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Sakura Quest – 20

「聖夜のフェニックス」 (Seiya no Fenikkusu)
“The Phoenix in the Holy Night”

Though some of the episode names fit their respective storylines, Maki truly did go through a phoenix’s life within the span of 24 minutes. I was worried that they shot down Maki’s big screen dreams so soon, especially when she just regained her resolve to try and get back into acting. It’s always hard to let your passions go, and it was devastating to see Maki endure a tearful ride home as she resided to the fate of being rejected from her biggest opportunity yet. As time passed, however, it made sense why they gave her the boot early on. Her recent aspirations had been to focus more on her work at Manoyama and to steer away from the heartbreak she got from sticking her neck out in the film and TV industry. While it would be easier for Sanae to spearhead the initiative to boost the town’s online presence after being beaten down by working in the city, it would seem puzzling how Maki’s inspiration to get back into acting would translate with her work in Manoyama. By the time the episode ended, it was evident how significant it was for Maki to make the decision to build an acting troupe at the public facility they will convert the condemned school into.

For Maki to use the class reunion as a chance to put on her own play that transforms the Bloodstained Santa myth into a light-hearted Christmas story where Santa’s daughter helped deliver gifts for her injured dad was a momentous achievement for her. It gave meaning to her decision to stay at Manoyama to build on the town’s development and culture for the play to position her effort as her way of thanking her town and family for the opportunity they gave her to shine. I was nearly teary-eyed when she spread her arms in joy on-stage like she did when she was a younger actress enamored with the stage. Maki’s character growth happened not from pushing herself back into spotlight for widespread fame, but to regain her love of acting through expressing herself on her own terms through her writing and performance. It was poetic how Maki’s father came around to supporting his daughter’s ventures as he saw her not only enjoying herself as she did when she first started acting, but doing so as a tribute to her town. Her father’s blessing coming after they showed him adding photos from Maki’s performance as Santa’s daughter in his old picture album was a touching way to end the episode.

Converting the school into a public facility was a neat choice that works very well with the townspeople and the town’s culture. I wonder if making it an open space to use for events, community groups, and cultural happenings would open up the potential for the town to thrive considering Maki’s brother’s friend who wanted to leave the town out of disinterest for not having a place to watch movies or have fun. There are also some side-developments that are made along the way in the episode like Ririko finding a little success after singing the “Dragon Song” on the internet and Erika trying her hardest to connect with Maki’s brother. The former I could see being incorporated into Maki’s acting troupe where she wanted to adapt the Dragon’s story into a play, but the latter is looking to shape how the next episode will look with a deeper look in Erika’s issues.

Preview

August 17, 2017 at 10:10 am
13 comments »
  • August 17, 2017 at 11:45 amstarss

    Maki’s struggle gives me the same feelings I had with Ema from Shirobako, also an aspiring actor from another PA Works show (you know which moments I mean, if you saw that). This show has made me want to hug Maki before, but this episode cranks that feelings up to weapons-grade effectiveness, because this is real life. I want to hug Maki! Acting is one of the harshest professions to get into and sustain, and the ones that survive in it need a strong spine, persistence, acceptance that rejection is the norm, and a way to put on a front to everyone that you’re over a rejection, even if inside you’re crying for help. What’s different here is that Maki has Yoshino as a good friend who makes it up to her tenfold by making her the lead and director of a play the tourism boards puts on as a way to make the abandoned school a community center, putting closure to a lot of problems they had. The final scene sets up more plans they could do for the upcoming festival that fits with the theme.

    • August 18, 2017 at 10:36 amChoya

      Yeah, the show did a great job at making Maki’s heartbreak feel all the more personal when she brought herself over to the audition only to feel the same rejection she felt while she pursued larger roles. She has a nice support system with Yoshino and her other friends, but it was painful to see Maki torn up in the first five minutes of the ep. It made it all the more gratifying to see how she’d be able to transform that into something she’d be proud of with the help of her friends.

      • August 18, 2017 at 10:21 pmstarss

        Maki, these girls are keepers.

    • August 21, 2017 at 12:17 amTaiakun

      I think you meant Shizuka from Shirobako (red haired voice actress) rather than Ema (the pigtails key animator). The conclusion scene to Shizuka’s arc has to be one of my favourite scenes in anime ever. They even set the scene up near the beginning of that episode, and could see the scene happening a mile away, but damn the feels when it hit was still so intense! Haven’t teared up that much in a scene since Clannad Afterstory’s sunflower scene.

  • August 17, 2017 at 2:01 pmScruffy

    What I really liked around the whole subplot with Maki is the idea that even though you might not be able to make a living out of your dream, you still don’t have to give the dream up. Too often things are displayed as a binary choice .. go for your dream job and grasp it with two hands … when in reality most people don’t get there. There is nothing wrong with being a great amateur!

    • August 17, 2017 at 3:20 pmOne Pinch Man

      Maki’s story taught us that if you can’t find success in one place you can find it in somewhere else.

    • August 18, 2017 at 7:36 amChoya

      It was a mature way of handling Maki’s ordeals where she didn’t magically make it big and didn’t have her happiness handed to her on a silver platter. Nonetheless, she was able to find fulfillment through her own means, and can still pursue her dream of acting without being a movie star.

      The all-or-nothing mentality tends to overwhelm people into thinking that they have to give up if they can’t meet up to the high standards they placed on themselves, but more often than now, there’s more than one way of doing something. You just have to get creative with it sometimes.

  • August 17, 2017 at 4:07 pmqwert

    How much of an asshole is that guy in charge of the audition?

    As soon as Maki’s name got called and she’s looking all happy all I could think was “nonononononono” and BAM “Haha, just kidding you guys can all go home.”

    • August 18, 2017 at 7:21 amstarss

      Sadly, this is a lot like how some auditions are in real life. Directors like to trick applicants to test how they deal with rejection.

    • August 18, 2017 at 7:27 amChoya

      Reminds me of the trick Seacrest used on American Idol where he’d call on people to step forward only to say they aren’t safe or will be eliminated soon. It’s a punch in the gut, but it seems like a standard procedure to make sure people don’t get comfortable.

      • August 18, 2017 at 10:19 pmstarss

        When interviewing applicants for Microsoft, Bill Gates used to invite them to dinner and tell the waitstaff to intentionally stage some mistake in advance, and then see how the applicant deals with the problem.

  • August 20, 2017 at 9:42 amlunascha

    Another reason why this show is so realistic. It’s like making your dream come true isn’t going to be easy but you just have to keep your head high and keep moving forward.
    I thought she would actually get the part but that just shows how life is.

    • August 20, 2017 at 2:16 pmChoya

      At first, I was thinking they’d have her get the part so that they could build on Maki’s relationship with her successful actress friend, but it’s good that they went the realistic route of having Maki find her path elsewhere.

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