Sakurasou is an incredibly sweet series all wrapped in a beautiful metaphor.
What They Say:
Banished from the normal housing for the crime of adopting stray cats, Sorata Kanda’s life has gone to the dogs and now he’s been impounded in Room 101 of Sakura Hall, a notorious den of troublemakers, geniuses and weirdos. Meanwhile, Mashiro Shiina in Room 202 is the cat’s meow of the art world. However, she’s so unfocused and dysfunctional that she needs a full-time keeper to survive day-to-day life while she puts her career as a famous artist on hold and studies to be a manga creator. That’s too big a task for Chihiro, Mashiro’s cousin who lives in the same dorm and also happens to be Sorata’s teacher. But given Sorata’s weakness for taking in small, cute but sometimes not completely loveable creatures, could he be the one destined to take over Mashiro’s grooming, feeding and general, er…domestication? Well, if he’s not, too bad, ‘cause no one else is stepping up and he’s stuck with it and her! Heavy petting gets redefined, the dorm’s the only thing likely to get housebroken and hopefully no one will get neutered as who’s on whose leash becomes anybodies’ guess in The pet Girl of Sakurasou Collection 1!
Contains episodes 1-12
Japanese only track on Sakurasou and it’s presented in 2.0. The audio sounds fine to my ears, but nothing of real consequence comes up in terms of needing extremely high quality audio.
The video is presented in 16:9 and the quality is the same as all of Sentai’s other DVD releases. The subtitles are a little blurry around the edges, but very readable in yellow with a black border. Close ups suffer, as it is only DVD quality, though.
The packaging is fairly straightforward Sentai fare. After reviewing about four other Sentai releases, I realize they feel a little cheap, but they definitely get the job done.
Both this menu art and the cover art for the DVDs feature art that strays a little from the anime’s artwork (the former in colors used and the latter in art style). It’s nice and gets the job done superbly, as always.
The extras are packed with tons of random stuff, the first of which are extended episode previews. Given my feelings toward episode previews in general (I hate most of them by the way), they’re largely superfluous. The second are Japanese promos and TV spots, which are your typical Japanese PVs. Full of footage from the episode with some nice voice over from Sorata, Mashiro, or whoever serves the right purpose.
The final extra is the Japanese premiere event, which is a 45 minute extravaganza. It’s your typical premiere for an anime like this. It seems almost entirely scripted and it serves to promote the show pretty well. I’m not personally interested in this kind of extra, but I am extremely appreciative of all the work that went into subtitling, timing, and editing for a 45 minute event. I mean, there’s even a live performance!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Pet Girl of Sakurasou captures something that’s seemingly so rudimentary, and yet does it in such a touching way. If you’ve seen the show, then you know about Sorata and his relative ineptitude in the arts compared to literally everyone around him and that kind of feeling is extremely endearing on a very basic level.
Think back to when you just graduated high school. All your friends split up, and some go to some big name college while others go to State. Your once permanent-feeling community is suddenly shook up. Then, four or five or more years later, you’re graduating and your friends are getting jobs and you’re spending literally every waking hour editing cover letters, double, triple, and quadruple checking your resume to send off to prospective employers. Every day, you send off applications and every day you get denial emails and maybe once a week you get an interview.
I say all this from experience, and Sorata’s entire situation hits home, and hits hard, for me. He’s a hapless high school second year in a liberal arts high school with a general studies section. His friends—a genius programmer, an aspiring voice actress, an accomplished animator, and the script writer that’s trying to keep up with the animator—are all extremely talented folks in the arts. In walks Mashiro Shiina, possibly world-renowned artist/painter, who joins Sakurasou (in English, Sakura Hall) at the behest of her parents. After all, her cousin is the dorm mistress, so she can look after Mashiro. Mashiro, to put it lightly, lacks social skills. She’s the very definition of a savant.
It’s thrown onto Sorata to take care of Mashiro, which really speaks to his character. Without thinking, he literally dresses and cleans her like she’s a toddler. Here’s where I got really caught up on the show during the simulcast, and eventually led me to outright dropping it. It’s insulting on every possible level how they portray Mashiro in any scene where she’s looked down upon for lacking social skills. There’s a way to do this without making it feel like she’s your doll to play with, and Sakurasou often fails to make it look like anything but fan fodder. In the next few episodes, it admittedly gets much, MUCH better and, as I said, touching.
You see, all this work you do to get out of high school, to get a degree, to get a job does pay off and Sorata’s entire arc thus far feels like this huge metaphor for that seemingly universal struggle. The thing is, Sorata never went through any of that work. Mashiro and Aoyama and Misaki and Jin all have. They’ve put in hours and hours and hours of work to get as good as they are, but Sorata’s only seeing the final result and he’s frustrated that he can’t be that good. Why can’t things just come easily to him as well? But they don’t. Mashiro may be able to memorize test answers, but she’s struggling with writing humanistic stories. Misaki may have a talent for animation, but she can barely work with other people simply because of how she makes her animation. Jin and Aoyama are really the ones that relate closest to Sorata because they’re both trying to work hard to achieve their goals. Jin’s trying to keep up with Misaki, to make a script that’s worthy of her animation. And Aoyama’s working several part-time jobs to pay for rent, school, AND voice acting school.
