Well I Watched It…
You may remember back when I reviewed the Bunny Girl Senpai series that things started strong but ultimately went out on a whimper for me. There were a few reasons, most of which are discussed in that review, but one thing I didn’t dive into too deeply was in regards to where I expected the show to ultimately see its end. Well here we have it, the conclusion of the series in Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl, and the story of Shouko.
Here’s the thing, normally I’d put the trailer for this film either at the start or end of the article but I need to get this out of the way. I’m not going to do that this time because after having watched the film, even after I saw the trailer quite a bit ago, it absolutely spoiled EVERY moment of the movie for me. Nothing was a surprise, resulting in an experience that felt drawn out and hammy at the best of times. Now before you riot, I have to say that this was a decent film.
Compared to the series proper, I actually liked this better. If it weren’t for the fact that you need to see the actual 13 episode series, and for the film literally just tossing you right back into things where we left off (which was pretty jarring at first, not going to lie), this is extremely close to being a self-contained story. Anime films tend to fall into this trap, basically requiring that you watched the series before hand, and while that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s definitely better when you can watch one without knowledge of the other.
What stops Dreaming Girl from achieving that is the throwback to terms, characters, and moments that you really need to be privy to in order to understand what’s going on. Don’t misunderstand, it gets close to dodging these issues, but ultimately that’s how it is. So if you haven’t watched the show do that and then watch this. Subsequently, I have to mention stuff that occurs in the show so there’s that too.
With that said, this is basically the last arc of the story for the series. We finally get to have Shouko’s story told which is the one I wanted to see the most. This is probably the nicest thing I can say about the film, but I was very satisfied with getting most of the resolution here. I say that, because the story has some lose-ends, among other issues.
Keeping with some praise first, Dreaming Girl had more humor than the actual series. Sakuta felt on his game here, making reference to the earlier story and keeping things fresh with new lines as well. The quick, dry wit that I really enjoyed is here on full display.
Unfortunately, this is where all of my praise stops. While yes, this is a decent conclusion, my goodness is this film the most overindulgent “tear-jerker” you have probably watched in a long time. This is for the fans of the cheesy, but for everyone else, let me explain.
Dreaming Girl wants you to be sad, and it is going to do everything it can to make you sad but it also wants to give you the happy ending you desperately want. I’d say this is a spoiler, but it’s so absurdly obvious that there’s no way even the least attentive viewer won’t see the destination of the film coming.
Journey over destinations, right? Kind of. The other issue is with pacing, the film feels padded, resulting in a cohesive experience but one that lingers for way too long. We’re talking TWO back-to-back emotional montages, a double-dip into a narrative beat, and some lazy parallel work that doesn’t at all come off as clever like its supposed to.
This wanting to have its cake and eat it too, well not just one cake but more like an all-you-can-eat cake buffet, was really the thing that spoiled Dreaming Girl the most for me. Let’s rehash Angel Beats, undo everything, and still go for the happy ending. It just was too much!
Still, it’s far from my only complaint. I would have liked to see Mai solve Sakuta’s problem in the film. Ultimately he’s forced to make a choice, and in the end, he makes the choice you would expect him to make. Which is fine. However, Mai undercuts his decision and “saves” him… kind of.
If the film would have stopped here and played out the aftermath of the event, I would have given this a lot of praise. I hate more than anything when a meaningful moment occurs in a show, anime or otherwise, just to throw it all out.
This is where things kind of go wrong. The film undoes Mai’s moment. Then the film takes a step further and undoes the rest of the film, sort of. Thanks to the wonky nature of the “puberty syndrome”, there aren’t really clear rules. It seems like whatever needed to happen for the narrative to move forward happens and that’s about it. While yes, an explanation is given, it opens a can of worms for Dreaming Girl, namely in the ending.
When all’s said and done, not only does Sakuta and Mai share in their happy ending, everyone else gets one too. It’s not at all satisfying like it should be, and part of that is the fact that the “rules” of why this film even exists don’t seem to matter in the slightest. Nobody said that time travel, er sorry, “quantum strings theory” would be easy.
As such, I’m of two minds when it comes to Dreaming Girl. On the one hand, it was a decent experience, but I can’t help that the problems that the series proper faced leaked over onto this pretty badly. It doesn’t ruin the show, but it waters down what should be a very emotionally satisfying and climatic sendoff for a show that had potential to be a long-remember classic. Instead, I fear both this and the series will be nothing more than a somewhat interesting footnote in anime’s history at best.
There you have it folks, my review of Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl. Did you take advantage of the one weekend it was streaming, see it in theaters, or perhaps pick up the physical release? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you enjoy my work, please consider a donation by utilizing either my Ko-fi or Patreon button below. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again soon!