Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo Review

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo Review

Man, growing up is tough (it's equal parts fun too). There's all these new things happening around you everyday and sometimes you wish that everything would just stop so you can catch your breath, but it doesn't, and things just keep racing past you and before you know it you are at a point where you're supposed to choose a career. But it gets even worse when things don't go your way, when your plans don't work out the way you wanted them to and you have no idea how to deal with this feeling inside you. Since they don't teach you how to handle all that at school, what do you do?

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo captures this aspect of being a teenager and the emotions that come with it, in a practical way. It was able to produce moments where I could relate to the sentiments of its characters when they were faced with certain challenges about their life and their career, which moved me. And that's something you don't expect from the usual rom-coms. Now, it is a terrible romance, with a fair amount of comedy in it, but what it does different, is that it takes it's characters to a depth that most rom-coms don't dare to. And that's the selling point for this anime.
So, the setup is the usual, 'normal' guy gets thrown into a group of weirdos. He takes his time to adjust into this crazy environment, but soon becomes comfortable with it and starts loving it. What's interesting here in Sakurasou is that the anime lists all of those weirdos as main characters and treats them well.

Sakurasou gif 1

Our first main character is Kanda Sorata, the average Joe who was just going about his boring life wondering why every day resembled the last. One day he saves a cat and decides to keep it in his dorm, which gets him 'exiled' to Sakurasou, a place where all the school weirdos/misfits/outliers live (by all I mean 3, 4 if you count the teacher). And so his torment begins. There, he is greeted by the overly-energetic genius animator Misaki, followed by your glasses wearing playboy scriptwriter Jin and the hardcore shut-in programmer Ryuunosuke. They put him through hell and just when he had mustered up the courage to leave this bizarre place, the genius painter kuudere Mashiro Shiina moves in. Influenced by her peculiar personality and the fact that she can't take care of herself, our Mr. goodie two shoes Sorata, is now in a bind and can't decide whether he wants to stay at Sakurasou or leave.

Okay, you can see that this premise totally sounds like a cliche rom-com harem heaven and does not warrant any kind of character depth. And the first couple episodes won't help you either. It's only until the end of the second episode that you will see the anime head into a direction different from the usual rom-coms. And from there it constantly switches between the serious drama to the comedy. This switch is subtle for the most part, though it can be a tad bit uncomfortable/awkward at times. Especially when it comes to the romance aspect of the show (so watch at least 3 or 4 episodes to make your decision).

Sakurasou gif 2

Speaking of romance, this show sucks at handling romance. You have your 'main' pair Sorata and Mashiro, and their romance will make you go 'Argh! God! Just get it over with already!!' most of the time because it doesn't get a concrete development throughout the show (and when they do get close to something, they use the usual rom-com cop out). But that doesn't mean that it isn't a peculiar one. I liked how Mashiro put forth her feelings for Sorata. It was kinda cute (for a kuudere I guess). But, Sorata just played the generic rom-com guy and that ruined it for me.

Then there's the 'not really a love rival, just there for show' pairing between Sorata and Aoyama. Frankly, I just feel bad for Aoyama here, she does so much work but the way the story screws her over is just pathetic. I mean why put her there anyway if you're just gonna screw her over. All I felt there was pity for Aoyama (but that's how the love rivals get treated in rom-coms).

And last but not the least, the 'Is this really romance?' pairing between Jin and Misaki. I wasn't really expecting it to go the normal route, but if you get carried away and forget their past and the kind of personalities these two have, you will just end up pulling your hair out. The show dedicates so much time on their relationship but you don't really feel a shred of strong emotions between the two, thanks to the way they handle Misaki. And maybe it is right, because she sees this as just another game, like she does with everything. So, maybe that's good romance? You decide.

Sakurasou gif 3

Now, let's get to the good part of the show. The characters, and their struggles with life, career and love (not the romance kind of love). It was great to see that these high school kids actually gave a damn about their career and the craft associated with it rather than going about the usual anime high-school routine of "let's go to the beach, pool, cultural festival, field trip! valentine! blah blah blah". Now, the anime isn't immune to those cliches either. It follows the grand compendium of "High School in Anime" earnestly. Thankfully, the whole routine isn't too boring, or repetitive.

They say love can change your life. And guess what, it's not just the girl (or the guy), it's the love for a craft that can do it as well (basically, you need both). So, after his encounters with all these super 'talented' people at Sakurasou, our main character starts thinking about the most important question of life - "What do I want?" And his search for the answer takes him through a bumpy road full of frustration, anger and depression, all of which, was depicted in a genuine and relatable way (i.e., it really hits close to home). He tries and tries again and fails over and over, goes through bouts of depression and anger, where he lashes out on people close to him. And then they all come around for him and he has a moment and realises that he has to move forward and wallowing in defeat won't do him any good. It's a cycle all of us go through in our pursuit of our passion, and that is what sets the character of Kanda Sorata apart from the usual harem goodie two shoes stereotype.

The same goes for the other characters as well. They are all lacking in something, and how they try to fill up that hole and deal with the pain associated with it, is something that you might be able to relate to. Whether it be Mashiro trying to discover herself, or Jin's desperation in protecting his love and being a better person for her, or Aoyama trying to deal with failure despite the fact that she tried her hardest, it all sits on a very familiar emotional territory. And not only that, the anime doesn't take the ideal route of "If you try your hardest, you will succeed for sure". It advocates the harsh reality, that in life, nothing is for sure, and sometimes your best isn't going to be good enough. You can do your best and be all optimistic about it, but there is a good chance that you will still fail (and sometimes because of something trivial). And when that happens, what will you do? For me, this was the highlight of the show. And it redeems most of the flaws that the show has.

Sakurasou gif 4

With J.C. Staff behind the production, the show's animation is spot on. It is visually appealing, smooth, fluid and feels good on the eyes. The backgrounds are well done and since the series doesn't have too many scenes with lots of movements, it maintains a good consistency throughout. The character designs suit the personalities of the characters and their explosiveness is expressed accurately. As for the sound department, everything is jolly good there. Ai Kayano does a great expressionless Mahiro in a monotone voice (suits the kuudere character). Mari Nakatsu nails Aoyama and her Kansai dialect switch. And together with everyone else, they create a nice fun environment. And the OST chimes in at just the right times. Though there isn't anything outstanding there, except for a couple of tracks like the Days of Dash Piano arrangement and the second ending song which I found myself listening to afterwards, the show has a solid production value.

Sakurasou gif 5

So, the tl;dr for the show is : This is not your normal slice of life rom-com. It might look like premise-wise, but the way it deals with it's characters and the certain events regarding life, is something you will not see in other rom-com (It also has a good lesson). This is one of those shows that I would recommend everyone to at least try. It has quite a bit of flaws and it does a lot of cliche stuff and it definitely isn't the greatest show of all time, but it is worth the watch. At least for me, it was. So, go and give it a shot, even if you cringe at the sight of the rom-com harem slice of life shows, just sit through 5 episodes and see if it hits close to home. If it doesn't, well... I guess it's plan C for you.

Sakurasou anime rating