Sorata doesn’t even put in that much effort. He gets held up by What if’s and he just stops. He wants to make games, but he’s never gotten past “I want to make games” in his head until now. Sorata is really the brightest light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. You see what hard work can get you to with Mashiro and Misaki, but they’re geniuses. Sorata is the everyman that’s watching the show and going through these exact struggles that I laid out in the first few paragraphs.
Within just the first few episodes, the seeds are sewn. Mashiro gets her manga published in a magazine—a touching little moment because Sorata wished for it to come true, but Mashiro just wished for Sorata’s wish to come true, all during Tanabata. But that’s an entire metaphor that’s telling us he’ll become a game programmer in the end. He’s finally chasing after what HE wants and that’s also our light at the end of the tunnel.
And he finally sees that light! After working so, so hard at his script and his pitch and his game, he’s made it past the first screening for a game contest. Finally, he might be able to stand on that same pedestal as everyone else. He practices his pitch over and over and over again and he gets there, confident. But he’s messed up by one question. One simple question, and he’s left speechless and the pitch never recovers. He fails. He gets a little too close to the sun. Whatever metaphor you want to use, but we need to see Sorata fail just as much as he needs to experience it. Remember, we’re not looking at the world through Misaki or Mashiro’s eyes; we don’t just see perfection and make it happen. We’re normal people and normal people go through failure on a near daily basis. And his face is one that I’ve made myself too many times. Through him, we get to experience failure in a way that a lot of us aren’t even willing to try to achieve (as Sorata was previously unwilling achieve).
But Sorata has friends around him. The entirety of Sakurasou throws a party for Misaki, but it’s really for cheering Sorata up. That party reminds us not to dwell on failure, but to move past it. Learn from our experience and achieve even greater heights next time around. Man, have we all had that feeling of falling to the ground and having to get back up. Again, Sorata is our light at the end of the tunnel. Watching him succeed, fail, and succeed again inspires us.
The next arc brings in Mashiro’s friend from England, Rita. She’s a genius painter like Mashiro, but she’s always perceived as not as good. She comes in and basically demands that Mashiro return to England with her so she can go back to painting and give up this stupid manga crap. Her personality, to the finally revealed programmer extraordinaire Ryunosuke Akasaka, is transparent. She claims to have given up painting, but she loves it too much. She finds it futile to keep working when she’ll never be as good as Mashiro. Remind you of someone? What if I say, “I could spend my entire youth on karuta without ever becoming better than Arata.” That kind of helpless feeling is something a lot of people know all too well. Sorata thought the same thing up until just a few episodes ago.
She, of course, is eventually turned around by Mashiro in a scene that reminds me just how touching this show can be when it’s not trying to be creepy-er, I mean fetish-y. While Rita felt completely helpless at her talent compared to Mashiro’s, Mashiro wasn’t even thinking about that. Mashiro kept thinking that it was fun to paint next to Rita. And work together they shall. For the culture festival, Sakurasou has decided to display their talents with an animation. They’re behind schedule already because Sorata’s been slow with the storyboards. Rita, after Mashiro’s impassioned speech, relents to help them. Sorata even has a moment of brilliance where he gives a speech, successfully convincing the student council, the festival committee, et al. to let them display their animation. He’s come a long way since he failed to pitch his game, and the journey the show’s taking us on displays that brilliantly.
The last two episodes could actually wrap up the entire series quite nicely, but I’m glad there are 12 more to go. It’s the culture festival and Nyanpollon is getting down to the wire. These episodes are essentially a culmination of every feeling of success and frustration the kids of Sakurasou have experienced thus far. In the very first episodes, Jin said Misaki can’t work with anyone because she doesn’t storyboard. But here they are, with both Sorata and Rita helping to storyboard Nyanpollon. Aoyama has been struggling to train to be a voice actress, but she finally gets the time to shine as the emcee of their interactive experience (it’s not quite a game, but more than just an animation). Jin’s writing touches the audience in profound, and unexpected, ways and Sorata, once a bumbling high schooler just trying to escape from the “trouble” dorm, has not only embraced his role there, but grown into a leader that you would barely think possible in the early episodes.
These episodes are to show how much everyone has grown and that includes Ryunosuke, even though we’ve seen him for all of four episodes. In just a few episodes, he almost completely turns around from recluse who hates girls to falling in love with Rita. His best gesture is to give her Sorata’s email address after she asked for his.
Mashiro is even able to yell out her feelings of thanks to Sorata twice as loud—no, three or maybe four times as loud as she normally talks. And Misaki, poor Misaki, is finally able to yell out her feelings to Jin. It’s an extremely touching scene in a formerly disgusting anime, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. I’d like to see Kissxsis do that.
Both the title and the first three episodes really turned me off to this show during the simulcast, but I’m really glad I picked up this show for review. I read Bamboo’s Stream columns when she was watching the simulcast and I just couldn’t believe that the little show about (literally) a pet girl became an endearing tale about overcoming obstacles in life that we all face, all in such a simple metaphor. Not only that, but it’s touching. Through these characters’ trials and tribulations, again—which we’ve all faced—we get a sort of catharsis that we experience only through watching a piece of media for an aspect of our life that we may have completely forgotten about. That’s really the power of stories and something like Sakurasou reinvigorates my love for stories.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Extended Previews, Japanese Promos, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Japanese Premiere Event, Japanese TV Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 17th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Radeon 7850, 24 in. Vizio 1080p HDTV, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II