Kaede Azusagawa, The Panda (Pt. 2)

This is part 2 of my analysis of Kaede Azusagawa from Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yuma wo Minai, also known as Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai.

In case you missed it, you can find part 1 here:
Kaede Azusagawa (Pt. 1)

Where we left off, Kaede had just answered the phone for the first time. Despite knowing that Mai was the one calling, she still developed a fever. Later that night, Sakuta discovered that bruises had appeared on her neck. I had also mentioned my theory behind Kaede’s puberty syndrome – that it’s some form of subconscious self-defense mechanism protecting her from social interaction.

Continuing on from Part 1…

Kaede’s New Deal

The next day, Sakuta arrives home after work to find Kaede on the phone with Mai. Just as fast as they appeared, it seems her afflictions have subsided.

Kaede reveals to Sakuta a new plan, separate from her goals.
This plan is called Kaede’s 9-step plan for going outside.

This plan consists of the following steps:

  1. Change into a cute outfit
  2. Take a quick break
  3. Walk to the entrance
  4. Take a quick break
  5. Put on shoes
  6. Take a quick break
  7. Dock with Onii-chan’s back
  8. Recharge my Onii-chan power
  9. And go outside with Onii-chan!

If I collapse, Onii-chan carries me back. (Like a princess!)

The breaks may seem a lilttle excessive, but remember that Kaede developed a fever and bruises just from answering the phone. Any societal interaction whatsoever that she isn’t comfortable with will result in more injuries.

The next day, Mai brings over a bunch of cute outfits for Kaede to wear. Kaede must have spent hours trying on different outfits, because before we know it, the sun is going down. She has a determined look in her face. The moment Sakuta gets home from school, Kaede tells him she wants to go outside.

Kaede Goes Outside

Kaede puts on her shoes, and comments that wearing shoes felt very new to her. She also takes a deep breath – just doing these sort of things is taking a lot of energy. Kaede then docks with Sakuta’s back, and buries her face into it. After feeling how tight Kaede is holding onto him, Sakuta tells Kaede that she’s done enough for the day – putting on her shoes. He tries to discourage her from doing too much once again.

“If you’re scared, give yourself a break and call it a day. After all, you put on your shoes. You’ve made plenty of progress.”
– Sakuta

“No! I’m scared! I’m scared of staying this way! It scares me to think that I could remain this way forever!… I love our home very much. Going outside is scary. It’s scary but… the thought of never being able to go outside is much, much scarier!”
– Kaede

And so, one step at a time, Sakuta and Kaede go outside. Sakuta keeps going, telling Kaede that they are still at the door. Right when Kaede can’t do it anymore and gives up, Sakuta pulls away from her, and she realizes that she is outside. She then breaks down in tears, happy that she made it outside.

After stepping outside, Kaede began to gradually accomplish more and more. The elevator, outside the building, Mai’s apartment, and even the park. It’s great that Kaede has managed to achieve all of this, but unfortunately not everything will work out so smoothly.

Kano Kotomi

I want to take a step back to a few days prior, before Kaede answered the phone for the first time. Sakuta had been planning on meeting Shouko at the beach, but he was interrupted. The girl who came to see him was Kano Kotomi, a friend of Kaede’s from before she developed puberty syndrome.

Kano Kotomi had mentioned that Kaede’s case had caused everything at school to change. The ones responsible for bullying Kaede became the bullied, to the point they had to switch schools. Kano mentions feeling regret that she couldn’t help Kaede at the time. When she asks if she can see Kaede though, Sakuta brushes her off by telling her that he didn’t want to put Kaede on the spot. He did this because there is one more thing about Kaede that we haven’t yet been told.

Foreshadowing #2

While this scene takes place directly before the reveal, it’s still technically foreshadowing. Sakuta is at school talking to Futaba about all of the progress Kaede has made. Futaba is genuinely happy for Sakuta, but then she asks him this:

“So… have you told Sakurajima-senpai?”
– Futaba

“Told her what?”
– Sakuta

“That thing about Kaede-chan.”
– Futaba

Futaba realizes based on Sakuta’s expression that he had not yet told Mai about that thing, that important detail about Kaede.

Self-Inflicted Amnesia

With all of the progress she’s made, Kaede has managed to make it to the beach with Sakuta, Mai, and Nodoka. But while she’s there, we find out another reason why Kaede may be apprehensive about going out in public – she doesn’t have her old memories.

Sakuta is forced to reveal this when Kaede’s old friend, Kano Kotomi, happens to show up at the beach and recognize her.

