Sakura Quest follows Yoshino Koharu, a young girl trying to look for a job in Tokyo, but who is only met with a series of rejections. However, she has a seemingly lucky break when she receives a job offer to work with with the tourism board of the economically struggling Manoyama town as their "Queen." With no other choice, Yoshino accepts the offer and travels to Manoyama only to find out that she was hired based on a case of mistaken identity and that her contract term is for one year instead of the one day, as she had initially thought. With nowhere else to go, Yoshino reluctantly becomes Queen of Manoyama.
In the wake of a nationwide movement during the Bubble economy period, Manoyama is aiming to revive itself through a "mini-nation" tourism program; hiring the five leads as travel ambassadors with Yoshino as their queen. The series will follow a year's time of the five girls as they work in the tourism agency of a small failing town in an effort to reinvigorate it.
Sakura Quest is a 25-episode anime original Slice of Life Work Com created by P. A. Works for the Spring 2017 Anime season. Sakura Quest is something of a spiritual successor to fellow PA Works series Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako. Through the protagonists' attempts to revitalize the town themes that are examined as a side effect includes the culture clash between City and Rural living, tradition vs adaptation, and the desires of what the young adults protagonists want out of their lives.
The series is currently available for legal streaming subtitled and dubbed on FUNimation here. The simuldub began streaming on May 9th, 2017, with releasing a new dubbed episode every Wednesday at 9PM EST.
Sakura Quest contains examples of:
- One Tract Mind: Any idea by Director Kadota for a tourism board project will invariably involve the Chupakabura somehow.
- Accidental Misnaming: Kadota and Chitose call Ptolemaios "Plus-minus."
- Adult Fear: As with Shiro Bako, the protagonists have their own issues to deal with:
- Yoshino: About to graduate with no job and no money lined up, and being forced to move back to the country.
- Sanae: Nearly working herself to death in a corporate job, then idling into depression in a freelance job.
- Maki: A childhood interest in acting leading to a fruitless career, eventually quitting in disappointment.
- Shiori: The town she loves fading before her eyes as people age, close shops, and move away.
- Ririko: Living a life of isolation and rejection, with only her overprotective grandmother to talk to.
- Angelica suffers this in Episodes 21-22. Her eldest daughter runs away from home, and her younger son later goes out into a snowstorm to try to get his sister to return home.
- An Aesop: People must respect and learn from each other. Outsiders shouldn't push their values on others, while those they're visiting should be open to changing themselves if necessary.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Ririko's social anxiety and intense, narrow interest in cryptids indicate an unnamed autism spectrum disorder.
- And the Adventure Continues: Yoshino leaves Manoyama to become the "Queen" of another town.
- Anti-Climax: Episode 10 ends with the protagonists and a tourist hiding in a shrine from a sudden storm rain, accidentally breaking the statue of the cursed dragon discussed throughout the episode, and a shot of a wild looking person emerging from the lake. At the beginning of episode 11, a whole day has passed and the statue is fixed, with nothing bad coming from it. The wild person was another tourist that fell in the water.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Kazushi asks Sanae if she came to Manoyama to run away from something, and didn't care where she went. Sanae admits to Yoshino that he hit the nail on the head.
- Becoming the Mask: Yoshino shows that as Queen of Manoyama, she really does have talent for leadership and helping her "subjects".
- Bittersweet Ending:
- In episode 11, Ririko learns that the folk dance meant to keep the dragon lady away actually had a song that accompanied it. When Sandal approaches them singing the song, he says he learned it from his mother, who learned it from her grandmother, who was a Manoyama native. Additionally, the song and dance was meant to honor the dragon lady after she passed away due to misinterpreting the villager's intent with the bonfire and dance. But the song was gradually forgotten throughout time until Sandal sung it.
- The end of the Warabiya Village arc in Episode 19. A compromise is achieved for the village, with the stop being removed and replaced with an on-demand bus service (albeit one that costs a bit more than the bus), so the senior citizens living there won't have to give up their mode of transportation. However, the professor collapses and dies at home one evening. After the funeral, the protagonists obtain the staff, the first of the three treasures they need for the festival.
