As an overarching story, The Rascal Does Not Dream series hit its central climax in the 2019 film Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl. The previous film to this one, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out, felt more like an extended epilogue than anything else—a concerted attempt to tie up loose ends while giving the various plot points the time they needed to resolve naturally. And while Rascal Does Not Dream of a Knapsack Kid feels similar on that front, it also manages to feel like a conclusive ending to the entire story by bringing it all full circle.
The series began with Mai becoming invisible to everyone but Sakuta. Now, Sakuta finds himself afflicted with the same condition. In Mai’s case, she was tired of her life in the spotlight—never being able to escape fame and be herself. Simply put, part of her wanted to be invisible—so that’s exactly what she became. Sakuta’s issue, on the other hand, comes from a different place entirely.
Sakuta is facing some significant changes in his life. Mai has graduated and is going to a college he will have to give his all to get into. Kaede has managed to restart her life—and is even starting to mend the relationship with their mother. All the people he’s helped throughout the story are doing fine. For the first time in years, he feels unneeded by those around him—invisible. And so, as it goes for those suffering from Adolescence Syndrome, that’s exactly what he becomes.
But more than that, Sakuta is forced to deal with the fact that he’s helped solve everyone’s problems but his own. To cure himself of his affliction, he has to get to the root of his issues and take the steps needed to start the healing process.
Much of the film focuses on Sakuta thinking about what he truly wants and accepting that his reality isn’t that. However, the message of the story is that once you realize that there is a divide, you can do things to bring dreams and reality closer together—especially if the others involved share in those dreams.
The film also makes the point that no one is perfect. It’s easy to sit back and judge people and their choices—even if there were no objectively “good” options for them to choose from in the moment. It’s important to recognize that people can only do so much—and that everyone’s mental health has its breaking point. We’re only human, and everyone deserves a bit of grace—especially when they try to heal and grow.
As for the presentation of the film, it’s average for a theatrical anime film. In what amounts to a slice-of-life movie, there is little in the way of visual spectacle—though the film does a great job at keeping the locations grounded so that we always know where Sakuta is at any given moment through consistently detailed backdrops. As for the music, it does its job of highlighting the story’s emotional beats but little more—though I will say playing the TV anime’s ending song during the closing credits is a great way of musically book-ending this arc of the series.
Overall, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Knapsack Kid is a satisfying ending to the series so far. It ties up all the remaining plot threads and focuses firmly on Sakuta instead of those around him. It has solid character building and is packed with good morals about the complicated nature of life and family. And it ends not with a cliffhanger but a good little tease of things to come. If you’re a fan of the series so far, I can’t imagine you not enjoying this film.