Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo’s 24-episode run stretched from the end of 2012 to the beginning of 2013 and is produced by J.C. Staff. Half of the Animes I have dropped are from J.C. Staff. Though, to their credit, they have produced good works such as Railgun, Kaichou wa Maid-sama and ToraDora.
I guess you could say J.C. Staff, to me, is like a make-it-or-break-it studio.
So how good of a job did they do for Sakurasou? Have they learnt from their mistakes and built on their strong points or did they let the series implode on their hollow plot and spastic story focus?
Sakurasou’s pretense is nothing too original: Sorata, who is living in a high school dorm, suddenly finds Shiina Mashiro dropping into his life. The first thing they do is outline Sorata’s character in the first two episodes or so by emphasizing his actions like his adoption of and refusal to part with his cats. I liked how they decided to try and define his character so Sorata didn’t seem as flat as a cardboard cutout.
Soon, you realize Sorata is blander than uncooked pasta. A 10-year old could formulate more complex thoughts. Though this changes in the later episodes, his thought process doesn’t stray far from the stereotypical and predictable Nice Guy’s way of thinking.
The moment Sorata meets Shiina, the wind picks up, the leaves from the Sakura trees fall and the camera slowly zooms out then transitions into a close-up of both of them staring at each other. Romance? Your hopes are quickly shattered when they reveal that Shiina is emotionally incapacitated. It’s like she doesn’t think of anything aside from when she works on her manga.
The first few episodes feel incredibly chaotic and rushed. It’s like they forgot they had 24 episodes and made me worry that the show was going to be destructively fast paced. After it slows down, you realize that the style works very well to share those introductory experiences with the viewer.
The voicing cast is great for Sakurasou. Kirito is Sorata. Inori (Guilty Crown) is Shiina. Even Ogura Yui voices a minor character. On the topic of Characters, all of them are distinct, very lovable and easily relatable to in some way. Nanami, Misaki and even Jin have fleshed out feel to them that I struggle to find in most other shows. Characters are certainly a strong point of Sakuraso
Most of the jokes in the show are delivered through fast banter between Sorata and another character, mostly Shiina and Misaki. For that reason, humor in the show becomes quite slapstick and corny over time. The show’s run length work against it here. These exchanges between Sorata and whoever he happens to be harassed by become staler and staler as the series goes on, despite their decent attempts at keeping it interesting.
The show tackles the issue of Sorata’s inferiority and pride repeatedly, a little too repeatedly. The show regularly brings the focus back to Sorata’s struggle and failure. I guess they really want us to see Sorata’s perspective because the main meat of the series is his thoughts and feelings. The series feels stiff and rigid because of this, especially when there are characters with more interesting and focused struggles.
Later, Nanami gets more of the limelight, which was very refreshing and added another dimension to the theme. Sadly though, Jin’s story is never told.
Romantic relationships are taken lightly with fleeting emotional moments that seem to be forgotten after the scene changes. The style is nothing new and, as always, really makes you wish for some progress, especially with Jin and Misaki.
Something different about Sakurasou is that a clear favourite girl didn’t emerge at all. The overall setting points to Shiina, yet the amount of screen time Nanami gets is way too much for her to be eliminated easily. Personally, I’d like to say: Nanami best girl!
All this sounds great, but some portions of the show really take their time. A number of times, I wanted to skip forward in the episode to get past a pointless scene. On top of that, some scenarios, namely the one in the middle, were incredibly corny and had rather plain, linear storytelling. Dragging myself through those scenes honestly drained me. To be fair, such scenes are infrequent but they exist nonetheless.
And then, the Second Arc kicked in.
From Episode 14 onwards, it’s almost a different show altogether. The romantic tension that was built up in the shadows explodes into the light and there’s lasting change in the relationships. The stoic Shiina suddenly has a voice full of heartbreaking emotion. Even the animation seems to convey the mood. Misaki and Jin’s relationship takes a turn for the deep and there are some drastic changes in Misaki’s character. Yet, focus on all the themes and relationships is remarkably well-balanced.
The episodes curved towards Misaki and Jin while still paying sufficient attention to the main trio. No detail is lost in the switch in focus and it gives a great sense of continuity. Though there were some corny moments here and there, the story and focus still felt very seamless and engaging overall.
By the time the last 4 episodes come around, all flaws and annoyances that were held in the first arc are long forgotten. You’re absorbed into Sakurasou and J.C. Staff knows it. Immensely enjoyable and set at a great pace, the last 4 episodes concretely sealed everything Sakurasou tried and succeeded at being. Without disappointing nor overstaying its welcome, you’re left with sweet memories of Sakurasou, wishing for more.
Sakurasou took me on a journey. One where I watched the characters change and develop, battling their doubts and working hard for their own reasons. The process of each character trying their best is very easy to relate to and . As the series drew to a close, I realize that every one of the main cast faced a serious struggle to which there was no easy solution. Sorata, Jin and Nanami work hard to succeed in their chosen line of work, trying to match up to Shiina and Misaki. On the other hand, Shiina and Misaki fight to draw the people they care about closer to them as they are driven away by their level of talent.
At its heart, under all the relationships and jokes and events and corniness, Sakurasou is a fantastic, riveting tale of change and maturity. You can feel the show grow and change. From the lighthearted start of the series, where the whole show was about Sorata taking care of Shiina, it expands to into the feelings and individual perceptions of the main cast to form a sincere tale of chasing dreams and disappointment, deeper than I could have ever imagined. Have faith and be patient with Sakurasou and you’ll be rewarded in the end.
– Humor mixes well with Romance
– Strong Characters with good Seiyuus
– Development feels Substantial
– Genuine, Relatable themes
– Sorata is Boring
– Parts of the middle are Slow and Unfocused
– Super Corny/Cliched moments
The Verdict: 9/10
J.C. Staff, I have hope for you yet. I’ll be waiting for that OVA.