- The ending of the series proper. Yoshino has grown as a person, and her efforts to revive the town had a definite positive effect, but Manoyama's merger with a bigger town still makes its future uncertain. Moreover, Yoshino decides to move away after her contract ends, leaving behind the people with whom she has formed a loving bond, and at her abdication ceremony Kadota tells the townspeople that he will shut down the Chupakabura Kingdom for good.
- Bland-Name Product: Sanae and Shiori search for information about the Kabura Kid on Boogle, and watch an old video on ViewTube.
- Bookends: When Yoshino arrives in Manoyama, Kadota greets her with a banner that has her name incorrectly written. At the very end, when Kadota sees her off, his banner is once again written incorrectly.
- Both Sides Have a Point: The story's main conflict is between the tourism board (particularly the members that are from outside Manoyama)'s attempts to revitalize Manoyama, and many of the locals who are resistant to change. The former group is correct about something needing to be done to help avert the town's decline, while the latter is correct that the former group needs to listen to others before setting their plans into motion.
- But Not Too Foreign: Sandal's great grandmother was born in Manoyama.
- But Now I Must Go: Yoshino decides to leave the town after her contract ends, because she doesn't want to "surrender to the feeling of being at home."
- Chupacabra: Manoyama's tourism mascot, the Chupakabura, literally the Turnip (Kabu) Sucker.
- City Slicker: Sanae is of the Greenhorn variety.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Sandal, the wandering minstrel who is really a famous foreign artist visiting Manoyama to get in touch with his ancestors. Like most things in the show, he's tamer and more realistic than the tropes is usually portrayed.
- Cool Old Guy: Busujima, the town mechanic. Builds exo-skeletons and bizarre robots in his spare time. Frequently makes specialty gadgets for the tourism bureau.
- Costume Porn: In the signature P. A. Works style. Every member of the cast had a distinct wardrobe that varies each day.
- Creator Provincialism/Write What You Know: PAW, always the fierce local patriots, continue to showcase their native Toyama prefecture.
- Credits Running Sequence: Mostly done by Yoshino in the opening, and a walking variation of it with the five main heroines is shown in the ending.
- Creepy Cockroach: Sanae is completely terrified of insects. She moves out of her house when it becomes infested.
- Cry Cute: Plenty of waterworks to go around.
- Cute Bookworm: Ririko loves reading, especially about supernatural creatures.
- A Day in the Limelight: Each of the main heroines gets a couple of episodes that places large emphasis on them, such as Maki's past acting dreams when a film crew arrives to shoot a zombie movie in their town, or when some Spanish tourists visit because they're intrigued by the town's Chupakabura theme, and Ririko makes a friend while explaining the town's use of said theme.
- Dirty Old Man: Masa, an elderly man who runs a storehouse, is obsessed with young women's butts, and apparently groped Sanae in the dark.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Sanae will shriek at the sight of insects (and frogs).
- The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end of the series, Yoshino goes to become Queen of another town, while Ririko gets permission from her grandmother to travel for a while. Sanae plans to open an office in Manoyama, Maki continues her work with the theater troupe, and Shiori hopes to ensure that Yoshino and Ririko will be able to return to Manoyama.
- Finale Title Drop: At the end of the final episode, Sakura Quest is revealed to be the title of Sandal's book that chronicles the events of the series.
- First-Name Basis: In the first episode, Shiori asks for permission to call Yoshino "Yoshino-chan," which Yoshino accepts.
- Freudian Excuse: Chitose is highly suspicious of Yoshino, an out of town person who moved to their village to work for their tourism board. It's later revealed that her son married a woman who came from outside the town. However, she was bored in Monoyama, and convinced him to move away to the city. They later had Ririko, but then divorced shortly afterwards, and Ririko's father was then reassigned overseas for the company he worked for. It was agreed that Ririko was better off staying in Japan with Chitose, who raised her on her own ever since. Chitose had intended for her son to take over the sweets shop she ran, and blames the outsider woman he married for destroying said plans and breaking her son's heart.
