「桜の王国」 (Sakura no Oukoku)
“The Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms”
We’ve finally reached the end point of Sakura Quest, and it was definitely an emotional finale that was fitting and created a hopeful resolution for the Tourism Board. After so much work beefing up the town’s infrastructure and R&D projects, they truly went out with a bang with a successful Mizuchi Festival that reinvigorated the town’s enthusiasm and spirit on their own terms.
Much like the Dragon’s Song play that was rewritten to have the Dragon come back as a spirit to encourage the townspeople to be more open, it was that push throughout the series that gave Manoyama incentive to benefit from guests outside of town. The good time that Mayor Naumann had Wasshoi-ing rn during the festival has guaranteed Manoyama a sister town and a new friend. The girls now have their resolve to continue pursuing their dreams in Manoyama aside from Ririko’s temporary trip across the world and Yoshino’s decision to use her talents to help out a town by the seaside.
It was a finale that gave Manoyama its spark back and gave the women of the Tourism Board the push they need to continue pursuing their ambitions now that they have more realistic goals to accomplish. There’s even a new addition to the town’s long-term goal by planting cherry blossoms across town so that the shopping district and pond would be adorned with blooming sakura petals.
It was also an overwhelmingly emotional finale as it tugs on the heart-strings that they’ve had a hold on since the beginning. Kadota is proud to dissolve Chupakabura as the Tourism Board no longer needs to rely on the attraction or gimmick when they have learned so much from the ideas that Yoshino and her friends came up with during her tenure as Queen. The live stream of her abdication ceremony was as symbolic of the town’s growth as it was stirring with Yoshino’s tears welling up in appreciation of the helping hand the town gave her to find herself in the work she did for them.
As Yoshino makes her way out of town, everyone in town expressed their thanks to her by waving her a farewell as she heads out towards her newest venture. The most moving part to me was when Kadota issued his farewell to her as she tearfully waved back. The cars and buses chasing the train to wave to her was already very touching, but Kadota’s last bit of advice to Yoshino encapsulated their relationship as an old mentor who saw so much of himself in his pupil, and rediscovered his mojo. Although it’s the finale, I’m hoping we’ll get to see all the characters some day soon, especially now that Yoshino has a good tan.
It’s hard to believe the show’s really over. After spending so much time getting to know everyone in Manoyama, it’s hard to want to leave, but all good times must past, and Sakura Quest had some incredibly great times. It captured the feeling of being young, reckless, and trying to find your place in society now that you’re thrown out into the real world. Sometimes we can embrace dreams, sometimes they don’t work out, and sometimes it takes time for them to be realized. The show expressed this perfectly with the struggles that the Tourism Board dealt with as they worked to revitalize Manoyama. Although it’s not bustling with tourists, the efforts of Yoshino and her friends went above just making it popular, and their efforts reignited the passion that Manoyama and its townspeople have to keep their town strong. The resurrection of the Dragon’s Song ended up being emblematic of Manoyama’s growth within the past year as the story’s moral gave way to the townspeople growing to embrace visitors from all over, and end the skepticism and distaste they had for outsiders. After all, Yoshino was proof that there are people on the outside capable of wanting to see Manoyama flourish.
The most painful part about letting this series end was how wonderful the characters were. Yoshino started out as scared of the countryside as anyone who’s used to urban and suburban cities, but as a representative of the younger working woman who ends up becoming as ambitious and bold as Kadota did in his youth, she developed to be worthy of her title as Queen. Similarly, Sanae was completely thrown off by the rural surroundings she settled down in to avoid the workplace stress of the city life, but fostered a tight bond with Manoyama enough so that she helped beef up the town’s presence online, and find her place with good friends. Maki went through heart-breaking rejection after rejection in her dream path as an actress, but through the oddjobs and work she’s taken in Manoyama, she eventually decided that she could still perform as she wanted by forming the town’s acting troupe. Ririko went through drastic changes from being shy and withdrawn from society as she shuts herself in her room to making the decision to travel the world and see what Lucia found so exciting about discovering new places. I was hard on Shiori for being relatively static in her development as a Manoyama resident who likes things as they always were, but her resolve is crucial to the Tourism Board’s dynamic as she helped ensure that the spirit of Manoyama still shone through their projects.
On top of this, the side characters were on-point too! Kadota was a very cool boss as a passionate youngin’ at heart whose desperate efforts to make Manoyama hip and modern were fueled by a stubborn dedication to stirring things up he’s harbored since his teenage years. Chitose’s character development was one of the best in the show as we first know her as a bitter old lady who has nothing but resentment for Kadota, Yoshino, and the Tourism Board. As the episodes pass by and Yoshino proves herself, however, Chitose starts to mellow down and with the help of wanting Ririko to be ambitious and happy, starts to embrace the ideas that Yoshino proposes. She even starts to get a soft spot for Kadota, but her tsun is much more predominant in her exchanges with him. Maki’s dad was rough around the edges, but as soon as he opened up about how he really feels about Maki’s acting path, he ends up being one of her biggest fans, continuing to record her performances and remain stoic yet proud of her accomplishments as an actress. I wasn’t as happy about Erika still having her problems unresolved, but she was a very fun character to follow with her sarcastic jabs at everyone and everything around her, and her inability to hide her crush on Maki’s brother. Learning about Sandal’s lineage also provided some depth to the motivation behind having Manoyama be welcome towards outsiders considering that his love and dedication to the town comes from his family’s history with the town, and opens the door to have his hometown become their sister city. There were also a lot of fun characters to follow like the dedicated bus driver Takamizawa, master inventor Doku, the quirky residents of Warayiba Village, and other assorted cast members who made Manoyama lively throughout the series.
I was initially worried that it would be so much work to touch on everything that was amazing about Sakura Quest, but as I started typing, it all came naturally to me what made the show such a great trip. The loving attention they gave to everyone in the cast, the rigorous yet enriching journey they all go through within the past year, the stellar artwork that made every still in-between breathtaking, the calming soundtrack, the cinematic flair that gave the anime a flair reminiscent of a live-action drama, and the subtlety that made the show more realistic and less melodramatic won my heart over. I also appreciate that the series focused on characters above a college age considering its not too often that an anime is comfortable focusing on characters outside of high school, let alone working women who are older than your standard young heroine. It’s a refreshing take on the coming-of-age story that examines the struggles that people go through as they near their quarter life crisis, and that’s something I rarely see as often. I want to thank everyone for following the series along with me as well as Takaii’s first episode coverage. I’m glad I could cover a realistic drama as wonderful as Sakura Quest, and I’m really hoping that eventually we’ll be able to see what it’s like in Manoyama again.