What The Pet Girl of Sakurasou Means to Me
I thought about a lot of ways to present this anime. I really didn’t want to give it just a normal review. It’s obviously a lot more special to me than that, but I still wanted to talk about it as a whole.
So, I’ve settled on this being a bit more of a personal review than normal. Talking about what the series and characters mean to me, rather than anything it does good or bad. It will be biased, so that’s understood. I’ll give it crap when deserving, but this series has a very special place in my heart. It is my first anime, after all.
Sakurasou tells a story very near and dear to my heart because I can relate to how the characters feel a lot. I get their pain. Many of the events in the story feel very real, and I understand perfectly why the characters often act as they do.
The premise is fairly simple. Suimei University of the Arts is a prestigious school for – well – art students. The prep school has a high school affiliated with it, and one of the dorms for that high school is Sakura Hall, Sakurasou, if you will.
The residents of Sakura Hall are problem children, more or less. They’re looked at as weird by everyone else, and being sent to Sakura Hall is basically the end of your social life. Our main character Sorata gets sent to Sakura Hall for taking in abandoned cats because the normal dorms don’t allow them.
Once he gets there, he realizes that not only is everyone stranger than he assumed, but they are also incredibly talented in their respective fields. Ryunosuke is a shut-in and amazing with computers. Misaki is an amazing animator, etc. Sorata is really the only “normal” one there. So, of course, he wants to leave as soon as possible.
Problem is, Sakura Hall gets another resident, Mashiro Shiina, a famous painter from England who came to Japan to become a manga artist. While she is talented, she has no idea how to take care of herself. Not feed herself, dress, do her laundry. Nothing. So, Sorata gets stuck with “Mashiro duty” and needs to take care of the Pet Girl of Sakurasou. See what I did there?
That’s one aspect of the series I really don’t like. It’s Mashiro. I like her and her character, but not the whole pet thing. It detracts from what the series really is, and it makes it seem like nothing but a generic fanservice anime until it really takes off. I’ve seen some who think just that, and I can’t really blame them. It looks and sounds like that.
Once you get past the “haha, she’s always naked around Sorata” parts, the series goes from being pretty meh to incredible. The fanservice is almost non-existent after a certain point, which makes it even more upsetting it ever happened in the first place.
The real heart of this story revolves around the world being cruel and unfair. Really cheerful, I know. It tells a story about the talented and the talentless and how hard the latter needs to work to catch up to the prior, even if they may never make it.
There are two best pairs that show this, Mashiro and Sorata, and Misaki and Jin, and they both show a different aspect. Jin and Misaki are childhood friends that both very clearly care for each other. You know they should be a couple. They want to be a couple, Misaki tries to force them to be one, but it doesn’t happen. Jin always stops it.
It’s because despite Jin being a solid screenwriter, he continues to compare himself to Misaki and her extraordinary animating skills. Despite being talented himself, he’s constantly reminded he isn’t as good as her or good enough for her. Being close to her talent is destroying him. Another theme heavily present.
Sorata and Mashiro are a bit more extreme. Sorata has yet to find motivation in his life. He doesn’t know what he wants to do yet and is coasting through the days as a result. Being in Sakura Hall forces him to be around talented people with goals every single day, even more so now that a famous painter is in his care.
Rather than respect them, Sorata feels very insecure. Being close to so many amazing people forces him to see that he isn’t amazing. That’s he’s just an undriven teenager who isn’t good at anything. This causes him to hate Sakura Hall, and hate Mashiro as well, to be honest, even if he respects her a lot. Rather than get his act together, he falls into this destructive mentality that keeps coming back to bite him.
Eventually, he does get a dream to be a game creator, but all the talent around him serves as a constant reminder of his own skill. That’s something I relate to a lot. When you’re just getting started with something, seeing those who are a lot better than you can do one of two things. Destroy you, or give you the motivation to try harder. I’ve done both, and so does Sorata.
Sorata does find his motivation and manages to gain some confidence, but comparing himself to those around him, and Mashiro specifically continues to hurt him, and every time he fails, sometimes from things out of his hands, he goes right back to his envious self. The world is unfair. Hard work doesn’t always pay off. Sorata learns that a lot.
So, while the pet girl aspect of the series could have been better, it does serve a purpose in the story. It gives Sorata something “only he can do” and serves to make his relationship with Mashiro more meaningful. It makes you feel it a lot more the times he flips on her.
The only character Sorata doesn’t really have any sort of hard feelings with is Nanami. She is a friend Sorata had since he got to high school and isn’t incredibly talented. She wants to be a voice actress and certainly has the skills, but she needs to work hard to get there. She’s closer to his level than the other characters. The series draws parallels between them all the time.
Sorata roots for her success because he wants her to prove that hard work pays off, so he has some reassurance that’s he’s not wasting his own time. Likewise, she wants him to do well because she knows that he’ll kind of be miserable if he doesn’t. And she loves him. There is a fairly big love triangle.