- Genius Slob: Sanae. She winds up moving out of her rented house due to it being infested with bugs.
- Genki Girl: Yoshino, who tends to have audacious solutions for most problems.
- Hairstyle Inertia: The flashbacks show that the main girls have kept their hairstyles from childhood to adulthood.
- Hard Truth Aesop: The Aesop of Episodes 21-22 is that achieving one's dreams isn't the be-all and end-all; the work is just beginning. This helps Erika realize that running away to Tokyo won't solve her problems, especially when she hasn't thought her plan all the way through. Since Maki's the one who shares this bit of wisdom(obviously inspired from her failed career in acting), it's implied that this was why she asked Yoshino what was waiting for her back in Tokyo in Episode 2.
- Heroic BSoD: Yoshino suffers a pretty big one at the end of episode 13 after the Founder's Festival, when she finds out that the festival had overall little impact on their town's tourism, combined with the television documentary made of them only showing the concert and completely ignoring the festival.
- History Repeats: The girls find that most of their projects have previously been tried to be implemented before and failed; the main difference comes from the impression that at least the girls are learning from their mistakes, while it seems that the tourism board didn't learn themselves when they failed.
- Homemade Inventions: Among other things, the town inventor has developed compact vending machines, remote controlled arms. and functioning exoskeletons.
- Hope Spot: Yoshino has one in episode 13. She appears downcast when she first arrives on the stage to make her announcement, but immediately perks up when she notices how large the crowd is. Unfortunately it's short-lived, as not only does most of the crowd make a beeline for the concert, but few tourists actually show up after the festival and rock concert. Combined with the negative documentary on them, Yoshino falls into a depression when she wonders what she's been doing for the past six months.
- Episode 20. Maki's name gets called during the audition results, only to be dismissed.
- I Was Quite the Looker: Oribe was HOT as a teenager. Kadota too.
- Insane Troll Logic: Sandal's reason for eating shaved ice in the middle of winter. "If you eat all the snow, spring will come."
- Internet Jerk: Discussed in Episode 17. After the seniors get connected to the internet, their use of screen names results in flame wars and other fights. The professor mentions that this is a case of History Repeats, since something similar happened when the internet first became widely available and people stopped using their real names.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Maki has a lot of talents, gained from years of doing odd jobs for film crews.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Due to the general downplayed and mundane nature of various cliches and plot devices, the whole series is a deconstruction of The Complainer Is Always Wrong. Characters that are complaining have valid and solid reasons to point out why something is futile and/or wasteful. This include constant reminding about expenses and funding of various projects. But the most prominent example is the brash anthropologist, who tears apart the idea of reviving an old festival. Not out of spite or lack of respect, but simply by noting how locals don't care about it themselves.
- On a more personal example, Kazushi ends up being completely right about Sanae coming to Manoyama in order to run away, and not necessarily caring about where she runs to. His point is scathing and accurate enough that Sanae considers quitting.
- Erika can be a bit of a brat, and causes a lot of trouble when she runs away from home, but she also has a valid perspective when she feels cooped up inside Manoyama and fears growing old there, not unlike how Yoshino felt in the past. Some of the adults realize that they need to make Manoyama welcoming to the young, and Erika's rant about the streets being dark at night helps Shiori come up with the plan to install lights.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: PAW apparently decided to give the town a fictional name, as the series is dealing with the sensitive social issues, despite Manoyama being openly based on their hometown of Nanto, and Takamikura unabashedly being Toyama.
- Left Hanging: How will Manoyama deal with the merger? Will the shopping district be fine? Will the repurposing of the old school be successful? What will Kadota do after closing the Kingdom he had maintained for decades? Sure, we get glimpses of the main characters' lives in the ending credits, but none of these questions get conclusively answered, due to being complicated issues that play out over the course of many years.
- Loners Are Freaks: Ririko's obsessive interest in supernatural things tended to make the other kids ostracize her, causing her to to keep largely to herself while going to school. Only Shiori talked to her regularly.
- Tokusatsu: Kadota tried to make a Chupakabura version back in the 90s. They ran out of money halfway through the pilot.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Yoshino, as Queen, eventually becomes this to all of Manoyama, solving problems and inspiring the townsfolk to follow their dreams and gain understanding.
