Sakura Quest Episode 6
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Sakura Quest ?
Sakura Quest continues on this week with more character development and a lot of forward movement. There's a feeling of increased ambition to go along with Episode 6's cinematically-focused plot, and while it mostly succeeds at what it's trying to do, there is a sense that the show might be getting a little too big for its britches at this point.
This episode centers on a crew filming a movie in Manoyama, as the Tourism Board attempts to cater to their demands while turning it into an opportunity to promote the town wherever possible. The subject matter naturally means that out-of-work actor Maki is the main focus character for this one, but it's surprising how much all the other main characters have to do. Her story intersects meaningfully with Yoshino and Sanae, so even though her portions really just bookend this episode, they feel like the most substantial part of it.
Maki has been kind of closed off in the series so far, clamming up when it comes to her unsuccessful past as an actress, so this storyline is her opportunity to put all that out in the open. It doesn't come easily though, and we see her waffling on the topic for the majority of this episode. She storms out of an early meeting over who from the board might have a bit part in the film, then we see her intermittently conversing with her brother about what her parents think of her stalled-out status in life. These scenes go by quickly, like many others in Sakura Quest, but they still feel somewhat like stalling. While they are building up important tension for the reveal of Maki's issues by the end of the episode, the point becomes clear after a couple versions of the scene have played out, which gives me the feeling that they should get to the point.
The same feeling of protracted stasis is present in the other major conflict this episode: Shiori securing the house to be burned down for the film. The episode tantalizingly gives us only partial hints of what Shiori's connection to this house is and why she may object to its destruction, but once again, the core conflict becomes clear within a couple scenes, so each time it's brought up again without adding new information, it feels more like a delaying tactic. In contrast to the fourth episode, all of the setup in this one just feels like setup alone.
There is still plenty to like throughout these proceedings, of course. Having long been the underutilized member of the team, Ririko proves herself the most entertaining of the episode, with her sly manipulations of the shop-owner she lives with stealing the show, and her nudging Yoshino to get Maki into the production betrays the ideals with which she aspires to assist her new co-workers. It's really just a few quick bits, but they increase the interest in Ririko's character significantly, and I look forward to her receiving more focus in the future.
There are also plenty of comedic moments that the movie-filming plot provides. Obviously, its slowly-emerging status as a zombie film is the most amusing core element. That also leads to great bits like Kadota's surprise turn as a zombie (he really gets into the role even after being disappointed that he has no lines) to the laugh-out-loud tackling of the lead actor at the end of a scene. It's nice to know that Sakura Quest can dispense plot setup without abandoning the sitcom antics that make its less serious portions so fun to watch.
Of course, by the end of this episode, Maki's issues are laid bare. Having Sanae be the character to call her out on them is a solid narrative choice. Sanae just went through her own character development on the same level in the previous storyline, so her role for Maki here puts a nice spin of continuity on the group's character arcs. It's another element I hope we can look forward to as we get to know these girls. However, it also makes a less well-executed issue apparent; Maki's development is already following many of the same beats as Sanae's, and the choice of characters to discuss this angst only calls attention to the formula. Granted, the exact details of Maki's hang-ups are different from Sanae's, but it would be best in the future not to repeat this format for developing the other two board members. At least it looks like Shiori is seeing some very different kind of development at the same time as this, so maybe the series is already trying to avoid falling into that rut.
Aside from some misgivings in structure, the episode-ending payoff for Maki's issues is a satisfying revelation. The show once again delves into allegory, as Maki's worries that she's past the point of being able to achieve her dreams mirror the ongoing fear that it's too late to revitalize Manoyama. As a motif I expect to recur throughout the series at this point, it fits especially nice this week. In this case, Sanae's uncompromising scolding of how pathetic Maki's issues seem is a moment that fits for both characters. It's something everyone needs to hear at some point, I think. As with a lot of the development thus far, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Maki will get over her issues and the team will be able to move forward. The journey there should be the interesting part, so I hope Sakura Quest doesn't keep retreading previous ground and can find its focus on the way forward.
Sakura Quest is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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