Sakura Quest – Mid Series 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)
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Sakura Quest is focused on challenging its five, young leads, delving into each girl’s personal hang ups, childhood issues, or the adversity they faced in life and what now leaves them downtrodden and aimless. Near every plot point, development, or twist is geared towards getting these girls to do some self-reflection, or help each other overcome their more personal issues. The plot may be about getting attention on this small town, but the result is emotional growth for each girl.
Linny: Our central female protagonist, Yoshino Koharo starts off feeling unique in that while she isn’t all doom and gloom, she isn’t the innocent super positive and motivated heroine shows like these tend to have. She’s on her last straws, trying desperately to land a gig so she won’t have to go home to the country and give up city life. She is reluctant to face challenges unless they align with her desire to live in the city and holds on to her stubborn determination to do so. However, as the show progresses, she turns into more or less the perfect heroine who’s able to get along with almost everyone, seems super cheerful and understanding 100% of the time. Even though this was to be expected for plot reasons, it will still be a bit disappointing for anyone who was enjoying her more anti-heroine personality.
Tom: Part of that can be explained by the fact that Sakura Quest, while focused on its girls, isn’t exactly character driven. It’s often side-characters or events that fall into their laps that drive the story week to week. But each of those events does ultimately teach the girls something about themselves or causes them to reflect on something in their past which is hindering them in the present. What’s quite enjoyable about its characters is that each of these five girls is multifaceted, with plenty of room for growth and development. Each girl has had a couple, separate episodes to struggle with various conflicts. They’re highly flawed characters, but not in unlikable ways but rather wonderfully relatable. Like Ririko, the girl who’s shy, unassuming, and has trouble opening up to others. Or Maki, who faced so much difficulty in achieving her dream goals that she ultimately ran away from those dreams. Koharo may do a little bit of a flip flop early on, but she’s still learning and growing like the other four.
Linny: Since every girl in the team has some issues in their lives, it might start to feel a bit too angsty for anyone who doesn’t connect to them as every episode generates some drama or the other, if not in the girls’ personal lives then between other characters. This could be further aggravated by the fact that some plot lines progress at a timid pace while others are forgotten completely by the next episode. I must point out though that the latter could be my personal misinterpretation as it mainly has to do with what I presumed to be the start of a potential romance between two characters, Sanae, our IT tech girl and Kazushi, a stoic wood carver going nowhere.
Tom: Outside of our five, struggling leads, Sakura Quest boasts a wealth of side characters who are wonderfully quirky and offer plenty of one off comedic jokes sporadically placed throughout each episode. Each of these characters often injects a surprise burst of comedy, even when the show is perhaps getting a bit angsty.
Linny: Sakura Quest connects well with an older audience that has faced the hardship of following their dreams or trying to find success and passion in their current careers. While the show does often showcase the charms of rural life, it also brings out the harsh realities of a dwindling small town struggling to thrive. Sakura Quest is also a bit unique in that while it does highlight more traditional aspects of Japan like traditional wood carvings and local customs, it also throws in more eclectic elements like a crazy inventor guy and his various and equally eclectic inventions.
Tom: Since the show is focused on reviving this forgotten town, out in the boonies, it does often move slow. Despite the girls racing around from one end of town to the other, there’s this slow build sense to it all. That means that while the girls are trying a new task each week to gain the town some much needed attention, nothing really changes, as if no progress has been made, save for the character development. This also means there’s a lack of intensity to everything. There’s no sense that if something isn’t accomplished everything resets to square one because in all honesty: we never left square one.
Linny: Sakura Quest derives a lot of its drama from the attempts to revive the town and the resistance the tourism group faces from the merchants association who seem worried that this desperate attempt to pull in tourists could result in the dilution of their own local customs and culture. That’s not to say this show is all drama and conflict as there’s plenty of humour to be had from the crazy cast members we’ve mentioned earlier in this review and just the general hiccups the girls face in their attempts to promote the town.
Tom: Sakura Quest may not exactly be going places, and catapulting the story in new directions, but that’s because its more a character piece than anything else. It’s content to wallow in the initial version of its setting, progressing itself instead with character exploration rather than greater and greater success. In some ways that makes the show feel more honest, as life is rarely about making astounding progression overnight, but instead the way the journey changes you. Sakura Quest is great for anyone who loves delving into characters coupled with plenty of slightly oddball comedy brought about by silly side characters.
Linny: Sakura Quest is best for those who don’t need their show and stories to be rushing towards progress and change. Just like the sleepy town the show is set in, the story progresses at a languid pace, taking its own sweet time to further itself. There’s always a few chuckles to be had along the way but at its core, Sakura Quest is a drama aimed at those who have experienced the more stressful side of career hunting and progress. On a side note, the show has an Indian American voicing a Scandinavian character in the show which makes for a rather unusual voice in anime. Furthermore, the show also has him do the voice overs for the episode previews which ALWAYS have one or two words in English which can make for some unintentional (or intentional) comedy as a slew of Japanese gets interjected with random English.