Yoshino hasn't had much luck in Tokyo, so when a job opportunity comes up for a small town tourism board, she takes them up on the offer. Small town life is on the decline in Japan, with many on the verge of dying out completely. Yoshino's new job is spearheading a campaign to help revive interest in the town. It's not clear the Chupacabra Kingdom, of which she is now queen; will do that, but what else would work?
It's hard to say much about blandness, because that's not inherently good nor bad. I always felt there would be a point which would make this anime for me, yet that never came. The core theme has a few interesting points regarding the decline of small town life, which is why I'm rating this a little higher than I ought to.
The beginning is about what I expected. Yoshino is thrust into this silly and weird Chupacabra Kingdom thing, and concerning herself with the tourism board trying to revitalize the town. The Chupacabra stuff is explained actually, and the reasons behind it not as crazy as you'd think. Inevitably this centers around a group of young women working together (because anime). While amusing, comedy isn't a stand out feature, nor are the characters or story. It would be easy to drop Sakura Quest early on, because it's fairly mediocre in many regards and it doesn't seem like the story is going anywhere. It's a chain of gimmicky plans to bring people to the town, but is it working? Actually no. And over time Yoshino realizes this.
While she arrived from Tokyo, Yoshino in grew up in a small coastal town, which she returns to on a vaction at the mid point of the anime. It never occurred to her, but her home town isn't struggling at all. It has a stable population, and people are content living there. Sakura Quest appears to be mostly silliness in the way anime shows are, however there is deeper thinking about what the problem of declining small town life means and what to do about it. Something with no easy answer.
It's not just about bringing people in, there are many issues that have arisen from depopulation. One is that most people are old, which is not a good starting point for any kind of revitalization. The girls however recognize that it isn't just about outsiders, and coping with this aging population plays a role in making the town a better place too. A bigger problem is that most business have shut their doors, been unmaintained and now look like shit, making the town very dingy, somewhat abandoned, and unwelcoming. A more human problem arises with the townsfolk themselves. People have accepted what the town has become and are resistant to change; because that would be too much trouble. This is a tough problem, as the heart of the town itself needs to change direction, but Yoshino struggles to find those who want to help. Those who would want something better, left the town long ago.
My favorite point of Sakura Quest, involved traditions. Yoshino's home town has them, and everyone was excited for the upcoming festival. Yet the small town Yoshino tries to save doesn't have anything like that. People where indifferent to the many traditions like a festival they used to have, and eventually gave up on them. Letting small things like that die out seems insignificant, but add up when considering a town you (and more importantly others) would want to live in.
Okay, so I've gone on and on about the small town stuff but there isn't much to say about the story itself, which is okay but nothing more. The philosophical aspects of Sakura Quest impressed me however, and I found the issues tackled to be very interesting. It would be easy to pass this anime over, but the depth looking at the decline of small town life makes this anime somewhat unique, and perhaps worth checking out for that reason.
Yoshino: Even if I got a job like that, I'm sure it would feel normal after a while. If you can find inspiration in normal jobs, they don't feel so normal anymore.
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