Is it possible to take a story that, frankly, has one of the worst premises I have ever encountered and turn it into a decently moving story that features more than one-dimensional characters and some genuine emotional content at times? Most of the time, it’s impossible, but this is one of those rare occasions where scraps and rags can be refashioned into something approaching a decent piece of clothing.
What They Say:
Banished from normal housing for the crime of adopting stray cats, Sorata Kanda’s life has gone to the dogs and he’s been impounded in Sakura Hall, a notorious den of troublemakers, geniuses and weirdos. Since he has a penchant for taking in small, cute but sometimes not completely loveable creatures, he’s been tasked with keeping fellow resident Mashiro Shiina, an acclaimed but highly dysfunctional and unfocused artist, from forgetting to eat, brush her hair or wear clothes. Then there are the other residents of Sakura Hall, all of whom have their own unique quirks and challenging relationships. Attentions stray, passions play and sanity frays in the housebreaking complete collection of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou!
Contains episodes 1-24.
The Japanese 2.0 48 kHz variable rate (but generally between 2.0 and 2.4 Mbps) DTS-HD Master Audio track is clear without any notable dropouts or distortions. Most the work is done through the forward speaker trio, with the rear speakers generally coming alive only during OP and ED sequences with the theme songs. The sounds levels between the parts (speech, BGM, and effects) are well-balanced.
Originally airing from October 2012 to March 2013, the show is presented in its original aspect ration of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The video is crisp and clean without any noticeable signs of distortion or compression artifacts. The show features a very bright color palette, with a pronounced presence of pastels that must have been intended to replicate one of the character’s painting preferences to some extent. The episode spread is exactly the same as the two separate releases: 9/3/9/3.
While the disc contents are exactly the same as the two previous half-series releases, the discs themselves are newly pressed with slightly tweaked and in one case completely different artwork. Disc 1 features Mashiro; Disc 2 Nanami; Disc 3 Misaki (this is a complete change from the separate releases); Disc 4 Yuko. Originally, Yuko was on Disc “3” and Disc “4” was a group shot. While the character artwork is the same, the backgrounds have also been tweaked, for the better in my opinion.
The keepcase itself is a 4-disc version that’s about the width of one-and-a-half normal BD keepcases, using the front and back insides of the case and a flippy hinge to hold the discs. The front cover artwork is a group shot of the residents of Sakura Hall, one of the standard official pieces of promotional artwork for the anime. The back cover features several still shots on top, a larger picture of Mashiro Shiina on the right side and the catalog copy in the center. Beneath that is the production staff credits and the technical grid comes on the bottom.
The menu design is very minimalist. We have still shots of the characters on the left, with the choices on the right. Each episode can be accessed directly. There is no language menu since there is only the one language track. Discs 2 and 4 have a Special Features choice in addition to the episodes. There is no music in the background. Access times are quick.
There are a decent number of extras included for this show, the same as the original releases. In addition to the usual trailers and clean OP/ED sequences, we are also provided with a long, premier event video, a full run of extended previews for each episode, the original Japanese promotional videos, as well as the TV and CD commercial spots. Considering how empty many Sentai shows of late have been in the extras department, this is quite a substantial addition.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (The Pet Girl of Sakura Hall) is a thirteen-volume light novel series that was published between 2010 and 2014 written by Hajime Kamoshida and illustrated by Keeji Mizoguchi. As has been the case for the past decade or so, any light novel series that achieves some kind of popularity or notoriety winds up getting an anime adaptation in order to boost book sales further and feed the gaping maw that is the TV schedule for late night anime. Starting in October 2012, the anime adaptation was broadcast in Japan for two cours and later licensed for home video by Sentai Filmworks. The anime was produced by one of the larger studios, J.C. Staff, under the direction of Atsuko Ishizuka (who has gone on to direct No Game No Life and Hanayamata), with the writing under the direction of Mari Okada (who has overseen the writing for a number of shows, including anohana and Hanasaku Iroha).
I can recall quite clearly what my first reaction to Pet Girl was when I read the very brief description on the Fall 2012 show chart as the summer season was winding down that year: “What…awful…crap…is…this?” I might have even used stronger language. That’s because, on the face of it, it had one of the most potentially offensive premises ever devised: that a girl would be so helpless that a boy would take care of her as if she were a pet.
To expand a bit: at a high school that boasts a strong arts program in addition to regular academic subjects, Suimei University High School of the Arts, we follow the life and misadventures of one Sorata Kanda, a not-terribly-impressive second-year student who was banished from the regular school dormitory during his freshman year when it was discovered he was keeping a cat, which is against dorm rules. Therefore, he is forced to live in Sakura Hall, an old, dilapidated residence hall that is home to the school’s misfits. While declaring that he will find a home for the cat and move back into the normal boy’s dormitory, instead he takes in more feline boarders. As if his burdens are not enough, a new resident who enters at the beginning of his second year makes his life even more complicated.
This would be Mashiro Shiina, the “pet girl” of the show’s title. To the world, Mashiro Shiina is an extremely talented and accomplished young artist from England whose works have already had exhibitions mounted to display them. She comes to Japan because she suddenly decides that she wants to be a manga artist and enrolls at Suiko (as the school is often referred to in shorthand) since her cousin, Chihiro Sengoku, is an art teacher there. While already somewhat unusual as things stand, the situation is more complicated than that. For while Mashiro might be an incredibly talented artist, she is completely lacking in common sense and life skills to the point where in real life, such a person could probably not cope outside of full-time care or institutionalization of some sort. I am not a psychiatrist, but at the very least, from what we are shown, Mashiro would likely be placed somewhere on the Asperger’s Spectrum and not at the highest end of the scale in terms of being able to function in normal society. For this is a person who cannot even pick out her own clothing and would forget to wear underwear if she was not constantly reminded of the need to do so. While many fictional works, both Japanese and Western, feature the eccentric artist whose point of view and manner of interaction with others is different from that of “normal” people, Mashiro takes that stereotype and basically drives it to the extreme end of things.