The anime actually does a really good job of not giving away how the story would go. You watch it, and really both Mashiro and Nanami seem pretty dead even. Both of them make sense for Sorata as well. Mashiro for helping him discover his passion and motivating him, and Nanami for being in the same point of her life as he is and being his support system a lot of the time. I usually don’t like love triangles, but this one was handled fairly well.
And that’s only because the characters are so good. I could write as long as I wanted about the characters, and I really don’t think I’d get my point across. The best thing I can tell you is that the story is driven by them and they all feel like real, living, breathing people—something the story does not waste.
The major plot points of the show all revolve around the cast in some way. Misaki and Jin’s back and forth, Nanami’s journey to becoming a VA, Ryunosuke learning to trust people again, Mashiro learning to cope with her newfound feelings, Sorata learning to stop comparing himself to others. They’re all beautifully interwoven into the plot. The characters are not the same at the end that they were at the start.
It just takes a little bit to get that ball rolling. At least 4 or 5 episodes, and by the time you get to around 8, I feel like that would hook most people. Sakurasou does have 24 episodes, so it can afford to be a little slower. Its characters are better for it.
I’ll admit, I was kind of scared to rewatch this anime. Fear may not be a common emotion for a Rom-Com, but I felt it. I remembered the series being so special to me. And when I have that high of expectations, I was worried I’d watch it again and be disappointed. I’m glad that didn’t happen. In fact, I understood the anime so much more than I did when I first watched it.
The reasons I liked it then and now are the same. It has characters and a story that really spoke to me, but I don’t think I could comprehend just why that was before. This rewatch, I was truly able to understand everything Sakurasou wanted to convey, and it really hit me.
And I don’t think the name or anything does that justice. It almost reminds me of Bunny Girl Senpai, where the series seems like one thing but ends up being a whole separate thing entirely. Though, if I’m honest, Sakurasou is a better series than Bunny Girl and handles character drama better, despite my fondness for it.
I could sit here and tell you how I relate to every main character in the series purely for their flaws and weakness. You know what, why not? Jin I get because even if I believe that I’m good at something, I still have that fear that I won’t be good enough and won’t be able to live up to others or my own expectations.
Misaki and Ryunosuke I both get because I’m an outcast myself. Ryunosuke thinks it’s better to shut himself away from the world rather than get hurt again. I think everyone can understand that to some extent. Misaki wants people who will truly be her friend despite her oddities and won’t be chased away by her talent. Every one of us has a desire to be accepted for who we are.
Mashiro has trouble communicating with people. Her mind doesn’t work the same way, and she can’t always understand what’s going on in her own head or others. I oftentimes have trouble saying what I mean with words. It’s the reason I love to write. Because it always comes out the way I want. Nothing gets lost or changes meaning or isn’t received right like when I speak.
Nanami I understand because I’ve gained a similar drive to her. I want to spend my every waking moment on my passion because I’ll feel that I’ll end up regretting it if I don’t. I might miss out on something. Years from now, I might wonder if I could have done more. So I give it as much as I can and am too hard on myself when I occasionally slow down.
Sorata’s the character I relate to probably the most. For as awful as he is to people, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t understand how he feels. Much of my life, when I was younger, I felt the same way he did. I wanted something that only I could do. I wanted to feel special or have something that was my own. I wanted to be validated for being good at something.
And when I would inevitably fail or didn’t have the drive to follow through, I would get upset at myself and feel envious of those who were better than me. I would get upset at others when the truth is, I should have used that frustration to grow. The only difference between those people with “talent” and me is that they didn’t give up like I did. Because of that, I kept trying a lot of different things to find something of my own.
That was a lot of my childhood. Blaming others for what was either my own fault or nobody’s fault, really. I was only able to break that when I started to take responsibility and learn that nothing good ever comes from comparing yourself to others. Something Sorata also learns.
So, while Sorata is pretty damn toxic, he’s very believable to me personally because I behaved in a very similar way to him. Had I been in his very odd predicament, I feel like I would have reacted the same, even during his ugliest moments.
Part of me wonders if that’s why Sakurasou left such an impression on me. Because I felt the characters so much. If it was, it was subconscious because I really didn’t remember many of the smaller conflicts in the plot. Rewatching it kind of blew me away because of how much I understood everything. Maybe it spoke directly to my heart before. I don’t know.
What I do know is that the cast of Sakurasou really touched me, more than most characters ever will. And for someone like me who values characters above everything else, I really couldn’t ask for a better series.
I’m glad Sakurasou was my first. I owe this series a lot. It’s why I still watch anime to this day. That means it’s also connected to forming the blog in the first place. No Sakurasou and I wouldn’t be writing this at all. So, thank you, Sakurasou, and thank you, Mashiro. Just like with Sorata, it looks like you inadvertently helped me discover one of my passions as well.
Thank you very much for reading
I already asked what you’ll first anime was, so this time I’ll ask what anime means the most to you. It can be your first or one you found later. I’d like to know what series left a similar impression on you.