Management: 12 Days of Anime continues with a look at memorable moments of the summer season. Spoilers for Sakura Quest to follow.

I’ve said before that Sakura Quest is a long meditation on “wtf am I doing with my life?”

Koharu Yoshino is a young college graduate who had come to Tokyo with the dream of escaping her boring rural life and living in a modern metropolis. Yet, fresh off failing thirty-two job interviews, her ideals are beginning to crumble. Through sheer luck, she ends up on the tourist board of a small, dying town, working to promote its revival. From the beginning, Sakura Quest outlines its two major thematic threads: rural revitalization and career setbacks.

Yoshino is joined by four young women in the tourist board, none of whom have landed their dream careers. Their first efforts at town revitalization are quite cringe-worthy, with the manju-selling campaign in particular painfully reminiscent of high school bake sales.

Little did I know this was to be the beginning of major character growth.

Through trial and mostly error, the main cast learn that town revival doesn’t require a tourist board putting up advertisements or inviting famous celebrities to the town. In fact, the most successful efforts involve the town’s own residents taking the initiative, either opening businesses or planning festivities together.

In terms of careers, the people who failed to land their dream jobs manage to find satisfaction in similar fields. Maki, after failing multiple times to land a major acting job, rediscovers her love for acting and is happy to join the local acting troupe. Sanae, after becoming disenchanted by Tokyo, embraces the town and starts a consulting business. Even the bus driver, who originally wanted to be an F1 driver, comes to terms with his service to the seniors of the community who would not be able to socialize otherwise.

It is fitting, then, that Yoshino should speak the lines to sum up these two lessons. Regarding town revival, she says, “Maybe it’s idealistic, but for this to work, each and every person that lives in Manoyama must feel a personal drive to change something. But if you decide things by majority rule, and this happens because of someone giving something up, that’s not revitalization! It’s just development!”.

 

And regarding her dream job, she says “even if I do the most unusual job every day, it will become normal after a while; if I can find excitement in the most mundane job, it will become unusual”. And thus the series ends on a hopeful note.

 

The Josei Next Door has a wonderful post about life after failure to land your dream career. For a wistful read about the decline of rural Japan, have a look at this  article from The Atlantic.


Other memorable moments of Summer:

  • Princess Principal hitting us with Ange and Princess’s backstories, re-contextualizing their rapport and reunion. To top it off, the episode ends with the two playing a freaking piano duet rendition of the delightful ED.
  • Monogatari finally ends. After dozens of episodes of two-steps-forward-one-step-back progression, Araragi finally reaches some form of emotional maturity. Fittingly, he doesn’t change his self-destructive altruism: that is probably burned too deep into his personality. But at least he has learned to love himself, accepting the darkness borne out of him that is Ougi. I’ll take my emotional growth where I can.
  • The fight in My Hero Academia where Stain gets punched in the face by Iida and Deku, and then eats a flamethrower by Todoroki: holy fiddlesticks did you see the power, the burning intensity behind the kids’ attacks? I don’t know if it was self-preservation instincts or vengeance, but those attacks were meant to hurt. It’s almost reminiscent of Roy Mustang incinerating Lust. Obviously My Hero Academia disagrees: Stain gets up without apparent injury, and the emotional impact of that life-or-death fight is never brought up again. Oh well.

You can read about the 12 Days of Anime project in my intro post here.