Sakura Quest – 04

This is a shout out to all those who still follow my coverage of Sakura Quest even though I’m clearly unreliable as fu——- Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Cute Girls doing Cute Things! We’re going down the realm of promotions again and exploring one of Manoyama’s traditional crafts; Ranma, and we ain’t talking about any gender bending here.

Ranma is the art of Japanese wood carving, and some of the works are utterly breathtaking.

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Believe it or not, this isn’t even the craziest thing someone’s made!

Yoshino discovering the elaborate ranma in Sanae’s home is the precursor to the quest for promoting Manoyama’s wood-carving. There have been numerous attempts in the past, but none have been particularly fruitful, despite the face that Manoyama’s ramna is considered tangible heritage by the government.

What I find myself particularly drawn into, yet again, is the gang’s failure. While their good intentions are felt by some of the Wood-carving district, others view it in a drastically different light. Yoshino’s probably is she immediately goes down the promotional route for anything, and as such neglects understanding why people oppose the idea. With each passing episode, I understand why the merchant’s association is at odds with the tourism board.

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Even the mysterious bard seems to think they’re fighting likes cats and dogs.

Pride.

That’s what is not being understood here. It’s all in a matter of pride, specifically pride in one’s work. I applaud Yoshino and her ministers for trying to breathe life into the town, but that can’t be done without a mutual level of respect and understanding. They did no research as to how difficult the ranma were to produce, the types of wood necessary, or anything like that. They just jumped on the wagon of “this is something we can promote” without much investment beyond that. Now, I can’t fault those in the Tourism board either. If no tourism comes into the town, the economy will eventually suffer for it. And why are they doing all this any way? For pride in the town that they love. Pride is a double-edge sword and it’s delicious. Because of the manner of such slice-of-life shows and how they function, I think there is ultimately going to be some sort of compromise between the two organizations, but for now, I’ll drink up the conflict.

Before wrapping this all up, I want to turn towards Sanae and her own internal conflicts that Kazushi was all too happy to stir up for her. Why was she here? She says she wanted to be surrounded by nature, and thus chose Manoyama, which of course, Kazushi grills her over. Unlike him, she didn’t have to pick the town to run away to. Let’s be real for a minute. He’s right. It didn’t have to be, it just was. And to play devil’s advocate, I understand Sanae’s need to run away from Tokyo. The crowded trains are stifling (and if you downplay them without living through the experience, you’re just full of shit), everyone is overworked, and by the end of the day, you’re so exhausted you don’t want to do anything. To want to do nothing on your days off because you’re so exhausted and have to go back and do the same thing for yet another week…it’s soul-crushing.

I feel like with each passing post, I’m becoming more analytical and less synopsis-writing…I hope you guys like it.

Till next time. Best wishes.

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Sakura Quest – 03

Welcome to yet another episode of Cute Girls doing Cute Things, I mean Sakura Quest. What I’m really liking about the show here…is the failure. What? Yeah, the failure. Specifically Yoshino’s multiple failures. Her being elected queen of Chupakabura has done little to stir any revitalization to Manoyama and let’s be real, her interview with the local TV station was a disaster. It’s one thing to resign yourself to a job, it’s another thing to be completely clueless about it. What does she like about Manoyama, what is her favorite product? These things are simple enough questions, but if you sit down and think about it, Yoshino was too busy trying to escape than to actually attempt doing her job right.

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Is it any surprise you have no love from your subjects?

It makes sense though, right? Why support someone so ignorant and only there by coercion? It makes sense why the head of the Merchants association is at odds with the  tourism association chief. Yoshino’s reputation in town isn’t exactly pristine to begin with, what with the last two episodes being exclusively about her trying to get out of the situation. I was actually waiting to see how the townspeople actually thought about her, and not our rpg party either. Hell, even that cop in town knows her as the girl whose constantly trying to leave Manoyama.

Luckily, Yoshino showed some conviction this time around in an attempt to learn a bit more about the town she is to be the mascot of, though much of the town is less than thrilled to help. Still, that did little to deter her. What people loved about Manoyama, what made the town great for those who lived there, that’s what she sought to discover.

That’s how Yoshino found out about Kabura-kun, a mascot as unpopular as Chupakabura. You see, Kabura-kun predated the latter and was inspired by Manoyama’s famous product; the kabura. Kabura-kun was cast aside due to that lack-luster popularity and the rising fascination with UMA in the 90s that the tourism head thought they could coast on. And that’s what brings us to where we are today; a town plagued with mascots it neither wants or cares for.

I could go into specifics regarding the mascot contest, but I honestly don’t really want to. How many blogs that you guys read go into dedicated synopses as opposed to talking about what the blogger feels.  So this is me, talking about my feelings. Just like Yoshino spoke up at the contest. Trying to save Manoyama’s declining tourism is an admirable goal, but the way things are going, it makes sense why it hasn’t worked so far. How do you save someone or something that doesn’t want to be saved? Yoshino has a year to figure it out, and quite frankly I can’t wait to see how her journey progresses.

