Sakura Quest is an endearing comedy series about five twenty-somethings, trying to find their place in life – and in the job market. The story begins in Tokyo with Yoshino Koharu receiving yet another “Best wishes” email after a job interview. Her agency finds her a gig with the tourist bureau in the rural community of Manoyama. There, she finds a stagnating town, and befriends four other girls in a similar situation.
The primary conflict is between the tourism board and the merchant’s association, with the latter being traditionalists and opposed to change. But I found them very relatable, and of course there is a backstory between the leaders of each. Even watching them insult each other is fun.
Like many slice-of-life anime series, the location is modeled on a real place. And even with exaggerated characters it is startlingly realistic in many episodes. Clearly the writers researched (or had knowledge of) rural development programs for inspiration. And of course, Progressive Animation Works is full of people with first-hand knowledge of struggling to get a career going.
In one episode, the team helps residents learn to use tablets given to them by a prefecture technology program. And thus empowered, they ‘kidnap’ Yoshino to stage an online protest of the cancellation of a bus route to their outlying village. Exposition on the details of life in a remote Japanese village lend deep credibility to a fun story. This is typical of episodes, which feel a bit like the NHK series “Cycling Through Japan.”
In another episode, the team puts in motion an idea to save a high school from demolition, so it can be used as a community creative center. They stage an event to reveal the idea to the community, which had previously accepted the loss of their Alma Mater as inevitable. And so is born a community theater, an art center, an activity yard, and classrooms for adult education.
I like a series to have likable characters. SQ achieves this with fantastic attention to detail and personality. And I want to feel good about what is happening to them. There are several cliffhanger episodes but overall the series focuses on the future we can build, and not on the worst-case scenario (we have the evening news for that).
The series is not action-packed or fast-paced. The humor is more smiles than belly laughs, and while it has drama, it is very relaxing to watch. I would also recommend the series to anyone in Marketing, anyone in Rural Development, anyone in the hospitality industry, anyone in a college major related to those fields, and more.
You can watch Sakura Quest for free on Funimation, and it’s available on Blu-Ray from Amazon. There are 25 episodes, and we got so wrapped up in the story that when the last one came up, we saved it for a Friday night, like a date.
Wikipedia has a nice reference article and episode guide: Sakura Quest.
And SylTag has a great review, from his perspective as a 20-something looking for work: