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ANIME REVIEW | Likable “Pet Girl” Filled With Heart And Smart Humor

Posted on November 2, 2012 AT 10:08am

With a name like The Pet Girl of Sakurasou it can be forgiven if someone were to think it would be a dark fan-servicy title that would lead you to be more disgusted than entertained. Fortunately it’s anything but.

Based on the romantic comedy light-novel series by Hajime Kamoshida Pet Girl follows male student Sorata Kanda, a resident of Sakura Hall, home to many of the strangest students from the Suimei University of the Arts. One day his teacher (and co-resident) Chihiro tells Sorata that he needs to find her cousin Mashiro Shiina, who will be living at Sakura Hall with him and the others. After a warm welcome reception it is revealed by Chihiro that Sorata is in charge of taking care of Mashiro. At first he has no idea what she means by that, but when he tries to wake her up the next day it’s revealed that Mashiro has no idea how to properly take care of herself (hence the “pet girl” aspect of the title). Sorata tries to get the other students involved in helping out with Mashiro, only to merely be elected to do everything himself.

It then comes to Sorata’s attention that Mashiro isn’t all that she appears to be. Behind that innocent blank slate of a person stands an incredibly talented painter, whose works have been showcased all around the world. Mashiro reveals she wanted to escape the glitz and glamour of the art world and focus more on drawing manga, leading Sorata to realize that everyone but him in Sakura Hall has a lifetime goal but him. With the help of Mashiro and the rest of the Sakura Hall Sorata tries to find his true purpose in life that doesn’t involve escaping the residence or taking care of a not-so-clueless girl.

As the main story happens there are a couple side-plots that occur. One of the big ones involves Sakura Hall residents Misaki and Jin. Misaki is super-optimistic (which leads Sorata to sometimes call her an alien) and a talented animator to boot, but has a huge crush on Jin. Jin knows of her feelings, but feels that he’s not good enough for her, leading him to live a faux playboy-styled life. Meanwhile classmate Nanami has a crush on Sorata, but can’t seem to find the right time or words to tell him. Instead she hides her feelings behind a tsundere personality.

I will say that I wasn’t quite impressed with the first episode of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, as it looked to be leaning to yet another moé-induced anime with little-to-no real plot and nothing but crummy fan-service that replaces actual storytelling. However as the anime was produced by J.C.Staff (whose credits include Honey & Clover, Nodame Cantabile, and Bakuman) I decided to give it more of a chance. The second episode continued to worry me, as it seemed to focus more on relentless dumbed-down comedy. Then suddenly something happened: the show in a blink of an eye started getting smart, and when Mashiro is revealed to be a child prodigy the series took a turn for the better.

Quickly the dialogue became witty and often-times hilarious. In one instance Mashiro tells Nanami that Sorata was her first (meaning he was her first male friend), but after Nanami misreads her wording she gets mad and can’t even look at the poor boy. After Sorata tells Mashiro about the concept of “subtext,” she goes back to Nanami and explains her wording in the funniest and most deadpan of ways. The look on Nanami’s face is priceless, and showcases how proper comedic timing can work in anime comedies.

After the second episode the characters start becoming very likable. You start to root for Sorata to find his true path, as he begins to lead towards creating video games (with some help from resident and hikikomori Ryūnosuke). Misaki, once thought to be a one-note character of crazy, becomes someone you can sympathize with, as her hyperactive outer shell is protecting a brokenhearted person who just wants Jin to notice her. (A scene involving a Tanabata wish tree in Episode Four might even move you in a surprising way.) While the seiyuu cast seems like your average bunch, the personalities of the characters really comes through in the way their voices protrude (especially in Yoshitsugu Matsuoka’s Sorata and Ai Kayano’s Mashiro).

J.C.Staff is known for doing a great job in the animation department, and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is no exception. Its bright elements showcases the light-hearted elements of the show, but also take advantage of the innocence of the characters. Yuzo Hayashi’s soundtrack sets the mood in some scenes, although it can tend to play more on the generic side of music. It’s not bad, but it’s not quite as inspiring as it could’ve been.

With four episodes into the series The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is showing a lot of promise. It does take some time to really get going, so I do urge to be patient for the anime to run full-speed ahead. Once you do, you might just be as surprised as I was by how good it became. At its current rate The Pet Girl of Sakurasou may just turn out to be one of this year’s best new comedies.

Story: 8/10
Animation: 8.5/10
Seiyuu (voice actors/actresses): 8/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Final Grade: 8/10

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is available to stream on Crunchyoll.

An accomplished music, anime, and video game critic, Evan Bourgault has been a Contributing Editor and Podcast host with ElectricSistaHood since 2008. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck

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