- At the end of the series Yoshino makes this her official job, travelling to other rural towns and promoting tourism there.
- Manipulative Editing: The production exec behind "Moving Mountains" employs it for the final cut of the episode of his show, with hefty dose of in-universe Executive Meddling along the way. This not only disappoints everyone in Manoyama once the episode is aired, but is also done clearly against the will of the director. When the producer shows again with another offer for the town few months later, instantly trying to meddle with festival preparations, he's unceremoniously told to get lost.
- My Greatest Failure: Maki is still haunted by an event early in her acting career where she chickened out on a variety show when asked to eat a fried cicada. Her peer, Moe, did it without hesitation and went on to become much more successful.
- My Greatest Second Chance: Maki gets a chance to redeem herself by performing a dangerous stunt instead of Moe when filming a movie in Manoyama. She doesn't immediately return to acting, but has redeemed herself for her earlier cowardice. She does later try out for an acting role, but doesn't make the cut, so instead starts acting in Manoyama instead.
- Mysterious Backer: At the end of episode 20, the broken drum from an old festival the girls recovered in an earlier episode gets carted off by a repair company, claiming the bill was paid by "Santa Claus". It's heavily implied that Maki's father paid for the repairs after seeing his daughter's play.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Yoshino "saves" Shiori from a Chupakabura by attacking it with her bag, instead of pulling the plastic sword out of the stone sitting in the middle of the road. Unfortunately it was merely Kadota, and his injury from Yoshino is severe enough that he requires some medical attention. She ends up staying after all.
- Non-Indicative Name: Katsuki studied French culinary arts in part because Sayuri liked French toast, only to find out after the fact that said food is not actually French in origin.
- Noodle Implements: When visiting Shiori's family farm with the other heroines, Ririko shows up in a full ninja outfit, complete with scythe and chain, with the intent to help out.
- Old Shame: An In-Universe example with Kadota. As a teenager he performed a reckless stunt that destroyed an expensive Shrine Float and led to the cancellation of the summer festival. The chance that someone may rediscover the evidence prompts him nearly to drown trying to remove it. That said, some of his colleagues note that the rest of the town doesn't care all that much about the festival's cancellation, hence why Kadota didn't end up being reviled for it.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Sandal's real name was only mentioned in the series maybe five times, with no one even trying to remember it.
- Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Ririko is an expert on Unidentified Mysterious Animals, as well as the myths and legends around them. This winds up paying off when Manoyama is visited by a group of Spanish cryptid hunters.
- Overly Long Name: Sandal's real name, Alexandre Cena Davis Celibidache, is quite a mouthful. No surprise that he's mostly known by his nickname.
- Parental Abandonment: Ririko's father married a woman from outside Manoyama, but unfortunately shortly after she was born, her parents divorced. Her mother was unwilling to raise Ririko, and her father was reassigned overseas for the company he worked for. Consequently, Ririko is raised by her grandmother Chitose, who is highly suspicious of outsiders such as Yoshino.
- People in Rubber Suits: The tourism agency owns a rubber suit of their town mascot, the Chupakabura. Kadota is very fond of it, and has gotten really good at acting the monster. Maki dons it at one point as well.
- Phrase Catcher: Kadota swears he saw the Chupakabura when he was a kid, everyone else says "it was probably just a weasel."
- Powered Armor: Of all the places for this trope to show up, the local inventor has managed to develop exoskeletons in a village with a box of scraps that seem to work perfectly and don't snap your spine in half when you make an abrupt movement.
- Pretty Boy: Sandal. The women on the matchmaking tour were sad he wasn't one of the options.
- The Quest: Played with. Every episode title, along with the title of the show, seems to be ripped from a standard sword-n-sorcery fantasy story. The actual events are relatively mundane. The closest it ventures toward the trope is collection of three sacred items, but they have symbolic importance for the festival the Tourism bureau is trying to revive, so they really need them.
