Garfle! It takes me two weeks to get through an anime series, but I end up needing to cram in the last five episodes in a day! I am really bad at clearing an increasingly growing list of things that make my eyes glimmer with hope, even though I’m very often left hanging out by my Georges. I’m just glad this isn’t really one of them
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Review Studio: J.C. Staff and Sentai Filmworks Length: 24 episodes Availability: Free on CrunchyRoll
Sakura-sō no Pet na Kanojo, aka The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, aka The Pet Girl of Sakura Hall, is another anime about half a dozen or so kids trying to make the most of their precious highschool days. Through their own experiences, forged friendships, and a bit of artistic fulfillment on the side. Starting with the almost aggravatingly common trope of a main character with “no remarkable qualities whatsoever” in the form of Sorata Kanda. A boy who, for having a habit of gathering stray cats, was removed from the normal dorms and put into the titular Sakura Hall, spending several months prior to the first episode attempting to leave the dorm for “problem children”. At least before the equally titular pet girl, for lack of a better term, Mashiro Shiina comes from England with the goal of becoming a manga artist.
While the term “pet girl” likely contains a lot of weird condonation due to translation and whatnot, it is actually pretty fitting, seeing how Mashiro is about as competent as a two year old, barely able to dress herself and completely dependant on Sorata and the other residents of Sakura Hall. At least for a good while. However, after the first half, the title’s a bit ill fitting, due to how Mashiro Shiina’s importance wanes a little after the halfway point, as the show has a wider viewpoint on all the characters, with traits like Sorata Kanda needing to help dress her getting more or less thrown aside after the ensemble of their dormitory is complete.
Instead, it would be more accurate to name the show after Sakura Hall itself, with its members all getting a gradually more and more balanced amount of screentime and backstory following the majority of Mashiro Shiina’s dominating character arc. A move that I very much enjoyed due to a very nice balance between the axis that is the relationship between the six. As the show alternates between a lot of lighthearted fun, serious bits about them pursuing their ambitions, and a pleasant amount of instances where in pursuing their own artistic goals, seeing as how they go to an art centric high school. Which hits all the good feels up until the very well paced conclusion that more or less eases the almostly cruelly open ending into something that felt remarkably fulfilling.
As all of them are given a good enough time to become likable before the unexpected amount of failures hit their way. With a good deal of reason behind their actions that make their relationships between one and other more than a hair plausible. Thankfully downplaying the notion of high school being the peak of existence that more or less soiled a few shows with a structure similar to it. Well, soiled for me anyhow, as someone who’s more or less indifferent towards high school.
Not to say that the show doesn’t have its fair share of problems that, while secondary complaints to an overall positive opinion, are difficult to ignore, at least when you have three pages of notes. Taking it from the top, why is Mashiro Shiina from England? With the notion of helplessness being more or less undeterminable as any form of metaphor for the creator’s interpretation of Western culture, Mashiro doesn’t come across as someone from another country. With gaps such as language, culture, food, or even differences between relationships, as the first name and handholding schtick are traits far from exclusive to England. While I could list some examples where one could defend how she behaves in a way frowned upon by Japanese culture, those instances would be fulfilled by having her be a very sheltered girl. Oh, and who names an English girl Mashiro as well as have her learn perfect Japanese? I get the plot convenience, but it was hard to push aside.
It is made no better by how there is another blonde Brit, I hope that term’s not offensive somehow, who can inexplicably speak Japanese perfectly. Even when in emotional distraught. In a conversation that seems to drip with values that are not very western despite the origin of the two characters in play. And apparently transferring back and forward between Japan and England is easy peasy, due to how she comes over thrice in the series. With the first one opening the possibility of a potential paragraph where I whine about artistic goals, freedom, and the worth of a medium. Before the topic is ignored despite being the ending and introduction for back to back episodes.
On the subject of artistic goals, Sorata has one as well, with a desire to pitch a video game in several competitions that I guess Japan holds. Which I am always okay with, mixing the two mediums I review and all, except for how the only time we see him play or even mention games outside of the pitch, is when he’s playing a 16-bit fighter with other residents of Sakura Hall. I suppose a programming book from another resident supposedly “inspired” him, but until the last episode, it is kept vague if he even reads it, let alone learn how to code.
Although, the show really doesn’t focus as much on artistic goals as one would believe, with most of them acting as a personal development marker as they succeed or fail in achieving them. With Sorata not being the only character with a faulty reason for pursuing his ambition, as one character abandons their home to achieve theirs, with an explanation that I’d guess was included as an afterthought. It is not a huge hindrance, but it has the compassion for some of the characters come almost entirely from how they’re nice people and fun to watch. Without the always constant ability to relate to all of their ambitions due to how undermined they can be. That’s really what most of these issues feel like. They aren’t overly distracting seeing as how when the show is at its best, it is gosh darn wonderful, and how they never became anything above minor mental annoyances.
However, it was not like they spent all the budget on trying to abridge a light novel and keep the emotional highs, with the show itself looking very appealing. Characterized by a fairly bubbly looking cast of simply designed teens, whenever I took the time to remember that I was suppose to critique animation, it did not disappoint. Hair bobs, characters brightly emote in funny situations, and the show has the decency to talk about women’s pants regularly, but only flash one remarkably underaged pair as part of a joke. With the voice acting pairing up to make characters’ breakdowns and build ups all the more weighty, in addition to notably assisting in more than a few chuckles.
With more than a bit of snark hidden in my teeth, I can safely say that this is my favorite anime I’ve seen this year thus far. As stated above, despite some minor issues with establishing and developing certain story details, the show is a pretty amalgamation of good feels and bad feels in a nice bow that concludes with a song of friendship. Which I guess is all I can ask for.
Great! (17/20) An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.
Well, hopefully I did the writings well in that piece. If you have any bit where you think I was made of something worth noting, please let me know. Because I am starting to see all my work as one grey entity and need to figure out what direction I’m suppose to take.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Good review! I enjoyed the series a lot, as well. I liked that it wasn’t all “success” for the main characters. They had a lot of serious setbacks that they had to deal with and overcome, which I feel I don’t see often enough.
Thanks for the compliment and comment in general. I always like to see a story well structured enough to realize how if you have a character fall occasionally, it makes the successes all the happier and the failures all the sadder. In addition to just providing moments of genuine shock. I can’t help but feel like I was saying a bit too much in that regard, but somethings you need to spill in order to explain why it is so good.