Note: It’s Golden Week here in Japan, so here’s hoping I can catch up with the rest of Sakura Quest!

Best wishes!

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Seriously though…tell me your secrets, bard!

 

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ACCA Pop up store: Akihabara Atre

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Living in Japan has some major perks.

 

Alright, alright! This is going to be my first real life type post, so I hope you all sit back and enjoy yourself.

Last season, I became a huge, huge fan of ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka for numerous reasons that I can ramble about for days…but that’s not why I made this post (or is it?)

I want to say around every month or so, Atre (a japanese department store/mall-type thing) in Akihabara hosts exhibits featuring anime, games, and so on. You get the idea. About a month ago, they happened to be featuring line art from ACCA, as well as a stamp collection activity thing and I was super excited!

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Yesssssssssss~

At the time, I was a bit disappointed because of the lack of merchandise, but more likely than not, I was stupid and checking the wrong floor of the department store. Anyway, the bar/cafe where I go to practice Japanese isn’t too far off from Akihabara station, so with some time to kill, I decided to do some roaming and boy was I not disappointed. I easily dropped $80 on all this and I’m not even mad. Because the event started off earlier, I missed the opportunity to get more Jean and Nino-themed merch, but I was hardly disappointed.

I bought two Mugimaki bread bag/lunch bags (because freaking awesome gift for a friend that I just could not resist), a couple key chains (one shaped like Jean’s lighter, the other Nino-themed), a bread-shaped cellphone charm/screen-cleaner thing, a cellphone case, and an IC card case made to look like Nino’s camera. Yeah, I broke the bank because this is all licensed goods. I regret nothing. There were plenty of other character desplays, charms, clear file folders the first time I went, but unfortunately I missed out on those. There were actually really cool ACCA ID cards for a lot of the characters, but I unfortunately only noticed them after I was paying, and to be quite frank, my wallet was already sobbing, so I wasn’t going to buy more.

If stuff like this interests you, please like, comment and subscribe (otherwise I’ll forget to go see what’s going down in Electric Town).

Best wishes!

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Sakura Quest – 02

Welcome to another episode of cute girls doing cute things-I mean, Sakura Quest! We start right off from where we left off in the premier, and our lovely protagonists first task has been set. Sell one hundred, wait no, one thousand chupakabura manju in a week before the expiration date, and Yoshino can kiss the countryside goodbye! As if she’d pass up such a prospect. Unfortunately, selling the manju is easier said than done. Chugging along, the woman Yoshino met on the train and appeared to be squatting in her dorm was none other than Midorikawa Maki (Anzai Chika), an unsuccessful actress known fondly in Manoyama as “Maki, the oden detective.” With another member having joined the party, Yoshino continues on, attempting to complete this seemingly impossible venture.

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Do you want a box? Or like…ten?

There’s a whole host of ways to try and get rid of the manju such as, praying the 500 tourists that visit Manoyama a week will by two boxes, or praying that one in fifty residents will buy it, or praying that the sweets shop will help you-oh, right…the old woman that runs it and the head of the tourist board hate each other. Crap. Luckily for our struggling Yoshino, the addition of Shiori’s childhood friend, Oribe Ririko (Tanaka Chiemi), an occult-otaku provides some well-needed information about the chupakabura.

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I’m not going to lie…I really want that Big Foot doll.

With this new founded marketing-scheme, exploiting the occultness of the town’s mascot (which seriously would be the first thing I would have thought of), Yoshino and the gang embark on promoting the damn manju. Just remember, Yoshino…seven days. Seeing as we are currently living in the technological age, the obvious thing to do is revamp the town’s webpage and include a webstore to buy the manju from. But like most people, the current members in our party just don’t have the required skill set for the task. For this…they need a pro.

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Ladies and gentlemen, my spirit animal.

And so arrives our last main party member, Kouzuki Sanae (Komatsu Mikako). Working as an IT worker, Sanae moved to Manoyama six months prior to Yoshino’s arrival, having quit her job in Tokyo. Sanae is quick to lay down the realness, you can’t make an online shop overnight, but you can make people come to you. With her website design finesse, the “fancy occult” theme (fancyccult) for the website is born. The result’s are, quite frankly, less than anticipated. Not enough people viewed the site, so they decided to go down a different route; buying directly from the queen of Manoyama! By blaming it on Yoshino, surely someone would pity her plight and buy some boxes. The end result was Shiori’s family buying three boxes because they felt bad for her. Not even rare manju can bring out the crowds, it seems. But Maki has a brilliant idea that might save this fiasco and send Yoshino back towards Tokyo; a promotional video.