- Real-Place Background: The town is pretty much the real town of Nanto, Toyama, with Manoyama Station being a carbon copy of a real life Johana Station, the shuttered-up shopping street also being in Johana, while the wood-carving district is in Inami, another of the town constituents. Even the PAW building itself basically sits just across the Sakura Pond from the Chupakabura Kingdom building (which doesn't exist in Real Life).
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In Episode 4, Kazushi gives Yoshino and Sanae one when they try to apologize, accusing them of not understanding what they're getting into. It hits quite hard for Sanae, who admits that he's right about her running away.Kazushi: All right, why don't you tell me why you came to Manoyama?
Sanae: Because... I wanted to be surrounded by nature and I wanted to be my own boss.
Kazushi: You sure you weren't simply running away from something difficult? Running anywhere, am I right? Didn't matter where? (Sanae is speechless) I don't care to be lectured by someone who came here as an escape. I chose to come to this place with a purpose, unlike you two.
Yoshino: I'm sorry, but I don't think that's fair at all.
Yoshino: We've been working really hard on this idea! We've wracked our brains trying to find ways to get people excited about Manoyama woodcarving!
Kazushi: Sorry, but nobody asked you to do that! Let me ask you something; what kind of wood do you think that is over there? (waits a moment for an answer, and doesn't get one) No idea, right? And yet you assume you're qualified to talk about Manoyama woodcarving? What a joke.
- Recurring Extra: The unnamed, bald employee at the tourism board that's always angrily glaring at his computer (he's playing Go).
- Refusal of the Call: Yoshino initially rejects the tourism job when she realizes she'll be trying to promote a backwater town that was too similar to her own rural home. Unfortunately she accidentally hurts Kadota while "saving" Shiori, which he then uses against her to make her stay longer.
- The Reliable One: Maki usually is the most dependable in the team, not to mention the treasure trove of technical skills she acquired in her years of a struggling bit actress (who is usually little more than a glorified extra and an another pair of hands for the filming team).
- The Runaway: Kadota, Oribe, and Busujima planned to all run from home together to play music in Tokyo, but gave up when Kadota chickened out at the very last minute. This sparked the enmity between Kadota and Oribe that persisted for fifty years.
- Later in the series, Erika attempts to flee home, but is intercepted by Shiori.
- Runaway Bride: In Episode 21, Maki starts to tell Erika a story of a woman who came into a crepe cafe (where Maki was working part-time) in a wedding dress. In Episode 22, she adds that the woman was running away from her own wedding. To Maki, the point of the story is that wanting something isn't enough; you have to have a plan to get it.
- Scenery Porn: Well, it won't be a P. A. Works series without it.
- Shipper on Deck: Shiori and Sayuri's parents encourage Katsuki to marry one of them, but he says he'd be wasted on them. Shiori later decides to do this for the two by having them meet somewhere so they could talk about their feelings towards each other.
- Shout-Out: In episode 12, Sandal-san tosses a baseball around while quipping "If you build, it, he will come," and namedropping the band Dreams Come True. As he leaves, he says, "I came, I saw, I Costner-ed."
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: In episode 16, The Garage Band's lyrics mention a "famous man" who said "Fair is foul and foul is fair."
- Sick Episode: Ririko catches a cold in episode 11 after getting caught out in a sudden downpour while only wearing light clothing. Her overprotective grandmother refuses to let anyone see her, especially not Yoshino(who Chitose has always viewed with suspicion as an outsider).
- Silk Hiding Steel: Shiori, who has the sweetest personality of the tourism department, is able to coerce Kadota into apologizing to Chitose, his fifty year rival. She's also completely unphased by insects.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The Chupakabura, named after the Kabu turnips grown in Manoyama.
- Stockholm Syndrome:
- The senior citizens living in the nearby Warabiya village take Yoshino "hostage" and declare their intention to leave the kingdom of Manoyama due to the bus route they rely on being cancelled. Yoshino decides to happily play her role as hostage, much to the frustration of Sanae.
- Yoshino's development as a whole can be seen as this. Forced by her year-long contract and a a sense of obligation, Yoshino reluctantly accepts the job of helping out the town of Manoyama, only to find herself enamored by its people.