While it’s certainly a big development in the anime, when it comes to Kaede’s puberty syndrome, it’s just another layer to her subconscious self-defense mechanism. Not only does her body negatively react to socializing or interacting with society, but her mind also blocked out all of her memories. All because of the mental trauma she went through.

Naturally, I think it’s safe to assume that solving Kaede’s puberty syndrome will also solve her amnesia. As a result, the revelation of Kaede’s amnesia is not actually that big of a deal. The solution remains the same regardless.

Hospital Visit

The next day, Kaede’s muscles are sore from visiting the beach. The back of her neck is also bruised, and it’s likely she has more bruises than just that. The soreness she is feeling may actually be a result of her puberty syndrome more than it is muscle fatigue. While Kaede is ready to go out in her school uniform, Sakuta stops her with some pudding. He then tells her about Kano Kotomi.

Sakuta gives Kaede a book that Kano had returned to him – one that Kaede had lent her years ago. Kaede looks through the book and finds a note left by Kano Kotomi.

“I want to be friends with Kaede-chan again.”
– Kotomi

The scene zooms in on the word 友達 – “friend”. I wonder if that’s what does it, or it’s something else like the handwriting, or seeing Kotomi’s name written out. Either way, something about the note must have caused Kaede to remember Kotomi for a moment, because she says the words “Komi-chan?”, before passing out.

Sakuta gets Kaede to the hospital. While there, we learn that Kaede’s old memories may be returning. But they haven’t returned yet, something that Sakuta confirms when Kaede wakes up.

What’s important about this hospital visit is that Kaede overhears Sakuta talking to Mai on the phone, and what she overhears is that her current memories could end up disappearing when her old memories return. In other words, her very existence as she knows it, and as we know it, will disappear. For Kaede to hear such a thing must have been hard to deal with – but she doesn’t show it when she’s with Sakuta.

School Attempts

After Kaede gets out of the hospital, she doubles down on her desire to go to school. Sakuta speaks with their dad, who contacts Kaede’s middle school. They send a school counselor to the apartment to meet with Kaede and Sakuta. The plan is for Kaede to go straight to the school infirmary.

On November 23rd, Sakuta and Kaede set out towards Kaede’s school. On the way they see some schoolgirls walking to school, and Kaede panics a bit. Sakuta says that she’s done well, and that they should go back home for some pudding. Kaede was trembling. This time, she takes Sakuta up on his suggestion and they go back home.

When on the elevator before making the second attempt, Sakuta mentions that Kaede should take it slow. He notices a bruise starting to form on her neck, and really pushes her to stop for the day. But Kaede refuses and begins to run, saying that she has to, because she doesn’t have the time to take it easy.

In other words, Kaede knows that she will cease to exist soon – to be replaced by the old Kaede.

Sakuta quickly realizes that Kaede must have found out about this.

They get to that same intersection as before, and once again, come across a group of school girls. One of the girls glances at Kaede as she walks by, and Kaede instinctively hides behind the nearby traffic post. Bruises begin to form and spread along her neck. She breaks down in tears.

“Why… Why? Why can’t I do it? I want to go to school, so why am I freezing up? I’m not going home! I’m not! I’ll keep practicing until I make it to school. I’ll keep practicing!”
– Kaede

Sakuta promises to get her to school.

Lack of Control

Kaede’s frustrations are a result of her lack of control over herself. Not only does her body physically and instinctively work against what she wants to do, but her very existence is in danger of disappearing. Everything seems to be working against Kaede in this sense. The self-defense mechanism is working too well, and making it a serious challenge for Kaede rejoin society.

It’s a real testament to Kaede’s perseverance. To have so much working against her, and to know that her very existence will potentially end, it’s commendable for Kaede to continue pushing on. It’s a real act of courage on her part, something that I think is worth noting.

Zoo Sidequest

Sakuta promises to get Kaede to school – but first, a detour.
After a train ride and many questions by Kaede as to where they are going, the two end up at the zoo, much to Kaede’s surprise.

They spend the entire day at the zoo, and Kaede has a blast. On the way out, Sakuta gives Kaede a year pass to the zoo, so that she can visit whenever she wants. Kaede breaks out in tears as she expresses her gratitude.

Kaede Quest Complete

On the way home from the zoo, Kaede manages to purchase some pudding (I believe it was pudding at least) at the train station. Sakuta then takes Kaede to school. After a little protest, Kaede follows Sakuta over the locked gate and they walk around inside. They take a look at Kaede’s classroom, and then leave.