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It’s fancyccult!

Maybe this project is just doomed. Our mysterious bard character returned to buy a box of the chupakabura manju, only to pull out a most obvious of truth; the manju is scary. Cause seriously…whose going to buy scary manju?

With her first trial ending in failure, Yoshino didn’t come out empty-handed. Though it’s just blossoming, she’s got herself forming a good group of friends, which no doubt will bring her more smiles and laughs than she seemed to be getting in Tokyo. Maybe living in the sticks isn’t as bad as she thought it would be?

Thoughts: What makes Sakura Quest so damn relatable, is that I’ve gone through many of the struggles that our characters face. After graduation, I got a part-time job at a hipster bakery near my house while I was job-searching for something more permanent. Like Maki, you have to do what you have to do just to pay the bills, and my student loans weren’t going to go away. I applied to at least fifteen different jobs, but ended up getting nothing, despite the fact that I was living in a major city, just like Yoshino. It was the shitty prospects in my country that made me go to Japan, and while I like it far better here, it’s not perfect either.

I think Sakura Quest does an excellent job in showing that no matter where you are in the world, there are people going through the same struggles as you. That being young is hard, that trying to establish yourself is hard, that chasing your dream, whatever it is, is just freaking hard. I think the short conversation between Yoshino and Sanae put things in perspective. What’s so great about a city that you can’t get a job in?  Nothing, it just leaves you bitter and salty, if my experience has anything to say about it.

What I love about Sanae, and makes her my favorite character, is that she carefully crafted this bubbly nature-loving persona, talking about fresh vegetables and shit, when she’s clearly been living off of conbini food and instant ramen. At the end of the episode, she even confesses that the gang is the first time she’s talked to people in two weeks. Does that really make the countryside much better than the city?

I honestly think it’s all about perspective.

I’ll have episode three out soon!

Best wishes.

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Seriously…who are you?

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Sakura Quest – 01

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Don’t let life get you down, Koharu.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to one of the P.A. Works shows of the season, Sakura Quest. This is another installment into the studios “work-based” series (Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako) focusing on the tourism industry, specifically in reviving the failings of a small rural town. In a nut shell, it’s going to be cute girls making our mundane lives look cute.

Our protagonist is Yoshino Koharu (Nanase Ayaka), a recent junior-college graduate from a rural town, trying to make it big in Tokyo. She has a wonderful memory from her childhood of being a queen and having people sing her praises, but she has no context for the memory. Having gone through about thirty job interviews with no prospects in sight, leading to a very realistic phone call from her mother suggesting it’s about time she came home. With her savings dwindling, and her mother promising to cut off her allowance (lucky duck), things are looking rather grim. Luckily fate intervenes, providing Koharu with the opportunity to be a part of a promotional campaign as a queen for the rural town of Manoyama. We later discover that Manoyama is basically a kingdom of root vegetables, far from the glamour Koharu was seeking in a city-based job. Hilariously enough, Koharu’s selection was a mistake (they want you as much as you wanted them, Koharu), all due to a misreading of her name. Seeing as the idol they wanted for the campaign is dead (ouch), our protagonist isn’t out of a job yet. Now, Manoyama previously had a bout of popularity with the previous trend of towns marketing themselves as “independent countries” during Japan’s boom years. Manoyama’s marketing scheme was the “Kingdom of Chupakabura,” and Koharu is crowned their unenthusiastic queen. But hey, when no one is hiring you for the jobs you want, can you really be picky?

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Least you got free food and booze.

After some shenanigans, a failed escape plan, Koharu comes to the realization that Manoyama was indeed the place from her memory, the one of her being made queen. The reality of it all was that she was the 100,000th visitor, thus the celebration. The nostalgia and that precious memory are ultimately what get Koharu to consider staying, even though it’s still a bit unwillingly. Regardless, a Queen has a lot of work to do, even a reluctant one.

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Long may she reign.

I’m a sucker for these types of series. Hanasaku Iroha still gives me feels, Shirobako was wonderful, and now I have Sakura Quest to tied me over. P.A. Works does an absolutely amazing job in terms of the details. While they are airing two shows this season, Sakura Quest and the second season of Uchouten Kazoku, there didn’t appear to be an dips in quality, but we’ll have to see about that as time goes on.

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…dude, I’ll live there.

As a millennial myself, I completely understand the frustration that Koharu feels in regards to her job prospects. It’s not fun, and it freaking sucks. For me, she’s easy to relate to. Despite being from a Los Angeles, I moved to Japan because my prospects were grim. I couldn’t afford to live there without living with my parents for the rest of my life, and the only job I could get was working in a over-glorified hipster bakery.

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Who are you?! Tell me your secrets~!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys next week!

Best wishes.

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