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StriderHoang avatar 1:41 AM on 01.16.2013  (server time)
Strider's Weeaboo Corner: Pet Girl Edition

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou opens up like any other high school romance. Cherry blossoms in full bloom, a high school amidst their fluttering petals, the male lead looking wistfully into the distance, before a giant cat's butt appears in front of him.

Ok, time out. That was dream sequence. A cat was sleeping on top of Kanda Sorata's head. Let's start over as he wakes up.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou opens up like any other high school romantic comedy. He wakes up, is startled by the presence of his female upperclassmen, Misaki Kamiigusa, being in his bed unexpectedly, to which she wakes up to such phrases as, "I want to be a bride when I grow up!" and "I'm surprisingly hot while I'm naked!" Then the provocative teacher steps out, ready for school in a low cut blouse. The playboy upperclassmen, Jin Mitaka, is driven home by last night's late night rendezvous, and the shut in across the hall, Ayahaka Ryunosuke, threatens to send everyone a virus for waking him up early.

Well, that's better. I guess?

You'd think by the appearance of a panty shot and a cleavage shot within the first five minutes of the series starting that this would be another brainless harem anime about how the clueless male lead somehow attracts the affections of up to, but not limited to, five different girls. And of how his life becomes chaotic while stuck in the crosshairs of all these competing women. And you'd be forgiven for thnking that with how the show starts out. However, the female lead hasn't even arrived yet and first impressions can be misleading.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is alluding to the all awaited transfer student from England, Shiina Mashiro, a gifted, world renowned artist. Once again, you can be forgiven for thinking that she's just another mysterious, blonde, foreign beauty being thrown into some kind of fish out water plot thread. But like the series mentions at the beginning, Sakura Hall, the dorm where the story takes place, is notorious for amassing students who are not only gifted but are total nut jobs. One girl is completely off her rocker and seems to have no filters in her brain for acting subtly, but she's already created her own animes and is getting offers from companies. The playboy has three women on the side but is also a scriptwriter. The shut in is a programmer already on contract with several companies. And the new girl is a gifted artist but has the mental capacity of a 4-year-old. She's not even legally (or canonically) disabled in any way. She's just so naive and lazy that she literally needs somebody to pick out her underwear for her in the morning. And yet her art work is praised the world over and she's decided to come to Japan to become a manga artist with all her natural talent.

This is the initial hook to watching The Pet Girl. Kanda Sorata, is suckered into taking care of this new girl and shenanigans ensue. He finds her room a mess, starts cooking for her, takes her to and from school, and even has to help her dress, much to his chagrin. This is where The Pet Girl gets to unwind in comfortable tropes we're all familiar with. Those gags on boy unwittingly running into naked girl or girl misinterpreting sexually suggestive conversations between boy and other girl is where the audience can relax in between scenes.

But like I've been saying from the beginning, that is only the first impression. Or at least, what the show looks like at a glance. The show however has a surprising amount of emotional depth and it steadily grows over the course of the series in an arc that makes it apparent to the viewer that this show isn't about panty shots or sexual misinterpretation. Sakura Hall is a place full of wacky, zany people, sure, but they're also obviously talented people who can let themselves be fully absorbed by their passion for their work. But Sorata is a normal high school teenager. When everyone is introduced at the beginning, Sorata describes himself as being a normal boy with no outstanding qualities and particularly average skills. And yet he's surrounded by people who have already achieved goals that would take most people most of their adult life to accomplish. How does someone decidedly normal bother to get out of bed everyday when everyone else in his dorm have achieved so much?

The gags are actually quite funny. The chemistry between Sorata and Mashiro is of course, the center piece of the show. Sorata goes from reluctantly acting like Mashiro's babysitter to genuinely caring for her as opposed to treating her like a baby. And Mashiro goes from not understanding the way things work or how they are to actually making an effort to do it herself. However, the thing that intrigues me most is how Mashiro grows due to her relationship with Sorata. Over the course of the series, she goes from treating Sorata as some parental guardian to someone that she actually interacts with in earnest. Instead of waiting for a response from Sorata like a naive child, she has her own reactions that hint at something that even she probably doesn't even realize. For a person to have relied wholly on art and having no common sense whatsoever for the real world, she probably has no concept of love. And yet something is growing between the two and it happens between milestones of Mashiro's natural talent as an artist and Sorata's determination to make something of himself.

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a show about setting goals and growing as an adult. Even when dealing with love as a romantic comedy will do, it doesn't handle it in a particularly corny manner. Growth of love is also demonstrated, whether it's about accepting your own flaws in the face of who you love to even accepting the fact that you care about someone.

I'd recommend The Pet Girl of Sakurasou if you're a fan of shows with a strong ensemble of characters. For the most part, every core cast member remains largely in focus with the exception to one or two characters. Watching the characters reveal their true natures and grow is also a treat for people who like shows based on relationships and drama. It doesn't hurt that the gags are pretty good, acting off pretty zany and well realized characters. The crazy animator, Misaki Kamiigusa, is all-around a consistent source of some hilarious non-sequiturs, and while Nanami Aoyama actually plays the straight man for most jokes, her shocked looks and her tendency to slip into Kansai dialect makes her one of my personal favorites.

If you're not dying to escape the typical high school set up, I think you'll find a series that has more behind it than just that simple high school set up. Like I said, there's more to this series than meets the eye.

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