It’s easy enough to see what Sakurasou is about, given that you’re not a pervert and been misled by the season preview posters. The main focus of each resident of Sakurasou is the pursuit of both individual success and collective success. As much as they chase their own dreams, the anime makes it quite clear that any obstacle the group faces as a whole must be deal with as a whole. The anime deals with both types of conflicts simultaneously, which can get a bit confusing and frustrating to watch at first, but I suppose for the sake of realism and appeal there has to be some silver linings to this type of direction. Can’t really go for a downer ending with all these moe characters running amok, right? Right. So, allow me to run through a couple things in this anime that stand out the most.The show’s overall message is one of those cliche “tomodachi nakama isshoni ganbaru faito” bullshit platitudes that you see so often in shounen animanga. “Work together to achieve your dreams,” They said. “When your friends fall, be there to pick them up,” They said. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. Is it overused? Maybe, but in this case I was neutral. I’m unclear on whether or not I have any specific issue with this, to be honest, but the show’s overall message is certainly a key factor of how the story turns out. Additionally, that same message for the most part defines how each character acts and behaves for the entire anime. It’s slightly depressing as to how standard this feels, because I’ve already seen this type of stuff before, but messages like this are the types where you become invested in the characters. Disclaiming right now that each character had their respective little quirk that made them engaging to watch and that definitely contributed to my liking them, the best of them being Ryuunosuke, but their status as a supporting cast dampens my investment and their respective conflicts are petty in comparison to the more tangible and ambitious goals of Aoyama and Sorata. I’d say that the most believable and sympathetic character out of all of them would be Aoyama. In fact, I would like this anime a lot more if it were about Aoyama, but it’s not. Instead, we have lovely little Sorata and that’s a bad thing. Sakurasou does touch upon a couple things that ended up holding my interest in the second half. Let me get a bit into specifics. Episode 21 encapsulates both the best and worst aspects of the entire anime. This episode succeeds in laying out everything that ever happened to Aoyama and Sorata and shoving the results of their struggles into our faces via a “sad girl in the rain” scene that unexpectedly hit me in the feels. Well, feels for Aoyama at least. It was quite overwrought in execution, I’ll give it that, but my main interest in scenes like this is exactly how they both came to this breaking point, and the circumstances become so obvious that it feels natural. Not obvious in the sense that it bashes your head in thrice, but in a (albeit not so slightly) more subtle way. Consider both Aoyama and Sorata at this point in the anime. Arguably, the two are the only ones out of the entire Sakurasou gang that are forced to work hard to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Adding to that, their dreams are refreshingly unromantic and commendable, with Sorata struggling with his game design ideas and Aoyama slaving her life away for the sake of voice acting.
Think about what leads Aoyama to break down. Several outcomes hinge upon whether or not Aoyama succeeds in her audition, such as
- Achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a voice actress.
- Earning her father’s respect and approval.
- Remaining at Sakurasou with her precious tomodachi.
- Gaining the dubious opportunity to confess properly to Sorata.
Since she fails, all of the collateral and stress not only amounts to no success but also gets shoved towards the fate of Sakurasou itself. Of course, it didn’t really have to be this way, but her inability to rely on other people causes her to inflict undue punishment upon herself and subsequently exacerbate her darkening mood. Things have fallen apart for her and dealing with Sakurasou eventually became the single drop that flooded her metaphorical glass of water and drenched us all in her bittersweet moe tears.She was going to leave all her friends behind. She wasn’t going to be able to confess to Sorata because he has poor taste in waifus. She wasn’t going to become a voice actress, even though she allowed everyone to assist her this time around. They were going to fail to save Sakurasou despite all their hard work. Thinking about all those things simultaneously punches the fucking glass over and clear off the tabletop. It’s understandable. It’s something to be related to in some cases, if you’ve ever felt that way before about a critical test or opportunity or audition or any other situation where the stakes seemed unreasonably high. Even worse, this all comes around even though she learned from her mistakes in the first half, picked herself up, and tried again with higher stakes. It’s devastating, heartbreaking, to see her try so hard and then fail, then realize that she was going to fall further.
It’s because of how her character was built up to this point that I can appreciate how the writers ended up completing their sadistic game of Aoyama Jenga. The first time around the tower was rather small and insignificant given how much she dug herself into a hole by assuming so much responsibility without due gratitude. This time around, with friends to help, her foundation is stronger and she manages to reach much higher than before thanks to all the support. Yet, that structure doesn’t manage to hold either. As it is explained later, that’s because she still wasn’t relying on the right people to support her, namely her family, but the point I’m making is that while these developments are necessary to progress Aoyama’s character, the writing makes each necessary destructive step even more devastating. I believe that’s a product of good writing if I end up feeling that pain and taking the time to write this much about said pain. THE PAIN.
