First Impressions: Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Light Novel Adaptation by J.C. Staff
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise: Our young protagonist attends a prestigious art school. He is caught tending to a cat he adopted and forced to move into Sakura Hall; a dorm for the schools more eccentric kids. As time went on he adopted more cats, and now has six of them under his care, but hes not done finding cute creatures that need taking care of just yet.

Lifesong’s Verdict: I love Mari Okada’s Work

Who is that you might ask? She is someone who has made a big name for herself as script writer, and series composer for a large number of fairly popular romantic dramas. Her work is both acclaimed for being some of the best drama in anime by some, and infamous for being some of the worst by others; examples include the following: She wrote the script for AnoHana, Black Rock Shooter, Wandering Son, True Tears, Fate/Stay Night and many more. Also, she served as the series composer for the likes of Toradora, Otome Youkai Zakuro, Black Buttler, Hanasaku Iroha and again many more, but I think you get the point; like her or not she is kind of a big deal.

Honestly, despite my verdict above, I do not always like her work, but when her name is combined with a subject matter that grabs my interest I tend to fall in love with it head over heals. When I learned that she was doing the composition work for a show that has earn itself the nickname “Pet Girlfriend” that was kind of a big deal for me; in large part due to a fear that I might actually like it. That fear became reality; I loved this first episode.

Kitty is looking for a little attention.

Pet Girl reminds me a lot of Toradora; following the same basic premise, and setup that Toradora did with it’s first episode. Protagonist boy reflects on his melancholic life, goes to school where some comedic antics ensue, and then has a run in with a girl who can’t take care of herself worth a dime setting himself up as care taker. All this inside a melancholic-dramatic atmosphere that mark most of Mari Okada’s works. Also, just like Toradora the cry of sexist misogynistic chauvinism could be heard across the internet before the first episode of the anime every hit the airwaves in Japan.

This title managed to pull off a sense of hatred that may have even exceed that of Toradora’s honestly; despite the only significant difference here being an Ai Kayano quite girl instead of a Rie Kugimiya Tsundere. It seems apt to call Pet Girl of Sakurasou a Toradora without Taiga. If you feel sick upon hearing the title I may not be able to change your mind, but at the very least I want to let you know that this show is probably a lot less offensive than what you might be imagining. Going into an anime with a title like “Pet Girl” may not be the best first impression, but there are no leashes or bondage scenarios to be found here, and frankly I think you are mistaken if you expect that kind of thing out of this anime.

Aww so cute!

Dependency is a hot political issue; I could go off on a tangent about how real world politics should be removed from arguments about fiction, but that would completely derail this post. (if you want to read up on what is basically my opinion on this type of issue go read the writeup on otakusphere about the recent reactions to My Little Monster. Karen does a fantastic job at laying out the issue.) Everyone is dependent on other people to live their lives. Be it the president of a large corporation; dependent on his work force, or a stay at home mom; dependent on a husband who brings home the beef. You probably can’t find a single person who is living a truly an independent life, but when you throw a young girl who is dependent on a man things go haywire; logic be damned, and fans of the series condemned!

So where does Pet Girl fit in on the scale of throwing a totally dependent young female at a boring, but dependable young man? As high as that scale goes in your mind Pet Girl probably hits it; however, there is more at work here than just some creepy fetishistic male wish fulfillment fantasy. Yes this anime knows it’s audience, and yes a few silly ecchi antics ensue; if either of those are enough to scare you off you may not enjoy this episode at all, but there is also a sense of genuine human emotion that resonates on more than just a base sexual level for those of us who are not completely put-off by brief bouts of sexuality.

Dinner time for everyone at Sakurasou; even the kitties.

Dinner time for everyone at Sakurasou; even the kitties.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog I am a big fan of Mari Okada’s work; frankly this does make my view a little bit biased. There are many common complaints you will find that cross over through just about everything she has worked on. I often hear these ones in particular: Mari Okada’s stuff is “over acted”, “over directed”, is guilty of “mood whiplash”, or “emotional manipulation” and just generally “tries too hard.” Honestly, I am not sure how I should respond to these complaints as none of them bother me in the least. I am not sure if I should consider them silly, and untrue or, if they are legitimate complaints of storytelling mechanics that I actually like. I am inclined toward the later if only for the sake of avoiding unneeded argument.

Your mileage may vary here, and I have spent a lot of words on something that may not be interesting to you in the least; this is only the first episode so who knows how this story will turn out in the long run; however, I think this one is worth a shot if you like romantic drama. J.C. Staff pulled out all the stops, and honestly I am currently more excited for this show than their other major adaptation of the season: Little Busters. I will be optimistically covering Pet Girl this season, and hey it that makes me a creepy misogynistic nerd in your eyes what can I say; I like what I like.

Kitty karaoke time!

Dragonzigg’s Verdict: What Lies Beneath

I…look, this appears to be a perfectly functional, if unremarkable, harem show. The girls are pretty, they show their pants and breasts a lot, the protagonist is boring as fuck and there are some cute cats. And maybe I’m a prude, an old man shouting at the kids to get off my lawn. But there’s something that inherently disgusts me about a show where the entire point is that the female character is a helpless, borderline autistic child who is entirely dependent on a man to work her life for her. And if that makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Jel’s Thoughts: Unfortunately Titled

I’m sure a lot of people are immediately going to be turned off the by the concept of a “pet girlfriend” as mentioned in the title. It’s possible there’s something lost in cultural translation there somewhere, but regardless I think it will make a lot of people want to hate this before even watching it, myself included. So in a way I was relieved to find this episode was pretty inoffensive overall, with our main heroine’s lack of attention span more curious than degrading.

Kitty massage.

Of course, that left me free to hate on a bunch of other things! For one, the show tries to mix comedy and drama and doesn’t really succeed. The drama in particular falls flat as their DEMAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY is a little too transparent. Sorry folks, it takes more than just cherry blossoms to make a poignant scene. The other thing that got me is the fact that the students are all working on anime and manga. I really, really hate when writers write about what they do, it feels so self indulgent to me. This is not the worst example of it as most of it just played for laughs, but it did not endear me anymore to the show.

Overall I feel like Pet Girl is trying really hard to be special and not quite pulling it off, at least not in this first episode. It’s entirely possible they could weave an interesting tale digging deeper into the characters back-stories and motivations, but from what I’ve seen I’m not sure JC Staff has the chops to pull that off here. All I can say is at the very least don’t let the title stop you from giving it a shot.

Kitty fails to notice the girl with a wet shirt.

Iro’s Verdict: Put it to Sleep

Harem show with eccentric-yet-generic cast, and the main heroine cannot function as a human being without the protagonist doting over her like a parent dressing their toddler. Presentation was good for what it was, but I have no interest in this. Pass.

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