Hiro ShimonoTomoyo KurosawaChika AnzaiAyaka Nanase
Sakura Quest
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2017: S
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Soichi Masui
Writer: Masahiro Yokotani
Actor: Ayaka Nanase, Atsushi Ono, Chiemi Tanaka, Chika Anzai, Daiki Hamano, Hiro Shimono, Katsuyuki Konishi, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Maki Izawa, Masashi Nogawa, Mikako Komatsu, Misao Kobayashi, Nanako Mori, Reina Ueda, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Vinay Murthy, Yusuke Kobayashi
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 25 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=18916
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 18 March 2019
Saku ra Quest
It's a gentle, funny, realistic series on a mildly depressing topic. Yoshino is a young lady in Tokyo who's having no luck finding work, but would still sooner jump off a bridge than admit defeat and go back to her family in the rural backwater where she grew up. (Note: she's not a girl. She's twenty-something and this is a show starring and aimed at adults.)
Then, one day, her agent finds her a job as Queen of Manoyama. This is yet another rural backwater... but Yoshino swallows her pride and takes the money. Manoyama is one of many dying Japanese towns. All the young people leave to go to the cities. The average age keeps increasing, the birthrate keeps dropping and every year sees the closure of yet more shops and public services. They don't even have a school any more. This is a predicament that's being faced by towns all over Japan. Yoshino's job is to help reverse that decline... but that's like fighting against gravity. Those forces are real. The best they can probably hope for is for a specific town to go against the general trend by making itself fashionable. How long will that last? Is it a permanent solution? Who knows?
Too late, Yoshino discovers that she's signed a year-long contract. Oh, and the bloke who offered her the job (Ushimatsu Kadota) is a grouchy, rude pensioner who hadn't even wanted her in the first place. He's sincere in wanting to revive Manoyama, but he's also the kind of git who puts people's backs up and causes more problems than he solves.
For a while, it's touch-and-go whether Yoshino stays. Eventually she does. She even makes some friends, becoming one of five ladies who'll work together to try to revive Manoyama. There's Shiori (sweet, a bit dozy, native of Manoyama and absolutely loves the place), Maki (running away from her previous life as an actress), Ririko (emotionless granddaughter of Mr Kadota's most hated enemy) and Sanae (web designer from Tokyo who moved here because it would look good on her blog).
It's a workplace show. It's about (mostly) sensible adults doing a job, except that this is an unusual form of employment. P.A. Works have done this kind of thing before, with Shirobako (which is glorious) and Hanasaku Iroha (about which I'm now curious). It's not always a serene watch, partly because the show has a knack for understated cringe comedy. It's gentle, but it's there in the Singles Matchmaking Tour (ep.10) and the foreign Cryptid Hunters (ep.12). More comedy comes from Mr Kadota, who's simply appalling and could make me laugh by using "old bat" as a form of greeting.
It's a thoughtful and sometimes even touching examination of the people who live in a place like this. They can be difficult, of course. The shopping district is dying, but it can be like pulling teeth to get the owner of an unused shop to rent it to a strange company. (The owners usually live above their shops, you see, and they're generally of retirement age. Their children have left home. They've basically accepted that they're going to crumble into nothing.) Young people aren't guaranteed to have any attachment to their home town, as is proved by Yoshino herself. This is the kind of calm, level-headed show where heroes are perfectly capable of failing and where the magic solution can turn out to have upsetting hidden strings attached.
That said, though, it's also charming. The cast are easy to like. They'll become good friends, they're supportive and they're thoughtful and (mostly) realistic in what they should be aiming for. They're facing an uphill task and they'll have bad ideas as well as good ones, but they'll keep doggedly trying for 25 episodes and you can achieve something meaningful if you keep chipping away with lots of little victories. A lot of what we see here is based on things that have been tried in real Manoyama-like towns, incidentally.
Oh, and I loved the first opening theme music. The other themes aren't bad either.
This isn't an exciting show. It's modest in its scope, never stepping beyond the bounds of real-life achievability. It's not strong enough to send you running out in the street and recommending to people (whereas Shirobako was). Instead, it's intelligent and nice. 25 episodes is a lot and the show is probably a bit too modest for some audiences, but it's a solid, high-quality show all the way through (in its understated way) and it nails its ending. It's a show to respect.