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