Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a romcom based on a light novel, and judged as a romcom, it’s not really anything special. Fortunately, the show was a bit more ambitious than that. Sakurasou is primarily a High School romance between a girl with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and a boy who is painfully aware that he is nothing special. The school they go to is focused on arts, and has a dorm reserved for students who are too eccentric for the normal dorms. The dorm is named Sakura (cherry blossom) hall or Sakurasou, and is, of course, home to some outrageous but talented characters. Two things really help the show shine. The first is the amount of time spent on side characters and the relationships between the residents of the dorm, and the second is the struggle that the average people have maintaining friendships and romances with the far more talented. The show isn’t afraid to let us see people fail, either at their endeavors or at their relationships. This extra effort in fleshing out side characters, the issues our protagonist has with the girl’s AS, and the candid approach to their endeavors lend a weight to what would otherwise just be a forgettable fluff ball of a show.
Sorata is just kind of floating through school until he finds a stray cat. Unable to ignore the animal’s needs, he takes it in and cares for it. He is given an ultimatum, ditch the cat or be moved into the stigmatized and decrepit Sakura Hall. Sorata, being the normal kind-hearted protagonist we are used to seeing in these kinds of shows, decides to move to the hall until he can find a home for the cat. Unfortunately, Sorata is much better at finding stray cats than he is finding them homes. Still, he is optimistic of leaving Sakura Hall and returning to normal society. Things change when Mashiro, a relative of his teacher, arrives from England. He picks her up at the station as a favor and quickly realizes that the girl needs some guidance if she is going to be able to live in Sakura Hall and go to his school. The other residents are more than happy to push the responsibility of this “stray girl” onto him. Of course, like any kind-hearted protagonist, Sorata already has a girl that is interested in him. This girl is not too happy with the situation and romcom hijinks ensue. At the same time, Sorata decides to become a video game designer. Running parallel to the romance is his struggle to achieve his dreams.
Sakurasou is in turns inappropriate, funny, touching, inappropriate, heartbreaking, funny, and inappropriate again. There is a lot of fan service, from tired old “walking in on the girls changing” gags to repeated examples of Mashiro’s lack of modesty. The story though is strong enough to survive these distractions and is burdened more by its plodding romance than by boobs and panties. Where the show really shines is in portraying the struggle to balance personal relationships with your dreams and how to deal with failure. Underneath all the goofiness is a somber tone and a serious message. Life is not easy and how much you enjoy it depends on how you handle your disappointments. Pet Girl of Sakurasou is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
9 out of 10