Title: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo aka The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
Format: 24 episodes
Date: 9 Oct 2012 – 26 Mar 2013
Synopsis: The Sakura Dormitory at Suiko High School is known as the dormitory for problem children. After being evicted out of the normal dorms for keeping a cat, Kanda Sorata is forced to live in Sakurasou. One day a beautiful, internationally renowned artist named Shiina Mashiro moves into the dormitory. Despite her artistic talents, though, she is completely unable to take care of herself. By some odd turn of events, Sorata is landed with “Mashiro duty.” This includes cleaning up her room, doing her laundry, and making sure she does not get lost outside.
Premise: Hopelessly cliché, but hides a more heartfelt story underneath.
Drama: Sometimes too melodramatic or hammy.
Visuals: Delightfully vibrant and accentuates its content very well.
What presents the greatest challenge to enjoying Sakurasou is how difficult it makes it to look past its cursory details. Its premise is especially problematic; here we have a beautiful girl once again miraculously falling into the life of an ordinary adolescent boy. Furthermore, the girl in question, Mashiro, is so hopeless in her daily activities that she has to be taken care of like a pet by Sorata. At first, this merely seems like a contrived scenario to give the main character, Sorata, a typical wish fulfillment fantasy. So on a first glance, Sakurasou seems like nothing more than a cliché romantic comedy with thinly veiled misogynistic undertones.
It would be a mistake, however, to simply dismiss this series based upon a first impression. Although proliferated with the usual tropes and devices commonly seen in anime light novel adaptions, Sakurasou distinguishes itself with a genuine, heartfelt story about the struggles of chasing one’s dreams and finding a place where one belongs. All the residents of the Sakura Dormitory are fairly eccentric individuals who have been displaced by society in some way, and each of them are outstanding in some sort of activity. The sole exception at the start is Sorata, who is not remarkable in any way but does have his own dreams.
Undoubtedly, the problems faced by the characters in Sakurasou are very much first-world issues that might seem rather trivial, but it is all relative. Just like the struggles of a high school student studying for the SAT to get into the college of their dreams, the dilemmas presented in Sakurasou are real and emotional. At times, the manner in which the show deals with these issues may be over the top, hammy, or too melodramatic, but Sakurasou does a wonderful job at exploring how its characters tick. There is never any question that they are flawed human beings who may act irrationally, which can make the experience frustrating at times, but all the more rewarding in the end.
Director Atsuko Ishizuka and studio JC Staff do a great job at making the story of Sakurasou come to life. The show’s colorful and vibrant visuals are an absolute pleasure to look at, and also perfectly suit the lively and energetic nature of the show. Most important, however, is how great a job they do at making the atmosphere of Sakurasou. We are not only told how fun and zany it is to live at the Sakurasou Dormitory, but we also really feel it. Every scene where the residents come together for some sort of activity is just bursting with energy, and this is owed to all the little details that go into this show.
Although there is a lot to like about Sakurasou, any skepticism it invites is truly warranted and no amount of sincerity can excuse it for that. It is aggravating to see a story that never needed to cater to the lowest common denominator with typical and dumb cliches succumb to such pointless cynicism at the worst of times. The show constantly puts itself in precarious territory, which only makes its mistakes all the more glaring whenever they do crop up. Uncovering its better qualities is the challenge, and Sakurasou can be enjoyable with a little bit of patience, but it is definitely not for everyone.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Reckoner