All that emotion dried up when it came to the biggest problem of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: Sorata. See, whoever wrote the script for this episode (YOU KNOW WHO I MEAN) thought it would be a great idea to draw parallels between Aoyama’s despair and Sorata’s newfound grief now that he’s discovered that he was basically cheated out of a precious opportunity. Conceptually, that’s a fucking fabulous move. You have two individuals in similar situations and they bawl about the grief the both share. “What a ripe opportunity to crush your audience with feels, and it also gives bait towards those naive Sorata/Aoyama shippers,” Thought the writers. “Their sadness must have been rooted in closely similar situation if they both cried that hard!”
soatra pls. Get on her level.In all honesty there’s a lot of potential in a character like Sorata, but that’s if you recognize him as flawed. To me, Sorata is fundamentally and deeply flawed by virtue of being a generic male lead. Social oblivion (a different kind from Shiina’s, mind you) does not lend itself kindly to romantic relationships, nor does it necessarily help maintain friendships, and Sorata is the kind of socially awkward who would frustrate the crap out of anyone. He thinks with his gut, has problems differentiating between “getting along” and “chasing his dreams”, suffers an inferiority complex towards Shiina, and is ultimately unappreciative of what he has in front of him. If he were allowed to face the same stakes as his fellow peers or suffer the same consequences as others do, and allowed the time and effort to be broken down and rebuilt as a better person, then I would see Sorata in a much better light. Yet, given these sets of issues he must deal with as a character, the story seems to cast him as the “normal guy” of Sakurasou. The tsukkomi to Sakurasou’s boke. His seemingly generic character is used to add levity and sense to Sakurasou because it’s easier to relate to a character who is, comparably to the rest of the cast, normal. The problem with this setup is that Sorata is not normal; instead, he’s the most petulant and pathetic character of the entire show. Now see, I have a semblance of an idea about what the anime was trying to do with Sorata. The idea is that despite Sorata’s intial insistence on leaving the dorm, the residents of Sakurasou possess things he both lacks and desires. There’s Misaki’s genki attitude, Jin’s cool and collected demeanor, and Ryuunosuke’s blunt pragmatism; all traits he has grown to admire and respect as the anime goes on. Additionally, there is Shiina’s burgeoning talent as an artist and Aoyama’s hot-blooded determination to achieve her dreams. The goal of placing Sorata smack dab into the middle of this eccentric group of kids is for no other purpose than to learn from them and, in doing so, grow into a better person. Additionally, and this is the important part, if Sorata were ever to fall into a rut then he’s damn sure to realize that he has the bestest support group of all time to help him back on his feet. And you know what? Sorata does grow. He does become a better person by the end. While the story did end up meandering towards the romantic manner of tying things up, Sorata’s reconciliation with Shiina in episode 22 was symbolic of him also coming to terms with his own insecurities. I notice that Sorata’s progression as a character runs directly parallel to how he treats Shiina. I’m saying that this change does indeed happen, and it’s good that it happened. It’s just… well…. this exact same thing happened in episode 14. And, uh, I stopped caring about Sorata’s relationship with Shiina at around that point. I also happened to stop caring about Sorata himself. Um. More than anything that I felt when watching Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo was my frustration towards Sorata’s growth being so goddamn obtuse. Truthfully he should have realized that he was hurting Shiina with his jealousy towards her skill in episode 14, and in a sense it almost does translate into that. Sorata is frustrated with Shiina in this particular time because she apparently has the time to think about cooking amidst drawing manga while he himself spends endless hours to submit failures to each upcoming game design audition. However, something gets lost in translation and the message comes off a bit, uh, misogynistic. His glorified image of Shiina being this flawed one-trick pony gets confused with the actual Shiina trying to be a human being *le gasp*. That’s ludicrous. Inconceivable! While the direction was earnest in itself, the particular conflict ends with Sorata discouraging her from ever doing anything besides art because “that’s the Shiina he knows and loves” and that’s totally a Good Thing which truly doesn’t attempt to marginalize her at all. Additionally, I get the impression that I’m supposed to be happy that Sorata has the people of Sakurasou and his own family to support him with his dreams. Instead, since he remains such an immature kid for the majority of the anime, that just translates into jealousy. Sorata truly has no idea how good he has it compared to the rest of his peers and it’s never addressed in the anime. So when the show tries to compare the sadness of Aoyama and Sorata in episode 21, the little cynical voice in my head pops up and the feels come to a screeching halt. “I understand,” Bitch, no you don’t. Don’t ever say that until you’re forced to pay for your game design textbooks. Don’t claim that you know her pain until your parents stop supporting you and you have to raise money all by your lonesome and then lose sleep and precious time thanks to your numerous part-time jobs. You can say that you understand when you fail not because of a technicality but instead because you really truly weren’t good enough. Your circumstances are rather frickin’ different, as are your results. You can be her shoulder to cry on, but your situation is a far cry from what she feels. sorata pls stahp. My real beef with Sorata lies more in the execution than the actual progression, though. The story waits until the last minute for Sorata to finally redeem himself in what’s essentially a repeat of the same scenario, though I’m willing to admit there’s key differences between the two that make them not really the same thing (there are equally valid opinions to the contrary), but by that point I had run out of fucks to give. Having the change that late isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t to my taste. If anything, it became so ridiculous that seeing him suffer started to become funny.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo was bogged down by a lack of depth and perspective, which a brightly colored cast of personalities could not hope to salvage if it wanted me to think it was a good show. It’s hard to be sympathetic for Sorata’s struggles because he takes so much for granted it becomes sickening. Additionally, his characterization was wonky because it took forever to decide when he was supposed to grow up. If you really seriously need a show about talent, success, failure, and romance, I’d just point you towards Honey and Clover. I gave this anime a 6/10 on MAL, but that could mean anything. I’d need to spell out my opinions on this anime in greater detail in order to describe to you why I have it that score. Wait, that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Right? Right?
- Jokes aside, despite everything I complain about this anime, it did end up being a lot better than I initially expected, and a whole lot better once I stopped caring about tropes and “sogood”. That still translates into me being quite ‘meh’ about Sakurasou, though.
- I honestly enjoyed episodes 7 and 15 because Sorata’s family is the best thing ever and they should adopt me and pay for all my expenses and stuff.