Original Release Date: June 15, 2019 Directed By: Souichi Masui Genre: Drama, Romance, Supernatural Based on the Series Created By: Hajime Kamoshida
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl. Reader discretion is advised.***
Like meeting a ghost from his past, Sakuta Azusagawa (voiced by Kaito Ishikawa) reunites with his first crush, Shouko Makinohara (voiced by Inori Minase). However, much like most other events in Sakuta’s life, things are not as clear-cut as they seem.
This version of Shouko is an older one, and yet, every day, Sakuta visits a younger, sicklier Shouko in hospital. Although the evidence of Shouko making it to adulthood is literally walking around, only a miracle can prevent what appears to be an inevitable tragedy.
But Sakuta isn’t one to give up because something seems impossible. If a person needs his help, he will move heaven, earth, and, if necessary, time to give it. Relying on his experience with the supernatural and the love of his dear girlfriend, Mai Sakurajima (voiced by Asami Seto), Sakuta might just save the day once again.
Unfortunately, this adventure may end up costing Sakura everything.
I remember going to the theaters to watch Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Dreaming Girl) back when it released in June 2019. I was nervous because I had assumed this would be one of the most challenging movies – in terms of understanding Japanese – I had dealt with up to that point. Knowing the preceding anime, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Bunny Girl Senpai), this is not the type of franchise – which from here on out we will refer to as the Aobuta series – you watch casually.
No, Aobuta – both show and film – is dense.
Do not misconstrue my meaning. Aobuta is brilliant; Bunny Girl Senpai, especially, did incredibly well during the 2018 Anime Hajime Highlights:
- 10th Best Animation of the Year
- 5th Best Character of the Year (Sakuta Azusagawa)
- 2nd Best Anime of the Year
I trust you can imagine how exciting the prospect of an Aobuta film was to me.
Now, so you know, Dreaming Girl is a sequel to Bunny Girl Senpai. I would not suggest watching this movie without knowing the anime. Incidentally, might I also recommend you watch the two back to back. If you’re like me and go two years between the anime (its review released in January 2019) and watching – or, rather, re-watching – this film (this review released September 2021), good luck to you.
I’ll repeat; Aobuta is dense. You would be doing yourself an immense favor by going into this movie knowing the characters and where they are in their lives.
Nevertheless, this sort of complexity is not a fault of Dreaming Girl. If you are up-to-date with the Aobuta story, then this film will be amazing. I can say that because I was NOT as familiar with the narrative as I probably should have been, and this movie was phenomenal nevertheless. Recalling what I once wrote:
“[B]oth the movie and the anime were apples from the same tree.”
-Out and About: Eigakan – Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl
Dreaming Girl is a seamless continuation of Bunny Girl Senpai. As such, one aspect that makes great content for a review, a production’s characters, you can assume is a given here. Since most of the people in this film played prominent roles in the anime, they were as fully developed as you could expect. This movie couldn’t take them much further.
The only slight exception to that statement was Shouko Makinohara. She was an “exception” because Dreaming Girl was her story. However, Shouko was also “slight” because she wasn’t an unknown factor; her existence served as a foundational pillar for Bunny Girl Senpai. This film was the conclusion to what the anime set up.
And, yeah, Aobuta did reach its ending.
Thus, if not the characters, where do I get off calling Dreaming Girl “phenomenal?”
Well, if you can expect one thing out of this film, it would be the feelings – just, like, all the feelings. This movie had a ride from cute to charming to heavy to crushing to oh-boy-the-tears-are-here.
It wasn’t just the actual events in Dreaming Girl that were moving. Instead, it was more the implications; how would I react if this happened to me? Without giving anything away, let me tell you, this movie had clear evidence why Sakuta Azusagawa is such a stand-out character.
With the breathtaking combination of this film’s animation and the performance of Mr. Kaito Ishikawa, there is a point in Dreaming Girl where you’ll look at Sakuta and think, “Yep, that is a man with a broken soul.”
It doesn’t take much for me to get emotionally attached to a story, and Dreaming Girl had definitely activated try-hard mode.
Oh my; there was this one scene that was frighteningly (in a good way) devastating. There was all the usual movie fanfare – music, visuals, sounds, etc. – and then silence; dead, sudden, and otherworldly silence.
That was solid filmmaking, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
And can you believe Dreaming Girl was only ninety minutes long? While that did make this movie feel more like an extended episode of the anime and less like a full-length feature, let’s not forget something. This was an extended episode from the Aobuta series. That means:
- Beautiful visuals
- Stellar sound
- Masterful voice acting
- A gripping story
- Forever memorable characters
And all done on a film’s budget.
You better believe I enjoyed Dreaming Girl.
In the Eigakan – Dreaming Girl post, I said this:
“I went into this film fully expecting to struggle with the Japanese. To my genuine surprise, although my understanding of this movie was by no means perfect, I think I fared rather well.”
I don’t know what hopeful fantasy world my past self was living in, but methinks that I might have been full of BS. There were English subtitles this time around, and I have questions.
Dreaming Girl is, most certainly, an Aobuta movie. This is a narrative that values emotion over making 100% sense. Fortunately, this film did exceptionally well with delivering the tears, the sadness, and the feels. Therefore, provided you don’t think too hard about it, this story will get a response out of you.
It did not help that time travel was a central plot point to Dreaming Girl. Unless a narrative does timeline manipulation perfectly, wires don’t tend to match up.
This film’s ending, in particular, wasn’t the most straightforward thing I have seen. Actually, I don’t believe I understood what this movie was implying, to tell you the truth.
To give Dreaming Girl the benefit of the doubt, I should have re-familiarized myself with the Aobuta story beforehand. That was on me, for when you get right down to it, this film does what any film should do – it sucks you into its world.
If we want to think of it another way, there are two types of movies:
- There are those where you ask questions during your viewing.
- Then there are those where you ask questions afterwards.
Of the two, the latter is the more desirable outcome. Consider, when you are watching a movie, if the entire time you keep wondering, “Why did that happen,” or, “How is it possible such a thing happened that way,” or, “How can this story spin it so this thing makes sense,” then that is a problem. Should you find yourself in this situation, then what you are viewing has failed to engage you.
However, if those same questions come to you once you turn the film off, that doesn’t mean we can overlook the lack of groundedness. But what it DOES mean is, what you saw had your attention. While it was happening, things didn’t need to make sense. The story, the emotions, the characters, these were enough.
Dreaming Girl fell into this second camp.
I enjoyed this movie, and I regret it took me so long to watch it again. Heck, had I returned sooner, then this would have most likely been a more glowing review.
Was this movie straightforward? No. Was its brand of logic watertight? Again, no.
But was it worth it regardless? Absolutely.
This movie, with its animation, characters, and emotional story, was great. If you are a fan of the Aobuta series, this is a no-brainer.
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this film? How would you advise Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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