Playing Grown Up in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Continuing on from the previous season, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo follows the lives of a special group of high school liberal arts students and the pursuit of their dreams.  Most aspects of what make this show memorable are ones that give a slight twist to conventional high school anime.  Instead of an average high school, Suimei is dedicated to the liberal arts.  The focused disciplines and dorm setting feel more like college than high school.   Sakurasou also regularly pits talent against hard work, though the two often overlap.  I don’t usually see this addressed in anime with younger characters, though the argument is one that crosses all ages.  An even more discussion-worthy detail is the anime’s seeming promotion of careers over personal relationships.  Again, I don’t usually see this in high school shows other than the usual dedication to studying.  Watching relationships fall apart because of a job or passion seems like an experience more likely to be portrayed in some josei drama.  Cast with high school boys and girls, set in a high school environment, and teeming with juvenile emotions, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is, for all intents and purposes, an anime by adults for adults in the adult world.

Hard work versus talent is a topic brought up often in anime and other mediums, and the two are not always at odds.  However, in Sakurasou, opposition is exactly the name of the game; characters are set against one another all in the name of talent.  The show pairs up the cast all too conveniently: Mashiro and Sorata, Misaki and Jin, Akasaka and Rita.  The only odd one is Nanami, who adds a point to the “hardworking” faction.  While the pairing seems decided for the latter two “couples,” the Mashiro-Sorata-Nanami circle looks to be the battle ground for whether talent or hard work will win, and they are appropriately the focal point of the show.  Sorata must choose between the two girls (because, obviously, no choice is not an option) and between chasing and walking hand-in-hand.  Mashiro is the epitome of talent, although she also puts in more effort and passion than anyone else.  But as Sorata points out, their endeavors reap entirely different levels of rewards.  Whereas she is hailed as a genius, he struggles to get the bare minimum of recognition.  Nanami steps up as a girl who gives her all in everything she does–and she does a lot.  Juggling school with multiple part-time jobs and contributing to the housework in Sakura Hall, Nanami still has hopes for succeeding as a voice actress.  Like Sorata, she faces failure and denial and still continues to work and hope.  If he chooses Nanami, he can walk at her side.  Choosing Mashiro means constantly battling his feelings of inferiority.

Sorata’s dilemma ties in directly to another argument of careers over personal relationships and competition as a seed of separation.  I’ve already personally seen and even experienced relationships that have fallen apart due to 1) differing views on work, and 2) unhealthy competition.   Jin and Misaki have been a migraine of a head ache throughout the anime.  I simply could not understand Jin’s refusal to accept Misaki’s feelings despite reciprocating them.  It wasn’t until further elaboration of his dissatisfaction with his own writing skills compared to her vivid and imaginative creations did I comprehend his actions.  Like Sorata, Jin was constantly running behind Misaki and trying to catch up to her animations with his scripts–but the differences in quality were too noticeable.  While I may not agree with his decision to ignore her feelings for so long, I still admire him for striving to equal her and for not letting physical intimacies cloud his judgement.

Unlike Jin, it appears that Sorata is indeed allowing his insecurities over his own capabilities to block him from becoming closer with Mashiro.  He has not only prioritized work over their friendship, but has turned it into a competition.  I usually find competition to be an excellent means to self improvement and camaraderie, but it becomes unhealthy when instead of elevating everyone’s skills, it turns into one trying to bring down the other.  That’s not competition; that’s just fighting.  I couldn’t help but feel disgusted with Sorata’s complete lack of tact with refusing Mashiro’s attempts to comfort him.  His attitude was ugly and unbecoming of both a competitor and supposed friend.

From a personality point of view, I prefer Nanami’s earnest struggle and want her to succeed in both career and love.  Yet I can’t help but cheer for the notion of love overcoming differences in abilities and social ranking, and wish to see Sorata’s game turned into reality so he can get over being second fiddle to Mashiro.  Come hither, oh ending as climatic as Nyanpollon and emotionally touching as Jin and Misaki’s promise!

Or maybe everyone’s dreams should be shattered, since that’s what being an adult is all about.

20 thoughts on “Playing Grown Up in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

  1. Fine, I’ll watch the show because you said so. You can stop trying to convince me to pick it up again Marina-chan as you will not stop trying. “sarcastic defeated speech”. What is it about you and your opinions on things? Hmm, maybe I just like your cooking, or something.

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  2. It is difficult to maintain a strict seperation between work and private life. This mainly because of cultural differences, where being informal can also be a part of job requirements. Making seperatin even more difficult.
    As long as this is present, I think relations will suffer. And indeed somebody’s reward can affect the mental state of the other.
    Interesting take on the series, I haven’t seen it that way until now(stupid me haha).

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    • Thanks for dropping by🙂 Yes, mixing work and personal life does strain relationships, though I’m curious about what kind of examples you’re thinking of when you mention jobs that may require informality.

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      • Japanese and Chinese jobs for example, even as an office worker you are obligated to please the customer/client. Like going to restaurants or karaoke with your clients. Making you work to late at night and being at the office again early in the morning. That’s part off the job. Maybe international companies don’t have that policy or ‘unwritten rules’ when they are active in those countries. European countries tend to have a more seperated way of working, private and work relationships are more separated.

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      • Those examples certainly seem extreme to my western way of thinking. When I go home, I usually can set aside the worries of deadlines and agendas. One exception I can think of that I’ve experienced is when I was teaching and had to bring work home with me, and felt like I was putting in more time than I was getting paid for. My SO of the time had to put up with me always grading papers and writing out lesson plans till late at night.

