Queen For The Summer
- Episodes : 25
- Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy
- Airing Date : Apr 6, 2017 to Sep 21, 2017
- Studios : P.A. Works
Sakura Quest Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
P.A. Works has been releasing a series of slice-of-life anime dealing with unique working situations. Following the well-received Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako, Sakura Quest is the third entry into this growing catalog which sees a young girl take a job in Manoyama after struggling to eke out a living in Tokyo. Like the previous two shows, the focus is on character development and introducing a unique environment which is not often explored in the industry. Comedy plays its part, but Sakura Quest is not an anime comedy. What we mean is that there are no sudden bursts of exaggerated expressions or changes in the animation style to punctuate the hijinks. Everything which happens is grounded in our reality.
Yoshino Koharu just graduated college and is desperately trying to find a job in Tokyo to avoid having to move back to her hometown. Unfortunately, things are starting to look pretty damn grim after a slew of rejections. With barely any money left in the bank, Yoshino decides to take a one year job as a make-believe “Queen” with the tourism board of Manoyama Village – a town struggling to make ends meet. Their main mascot is the Chupacabra, a figure which was popular a few decades ago but is now just a remnant of a better time. Accompanied by four other women, Yoshino sets out to try and rejuvenate the village’s economy.
Over the course of the year, the Tourism board is faced with one challenge after another as they try to put Manoyama back on the map. One arc sees them trying to find a haunted house which can serve as a movie set, while another centers around whether they can attract an audience for a festival. That is generally how each episode progresses, the group puts together an event to try and attract tourists. While most do end in failure, they are provided an opportunity for the characters to grow and learn from their mistakes.
What we liked about Sakura Quest
Sakura Quest is a breath of fresh air. We love comedy anime which go over-the-top and hold only a passing resemblance to reality, but it is a genuine pleasure whenever something comes along willing to show some restraint in terms of its animation and comedic style. P.A. Works’ series could easily be live-action, there really is nothing which happens during these 25 episodes that could not be depicted using real people. While that might be a deal breaker for some people, this naturalistic tone perfectly suits the pacing and story being told in Sakura Quest.
That is not to say the animation is mediocre or cheap, as P.A. Works created a gorgeous series with identifiable character designs. While Yoshino’s pink hair almost contradicts the rest of the visual style, it provides a decent juxtaposition with the people who live in Manoyama village. For a slice-of-life series, Sakura Quest moves at a pretty quick pace, with scenes rarely lasting more than a few minutes. Yes, it deals with the everyday lives of these people, but their jobs are not exactly normal.
The characters are quite likable and work really well together. Yoshino is pretty much your typical energetic but realistic protagonist, while the supporting cast is diverse enough to guarantee that most people should find someone they relate to. This might just be a preference, but it is nice whenever an anime decides to move away from a high-school setting. Nobody from the main group is a child or a teenager, allowing for more mature topics to be tackled like dreams and the importance of being able to let them go.
Sakura Quest is not based on any manga and is a completely original production. Fans of P.A. Works’ previous two “working” series should definitely give this a try, as it captures the spirit of Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako. Admittedly, it is the weakest of the three, but that has less to do with Sakura Quest’s overall quality and more due to just how high the bar was set.
Although it is far from a slow-moving slice-of-life anime, with the plot progressing with each episode and the characters constantly going through development, the lack of any real outburst of animation might bore some viewers who are used to watching those types of series. It takes some getting used to, and the first few episodes are easily the worst, so we recommend pushing through until the fifth or sixth episode to really see if it is for you.
P.A. Works is masterful when it comes to creating unique environments and relatable characters, with Sakura Quest being no exception. History is an important theme, as Manoyama is a village struggling to survive due to some less than stellar marketing choices made in the past. Like the real world, actions do have consequences in this universe and there is no ‘get out of jail free’ card or deus ex-machinas. Yoshino ends up working as the “Queen” due to not properly reading her contract, which stated she had to serve for a year and not a day, as she originally assumed.
We cannot help but love the five main characters, who quickly form a bond and learn to trust in one another. Every single one of them is defined by uncertainty, as they do not know what their future holds or if their past choices will end up working out. There are no conspiracy theories or villains, just normal people trying their hardest to improve their lives.
There are no fights, explosions, or insane characters; Sakura Quest is all about the simple aspects of life. In that simplicity, the anime finds its greatest strength. While there is an overarching plot, as the tourism board tries to reestablish Manoyama, the focus is on character development. The five main girls are all struggling with their own issues, from depression to isolation, and they are dealt with in a realistic manner. Expect to see some of yourself in one of these characters.
P.A. Works put together a gorgeous series brimming with vibrant colors and smooth animation. Despite the lack of any real visual flair, Sakura Quest manages to capture one’s attention using its art style alone. The character design is especially strong, with each person’s personality being reflected in the way they dress or do their hair. It perfectly suits the type of story being told.
3. Character Development
By the end of the series, the five main characters – Yoshino, Maki, Sanae, Shiori, and Ririko – transcend the screen to become as close to real people as anime allows. Neither of them exists to simply to deliver a funny line or to cook up some conflict, as P.A. Works does a fantastic job of developing their backgrounds and establishing what motivates them and where they would like to eventually end up.
If slice-of-life is not your thing, then Sakura Quest might not be worth a watch. Honestly, it is best to start off with P.A. Works’ previous two “working” series, as they are better. At the end of the day, there is nothing new to be found here, and it is not going to convert viewers who do not enjoy slice-of-life. The lack of a male character in the main group could make it harder for half of the audience to connect with the cast.
While we do not consider Sakura Quest to be boring, that criticism is not hard to understand. The events which happen throughout the 25 episodes are important for the characters, but could leave the audience wondering why this story is being told. The “mini-nation” program plays an important part in Japan’s recent history but could be quite a foreign concept for Western viewers.
Sakura Quest is really not that funny. There are a handful of humorous moments, but be prepared to go through entire episodes without even cracking a smile. To be fair, comedy is not the anime’s main priority, but a fair amount of the jokes fall flat. They often feel forced or come completely out of left field, like when Sanae visits an elementary school and is mocked for having a big butt.
The village itself is probably the dullest aspect of the series. There is really nothing unique about it, which might be the point, but some more variety would have been welcome. The idea is that Manoyama is just one town out of many struggling to not be swallowed up by the progress of time. This desire to create as simplistic and normal of an environment as possible results in a rather bland setting.
Sakura Quest is the worst entry in P.A. Works’ “working” series. Despite that, there is a still a solid story and a likable cast to be found, one which offers a different type of slice-of-life experience from the more comedy-heavy series. At 25 episodes, the anime does begin to drag towards the end, but it is a ride worth taking. For newcomers, we recommend first watching Shirobako, as it is easily the best the studio has to offer.
Did you agree with our review? Is Sakura Quest a worthwhile series? Please let us know in the comments below