May 23, 2013

Anime Review: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo logo/titleAn idiot savant girl, the namesake of the series, transfers to an art-centric high school to pursue a career as a manga artist despite already being a child prodigy in the painting fine arts. But while genius in the arts she lacks everyday common sense, right down even to basic functions like dressing herself. Yes, that sound is everybody letting out a vexed sigh at the doinky and unbelievable premise I just laid out.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (or The Pet Girl of Sakurasou) is one of those series that I cannot help but still like and enjoy despite the many obvious problems and irritations I have with it. For every cliché character they have their cute moments; despite its predictable plot it can be funny and charming; and there’s an eye-roll for every teary eye.

Mashiro staring blanking forward against a white backgroundOur lead boy, Sorata, finds himself living in the “weird people” dorm of his school because he cannot help taking in stray cats, which are against the normal dorms’ policies. Oh! How appropriate indeed that he immediately does the same when Mashiro arrives, a girl who excels at anything her pencil or paintbrush touches but who can barely understand basic social etiquette much less laundry. You can almost picture every embarrassing bath scene, dressing scene, and misunderstanding to come. Thank the gods, these egregious bits of fanservice mostly only litter the initial few episodes.

Sorata rushing off camera to the left pulling Mashiro along by the hand as they exit their dorm's front gate with sakura petals flowing everywhere

Part of Pet Girl’s strength and weakness is that it spreads itself over several genres. We have the mild fanservicey stuff at first, the clueless robot-like cute girl, a longtime friend of Sorata who has an obvious crush on him (which, naturally he is oblivious) to which we get our eventual love triangle (because of course clueless girl will discover love for the first time thanks to her hapless helper), and we even get a wild and crazy glomping girl with giant tits along with a suave and girl-in-every-port guy. There’s comedy, antics, fanservice, hilarious misunderstandings, and so much more I’m leaving out. A motley crew of characters you’ve all seen before.

Not that any one of these problems are really ever truly awful. That’s the frustrating thing, the show is not bad at all despite all of the annoying facets. It has a pretty good budget and some quite nice visuals that have a kind of rainbowy palette, some fine voice acting, solid opening and ending themes, you name it. As doinky as it can be it grows on you quickly and the characters and such are fun, plus the rollercoaster of comedy and drama keeps things varied and interesting.

Mashiro staring blankly forward up close in the reddish hue of sunset

Mashiro certainly has her moments (mostly the later half of the series) but I admit to being a vocal Nanami sympathizer, partly because I am usually deep-down a sucker for the osananajimi trope but mostly in this case due to her delicious voice actress and accent. Still, it’s just a shame both of them dig Sorata so much since he spends so much time being a moody killjoy. Sure, he usually means well and he’s not a bad guy but he’s also not a great lead. Worse, too, because the real stand out story tends to be the oft ignored complicated situation between two of the side characters, the aforementioned glomper and playboy.

Pet Girl has some good drama but it never really manages to capture any poignancy. Most of the tension spawns from a lot of awkward goals and self-created angst, and the resolutions tend to be too tepid and clumsy. It tries, it really does, but like so much it never quite seems to make it, but it also never really spectacularly fails. Things still manage to never annoy too much, not more than the good parts at least, and so you sort of just try to look past its semi-limp delivery. Easy to do, mostly, given the number of decent to good moments.

The main cast, sans Nanami, sit at the dining table eating together in the Sakura Hall dorm

But, even so, it is predictable to a fault. Not much should surprise you over the course of its 24 episodes. You’ll already know how the love triangle will play out even before it comes up, you’ll know how the two star-crossed secondary characters will resolve their relationship, and you’ll know how everything will work out in the end neatly. But you’ll get a solid production and a mostly enjoyable ride out of it. So, well… it may be nothing all that new or different but it’s more than well done enough that it’s still enjoyable.

As of this writing, you can watch Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for free on Crunchyroll.

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