Sakura Quest – 01
There’s a trend I’ve noted in recent years, where P.A. Works seems to be trying harder and harder to make shows people will immediately think of as “P.A. Works shows”. This has historically been the realm of KyoAni and Shaft, of course – studios where everything goes through an assembly line and is thoroughly reshaped to reflect the studio more than the material itself (and no, I’m not saying those two studios are otherwise on par with other – they’re obviously not). It’s nice for a studio to have enough of an identity as to have series be recognizably theirs, of course. But there’s a trap here, too, and it saddens me to see PAW – one of my long-standing favorites – fall into it (though the presence of Uchouten Kazoku on the schedule is no small consolation).
There’s really nothing wrong with Sakura Quest. It’s very pleasant, modestly funny at times, and while pedestrian by P.A. Works standards the rural settings are pretty enough. But it’s palpably low-hanging fruit for the studio, that much is obvious – PAW characters in a PAW setting executing a PAW premise. Plucky young girls trying to make their way in the workforce? Check. Idyllic rural town full of loveable oddballs? Check. Mostly token male cast? Check. This is what P.A. Works is now, pretty much, with the rare exceptions like Uchouten. It’s nice that they’re good at it, but that doesn’t make stuff like this any less of a throwaway.
The McPlot this time around gives is a young woman who’s just graduated from college in Tokyo (though she herself isn’t from there, as her mom enjoys pointing out) struggling to find a job. Through a ridiculous misunderstanding she gets a job offer through the modeling agency she’d conveniently joined some time earlier to be the “Queen” of a small town trying to drum up tourism. Stop me if you know where this is going (and if you don’t – seriously, you need to ask yourself some hard questions).
Again, this is all very competent, and heroine Yoshino is likeable enough (if utterly vanilla). There are some cute moments reflecting on rural Japan (if I had a dollar for every time I’ve nervously walked down the aisle of a train car, looking for a map to make sure I was on the right line…). I can see Sakura Quest being a forgettable but relaxing diversion, but I have a hard time imagining it being any more than that. I may watch it, but that’s likely as much commitment as it’s going to get.
Sakurada Reset – 01
Wow, was this one a disappointment. I mean, seriously – that was just bloody awful. I wouldn’t say Sakurada (or Sagrada) Reset was near the top of my anticipation list for spring, but it was certainly a suspect of interest to be brought in for questioning. The source material seemed pretty well-liked, it was greenlit for two cours, and the director is Kawatsura Shinya, fresh off a sterling performance with Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge (and a really good directing job, too – not just a faithful adaptation). Sure, it’s based on a light novel – but maybe it would be one of those rare exceptions?
Nope. I hope the rest of the season’s other relevant LN adaptations fare better than this one because it’s going to be a long season if they don’t – the schedule is unusually thick with them. It would be natural to equate Sakurada Reset with Kokoro Connect, based on the premise – even if you didn’t know that Kawatsura directed both shows. But Kokoro Connect (itself a LN adaptation) on its worst day – and there were some pretty bad ones – was never as awful as this series. The premise seems fine on paper – a seaside town where everyone has some kind of weird esper ability, and a pairing between a boy who remembers everything with a girl who can reset time, making everyone forget. But somewhere between premise and product, Sakurada Reset became a complete trainwreck.
The problem here is easy to spot and very simple – the interactions between characters are as stilted and unnatural as in any anime I’ve managed to watch an entire episode of for years. It doesn’t help that the dialogue seems to be doing a bad Nisio Isin impression, for starters. But it’s more than just script and line delivery – everything about these relationships is forced and ridiculous. People outside light novels just don’t talk this way, sorry. And the problem with LN syndrome is that the more stupid the dialogue, the more clever and self-important the source material seems to think it is.
I knew this was a good chance I wouldn’t end up clicking with Sakurada Reset – I’ve learned to temper my expectations any time LNs are involved. But damn – I did not expect to outright hate it. I’ll admit that anything Isin-like is a non-starter for me – everything he does strikes me as insufferably self-aware and pretentious. But to see a director as good as Kawatsura produce an episode this bad is truly shocking. I can only assume he’s being faithful to the novels and all this stink comes from them, but in the end it really doesn’t matter – wherever the fault lies, Sakurada Reset is a disaster of the first order.