Image source: TVアニメ「サクラクエスト」公式 on Twitter

Following Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako is P. A. WORKS’ third “work series” piece, Sakura Quest. Anime Now! was at a recent preview premiere where the first three episodes of the series were shown, and much like its predecessors, the series looks to give an entertaining and informative look at a realistic aspect of Japan: The slow death of rural cities and the attempts to revitalize them.

The story of Sakura Quest follows the protagonist, Yoshino Koharu, a young girl living in Tokyo who is going through the difficult process of trying to find a full-time job. After applying for and failing at thirty interviews, she receives an offer from the rural city of Manoyama to become the city’s “king” as part of a revitalization project headed by the town’s tourism center.

When what she thought was a one-day gig turns out to be a one-year contract, Yoshino is faced with the choice to either abandon Manoyama for the comfortable limbo of the city or to remain as the city’s play-king and try to make a difference.

P. A. WORKS has proven itself in making reality-based series that take realistic, working-world topics–like running an inn or creating an anime—and making them fascinating to watch. Sakura Quest takes on the very topical subject that currently plagues Japan, the gradual decay of rural cities and the efforts to spur tourism and revive them.

Japan is currently experiencing a population decrease with a birth rate that has dipped below its death rate. With an aging population and younger generations moving to the larger cities for work, the rural towns left behind have begun to slowly deteriorate. The issue has become more prevalent in several recent anime (like Non Non Biyori) with the issue of schools being forced to close due to not enough students.

The issue is both very real and very serious for Japan–and Sakura Quest shows it front and center. You can see it in the townsfolk who seem resigned to their fate. You can also see it in Yoshino, someone who herself moved to Tokyo from a rural city and is desperate never to return even when she is shown that, in the current world of the internet and telecommuting, there is no need to be fixated on the big city. The series treats everything with respect while simultaneously making it all fun to watch.

The characters are all likable and earnest in their portrayals, which is part of what makes watching the show so enjoyable. You can see multiple angles of every conflict and you can empathize with characters even if you don’t agree with them. The mix-ups and wacky incidents the characters go through overlaying the very real subject of reviving a rural town makes for a captivating and memorable series that I found myself thinking about for hours after the event was over.

After three episodes, I must say that I am hooked on Sakura Quest. The issue of slowly dying rural cities and the efforts to revitalize them is a complex and difficult subject to tackle. And yet, from what I’ve seen, I have full confidence that the series will do it justice. I look forward to seeing the different methods Yoshino and the tourism center try to use to bring new vigor to the shabby little town. Having seen actual success stories, like the city of Ōarai–something I have no doubt will be used as an example in some way within the series–I feel hopeful for their quest.

Sakura Quest begins airing on Japan’s Tokyo MX station, ABC Asahi Broadcasting station, and AT-X from April 5, BS11 from April 6, and Tulip TV from April 8. There is currently no Western streaming information.

Image source: TVアニメ「サクラクエスト」公式 on Twitter

Comments (3)
  1. Nagi no asukara (also a PA works title) also delves into population decline as a theme. Even the first episode mentions that one of the school is closed due to the lack of students.

  2. I’ve been looking forward to this show since it was announced and this was a nice little extended preview! I hope it gets picked up for streaming by a good service.

  3. Population decline in a country like Japan, is perfectly normal. Stagnation is healthy in a country with as high a population and the same conditions as Japan. But everyone freaks out and then decides that we need to mass import people to make up for the lack of reproduction, which should work itself out eventually.

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