Three episodes in, I’m worried this is a bit too similar to past P.A. Works… works.
Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Shirobako. Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Hanasaku Iroha. Not so much Glasslip or Tari Tari, but not every studio can have hit after hit consistently. Within the last five years, P.A. Works has become something of a niche entertainment outlet, specializing in slice-of-life shows with an overarching message of commitment, hard work, and improving the lives of the people within a certain community. With both Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako (and Glasslip) under my belt, Sakura Quest feels a little bit of a throwback to old times. Much like the sense of having a sequel release too soon that hardly differentiates itself from its predecessor, I can only feel a reserved hostility that makes me yawn in contempt.
Of course, it would be somewhat unfair to simply base Sakura Quest‘s quality on its predecessor’s ability to cement the same themes. Almost like the Mega Man series, the work of Pixar, or Tyler Perry sitcoms, Sakura Quest is another product of a factory that specializes in a certain type of anime, with very little distinction from others. And with that context, my hesitance to go all-in with the themes it tries to present are (hopefully) justified. My tolerance for the same old, same old can only go so far.
For those who are fairly unfamiliar with P.A. Works, Sakura Quest is a decently enjoyable little break from the chains of zany charisma and fantasy muskiness. In the same vein as Tsuki ga Kirei, it takes a grounded, casually progressive approach to characterization and plot developments. Unlike Tsuki ga Kirei, the structure is a tad more episodic, with each episode taking on a different challenge for the female lead to face while already combating her displeasure with staying in unfamiliar territory. The emphasis on an overarching plot is always looming and hammered in, but it’s vague enough to allow a number of shenanigans and activities to take place. All extraneous details aside, the anime does a good job with what it has, and sets up nicely for some inevitable moral proceedings and social commentary on pleasantries in life.
Something else that’s become standard with P.A. Works is its effort with animation. Characters are cute, believably spastic, and varied in their make-up, though somewhat similar when it comes to young, female faces. Animation, despite the casual setting, does enough to make characters express themselves through fluid movement. I also really like how the female lead looks so radically different than the citizens of the rural town.
I just like how the female lead looks, regardless. P.A. Works knows how to turn ordinary into extraordinary, and it’s no surprise here.
As critical as I am about its “copycat” status, Sakura Quest definitely has potential to be a fulfilling experience. Characters are entertaining through their status and importance to the goal at hand, along with base personalities. The best part is that nothing seems so exaggerated, a show that can manage to entertain through the simpler things in life… almost like Hanasaku Iroha. Or Shirobako. In any case… with only three episodes in, it’s hard to recommend it despite its formulaic (for its studio) approach, though fans of past P.A. Works… works that don’t care about this kind of thing will feel right at home. Time will ultimately tell.