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©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

For many fresh graduates, the next challenge in their life is finding a job. This can be a difficult experience. Some series like ReLIFE already describe how uncomfortable life is as an unemployed. There are many individuals who bears the status as NEET not because they are socially inept, but because they just simply can’t get a job. Other problems, like financial situation, can become further hindrance for them.

Sakura Quest promotional poster. ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

One of those individual is the main character of Sakura Quest, Yoshino Koharu. Having sent job applications to more than 30 companies, she still found herself unemployed. Her time about to run out as her money dwindled. Her mother suggested her to return to her home, but she stubbornly refused to live in countryside. Luckily, a modelling agency offered her a job as a spokesperson for Manoyama Town tourism department. Reluctantly, she accepted that job, thought only as a short part time job to at least raise her income before coming back to Tokyo.

But after reaching Manoyama Town, Koharu discovered that she isn’t actually the one they are looking for, and this job isn’t part time, but a full year contract. Feeling annoyed, she desperately wants to go back. Should she really return to Tokyo? Or should she set her ego aside and take the job as the queen of Chupakabura Kingdom?

Koharu is about to run out of money ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

Sakura Quest is P.A Works’s original anime series. It is the third anime in their “working” series after Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako. The story follows Yoshino Koharu as she becomes the queen of Chupakabura Kingdom, a kingdom created by Manoyama Town to promote their tourism.

The Corronation of Queen Koharu. ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

“Queen” is not a position one normally expect to be a job. Yet, this is Koharu’s job and how she handles it will be the main focus of this anime. In reality, this kind of thing actually used to happen in Japan. In 1980s, many small towns in rural Japan created their own micronations to promote their local culture, language, and dialect. While their independence is just a gimmick and they don’t actually possess sovereignty, these micronations perform it wholeheartedly. Some of them have their own currency, time zone, or parliament building. They usually have their own ministry and leader as well, or in Koharu’s case, a queen.

So, as weird as it sounds, Koharu’s job actually existed in real life. In fact, that’s one of Sakura Quest’s appeals. It uses many real world occurences as the basis of its story, which makes Sakura Quest feels more grounded than the usual anime. Koharu’s search for job is something many young adult have experienced. Her naivete about the draw of big city is also not an unfamiliar mindset, especially for someone who spent her childhood in countryside. In real life Japan, it is common for youngsters from rural area to find job and better living in big cities, which causes depopulation of youth in the countryside. Koharu’s point of view represents that. “Tokyo has everything” she said, but her experiences in Manoyama Town challenge that. Moreover, Manoyama Town provides her a job, something that Tokyo never gives.

Queen Koharu has to sell local pastries © Sakura Quest Production Commitee

The conflicts deal with more serious issues and adult problems, but for most of the time, Sakura Quest presents them pretty lightheartedly. Just like Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako, there are a lot of comedic moments in this anime. From Koharu’s struggle with money, her efforts to return to Tokyo, and many more. The adult life is hard, Sakura Quest can treat them humorously.

Fortunately, that doesn’t mean Sakura Quest didn’t know how to treat serious scenes. In the end of the first episode, Koharu began to consider working for Manoyama, and this scene is beautifully executed. Aside from that, Sakura Quest also introduces a lot of potential conflicts. The people of Manoyama Town don’t really care about tourism. The residents think their bussiness are still doing okay without tourists, and there is also a rift between Manoyama Town tourism board and some older residents about the use of Chupakabura as mascot. There are still a handful of serious moments there, but most of time Sakura Quest tends to be more lighthearted, yet mature.

“We don’t need your help” ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee
“Even without tourist, we are still doing okay” ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

Furthermore, the mixing of serious conflict and lighthearted tone adds to the feeling of optimism in this show. After three episodes, Sakura Quest shows that not every “quest” Koharu accomplished will end up nicely. She probably will fail miserably, but this anime isn’t interested in making their characters moping around in their failure. Sakura Quest wants to tell its viewer that how hard your problem can be, you have to move on and do your best.

Visually, Sakura Quest looks amazing. P.A Works is a studio which well known for its visual, and this anime definitely doesn’t disappoint. The backgrounds are beautiful. The characters are also pretty expressive. There are some scenes drawn with good attention to detail. One of them is a scene when Koharu swung a plastic sword. The swords is bending weirdly, which makes it looks like a real plastic prop rather than a solid metal sword.

Koharu’s sword bending like a real plastic sword © Sakura Quest Production Commitee

But the main hook of Sakura Quest is its thematic choice. Just like many anime that focuses on working, it picks up something different and makes it interesting. If Gi(a)rlish Number shows the voice acting industry and The Great Passage (Japanese title: Fune wo Amu) focuses on the making of a dictionary, this anime gives an insight about the condition of rural area and their problems. Sakura Quest not only nailed that, but also treats it with care and attention.

Revitalizing rural area’s tourism isn’t easy, and Koharu experienced it firsthand. But then, there is no easy life, whether it is as an unemployed or a bogus queen. So no matter how hard your life is, have fun with it. Sakura Quest provides an anime about working with serious conflicts yet lighthearted tone. If you are looking for this kind of anime, Sakura Quest is definitely for you.

Queen Koharu gently smiling as she start to embrace her role. Can Koharu revitalize Manoyama Town tourism? ©Sakura Quest Production Commitee

Facts and Figures

Source material Original work
Casts Atsushi Ono as Ushimatsu Kadota
Ayaka Nanase as Yoshino Koharu
Chiemi Tanaka as Ririko Oribe
Chika Anzai as Maki Midorikawa
Daiki Hamano as Mino
Hiro Shimono as Yamada
Katsuyuki Konishi as Takamizawa
Maki Izawa as Chitose Oriba
Mikako Komatsu as Sanae Kōzuki
Nanako Mori as Angelica
Reina Ueda as Shiori Shinomiya
Tomoyo Kurosawa as Erika Suzuki
Director Soichi Masui (Chaika the Coffin PrincessBrotherhood: Final Fantasy XV)
Scenario Masahiro Yokotani (Free!Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu)
Character Design Kanami Sekiguchi (Hanasaku Iroha, Shirobako)
Opening Song “Morning Glory” by  (K)NoW_NAME
Ending Song “Freesia” by  (K)NoW_NAME
Studio P.A. Works
Official Site http://sakura-quest.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/manoyama_PR
Broadcast Date 5 April 2017 (1500 GMT, 2200 WIT), 6 April 2017 (0000 JST)

The Indonesian Anime Times | by Dany Muhammad

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