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

It seems like, every season, there’s a series that gets me in the feels right when I least expect it.

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for episodes 10 and 11 of Sakura Quest.]

Sakura Quest is the story of a young woman, Yoshino Koharu, who, after a case of mistaken identity, comes to work to revive the rural town of Manoyama with the town’s tourism board and her newfound friends.

So far, the series has mostly been covering the individual main characters, a group of five girls who have been brought together under the mutual goal of helping Manoyama. The past eight episodes of the series have been spent focusing on each of the other members of Yoshino’s circle of friends with two episodes per character. The latest focus has been on the character Ririko Oribe.

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

Ririko is a local who has lived her entire life in Manoyama. A withdrawn, antisocial girl, Ririko has always felt like an outsider. The “weirdo who wants to be ‘normal.'” The arc of episodes ten and eleven focuses on Ririko’s feelings of alienation and on a legend of Manoyama.

According to the legend, a dragon woman used to live in Manoyama. Fearful of the strange creature because it was different, the locals drove her away with song and dance.

Throughout the episodes, we see that Ririko learns of the legend and sees herself as the dragon woman. Her mother was an outsider who married Ririko’s father, but could not adjust to life in Manoyama and eventually left. As a result, Ririko lives with the issue that, on a genetic level, part of her does not belong. Shy and antisocial, she could never fit in with the other children growing up. She doesn’t enjoy festivities so she never learned the traditional dance of Manoyama that was used to drive the dragon woman away. Learning the legend of the dragon woman adds to Ririko’s feelings of not belonging anywhere.

Curious as to what eventually happened to the dragon woman, Ririko searches for scripture on the legend. It’s through her research that she discovers that the legend she has heard is different from the original legend.

In the original legend, the dragon woman was a wise creature with vast knowledge. Wishing to learn what she could teach them, the locals tried to welcome her into their midst with song and dance. However, instead, the noise and fire only caused the dragon woman to hide in fear deep in a cave where she eventually died. By the time the locals realized their mistake, it was too late. It turns out that the traditional dance of Manoyama isn’t to drive evil away, but is in fact to appease the soul of the wronged dragon woman.

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

I’ve seen plenty of stories of tragedy born from good intentions, but few have been as blunt as this. The people of Manoyama wanted to be friends with the dragon woman, so they tried to welcome her the only way they knew how to. And in doing so, they killed her. There are no villains here, only victims. Even though it’s just a fairy tale serving as the backdrop for another story, I couldn’t get it out of my head. All I could think about was the well-meaning people of Manoyama singing and dancing to welcome the dragon woman and then discovering the horror of what they’ve done. Cue the water works.

The story arc of episodes ten and eleven itself is very heartwarming. By learning the truth about the legend, Ririko discovers that Manoyama is a place that welcomes outsiders, herself included. She is able to accept herself and finds her place among her friends. And yet, the story of the dragon woman was so powerfully heart-wrenching, I spent the entire back end of episode eleven in tears.

Seriously, this is kind of becoming a thing for me. Every season, a series will serve up an emotional gut punch that will force me to add tissues to my shopping list. Personally, I was expecting WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? to be the one to dish it out to me this season, but it turned out to be Sakura Quest. Well played. I wonder what next season’s installment of the “Makes Toshi Cry” series of articles will be…

Sakura Quest can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll and with English dialogue on FUNimation.

Comments (2)
  1. Episode 11 was so great and emotional. When she begin to sing that song it gave me all kind of feels lol

    • It really was 🙂

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