It’s the literal end of the line
|Well, I guess I should finally get around to writing something, huh? In a rare move, PA Works has two series airing at the same time, with Uchoten Kazoku 2 and this show, Sakura Quest. But the shows are definitely quite different, so lets see how this tale of a country girl moved to the city moved back to the country has started.|
Making a Mistake
She doesn’t know what she wants to do, and it shows
The main character of Sakura Quest is Yoshino Koharu, a young woman who has moved from the country to Tokyo to go to college and make her life. Unfortunately, that’s run into a little snag since she’s been unable to land a job after college despite interviewing at 32 different places. But she’s adamant that she’s going to be successful in the city, mostly because she doesn’t want to feel like she’s been forced to go back to the country as a failure. But time’s running out, since she’ll lose her place to live soon, and any income from her parents, who aren’t really keen on paying for their daughter to live as a freeter in the capital.
They’re waiting for someone else
That’s why when a call, from a talent agency that she had done a photo shoot for, comes in with the offer of what seems to be a quick job with a small-town tourism board, she reluctantly takes the job, but doesn’t really read the contract. And she’s not the only one whose imprecision gets her in a spot of trouble. Arriving at the town of Manoyama, her big welcome is derailed by the fact that at least the director of the tourism agency, Mr Kodata, had intended to hire an idol from his (relative) youth, Yoshino Tsubaki. One can see how you could make a mistake, especially with handwriting, when you’re writing 椿 or 木春. So for a job she really didn’t want, Yoshino’s now told that she’s not even the person they wanted. But given that “Yoshino-chan”, the idol, passed away at the age of 68 8 years ago, not to mention that they’ve already paid the talent agency, everyone’s kind of stuck. But Yoshino is even more stuck than she knows, because the contract she signed, to be the “Queen” of the micro-kingdom of “Chupakabura”, is for a full year, not the one-day gig she thought.
What’s Really Missing?
Not really happy with her situation
So basically, Yoshino is trapped for a year in the exact place she didn’t want to be: the country. More than that, she’s charged with being the figurehead for an effort to reinvigorate the town of Manoyama. I find it hard to call it a town, given that it has a population of 50,000, but it faces the same sort of depopulation that many of these more rural areas of Japan (and even the rest of the western world) are experiencing. And while the idea is just starting to be floated in some cities of finding ways to contract gracefully, most are not interested in that and are looking instead to get back on a positive trend of population growth. But how do you do that? How do you appeal to people to come to even visit a rural area where the main business is farming, and many of the services that people used to run businesses to provide are now handled by ordering off the internet?
A Failure Manju Party
That’s the question that noone really has an answer to. So Yoshino is kind of casting about in the dark, further burdened by an assumption that, as the queen, she’s supposed to actually be leading the effort and coming up with ideas. Some of that is because in her desperation to leave initially, she makes a bet about selling 1000 boxes of manju. But after that, it is more and more apparent that the people in the town tourism bureau really don’t have any better ideas, particularly Mr Kodata, who has stubbornly stuck to his favored chupacabra myth as what will draw people, even though it never has. So the transformation of the show has been the interesting part, as Yoshino, the reluctant transplant, and Shiori, the native who actually loves the country and the town, create friendships with Maki, someone who has lived the path that Yoshino seemed destined to and since returned to Manoyama after tiring of odd jobs and non-careers, including a non-star turn as a side character in “The Oden Detective” TV movie; Ririko, the daughter of Mr. Kodata’s nemesis store-keeper who is Shiori’s friend and a quiet girl interested in the occult; and Sanae, a web developer who also moved out of Tokyo to get away from the city, but in typical City Mouse fashion isn’t nearly as enamored with the bugs, weather, and loneliness as she thought she’d be. Through Yoshino’s efforts at trying to get out of her contract, she ends up working with all of them, and all of them start to realize that main thing that maybe they’ve been missing is interaction and friendships.
A beautiful time for hanami
I really like the feel that PA Works has brought to this show, very reminiscent of the types of personal interactions that Shirobako had. And at first blush, you might think that Yoshinio is a bit too much like Aoi Miyamori, but it doesn’t take to long to understand that they’re different people. This show is definitely not “Shirobako in the Sticks”, it’s its own show, and is very enjoyable as just that. I like Yoshino’s practical attitude about working through things, including her ability to get people to stop arguing and get them to move forward. I also like some of the hangups she has, like hating the word “futsuu” (normal, ordinary, generally). She’s had that word applied to her too many times, and even when people say it about other things, like “Normally people wouldn’t buy 2 boxes of souvenir manju” she only responds to the “normally” part with “Don’t say ‘normal!’”. It’s a nice personality quirk that really humanizes her character.
The Queen is through with taking your crap!
Just look at that rusty door
I also like the look of the show, with PA Works’ usual realism taking the fore. They haven’t really pushed any beauty shots, but this show doesn’t really call for that, given that the point is that the town is old and shabby, with lots of closed up shops and empty roads. But that’s one of the things that PA Works has always done better than anyone else: make the beat up and shabby still beautiful. The detail they put into the nearly abandoned palace of Chupakabura, or the log cabin interior of the house that Yoshino and Maki are living in is just great. And another detail in the show that I just love is that the movements of the OP sequence are timed to the music used, with Yoshino following the beat. If you’re not watching this show, I really recommend it.