#1 Uninteresting characters
Sakuta Azusagawa is lackadaisical, apathetic high schooler who just minds wants to mind his own business. That is, until he one day spots his senpai Mai Sakurajima wandering around the library in an erotic bunny girl outfit. Stranger still, he appears to be the only one noticing this young beauty who is showing off her goods in public.
Mai explains how lately people have become unable to notice her existence and that this is becoming an increasingly large problem for her. She teams up with Sakuta to figure out a solution and, afterwards, they continue to work together to help various other friends who suffer from similar, paranormal phenomena. A familiar kind of story setup for anime, but one that is held back by how thoroughly boring the characters are.
Mai and Sakuta don’t feel like developed characters. Their dialogue is full of dry wit, pervy jokes, and self-deprecating humor, but the delivery is dispassionate and much of the dialogue feels interchangeable and samey. It gets very repetitive beyond the first story arc and the few times where either of the two leads does surprise the viewer, it feels like such a jarring break of character that it doesn’t logically fit. It does develop the relationship between Mai and Sakuta, but not in any way that allows it to seriously compete with other romance anime.
And while our protagonists were merely underdeveloped, the supporting cast was so underwhelming that I couldn’t even muster an ounce of interest for some of them during their own, dedicated arcs. I didn’t even register some of their names and would constantly forget that characters like Tomoe, Shoko, Nodoka, and Saki were even around.
#2 Hyouka but worse
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai appears to be inspired by Hyouka and Monogatari, and is, unsurprisingly, inferior to both.
In the visual sense, the anime can’t match up to the beautiful surrealism of Shaft’s Monogatari series nor the famed artistry of Kyoto Animation. The show was created by Cloverworks and, despite having some good talent on board, ended up looking plain and uninspired.
More importantly, it also can’t compare to these shows in terms of the actual mysteries. It takes the idea of helping friends affected by supernatural powers from Monogatari and mixes in some Hyouka by making these phenomena specific to the high school setting. The first story arc about Mai becoming invisible to people was pretty alright, but later stories felt too mundane. A time-loop because a character wants to achieve a secret desire, a girl who gets a clone to represent how she is split on an issue in her life, an arc about amnesia, none of it felt special or surprising at all.
And, adding to the annoyance, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai keeps bringing in nonsense pseudo-science and quack psychology to act as narrative through lines. It never explores these ideas well, so rambling about quantum physics and syndromes just becomes a distraction you have to deal with on the road to the actual answers.
#3 Emotionally manipulative
Few things frustrate me as much as seeing a show try to force in emotional moments it never truly earned, which Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai has in spades.
Anytime the show wants to surprise you, it will suddenly give Sakuta an emotional outburst that goes against his usual, bored stoicism. It never works towards any kind of emotional development, the show just throws a lever and Sakuta goes from perfectly calm to full-on breakdown instantaneously. This made the final arc so cringe-worthy that it became nearly impossible to watch. I was on the edge of dropping the show, maybe an episode or two before it would be over.
The entire arc is about Sakuta’s little sister. She spends the entire show being a comedic relief moe blob, but now has to be the center of a dramatic story. While in the hospital with her to deal with a completely non-lethal situation, Sakuta just walks away from a normal conversation and starts running through the hospital, screaming at the top of his lungs.
It is so poorly-handled, so unintentionally laughable, that any goodwill I had left towards the show just evaporated.