Story by Hajime Kamoshida
Illustration by Keji Mizoguchi
Translated by Andrew Cunningham
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai made a splash with its anime adaptation back in 2018 and with good reason. The series’ solid direction from Soichi Masui, emotional narrative, and fascinating social themes culminated in a compelling series that satisfied viewers. Still, credit also has to be given to the original light novels by Hajime Kamoshida. Yen Press started releasing the light novels earlier this year, so let’s see how the first volume compares with its adaptation!
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai focuses on Sakuta Azusagawa, a high schooler with a troubling reputation. When he one day encounters teenage actress Mai Sakurajima in a bunny girl costume, he is suddenly roped into a bizarre mystery and an equally strange phenomenon: adolescence syndrome.
At first glance, Sakuta feels like a very plain protagonist. He’s mostly reserved except when he’s interacting with his close friends, but it’s an intentional choice. Sakuta doesn’t wish to bring attention to himself or his problems, using his snarky personality to ward off unwanted interactions. That said, Sakuta is selfless, and willing to prioritize the needs of others before his own. This gives Sakuta some surprising depth, and seeing how his behavior changes throughout the novel is part of its intrigue.
While Sakuta is the protagonist of Bunny Girl Senpai, Mai’s story is the core focus. Mai had taken a hiatus from acting after personal matters, but as her mundane life continued, she noticed that something was amiss. Mai’s adolescence syndrome has made her, a well-recognized celebrity, literally invisible to nearly everyone around her. Throughout the novel, we see how this takes a toll on her mental state, leaving her increasingly isolated and fearful for her future. In turn, it also forces her to reflect on her own ambitions, and whether or not she wishes to return to the acting world. Mai’s journey is the driving force of the novel, and will keep readers continually hooked.
Fans of the anime may notice that the novel spends more time developing the relationship between Sakuta and Mai, which is certainly to the story’s benefit. The two of them have a lot of humorous banter that helps flesh out their dynamic and growing bond. This is further supported by the novel giving readers insight into Sakuta’s thought process as his feelings towards Mai develop. As a result, this makes the resolution of their relationship feel more naturally developed than in the anime, giving more reason to check out the source material.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is Mai’s adolescent syndrome, which explores the idea of social conformity. After Mai broke away from acting, she remained isolated from those around her. This was especially true at school, where her classmates were apprehensive to interact with her, out of concern of unwanted attention. This left Mai in a state where she was present but not acknowledged by society, leading to her eventual invisibility. This parallels Sakuta’s own situation at school as well. In theory Sakuta could tell his peers that the rumors about him are untrue, but because that would cause an abrupt change in social routine, he’s not inclined to do so. It makes the eventual solution to Mai’s predicament thematically apt, having Sakuta fight against the unspoken social norms that he’s followed to save Mai’s life.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a great read that blends the intrigue of mystery with the hurdles of youth. Sakuta and Mai are thoroughly enjoyable leads and seeing them develop throughout the novel is a pleasure. Don’t be a rascal and go give it a read!