Kaede mentions that now she can mark all of the goals in her notebook as complete, although “Go to school” was only partially complete.

The scene we see of a smiling Kaede walking alongside Sakuta on the way home is the last time we will ever see this Kaede.

After all that she’s been through, the final cure for her puberty syndrome was going back to school after all.

Welcome Back, Kaede

The next morning, Sakuta goes to wake up Kaede. Only, Kaede is not acting like Kaede. Different way of speaking, different energy level, different vocal tone. The way she speaks to Sakuta is different as well. Even her smile, is different.

Kaede’s memories have returned.

I’m going to refer to this Kaede as “Old Kaede”, because this is the Kaede that existed prior to the amnesia. I have another name I’ll be giving to our Kaede shortly..

Parting Words

Before her puberty syndrome was cured, Kaede kept track of her thoughts in a diary. While there are many entries to the diary, I’m only going to write out a select part of the diary:

“If nothing changes and I go away someday, I’m sure Onii-chan will have regrets again, thinking he couldn’t do anything. That’s why… That’s why I decided to make a list of goals. Goals to complete together with Onii-chan! I don’t want Onii-chan to have any regrets if I disappear.

I want him to hold his head high and say he made lots of my dreams come true. Rather than painful memories, I want to leave lots of fun and happy memories that make him smile before I go. I’d be glad if he could remember me with a smile after I’m gone. I’ll do my best to make sure he does!

Thanks to Onii-chan, I got to mark lots of my goals complete!… It’s all thanks to Onii-chan. He’s brought so much joy into my life. I’m so happy I got to be his little sister. Then, now, and forever… I’ll always love him!”

Kaede Azusagawa

Note that Kaede wrote the last several sentences after going to school, essentially making those sentences her final words.

Solution

Kaede’s puberty syndrome was a subconscious self-defense mechanism as a result of severe mental trauma. One that caused her body to physically react to societal interaction, and block out all of her memories of herself and others.

Just like in many other cases, the solution was simple – prove to Kaede’s subconscious that society is OK, that she will be OK. Which in her case, was going to school.

While the cyberbullying incident caused Kaede’s subconscious to believe that societal interaction was dangerous, Sakuta and Kaede managed to prove it wrong. By associating good memories with going outside, by fighting through the fear and discomfort, Kaede managed to overcome her puberty syndrome. A wall that Kaede managed to climb, with Sakuta’s help.

If it weren’t for Sakuta’s love, it wouldn’t have been possible. Mai, Futaba, Shouko… everyone helped Kaede to realize that not ALL people are bad. Thanks to the people around her, Kaede was able to cure her puberty syndrome, bringing old Kaede back into the world.

Panda Kaede

So after all of this, why is Kaede associated with the giant panda?

For two years Kaede lived with Sakuta, content to just sit around at home. She didn’t leave their apartment once in a period of TWO years. As you may know, giant pandas get a lot of criticism for being a very useless animal. Many zookeepers find them frustrating, because they seem incapable of doing anything for themselves. And yet, people really love them – they’re cute, funny, and entertaining.

Kaede in many ways was just like a giant panda – completely relying on Sakuta to care for her while she lived peacefully in her “exhibit” for two years. Only once her exhibit became disturbed through the introduction of other characters did Kaede come to realize that she wouldn’t be able to live like that forever. And so, with some help, Kaede managed to slowly overcome obstacles on her path towards becoming self-reliant once again. To leave her exhibit, and rejoin the world.

Old Kaede’s Lesson

Kaede’s first lesson is in regards to the initial incident that caused her to develop puberty syndrome. In this situation, Kaede was very much a victim of circumstance. The cyberbullying that caused her such pain and trauma was not something that she could control. It’s terrible what happened.

The best that I can say is this: put yourself first. Don’t put someone else’s opinions about you above your own. Being bullied, insulted, shunned – it’s painful. But you can’t control the actions of others, you can only control how you personally act. You know yourself better than anyone else.

Just like with Koga and her “friends”, Kaede must have felt backed in a corner. She must have felt like there was nowhere for her at school, no one she could go to. No one to sit with at lunch, no one to walk to school with. Remember too that this is Japan, where standing out, or “going against the flow”, is seen as a bad thing.

Both Sakuta and Kotomi regretted not being there for Kaede..

But at the end of the day, it was up to Kaede to take the first step. It’s not easy, but unfortunately there are so many things in our lives that we can’t control. All we can do is choose how we personally act. Like many of the other cases of puberty syndrome, we are reminded it’s OK to ask for help, it’s OK to rely on other people when we are down or can’t go it alone. But we have to take that first step, and ask.

