First Impressions Sakura Digest – Sakura Quest, Sakurada Reset

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.

 

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19 comments

  1. H

    Shouldn’t you enjoy Sakura Quest more simply because it doesn’t try to portray the current state of affairs in the anime industry as something we should be proud of like that other P.A. Works show?

  2. Why would it? That’s not the subject matter here. Whatever the checks and demerits of Shirobako they’re moot to my enjoyment level of Sakura Quest. I’ll end up liking this show as much as its content bears out – no more and no less.

  3. A

    Sakurada Reset feels like someone took the worst parts of orange and Mayoiga and made a new show out of it.

  4. Z

    Of Sakurada Reset: I kept thinking “Wow, this would actually be better if it had the Shaft treatment”. I didn’t hate it like Enzo, but I did nervously laugh a couple times and say “This is pretty terrible. Well, maybe it will go up from here.”

  5. Never, ever in my life have I thought “this would be better if it got the Shaft treatment”…

  6. s

    Wow sakurada….just wow………welp, back to marathoning precure. This is a public announcement: people should totally watch precure, especially if you’re having trouble finding something good to watch this season; it’s the bees knees

  7. I’m thinking of giving Boruto a try actually, just for shits & giggles even though I never liked Naruto.

  8. s

    I havent checked the first ep myself , but ive been looking into its production details and things look sort of promising from that angle. I’ve always felt that naruto was an unpolished series with really good moments when it wants to put in the effort and mediocre ones when it’s under the impression that its making an effort. Ive always had the impression you were never the biggest naruto fan so either something about boruto aesthetically grabbed you or your just grasping at straws at this point for some entertaining anime this spring season (maybe a bit of both).

  9. Mostly the latter TBH. Though there’s always a part of me with stuff like this that says “what am I missing? Maybe something will click.” but it almost never does. New series, fresh start, generally positive reviews (not that it means much).

  10. s

    But that’s great that you’re always willing to give things multiple college tries even when your track record says it probably wont click. You’re right that there’s always a chance that things may eventually rub you the right way. You know what else will rub you the right way? *whispers* the precure franchise. In the future when i have a daughter (or even son for that matter) this is the kind of shit i want them to grow up watching. the kind of show that has damn good writing, a wonderful message, and proves that whether you’re teenage boy or girl, you can be badass hero that kicks all of kinds of ass. And that concludes my advertisement; hereis hoping bahumut doesnt suck. I looked into some of the production details behind it and according to some remarks from MAPPA, the reason why Yuri on ICE had some proiduction issues is because they were focusing their efforts on Bahumut so that its production doesnt falter halfway like it did in season 1

  11. I hated Naruto but once the time warp became Shippuden I loved the series. So far Boruto is ok.

  12. M

    This post title reminded me of Sakura Sakurada, legendary AV actress. Way more entertaining then either anime, for sure.

  13. A

    I seem to recall that you’re pretty swamped these days, but if you have time, I’d recommend watching episode 3(*) of Sakurada Reset to see if it doesn’t change your mind about the series. I think you’d enjoy the mystery plot enabled by a clever combination of the various abilities. It really is quite clever, and not in the negative way you used the word in your review.

    (*) The one drawback of this is that you may have some difficulty understanding how some of the elements fit together if you haven’t watched episode 2, but I think it’s worth it to get a sort of a fresh start with episode 3. If you like it, you can always go back.

  14. I do appreciate the suggestion, but I don’t think there’s any way I could go back to Sakurada Reset at this point. Being swamped doesn’t help, but it’s hard to overstate how much I hated the first episode (and I don’t use that word lightly).

  15. A

    Up to you of course, but since you like mystery type things I think you’d like it. You can try a Reset of your own, just pretend you never saw the first episode 😉 Character interactions are better now that the expositionary stuff has mostly been taken care of. The level of unnaturalness, pretentiousness and self-awareness right now is no worse than, say, in Subete ga F ni Naru. Since you’d be missing a episode, let me tell you that one of the main characters from the first episode is already dead and another has cut her hair, so you can bet character development is happening 🙂

  16. Z

    Wow, that death was so anti-climatic for me that I had completely forgotten that it happened. I spent a couple minutes wondering where they went, and then promptly forgot they ever existed. “I guess they were only relevant to that first story arc” and filed them away as unimportant. It wasn’t until your comment that I was reminded of it. Doh!

  17. A

    I haven’t read the novels or anything, but she is obviously relevant to more than the first story arc. First, because the first story arc hasn’t actually concluded yet, we had 1/3, 2/3, and then moved on to another arc. Second, in episode 3 it’s emphasized that the death has had specific ramifications on the Reset policy employed by the leads. The death was actually shown at the end of the first episode, not in the second, only at that point many people were mislead about who it was they saw falling into the river, because in the context it appeared to have something to do with the “fake” child story and not with the mains. It was easy to initially miss the connection in episode 2, because the umbrella cue wasn’t very obvious. It was later mentioned in the news though that she’d died.

  18. A

    Uh, that was supposed to be a reply to @Zilla..

  19. Z

    Yes, I could see that after you pointed out that they died. “Oh, THAT’S probably the thing that happened two years ago that makes Kei detest changing the future unnecessarily”, but for me personally watching those first and second episodes, that death was completely forgettable one week later. So completely unremarkable that I just thought we would eventually be served up the “why” when we got the third part of the first story arc.

    It sounds like you are really liking the series. I think with this episode it might have turned the corner for me from “just watching it” to “enjoying it” as well.

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