Sakurasou, again, manages to overcome its distracting title and fanservice elements to become a true hit among many, many mediocre shows of a similar ilk.
What They Say:
The care and feeding of a pet girl is something only those with the most dogged determination should attempt, but Sorata Kanda never really had a choice in the matter. Tasked with keeping the acclaimed but highly dysfunctional and unfocused artist Mashiro Shiina from forgetting to eat, brush her hair or wear clothes, it’s been a long, slow battle to get to the point where he’s reached a general understanding of her extreme quirks. Which doesn’t mean that Mashiro doesn’t still walk out of the dorm half-naked. It’s just that Sorata now understands that it’s going to happen. Unfortunately, the whys, wherefores and how-to’s of comprehending the opposite sex aren’t going so well on other fronts. Misaki’s attempts to escalate her campaign to win Jin’s affections take a disastrous turn, and Nanami’s going to have to learn to come to terms with her feelings for Sorata while adjusting to the third wheel that is Mashiro. And then there’s still Sorata’s “problem” of picking up cats that he’s not supposed to keep. Attentions stray, passions play and sanity frays as the housebreaking continues in the second insane volume of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou!
Contains episodes 13-24
The audio is only in 2.0, but I also only have a 2.0 setup so it’s ok. The audio is fine and the Nyanpollon explosions sound really good on my little computer speakers. The voices come through clearly as well, so there’s nothing to worry about.
The video is much more lacking than the audio. Line work is grainy because of the video quality. I thought before that it was because I was using a TV as a computer monitor, but it’s just more noticeable with a new display. Close ups and long shots seem find, but in a show that’s made up mostly of medium shots, I’d hope quality to be a little better than it is.
The case is typical of Sentai, in that it feels kind of cheap but gets the job done. The spine features Misaki of all characters (instead of maybe Aoyama?). I don’t know what the decision was behind that, but I feel like the love interest of the main character should have that spotlight, given that Mashiro was given the first set’s spine. The screenshots on the back aren’t completely misleading, so that’s better from the first set. They went full fanservice in the first set’s screenshots and it was more distracting than anything else. I’m glad Sentai seemingly focused on what really drives the show instead of boobs.
The three menus are just the disc covers blown up into a menu format. The episodes are laid out on the side with the special features on a separate menu. There’s also the typical loop of the opening theme song that goes over and over and over again.
Extras are sparse on these discs, only including some Japanese CD spots and extended previews, both of which I could personally do without. The extended previews are just like with the first set and give you a bigger next episode preview. These next episode previews are no Baccano!, do there’s really no need to extend them. The CD spots are kind of cute, but they’re advertising something we’ll never see translated legally, so I don’t see the point in them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I was in college, I took a lot of creative writing classes. In each of those classes, I of course had to write some short stories. And each time I sat down to write a short story, there was a blank page in front of me at the start. I sat there with the blank page in front of me contemplating the possibilities of what could go onto the page. A science fiction story or a fantasy story or a love story usually hadn’t been decided yet. And as the words flowed out of my brain and onto the page, something seeming more like a story would take shape.
I love stories for this very reason. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou has a lot of shortcomings, mostly in its handling of fanservice, but it’s end goal is clear and it hits home quite well. Each and every student of Sakurasou has faced this exact same blank page at some point. Misaki’s anime doesn’t come out of nowhere. Ryunosuke’s programs don’t either. Nor do Jin’s scripts, Sorata’s games, Mashiro’s paintings and manga, or Aoyama’s acting.
The first half is what tackled this subject in full, really, culminating in Nyanpollon at the school festival. But the last few episodes went straight for the heart with the blank page metaphor, which I’ll get to later.
This second half focuses straight on the individual characters’ relationships more than ever before. Sorata’s ever growing feelings for Mashiro, Aoyama’s for Sorata, Mashiro’s growing feelings in general, Rita’s for Ryunosuke, and Jin and Misaki’s for each other. They each come to a head here in some of the most frustrating and beautiful ways possible.
My big complaint is that Sorata’s feelings aren’t really explored in full. Yes, they are explored a whole bunch, perhaps more than everyone else’s, but it always seems like the focus is from without. Mashiro loves Sorata. Aoyama loves Sorata. We’re seeing Sorata’s feelings through a lens and it’s a little frustrating. By the end, we don’t really know who he loves except that it’s not his little sister (thank god).
