Sakura Quest is the latest entry in P.A. Work’s thematic “Working Girls” series, which consists of Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako. If you haven’t watched those shows, the theme revolves around a group of girls and their work lives.
Sakura Quest is about Yoshino Koharu, a girl who moved from a rural town to attend a junior college in Tokyo. As a recent grad, Yoshino is having difficulty finding a job, but due to a spelling error, she is offered a chance to work with the tourism board of a small village. Thinking it’s a quick paycheck, Yoshino is disappointed to learn that she has to live in Manoyama village for a year and to help revive their tourism industry.
Sakura Quest, like the previous Working Girls anime, is a hard sell. Why watch a series about beautiful (based strictly on individual opinion) women work in the boonies? Well…
A Very Topical Subject.
Sakura Quest tackles two social issues that are currently plaguing post-industrialized countries: the decay of rural towns and the difficulty Millenials are having to find jobs.
Rural decay is a very real issue in Japan and other industrialized nations. As cultures de-emphasis the need for agriculture and focus on packing jobs into urban centers, it leads rural communities to pretty much die. The demographic skews towards the elderly, and with no universities or jobs to lure in young people, it leads to neglect and abandoned communities.
Concurrently, Sakura Quest shows the difficulty Millenials face in finding jobs upon graduating university. Yoshino has applied to 32 different companies and is willing to take a lesser position, but she only scores a few interviews with no job offers. We can see her hopes and dreams of a city life crumble simply because of the job market. It’s a hard-hitting topic since the global youth unemployment rate is at 14%.
These are heavy, real themes for an anime. Amazingly, Sakura Quest has not gotten preachy or overly pessimistic, and instead focuses on hope and community.
Sakura Quest could have gone full-on melodramatic but is taking a quieter approach. There are no tears or long-winded monologs about true suffering. Instead, we get contextual queues about the world.
We see abandoned buildings littering Manoyama and the lack of infrastructure (no street lights, fam.) Also, we see Yoshino’s empty bank account, empty fridge, and haggard expressions. P.A. Works has embraced to show instead of telling how bad the cast have it.
Not only that, but we get a sense that the community of Manoyama isn’t on the same page about revitalization. It’s only been teased so far, but there seem to be two factions with different beliefs on how to promote Manoyama.
It’s all there nestled in the background as Yoshino comes to terms that her reality is back in the countryside, which she despises.
The main cast was introduced throughout the first two episodes, and so far, they are fun.
- Yoshino Koharu – A recent junior college grad who moved from the countryside to Tokyo. She believes the big city will have everything for a successful life. After a series of failures, she becomes a “Queen” to promote tourism in Manoyama.
- Shiori Shinomiya – A native of Manoyama with a kind heart and wants to see her hometown improve.
- Maki Midorikawa – An amateur actor who returns to Manoyama after failing to carve out a steady career. She’s sassy as hell.
- Ririko Oribe – A childhood friend of Shiori’s. She is a shy girl and spends most of her time locked in her room obsessing over the occult.
- Sanae Kouzuki – An internet entrepreneur from Tokyo. She moved to Manoyama because the city life was burning her out. Unintentionally sarcastic and is a Christmas Cake.
With the exception of Shiori, none of the girls are truly interested in revitalizing Manoyama and are only in the small town due to past failures in the job market. That being said, none of them are depressed whiners and are trying to maintain a positive outlook to improve their individual lives.
Obviously, the clash of the individual vs the community is going to come into play later in the series. This is going to lead to some character growth, but as of right now, the cast is pretty fine.
Sakura Quest knows how to dish out the humor. The style is not loud or in your face like Renai Boukun but instead, relies on great timing and amusing cuts.
From a bizarre bard spouting nonsense to Sanae’s penchant for creating words, everything has a low-key feel to it. I think it’s a great way to break up some of the heavier moments of the series.
Sakura Quest does a good job introducing the main cast and setting up Manoyama. I fear the Slice of Life nature of the series will lead it to be overshadowed by big name shows like Attack on Titan Season 2 and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, but it’s definitely a must watch for anyone looking for something a little more real.
Seriously though, Maki’s sassy as hell.