Club! Until then, keep reading, dear readers!