Wikipedia’s telling me that this is a light novel aimed at a male audience, and that could contribute to my frustrations, in all honesty. Sorata is meant to be the audience surrogate; the character who’s normal amongst these people who are so extremely talented. As such, his feelings don’t feel addressed in full because the audience is supposed to decide who he falls for. Is it Aoyama, who pines for him but gets out of the way for Mashiro? Is it Mashiro, who’s just developing feelings because of her special needs? Or is it even Misaki, who he shares the final scene with? The anime doesn’t answer it satisfactorily, but maybe the light novels do.
The way that Jin and Misaki’s relationship was handled is much more complete. It gives us a catharsis in the exact way that is appropriate: comedic. For 24 episodes, we’ve known that Misaki likes Jin and that Jin sleeps around (or maybe he doesn’t? But it’s certainly illicit). Jin’s always felt like he’s trying to keep up with Misaki, as does most everyone at Sakurasou. Jin more than anyone, though, because he’s literally been chasing after her since they were kids. He chased after her to Suimei and then to Sakurasou. Everything he’s done is to try and keep up, including writing scripts. The scripts are meant to be for her anime, but they’re never sufficient. They’re always one step below. Despite this, Misaki has always been trying to get Jin’s attention. Through all the illicit fling’s he’s had, it’s been Misaki at the center of it. And it’s Misaki who wins out.
But again we face frustrations at Sakurasou. Sorata entered the same game contest again, and made it further this time. Aoyama had an audition at the end of her voice acting class to be represented by an agency. They both failed—Sorata in the worst possible way. He had Mashiro draw some concept art for him and it really helped pitch his game. In the end, it came down to money and there was another similar game that seemed more profitable. But the stab in the heart is that they offered Mashiro a job doing character designs. He opened the letter by mistake, simply seeing that it was from the game company. He loses it. Mashiro did nothing to reach these heights and Sorata has done everything and yet who is it that’s getting all the accolades? Sakurasou has always been good at this, because these feelings of failure are oh so common for people nowadays. What’s so endearing is that Sorata has another chance. He’s a second year in high school and he’s already this far.
Aoyama ran away from home to try and become a voice actor. After going through school for two years and failing her audition, it seems like she’s at the end. Her stakes are different from Sorata’s. She also feels loss, but the scale is much less because she’s not comparing herself to Mashiro. Her stakes lie with her parents, who say that she has to come home if she fails this next audition. Well, she’s not going home. She still has things to accomplish and she’s barely had the chance to do so yet.
In the midst of Sorata’s deteriorating relationship with Mashiro, his failure with the game, Aoyama’s failure at the audition, and Jin and Misaki’s increasingly wavering relationship, Sakurasou is in danger of being closed down.
This is the touching thing about Sakurasou and its penchant for metaphor. Sakurasou literally represents that blank page. It’s a blank slate for incoming students to build a home with other people or to nurture their talents or just make friends.
Misaki says it best. She was the first at Sakurasou, with only Chihiro-sensei there with her. The first night, she opened every door and she wished that one day, every one of those rooms would be full with other students and that every day at Sakurasou would be filled with fun and excitement. Well, now it finally is in her last year at Suimei and it’s in danger of being torn down.
The kids of Sakurasou aren’t going to let that happen, though. They break every rule and get the entire student body behind them, though not without great effort. They try a petition, they try a website and neither work. When Misaki gives her empowering speech at the graduation ceremony, everyone’s behind them. The teachers’ bumbling revealed, the students are finally on the side of Sakurasou and all the fun that’s behind those doors.
Sakurasou’s first three or so episodes are distracting to the point of just being unforgiveable. But trust me when I say that every single episode following those are completely worth it. I never thought that a show literally called “Pet Girl” would be so good, but it is. And it accomplishes this by being so grounded in its characters’ goals. Through these 24 episodes, we never stray from what they wanted, and that’s to make an anime, to make a script, to make a program, to make a game, to make a manga, to become a voice actor. The kids at Sakurasou vary so greatly in their goals, but they all come together with Nyanpollon and theirs arcs completely culminate to a wonderful catharsis in episode 23 at the graduation ceremony. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for more from a series that seems this simple, but is so complex.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Extended Previews, Japanese CD Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 11th, 2014
Running Time: 300 minutes
Radeon 7850, 24” Dell UltraSharp U2410 set at 1920 x 1200, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II