「ミネルヴアの杯」 (Mineruvua no Sakazuki)
“Minerva’s Sake Saucer”
Seeing all of the characters in Sakura Quest grow together is an amazing part about watching all of the episodes up to this point, but I feel like Episode 18 would work well as a standalone episode for how great the narrative is told. You’d miss the context of the events from 17, but it’s able to tell a touching story within the half hour just from the interactions between the girls and the elderly residents of Warayiba. Through 18, we see Yoshino learning and understanding why the mountain life and culture is important to the people that live there despite being the region of Manoyama at the highest risk of vanishing first. I liked how the beginning establishes that Yoshino figured out right away that the hostage situation and push to withdraw from Manoyama was a call for help from the residents, and gave her a reason to assist them in getting the rest of the town on their side about keeping the bus route.
From another angle, Sanae learns this lesson as the Professor shows how the residents have been using the internet to build a digital archive so that even if the town were to vanish, at least their history would be recorded on a permanent database. As a result, it sprouts up inspiration for Sanae and Takamizawa to collaborate on an on-demand shuttle service now that the residents have means of using a cost-efficient online ordering system. It was nice to see Takamizawa gain some resolve to fight for Sanae’s online shuttle idea in light of his recent insecurities about losing his job to self-driving buses. Even my choice for best girl, Maki, made a great impression by partying hard with everyone else.
The impact that helping the Warayiba residents out with their winter prep and daily routines has had on the agency resonated well with me as it was moving to see how each of the girls get invested into the residents’ plight. At the end of the day, it highlights how the success of the agency’s ideas come from both adapting to advances in modern technology, and the need to fight for the town’s identity to still remain prominent.
How wonderfully everything turned out made it all the more tragic when the episode ended with the Professor’s death. I was surprised that they would kill someone off that quickly, but it fit in with the foreshadowing that the pervy old man provided when he mentioned the lanterns burn out in times of tragedy. It was also the twist of fate that gave the girls access to the treasure he had in his basement, Everything from his last message to them being a secret way of telling them to go for it under an alias that nodded towards their first encounter to Sanae’s realization on what he meant by planting his roots in the town as she read his research made the final moments of the episode meaningful and emotional.