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  3. Your post is the exact reason why I ship Sorata/Nanami over Sorata/Mashiro despite liking Mashiro as a character more. Struggling with an inferiority complex while being with someone is so sickeningly hard. Yet at the same time, I feel it suits the theme of SakuPet for Sorata to mentally overcome that and have a healthy relationship with Mashiro. That would be the ultimate win for hard work.

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    • It sounds like we’re both torn about who we’d like Sorata to end up with! I have a nasty suspicion, however, that there’ll be no resolution at the end since this isn’t strictly a romance show.

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  4. When someone’s too talented and gifted, they tend to be influential, albeit too much at times, be it good or bad. It’s not easy for them to get close to someone while other people are treating them as if they are “another part” of the world. They are just too talented for their own good, and when other people wants to be their equal, they need to work hard to catch up, yet such vast dedication sacrifices a lot of time and effort, and in time, it turns into a competition.

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    • You did a good job of summarizing what I talked about here. As for the difficulties some people have with treating the talented normally, I think that really too bad. People aren’t necessarily “too talented for their own good”; I find it just as unfair for extremely gifted people to have to be conscious of others and hold themselves back. As long as their expectations are in the right place, that they will most likely be alone or have to seek equally talented people elsewhere, then there’s no need to check themselves. The “competition” between Sorata and Mashiro is sadly all in Sorata’s mind, and his treatment of her has gotten steadily worse as the season progresses.

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  5. I ship Sorata x Nanami so hard it’s not even funny, and I don’t even ship that often. They have the chemistry and they are equals. And the fact that Mashiro is basically just a doll is… eh… not too fun. While I doubt it, I still hope for my ship to win in the end >_>’

    But to get on-topic.

    I can relate to this show so much it’s silly at the moment. In high school I was great in school. I put a lot of effort into what I did, but you could say it was like a breeze for me for most part. It felt like I was talented, for the lack of better words, and I was often praised. (I am probably exaggerating a little, but, really, it was easy (so easy I overworked since I thought “man, it can’t be THIS easy, can it?” and stressed out in the final year)).

    But now.

    I suck.

    I am trying to learn programming (C++), but something just doesn’t click with me. I don’t understand. I don’t truly reach the “goal” in understanding. I put down ton of work and am in the hardworking division. But not to much avail at all. I stumble and I fail, just like Sorata. Just finishing an exercise felt like a great accomplishment and I felt as much relief as Sorata did when he actually passed the game entrance thingy.

    Okay, slightly personal, but still ;-;

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    • I like the personal, so don’t feel hesitant about sharing🙂

      This whole “shipping” business amuses me. It took me a while to figure out what the term meant, and even then, actually saying it feels too strange. Anyways, like you I too support Nanami. Mashiro is sweet and I like her work ethic, but I just don’t find her attractive in the slightest.

      Even though I have zero experience with computer programming, I can also relate your struggles to my experience with music and academia in general. I was considered really smart in school and a bit of a child prodigy at music. All the praise went to my head, and I coasted instead of continuing to work hard. That all bit me in the butt when I got older, particularly late high school, then later through undergraduate and graduate schools. Although I believe that talent is definitely a huge factor in success, it isn’t everything. Hard work is NEVER a bad thing to learn to do at an early age and continue doing throughout life. I hope you continue to work towards your goals and feel accomplished whenever you complete a programming project ^^

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  6. One thing I noted early on in the show was that I’m not sure there’s as much of a stark divide between the ‘talented’ people and the ‘hard work’ people. It seems more like there’s always someone above and below the characters that they are looking up to and looking back to, to use Sorata’s analogy. Especially at the beginning, Sorata was viewing Jin as someone who was in the ‘talented’ camp, and he is more talented than Sorata. But Jin is just not of equivalent talent to Misaki. Likewise, I think the show has demonstrated (even if it has tried to downplay it) the fairly high talent level of people like Sorata and Nanami. Sorata’s very first game design document got past the first stage. His third earned him the greatest prize he could get – validation that he has talent at designing games *and* development, mentoring, and networking time with Fujisawa, basically free mentoring – a prize that will likely be much more valuable in the long run than just a cash prize for having his design accepted. But even though we might think of those as failures, objectively, they’re both tremendous successes for a beginner. And we need to remember that even from the beginning, Sorata is going to a selective school that he had to test into, and travel away from home for.

    So there’s this dynamic of both looking up to people and looking back at people, but from different angles, and everyone is looking up to someone (with perhaps the sole exception of Misaki). I would argue that even Mashiro looks up to Sorata for his everyday talents, his ability to know and do so many things that escape her, even if the rest of us dismiss them because they’re plain old everyday things.

    (I’m also an unabashed Nanami shipper, Captain of the H.R.S.(Her Romantic Ship) Aoyama. Even if we’re being hunted by a pack of submarines sailing in the dark through iceberg-laden, shark-infested waters, I’ll go down with this ship!)

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    • Heya Highway! I love to see new faces around here, and I’m glad to have your support🙂

      Like you eloquently explain, the line between talent and hard work isn’t always there. I think I may have mentioned it briefly in my post, but there are definitely characters who embody both, or even deceive others that they have one or the other. No matter how skilled you are, how talented or how hard you work, there is ALWAYS someone better. It’s a lesson we should learn at a young age, but I feel like most people don’t get that big hit until they’re older and in a new environment. I certainly didn’t get it until I left my small town and suddenly met all these other more advanced people from all over the globe. Sorata really has accomplished so much. Despite it looking pale in comparison to the accomplishments of Mashiro and Misaki, he has far surpassed the expectations most people have for average high school students. He’s well on his way to becoming an adult in the working world. I also thank you for reminding me that their school isn’t open to just anyone and actually has some stringent testing. I felt bad for Sorata’s sister, but also somewhat relieved to see that the students who did make it through really deserved to be there.

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