Sakura Quest – Anime Review
Synopsis: Five young women all have one thing in common– the careers they planned for themselves just aren’t panning out. Job dissatisfaction, trying to make ends meet, and personal insecurities lead each to start working at a local tourism bureau where they find their lives intertwined. As each girl experiences their first year on the job, they learn a lot about their town, their industry and by conjunction, themselves. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Sakura Quest offers a near uniform quality, depicting the efforts of five young women attempting to rejuvenate a dying rural town with solid, even animation, incredible location art, and down to Earth writing that gives the series an honest and real feel.
Linny: The focus is on the journey of the girls and their own personal trials and tribulations rather than them actually achieving their main goal of reviving the rural town. There are no huge or amazing anime style transformations for anyone as the show sticks to keeping it down to earth and realistic. Even when the girls set out to do something major, the results are believable, grounded and compounded with consequences or complications rather than fix all changes and success. The series does a great job of turning the girls’ efforts into amusing tales, like the comedy that can arise from trying to pull of matchmaking tours, or teaching the elderly residents how to use the internet. Which leads to accidentally getting them a little too into it and ends with internet addicted homebodies prone to online thrash talking.
Tom: Sakura Quest is a slow burn, gradually upping the character drama as the series progresses. The general flow is moving from one failed scheme to the next as our girls try to bring focus back on this rural town of Manoyama. While the show generally follows these efforts, much of the attention is how each event highlights some issue the girls are suffering from. Examples include Yoshino’s struggle to find her passion in life, or Shiori’s deep attachment to the town rather than seeking to leave home, or Maki’s failed aspirations towards acting. Because of this honest character focus, the series is very much grounded, with little wacky anime shenanigans to detract from the, often grim, reality of their situations.
Linny: This devotion to keeping things real can often translate to some depressing and disappointing vibes as the show lays out how the girls have had to face rejection and failure repeatedly, even as the show continues. While the girls do end up with new motivation and goals, they’re never shown as achieving extreme fame or success in any of their personal endeavors. There are no magical happy solutions or changes and instead you get a sombre and realistic tale that avoids coming off as fake or forced tragedy even though it deals with the plight of a socially/culturally dying rural town and girls who learn that life doesn’t always work out like you dreamed it would.
Tom: Sakura Quest is ultimately an adult series, focused on real world problems lacking true and obvious solutions. It’s a series for an older audience, one who can more identify with the struggle of unfulfilled dreams, the difficulty in finding your place in society, and more. It’s a series aimed at audiences a bit above the usual anime age curve. In fact, the series is unusually honest even in its ending. Success doesn’t magically find our characters, or offer a surprise last minute solution that turns everything around. Rather Sakura Quest is about finding the modest success in the alternate paths forward and learning to be happy with what you can/have achieved rather than focusing on your failures. It’s about ways to make your dreams come true even if they didn’t manifest in the way you’d hoped. It’s an oddity among anime or entertainment as a whole, where most characters achieve their lofty dreams by the end of the story. It makes Sakura Quest depressingly, yet refreshingly, honest.
Linny: Yoshino Koharu initially feels like the main protagonist but as Sakura Quest proceeds the focus becomes more evenly distributed among not only her four co-workers (Shiori, Maki, Ririko and Sanae) but other residents of the village as well. In fact, the show explores the past of some of the older residents, revealing surprising sides to them and adding to their personalities.
Tom: Indeed, a major highlight of Sakura Quest is how fun it can get with its side characters and what their backstories and own personal drama adds to the proceedings. It gives a sense of history to the series, and makes everything feel a bit deeper and harder hitting. It fleshes out the world through its characters, offering up a massive ensemble cast beyond our five main girls. Indeed by the end of its twenty-fifth and final episode the entire town feels alive with honest and grounded characters.
Linny: Sakura Quest is a realist’s anime. It’s for the older anime fan who has experienced disappointments and rejection in life, in their careers and dreams. That’s not to say it’s a depressing or pandering show in any way but rather, a show that will reverberate with a more mature viewer who’s witnessed the less than perfect side of life. It’s a great choice for anyone seeking a toned down show that keeps things down to earth and is invested in a tale about how the greatest ambitions may not always lead to success and how to roll with the twists and turns life throws at you.
Tom: Sakura Quest is an anime focused on what to do after life hasn’t really gone your way. So many anime are focused on exploring the formative years of youth, and offering larger than life tales that play into Japanese culture and its focus on your teenage years being the best time in life. Sakura Quest instead speaks about after that and how to find happiness, even if your dreams didn’t entirely come out the way you would’ve liked. It’s not a show for younger viewers, as experiencing these struggles in your own life seems almost a prerequisite. But for older audiences, Sakura Quest may touch upon troubles you’ve had and feel strangely poignant.