「ねこ・しろ・ましろ」 (Neko. Shiro. Mashiro)
“Cat. White. Mashiro”
Take it slow, don’t rush, establish the characters, establish the mood – that’s how I imagine the production team approached this first episode of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, and I must say, I am pleased. Every step of the way, from the first sight of cherry blossoms fluttering on the screen to the final roll of credits at the end, served to continually reinforce the mood of a soft, warm, and sweet romantic comedy. There just might be something special going on here.
First of all, the visuals. I don’t usually focus on animation all that much, being more interested in the story and characters myself, yet when the visuals so deftly enhance the story as they did here, mention need to be made. The art is soft and full of gentle light, which fed back on those same feelings I was getting from the story to give the entire experience an innocent, youthful feel. Sure, perhaps they were cheating by using cherry blossoms, but you can’t deny the effect – a transient beauty, gentle and yet frail, just like the carefree days of youth they are portraying. That marriage of art and story, joining together and amplifying to enrich the experience…well done.
Character-wise, I knew I was going to like most of the characters going into this (thank you, fall preview research). Each of Sakurasou’s inhabitants is completely bonkers, and that makes for a great time. Probably my favorite is still the ultra-genki senpai Kamiigusa Misaki (Takamori Natsumi), whose easy-going, lives-at-her-own-pace attitude just makes me smile (and her flowing seamlessly from tempting our protagonist to throwing out silly jokes didn’t hurt either). The others are great too. Fail-sensei (Sengoku Chihiro, Toyoguchi Megumi), Ladykiller-kun (Mitaka Jin, Sakurai Takahiro), and even Hikikomori-san (Akasaka Ryuunosuke) via his automated email responder Maid-chan (Horie Yui) each got a laugh and a smile, and usually multiple. I’m not seeing a weak one among them, as each contributes to the hilarity in their own unique way.
Then there’s our main character Kanda Sorata (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu). I’m impressed with him as well. He was established as a nice guy from the get-go, but the great part is that they showed this rather than just telling us. That’s why when Aoyama Nanami (Nakatsu Mariko) accidentally said he was a nice guy (oops!), I was already prepared to agree, and likewise when the shopkeepers were being so nice to him. To be honest, I was prepared to call Shiina Mashiro (Kayano Ai) my least favorite character of the bunch, but there’s something about actually hearing her that made her quirks (and the hilarity they provided) work better than in print. Comedic timing, perhaps? Either way, she may still be my least favorite, but not because I don’t like her. The others just had a stronger showing so far. Key word so far.
Speaking of Mashiro, let’s talk about the one thing that is probably keeping a number of people from watching this show – the title. “The Pet Girl of Sakurasou?” That sounds unbelievably offensive! And you’re not wrong that it sounds that way…but hold on. Please trust me when I say that despite my love of good fanservice, I’m actually a staunch feminist. Yes, guys are allowed to say that! (Though that image is probably hurting my case.) The title is unfortunate in that it seems to imply that Mashiro is being treated as less than human, but she’s not. Strip away the title and what you have is a character looking after an eccentric genius. Hell, gender-swap Mashiro and Sorata and this wouldn’t even be anything close to original. A girl cooking and cleaning for an eccentric guy? Seen it! An unfortunate name, but that’s all it is.
As usual I’m yakking too long, so let’s wrap this up. My final wall ‘o text is on the theme of this initial episode (and perhaps going forward), at least as I saw it. A normal boy surrounded by eccentric geniuses…normally that would just make Sorata the audience insert, right? Well it looks like there’s more going on here. He was a normal boy, bored with his everyday life…and then he picked up a white cat, and suddenly his life became anything but boring. I think Sorata has a bit of an inferiority complex thanks to the brilliant people surrounding him, but I’m not so sure he’s as normal as he thinks. Sometimes the only thing it takes to break away from the crowd is one little step, just one thing that others may have not done. And did you notice how he went from the stereotypical main character window seat to one front and center? That’s practically unheard of! Perhaps there’s more here than meets the eye. I look forward to seeing more good things from you, Sorata-kun.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Soft, warm, sunny, & sweet – those are the feelings I’m getting from #Sakurasou. Great visuals, great chars, a good MC…a great 1st ep!
- Another thing I like about this show is that there’s no harem, at least not yet. As of now there’s only one girl who for sure likes Sorata (seriously dude, it’s obvious…wake up!), but there’s definitely potential for more later on. Good, says I. I like a nice harem, but I prefer the guy show that he deserves it first. Sorata has already done enough to deserve one girl’s affection, so let’s see where he goes from here.
- My initial impressions of the seiyuu are mixed, but pretty good over all. The seiyuus for both Sorata and Mashiro work their roles really well, as do those for Ladykiller-kun and Fail-sensei, but I’m not as sure about the seiyuu for Misaki-sempai and Aoyama. And yes, that means the seiyuu voicing the character who wants to be a seiyuu is the seiyuu one I’m not sure is that great of a seiyuu. Seiyuuception! Irony? …no, not at all, but it is amusing! Plus, Hocchan playing a genki, mildly threatening electronic meido solves all problems, banzai!
- First 29 years and 15 months, then testicles, then squirt, then making him take responsibility? Yeah, I’m going to like this sensei. Now if only she worked a beer tap with her breasts…
- One other thing I enjoy about the art is that it actually looks quite good on its own, and in that distinctive J.C. Staff romcom way (ala Toradora). Compared to this season’s Little Busters, Sakurasou is no better or worse, but I think I like the visuals here more because they feel…familiar, perhaps, or maybe just right. This feels like a more natural style for J.C. Staff, and perhaps a more natural story, because it’s resonating with me better than the first episode of Little Busters. That’s probably the last time I’ll compare those two shows, by the way – they’re really too different to allow it past a few episodes from now – but since they’re both J.C. Staff productions, I felt compelled. Watch both!
- If nothing else, at least Hikari loves you, man.
- Just the shirt? This is why I can’t hate Mashiro. Glorious!
- The ED was quite good, but what I enjoyed the most was that it started playing over the last ~30 seconds of the episode. I love it when shows do that, because it smoothly transitions us into the ED while carrying the feelings of the episode forward just a little longer. I’m getting Toradora flashbacks again. LOVE it!
- The art, the style, the solid romcom vibes…this show really does remind me of Toradora. Is that a death-wish, comparing it to my second favorite romcom of all time? Hopefully not. Hopefully it can stand under the weight, and maybe even lift off and fly. I can’t wait to find out.
ED: 「DAYS of DASH」 by 鈴木このみ (Suzuki Konomi)