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The Pet Girl of Sakurasou PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 22 April 2013 18:11
Time now for the other show from the Winter season that I didn't quite make it to the end of - Pet Girl bit the dust at episode 18. Why? Read on...

Sorata Kanda is a college student living in Sakura Hall - a dorm that seems to be reserved for his school's problem kids - and spends his days being dragged around by the strange residents. Mashiro Shiina is one of them - a cute, innocent girl who's also a world-famous artist. And Sorata's just discovered that she's completely incapable of living on her own. With no-one else willing to look after her, Sorata winds up appointed as her "owner" by the other dorm students, and so the “master and pet” life between average boy and brilliant girl begins...

The show's gimmick, then, is having Sorata be dragged into looking after a girl who can't look after herself. Making sure she goes through her daily routine as she should? Meets her deadlines at work? Remembers to put on panties in the morning? Check, check and check. Someone's clearly skimping on the social care budget. The reason given is that Mashiro is essentially autistic - genius in some areas (for her, her art), but with the tradeoff of being hopeless at just about anything else. With the original pitch for the show making it sound as though that was pretty much all there was going to be to the series, I have very low hopes for its early episodes - the whole idea just seemed to be in poor taste.

As is common these days, under the fetish-bait premise (after all, don't all otaku just want someone they can love and care for?), there's a good bit more to the setting, thanks to the other members of Sakurasou. Jin Mitaka is the resident ladies man, and a genius in developing storylines - which makes him a great counterpart to fellow resident (and childhood friend) Misaki, who's an up-and-coming animator. Misaki would also very much like to jump Jin's bones - something he's all-too-aware of, but so far he hasn't responded to her advances. Little-seen Ryunosuke is a game design & programming genius, but likes to keep to himself, only contacting the others through his computer avatar. And Nanami Aoyama is a wannabe voice actress, struggling to make her first breakthrough in the face of parental disapproval. Add in Mashiro's English friend Rita, Sorata's little sister Yuko, and cougar teacher & landlady Chihiro, and there's a cast that's big enough to allow multiple storylines and romantic polygons to form. On the surface at least, once everything slots into place, Petgirl would seem to have the ingredients in place to create a winner.

It never quite makes the most of those ingredients, however - and the maker knows I gave it long enough for it to do so. The problem, as I see it, comes down to the show's terrible attitude to its female lead characters, all of whom the show seems to think should be giving priority to what others want them to do, rather than what they want to do with their lives. Mashiro has returned from England, giving up a career in fine arts to become a mangaka - she's happy with that, but Rita jumps on a 'plane to Japan with the idea of forcibly bringing her back to England and what Rita thinks is best for her. Misaki is torn between continuing with her animation career and wanting to be with Jin - so when Jin decides to leave town, the series steers her towards turfing in what she loves to be with who she loves. Yuko wants to join Sorata at the college, but he decides that that's not for her. And Nanami has her own issues balancing her parents and her voice acting. In all but one of those situations, Sorata becomes the go-to boy for advice, and in every case tries to steer the girls away from what they want to do, in the name of making other people happy (the exception being Nanami, who he's happy to support). That's probably a little bit of Japanese culture there, but as the series went along I got more and more annoyed with the message that the series was giving, to the point where it was ultimately what caused me to give up - for although some of the situations that the gang got into were fun, it felt, intentional or otherwise, a misinterpretation or otherwise, that there was a 'women as property' / 'women should do what their men want' message bubbling along under the surface that I strongly disagreed with.

If that's a misinterpretation on my part, then so be it, but I can't avoid what I took away from the show. At the start, I was worried about it being offensive because of its tilt on Mashiro and her condition. That was a red herring, but the series ended up being just as offensive in other ways. I know plenty of people who didn't see the series in the way I did, and got a lot more out of it as a result, and that's fair enough. There were parts of it that were good fun, particularly the arc that saw the gang collaborate on an 'interactive anime' for the school culture festival, but they were small parts of the whole. Taken overall, personally, this isn't a show that I would recommend.

Rating - **