I don’t really like Sakura Quest.
Yoshino & Company’s quest to revitalize their small, declining town in the countryside is charming enough, but overall I’m kind of bored with it. I started watching it because the internet loves it; I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. But at the end of the day, its monotonous cycle of trial and error and uneventful character development is barely keeping me awake. I’m so uninterested that I’m watching the simul-cast dub which is 5 weeks behind the actual show. I just don’t care enough to watch it in Japanese. Listening to the English dub in the background at work is enough for me. It’s a fine show, but that’s all it is. I still don’t get why people are raving about it.
If it’s so boring, why do I keep watching it? Unfortunately, the answer is a little selfish: the main character Yoshino reminds me a lot of myself. Growing up in a small town, Yoshino wanted to move to Tokyo to see the world and create a path for herself in life, only to have every job application denied. Through some crazy shenanigans, she's forced to take a job in a countryside town similar to where she came from. I’m the same. From a sleepy seaside town, I applied to scholarships and jobs to try to get out there and see the world, only to end up in similar place to where I started. Yoshino and I both had high hopes and ambitions for adulthood that didn't come to fruition. Now we have to live out life for a year (Yoshino’s job contract, my apartment lease) until we can try something new again.
Yoshino’s biggest fear in the show is being normal. She wants to be different; she wants to have a life experience unique from everyone else. She constantly strives for it, but is always brought back to Earth. “At the end of the year, I can try again,” she thinks as she works to revitalize Manoyama. “I’ll do my best here and then be on to bigger and better things.” Yoshino is checking off all my boxes. I think I’ve found my pink-haired anime doppelganger. The show is sometimes on the brink of putting me to sleep, but I want to find out what happens to Yoshino. Will she succeed? Will she get the life she wants? Will I be able to?
Since I am behind in the show because I’m watching the dub, episode 14 just aired. It was a huge smack in the face. Taking some time off from her job after a recent failure, Yoshino goes back home to visit her family. It’s the same; nothing ever changes in her small village and it reaffirms her goal to be the town’s anomaly. She learns of her high school aged sister’s plans to stay in their town after graduation, to find a job within its bounds and continue her life with little change, and is comically appalled. “Why would you want to stay in this place?” Yoshino asks. “You’ve been here your whole life and you’re still young. Don’t you want to try something different?”
“But I’m happy,” she replies. “I have my friends and family, great neighbors and so many memories here. You always try for bigger and better Yoshino, but Dad always says a normal, simple happiness is one of the hardest things to achieve in life.”
BAM. Right in my gut.
And it hit Yoshino right in the gut, too. A normal, simple happiness? At the end of the day, is there anything wrong with it as long as you’re happy? Yoshino and I keep putting ourselves out there, thinking that the happiness we have right now isn’t enough. But we’re working hard at our jobs, enjoying our friends and family, and learning more about ourselves every day. What’s wrong with things the way they are? So many people in the world crave for a normal, simple happiness. Is it fair for us to be ungrateful for one of the hardest things in life to achieve?
Disclaimer: I don’t think this show is telling you to aspire to settle, to take what comes to you with little effort because you can be happy anyway. It’s just saying that it’s all okay. Big lives are okay. Small lives are okay. Do your best and be happy, it shouldn’t matter where you are or what you're doing.
Look at this little, dinky show bringing the heat.
Sakura Quest is still a boring show, but I'm going to keep watching. I think Yoshino is going to decide to stay in the countryside town at the end of the series. She’s made a life there, with friends and relationships that are important to her, and, in a way, has made her own path (will that be enough for me, too?). I’ll see how she comes to that decision on her own, to see if it really makes her happy or if it's just for plot convenience. With such a one-dimensional show, her character arc is pretty predictable.
I just wish my life was as easy to figure out.