The Roadmaps of Dialogue: How Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai's Beats Keeps Your Attention

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (henceforth called, “Rascal”) is a dialogue-focused story with invigorating authenticity. While Rascal borrows from conventions of anime romance/comedy, it makes a strong claim for a unique place amongst its predecessors.

To capture your attention, Rascal focuses on the strengths of its writing, namely the intrigue of its setup (the supernatural) and the energy of its dialogue. The former is used to give “normal high school issues” an abnormal twist and importance. The latter is less obvious, the tempo of its dialogue.

The pace of dialogue determines its influence. A single line can miss its mark if there isn’t enough time to understand or retain it. Something as simple as a pause can convey so much: time for audience interpretation, the hesitation to speak the truth, the gravity of a situation, and more.

In this article, we will focus on how Rascal uses beats to create an engaging dialogue, and analyze a scene to show how characters gain added nuance through the skill of good writing.

The Basics of Beats

Before we begin, let’s first discuss the definition of a beat. In films and plays, a beat is a pause, event, emotional change, decision or revelation/understanding in dialogue that influences how a character pursues a goal. This switch in direction creates a new idea for the character. Actors will pursue these beats like a “map,” navigating their characters towards their goals in a scene. Beats are to indicate switches, not the literal speed or length of a conversation.

Beats are not solely exclusive to actors. Scriptwriters and directors can use them as well. For scriptwriters, it’s common to have dialogue spaced out by stage directions. The stage directions can include careful shifts in dialogue in order to control tone or pacing--when it’s crucial for these beats to be acknowledged, they will be written in. A director’s beat is more general, an overarching understanding of the “beats of a story.” For this, the director will mark important events in a story and plan how they are emphasized within the work.

For the sake of this article, we will only be working on beats from an actor’s point of view.

Mapping Beats - Recognizing Intentions and Goals

Now with an understanding of beats, we can map our first scene with them. As a warning, this scene will contain spoilers, as this example helps illustrate the importance of revelations and how they naturally create a change in response/goal.

Typically beats will be highlighted from the perspective of which character you are acting, so doing B1, B2, B3 (etc.) is common, but for this example, we will map out both Mai and Sakuta’s beats. Mai will be indicated by M1, M2, M3 and Sakuta will be indicated by S1, S2, S3 and so on.

Keep in mind that there are no hard rules for mapping beats. You can have more or fewer beats than indicated, and that depends on what you want to express. Remember, marking beats is for changes. If nothing changes from the previous beat, you leave it alone.

Episode 2 - 5:32

Mai: The reason for my hiatus… Who’d you hear it from? (M1: Decision - Investigate)

Sakuta: Eh? (S1: Emotion - Surprise)

Mai: Don’t look away from me!

Sakuta: Ow! Back During Kaede’s incident, I got to know an announcer that came to do a report on bullying. Her name is Fumika Nanjo. (S2: Revelation/Revealing information)

Mai: Oh, her… She’s been good to me before, too. (M2: Revelation/Understanding)

Sakuta: She’s interested in Adolescence Syndrome, and is doing an investigation on it.

Mai: Sakuta-kun, did you make a deal with her in order to gain information about me? (M3: Decision - Investigate)

Sakuta: A photo… One of the scar on my chest. (S3: Pause)

Mai: Idiot! Now, you’ll have reporters at your door with camera! They’ll wait around your home, resulting in hard times for your sister! (M4: Emotion - Concern for the sister/Sakuta)

Sakuta is taken aback by Mai’s forcefulness. (S4: Pause - technically, this is something a scriptwriter would indicate, but you can write it for Sakuta as well)

Mai: Give me her contact info.

Sakuta: You’re such a queen, Mai-san.

Mai: And you take television too lightly, Sakuta-kun.

Guiding Character Intentions: Beats of Dialogue

You’ll notice that of the 12 spoken lines, there are a total of 7 (arguably 8) beats shared by Mai and Sakuta. The voice actor for Sakuta personally chooses to emphasize more in line 4. Within the 12 spoken lines, there are also two major revelations, and soon after, there are more beats as Mai pursues her goal, finally making a promise with the reporter not to pursue a news investigation.

As you’ll notice, most beats prompt a response, and actors can choose to respond to their partner’s beats. Doing this can speed up the tempo of dialogue. Beats indicate switches, and the more switches there are, the more dialogue requires your attention.

This scene is only a small portion of the entire scene, but 75% of its dialogue contains beats between the two characters. If the viewer were to look away from the dialogue, they miss character intention, and this can quickly compound into more confusion. As a test, remove any line where a beat is indicated.

You’ll notice that without certain beats, you can misconstrue a character’s intention. For example, if you removed Mai’s comment about the reporter, you might think she’s angry at the reporter or plans to lie to her. If you removed something as simple as Sakuta’s surprise, you might see him as uncaring.

Beats keep dialogue interesting, and Rascal has a feedback loop--the more you pay attention to the beats, the more the conversation becomes intriguing. The more intriguing a conversation, the more you will pay attention. That’s the beauty of Rascal’s dialogue. It knows how to keep the beat.

Final Thoughts

I was a bit nervous writing this article. It’s honestly been awhile since I’ve had to explain theater terminology or use them in an analysis of scriptwriting. However, despite this, I think I came away with a new appreciation for the show.

There is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into the writing of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. Its dialogue is purposefully energetic, and its setting keeps the intrigue of viewers. While I don’t think an understanding of beats is necessary to understand this show, I think an awareness of them helps you appreciate why the show attracts such attention.

Mai-Sakurajima-Highlights-Seishun-Buta-Yarou-wa-Bunny-Girl-Senpai-no-Yume-wo-Minai-Wallpaper The Roadmaps of Dialogue: How Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai's Beats Keeps Your Attention


Author: Sean "Coopa" Hoang

A motivated writer hoping to share his passion for video games, literature, and visual media. I'm the main streamer of FinestKO, a variety game stream with roots in the fighting game community. Whenever there's time, you can usually find me broadcasting or writing for the next article.

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