- Streisand Effect: In-universe. Kadota's stunts trying to hide the remains of the Summer Festival Float in the lake only renews an interest in the town's history for Yoshino.
- Surprisingly Good English: Sandal-san speaks flawless English, as he's voiced by a British actor.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The main ethos of the series. In spite of their efforts of revitalization, the girls find that they're fighting an uphill battle against the public's apathy and the limitations that the bucolic setting brings them.
- Technologically Blind Elders: Masa acquired a tablet PC, but due to not knowing how to use it, ended up using it as a light. It abruptly loses power in the middle of the conversation about it, possibly because he forgot to check the batteries. Another old man is a downplayed example, since he uses his tablet as a timer for his instant noodles.
- Train-Station Goodbye: Kadota pulls off a variety of this in the end, by running after the train Yoshino is in, shouting that she is always welcome to return.
- Trickster Mentor: The Professor, to Yoshino and Sanae. Forces them to hunt for the Festival Staff so they would learn more about the elderly residents and how they live. The Staff was actually in his shed the entire time.
- Twice Shy: Katsuki runs into Sayuri, Shiori's older sister and a high school friend of his after his return from France to learn cooking. Though he and Sayuri like each other, neither one is bold enough to confess. Later in the series, however, the two are often seen together, and it's implied that they are in a relationship.
- Wham Line:
"Ms. Koharu, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm going to have to take you hostage."
- The elderly professor says this to Yoshino at the end of Episode 17.
"#12, Midorikawa, #13, Yamamoto, #15, Tsurumi. If I just called your name, then you're free to go. Thanks for coming in."
- Maki hears the audition results at the start of Episode 20.
Kadota: I think we may be facing the end of Manoyama.
- In Episode 23, Kadota meets up with the main characters feeling unusually glum.
Kadota: I've been hearing rumors for a while, but the plans are apparently moving forward now. We'll be absorbed into Tomikura.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The owner of an abandoned house that a film company wanted to burn down for their movie gives permission to Shiori to do so. However, she has strong connections to the previous owner and deliberately lies to Yoshino about not being able to get in touch with the new owner. Yoshino later manages to call them, and then gets upset at Shiori for it, who then also snaps back in a fit of anger. However, Yoshino manages to find a compromise by having the film crew add the name of the previous owner so that her "gift" to the film would be remembered forever.
- What You Are in the Dark: Sanae goes through a bit of existential crisis in Ep. 4 and 5, trying to find her sense of purpose again.
- When Life Gives You Lemons...: Though never specifically spoken, despite repeated setbacks and failures, the girls never let those issues bring them down for too long, and instead use The Power of Friendship and their ingenuity to try and make the best of the situation they're in. In one example, when a woodcarver continues to work on a statue that no longer has a paying customer, Yoshino has the Tourism board buy it and put it in the train station to show off Manoyama's artwork and culture.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Shiori ends up having to do this when Kadota catches wind of Yoshino trying to leave- he dresses up as a Chupacubra, and she poses as a victim, asking Yoshino to draw the sword. Unfortunately, Yoshino hits him with her handbag instead, resulting in him being injured. Shiori apologizes and explains her intentions, and Yoshino ultimately reluctantly decides to stay for a little while longer.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: After a lot of convincing and encouragement, Maki decides to give a shot to an audition for acting part. An assembly of final picks is made and one of the casting assistants starts to list names, including Maki... only to inform those just read should leave. Oh, and reading who passed would save them time anyway.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Yoshino tells Ririko this in episode 11 when she was feeling depressed and alone. Ririko then shares new information regarding the folk dance, and that there used to be a song portion with the dance which was forgotten until Sandal approaches them singing it, after his mother and grandmother passed the song down.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: It is an anime, but with the exception of Yoshino, everyone has pretty normal hair, and she doesn't seem to be dyeing it pink as she had it as a child.
- Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: The professor the main characters meet in Episode 17 mentions that he saw them on TV, "playing at (their) little rural revival games."
- Zombie Apocalypse: The scenario for a zombie movie that's being filmed in Manoyama during episodes 6 and 7.