Miss my previous review? You can find it here!
Summary (Trigger Warning – Suicide)
When last we left our rascally protagonist, he was snooping in a cabinet that he was explicitly told NOT to look into. Pulling out a small yellow tin, he opens it, and while viewers can’t see the contents just yet, it seems to be a key element in repairing the estranged sisters’ relationship.
Sakuta and Mai chat for a bit as he suggests the two just make up already, but Mai pays him little mind before she turns in for the night. Sakuta then spends some time with Nod0ka as she prepares for the commercial retake. Apparently in her search to find the “right smile”, she ends up putting on a Grudge-like horror film. Sakuta tells her to absolutely not smile like that, and makes a hasty retreat.
Back at home, Kaede is behaving a bit…strangely when Sakuta gets home.
She steps out of her room, revealing that she’s put her school uniform back on, seemingly getting herself ready to go back to school sooner rather than later. Mai comes home and compliments Kaede on her outfit, and Sakuta reflects on what this next journey may look like for her. We also learn more about his family situation: how Kaede’s puberty syndrome really disturbed his mother, who went away to a mental institution of some kind to recover. Their father didn’t want to leave her side, and so Sakuta was entrusted with caring for Kaede on top of the usual responsibilities of being a high schooler.
Sakuta is given the chance to sit down with his father to see how his mom is doing:
The two chat briefly about the struggles of being a parent (his dad very relieved that Sakuta hasn’t impregnated anyone yet), and we get a unique insight into Sakuta’s broader family dynamic.
The day of the retake comes and Nodoka is able to overcome her anxieties in order to get the work done. Sakuta gives her a ticket to the Sweet Bullet concert, per Mai’s direction, and the duo make their way to the theater to see how well Mai adjusted to Idol life.
To Nodoka’s amazement, Mai is able to recover a colleague’s fall on stage, snatch the mic and continue the song without missing a beat. Her strong vocals and tight choreography really drive home to Nodoka that her big sister is something really special.
Following the show, Nodoka sees her mother heaping praise on the form possessed by Mai, genuinely smiling and excited after it was announced she would be getting the next single performance from Sweet Bullet.
Distraught, Nodoka asks Sakuta if they can go to the beach instead of going home, and in one of the darkest scenes of the season so far, begins matter-of-factly walking into the ocean in an attempt to kill herself.
Sakutra stops her and attempts to talk her out of it. When Nodoka tries to explain that Mai hates her, Sakuta explains that her sister’s incendiary comments were lies. He leads her back to the apartment and shows her the yellow tin – and this time, we see inside.
That’s right, Mai has preciously kept all of the fan-letters her younger sister sent her all those years ago. She emerges from the hallway to explain that when she was young and famous, everything was a blur. Random people would compliment her, but their words didn’t mean anything. However, when her little sister encouraged her to keep going, that’s what gave Mai motivation to work harder and keep doing the job. Mai thanks Nodoka for being her younger sister, but Nodoka is still feeling the burden of meeting the expectations her amazing older sister had set. Mai tells her that the success she had with Sweet Bullet was because she worked hard, and encourages her sister to do the same. In a final moment of revelation, Nodoka acknowledges she doesn’t have to be, nor does she want to be, just like Mai. She could be her own person, and that’s okay.
Almost instantly after that acknowledgment, the sisters swap back into the right bodies once again! When Sakuta returns the next day, however, Nodoka is still at Mai’s apartment. Following another argument with her mother, it turns out that she’ll be staying with Mai for the time being.
In the post-credits scene, we find that our heroes have forgotten a key element of Mai & Sakuta’s relationship: they’re not supposed to be in one! After getting a call from her agency, Mai reveals a leaked photo that shows her and Sakuta together. Now we’ve got ourselves a scandal…
The drama of puberty syndrome continues to play out as Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai tucks away yet another well-constructed arc.
The story largely played out the way that I expected, save for one dramatic twist: Nodoka’s suicide attempt. The resignation on Nodoka’s face when her mother was praising Mai was heartbreaking to be sure, but I didn’t really grasp what was going on until she started walking into the ocean, which allowed the scene to carry even more weight. Sakuta’s detective work gave him the trump card he needed, and once the sisters got a chance to sit down and properly talk it out, some of Nodoka’s insecurities and immature aspects were allowed to be fully exposed.
My biggest gripe with the episode is that following Nodoka’s rather drastic action at the beach, there’s not much discussion about the “why” behind her behavior. Anger, and jealousy borne out of having a successful older sibling is vastly different than feeling justified in taking one’s own life because they’re not “needed”. Indeed, it doesn’t even seem like Sakuta confided that part of the evening to Mai – a glaring oversight in my opinion.
The expressiveness of the various characters, especially during the most impactful scenes, retain their impressiveness 10 episodes in, but it does make the lower quality shots & scenes a bit easier to spot.
Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai still sets itself apart in this buzzing season with its superbly crafted story arcs. As the episode comes to an end, we already see the building blocks for the next arc, which will seemingly be focused on Kaede. I’m interested to see how the previous characters are folded into the story to come – as the balancing act gets harder and harder with each new character added to the roster.