Five young women have one thing in common—the careers they planned for themselves weren’t working out. Job dissatisfaction, trying to make ends meet, and personal insecurities lead each of them to start working at a local tourism bureau where their lives become intertwined. As the girls experience their first year on the job, they learn a lot about their town, their industry, and themselves.
Yoshino has left Manoyama to go back home for the summer, where she catches up with her family and friends. Whilst she’s been away, her young sister has gotten a boyfriend and is starting to think about her professional future – something which Yoshino has yet to do. She is aware that she term as queen will be coming to an end soon, and that she isn’t sure how she feels about that. The girls on the tourist board that have come to Manoyama from the outside have also returned from home with remarks that they seem to have changed for the better. Meanwhile, some Spanish conspiracy hunters have appeared in Manoyama in the hopes of getting actual footage of a chupakabura, with more tourist expected to appear in a few days. Now the tourist board is trying to enlist people to run their houses as B&Bs in order to accommodate all of Manoyama’s new visitors. But why is Kadota suddenly acting strangely?
In this second season we take a more detailed look into Manoyama’s past and its older residents. It turns out that Kadota and Ririko’s traditional and stubborn grandmother, Chitose, used to be in a band when they were younger. And they too had dreams of escaping Manoyama and taking their band’s sound on a tour of Tokyo. Then, when Kadota had some self-styled epiphany to remain in Manoyama to help the residents ‘wake up’ to thinks outside of their boring lives, all of their plans to ‘escape’ fell through. Hence explaining the undercurrent of animosity and hostility that exists between Kadota and Chitose – she blames him for ruining her one real chance of getting out and seeing the world before she grew up and felt stuck in Manoyama.
Through this, Yoshino and the rest of the girls learn of the Mizuchi Festival – and event that used to be held in Manoyama every year that is no longer observed. She learns of the Three Sacred Treasures that were always present at the festival, but have since been lost. So Yoshino, feeling dutiful in her role as queen, takes up the challenge to find them. At the same time, a change in the Manoyama bus route leaves a nearby village full of older residents without a connection to the community. Sanae comes up with the idea of introducing them to tablets so they can use apps, surf the web and message and video chat one another. Overall, surprisingly, the implementation was a success – although this digital double-edged sword does mean the residents end up going on dodgy sites and trolling one another on forums.
I’m keen to see how the team get on in their endeavours this season thanks to the mixed results they received through their promotional initiatives last year. I feel that their efforts have made the Manoyama population more receptive to the ideas of tourism and inviting foreigners to share in their history and lore. I’m really impressed at the amount of character development we have seen in this story – not just from our five female leads, but also from the supporting characters. The transition has been gradual and believable because of the initial resistance from the villagers and the persistent efforts and positivity from Yoshino’s team.
Sakura Quest’s second opening sequence music is Lupinus by KNoW Name and it’s such a great tune that really suits the anime – modern, upbeat and toe-tappingly memorable. Then the ending is Baby’s Breath by the same band. This is a slower, simpler, more conclusive song to wrap things up.
Sakura Quest maintains its leisurely, meandering pace – but does so in the best of ways. It does a good job of reflecting a traditional Japanese village when it comes to the people, the history, the opportunities and the struggles. It also examines what it means to have a connection to the place you live in, to put down roots and what it takes to make it feel like a home. Sakura Quest is a rather underrated anime and I would recommend that more people give it a watch.