Unfortunately, Kaede didn’t – instead the trauma piled up until her subconscious felt it had no choice but to take over, blocking out her memories and physically deterring her from interacting with society.

Kaede ended up learning her lesson though. At the very end of episode 13, after the credits, there is a scene between Kaede and Sakuta in which she mentions she can go to school, “because she’s not in this alone”.

Panda Kaede’s Lesson

Panda Kaede’s lesson is that you can’t hide from your troubles forever. You can’t just ignore issues that are preventing you from living a full life and expect them to go away. Whether it be mental or physical, everyone faces barriers in life. Turns out, life isn’t that easy after all.

Kaede was content to live with Sakuta for two whole years. Two whole years of not stepping outside, of not interacting with people aside from Sakuta, of not improving or moving on with her life. It can be easy to say “this is fine” in the moment, but don’t be surprised if you have regrets down the road as a result. It may not always be the case, but generally, it’s better to face challenges sooner rather than later – so you can get on with your life.

What I love about Panda Kaede though, is that she managed to realize this herself. The real turning point for Kaede was when she first realized that things had to change, and that she couldn’t rely on Sakuta forever.

And despite what I just mentioned about facing challenges sooner rather than later, you know what? It’s still better to be late than never. So while she lost two years of her life, it’s still amazing that Kaede managed to overcome her puberty syndrome. Because it’s not easy, and she could have easily waited another few years, or more.

Panda Kaede, it’s sad to see you go.
But it makes me happy to have seen you work so hard and overcome your ailment in the end. Well done, and farewell!

rascal does not dream of bunny girl senpai kaede azusagawa smile

Once again I’ve managed to write just around 5000 words for one of the characters from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. Kaede’s arc is just so powerful because the anime manages to develop her character over the course of the entire anime. She’s such an amazing character as a result.

Up next will be my final character analysis from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai – Sakuta Azusagawa. I hope you all enjoyed this analysis, and I hope that you look forward to the next one. Sakuta’s analysis will be much different from the rest, because his puberty syndrome is still on-going. You can expect a lot more speculation in his analysis as a result.

That’s it for now.
Stay tuned for my final analysis – The Makinohara Shouko Question.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.


Other Analyses:

5 thoughts on “Kaede Azusagawa, The Panda (Pt. 2)

  1. Panda Kaede basically died, which is why I felt that Sakuta’s breakdown is so effective, he basically loses the sister/daughter he raised himself, because I got the feeling that he and Old Kaede were never really that close before this.

    I also thought, though I don’t think it is intentional, that Panda Kaede’s existence, that of the stereotypical anime imotou, was not healthy for her, and that it had to be destroyed for Old Kaede to function as a human being. We fans and viewers loved to watch her as a piece of fiction, but as a functional real human being, it was never going to be sustainable, Sakuta couldn’t have done that forever, she had to literally grow up again.

    That’s what I got from the Kaede arc, but I think I viewed it more as a observer of anime in a meta sense, than a personal character arc. Very much how I view the character of Rem in ReZero as a commentary on the “waifu girlfriend”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah she did basically die, although technically Kaede may regain those memories in the future. I don’t think she will, but the possibility is there.

      I think you’re a bit too focused on Kaede being an imouto haha. I believe that living in an apartment for 2 years, never leaving, and only knowing ONE other person in her entire “life”, has more to do with it than her imouto personality. I don’t think she forgot how to function as a human being, because she knew how to read, speak, write, etc. I think she just had to overcome that single obstacle that was going to school.

      That said though, I like your meta take on Kaede haha.

      Like

  2. Your right that it has more to do with that imouto (i can never fucking spell it right) and that is not at all what the story is talking about, but since that show came out during a season where there were other “little sister” animes, and that genre is red hot popular at the moment, I couldn’t help but notice that there seemed to be some meta commentary going on, at least from what I picked up.

    But you’re right, that is not at all what Kaede’s story is about, though I do think it comes as an added bonus. Hell this post has made me want to down my own character dive approaching Kaede from that meta perspective, so thanks for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great analysis. I’ve been reading through all your Bunny Girl Senpai posts today and they’re all really good. I’ll admit the title of this series really put me off watching it when it was first airing, but I eventually decided to give it a go and was blown away. I love all the character, Sakuta’s become a bit of an idol of mine now and the Kaede arc was both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
    I’m still waiting to see the movie so I’ll have to wait to read the final character analysis until after I’ve seen that.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s