Sagrada Reset
Episodes 1-3

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Sagrada Reset ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Sagrada Reset ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Sagrada Reset ?

Located somewhere in the Japanese backwoods, the sleepy town of Sakurada harbors a surprising secret – the city is populated by ability users. Their powers aren't anything too dramatic, however. One boy can send telepathic messages, while another girl can possess cats. Mysteriously, whenever someone tries to leave Sakurada, they lose their memories of these special powers. As a result, their influence never spreads to the outside world, and Sakurada remains an ordinary enough place.

It's here that Kei Asai meets Haruki Misora. The class outcast, Misora can reset time back three days, but she doesn't retain her memories of the previous timeline. Asai, meanwhile, can recall memories based on any sensory experience, to the point of bypassing Misora's reset abilities. Realizing that they form a formidable duo, the pair team up to solve mysteries involving the town's various residents. But is that really for the best? And what about the powerful organization that governs Sakurada, keeping abilities away from the outside world?

While I've seen this basic setup plenty of times before – People With Powers team up to solve episodic mysteries – it's never been with this particular tone. I'd say that Sagrada Reset combines the character-based philosophical banter of the Monogatari series with From the New World's atmosphere of insistent, stifling dread. Something's up in Sakurada, and our unusually principled young heroes are going to be pushed right into the thick of it. That's not to say that Sagrada Reset is as entertaining as these two series, at least not off the bat. The show has some serious problems (mostly on the production side), but I'll dive into those after discussing the story a bit more.

The crux of the show so far is Misora and Asai's relationship. Asai is a profoundly principled young man, to the point where he considers charity that provides the doer any gratification at all to be invalid. As such, he comes to admire Misora, whose regular confrontations with the immutability of fate have left her without a strong sense of self. While she no longer experiences much in the way of emotions, she'll still reset time whenever she sees a person in distress – an act fueled more by habit than the sincere belief that anything will change. So Asai, at the prompting of his cunning class representative Sumire, resolves to draw Misora out of her shell. Using their powers together, they're able to save a little girl from being abandoned by her mother. Misora regains her sense of agency, but she now clings to Asai as her key to actualizing it. She promises to follow his orders from now on, and he takes the lead in their quest to help others.

For the first few episodes of a show, these characters are well-articulated, and they're even developing at a steady rate. Hopefully that keeps happening, and they don't just stagnate until the last act of this 24-episode show. My biggest qualm with their dynamic is that it isn't particularly healthy. Asai's sense of justice is masochistic and unsustainable, while Misora went from “no agency” to “investing everything in a dude.” This isn't a reasonable place for these characters to spend their lives, and I hope that the show confronts their attitudes sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Misora seems somewhat more open following the two-year time skip, although that's mostly just with Asai.

I'm also interested in Sumire's character. She dies suddenly at the end of the second episode, so the show can teach Asai a lesson about recklessly resetting time. He'd kissed Misora in order to see how it felt, but then reset time when he didn't want to live with the consequences. This was around the time that Sumire died, and you can't reset the same timeframe more than once without "saving" in advance, so Sumire should be dead permanently. Then again, she's all over the opening and ending, so there's obviously a shoe left hanging somewhere. She's the one who got Asai involved with Misora, and her ability hasn't been disclosed, so there's a good chance she's still around plotting something.

In the third episode, an older Misora and Asai try to save a cat. However, that proves difficult when the cat is revealed to have been kidnapped, while its owner harbors a secret motive behind her request. While this episode is already out, I'll save covering it in more detail until next week's conclusion for the sake of fluidity.

Now for the problematic part: the show's production. I'll start with the director, since that information helped me understand just why Sagrada Reset looks the way it does. I mean, I've seen lots of lazily directed, minimally animated anime, but I haven't seen one as awkward and stilted as this in a while. All the characters do is exchange dialogue from different corners of a room, their stillness so unnatural that it seems like they're trying hard not to move an inch because they know it'd cost the production money.

Anyway, director Shinya Kawatsura's style is best described as “languid.” While this works for some of his stuff (Non Non Biyori and Tanaka-kun is Always Listless both benefited from a slow visual pace and deadpan characters), it really hurts Sagrada Reset. Most of the show is people talking about how they feel, so it'd be nice if they could actually emote sometimes. It'd also make Haruki's lack of emotions stand out more if everyone else wasn't like that too. The dialogue is pretty cold, so some expressiveness in the visuals would have done a lot to make the whole thing more inviting. Not that this is just a directorial problem - Kawatsura is at his best when he's being buoyed by interesting production design. While I can see what they're going for with Sagrada Reset's overall style, it falls flat for the most part. The character designs are pleasantly clean and doll-like, but that also makes them slightly unnerving. (Once again, this is similar to From the New World.) However, the lack of motion or even any expressive staging means this atmosphere is rarely put to effective use. The color palette is both pleasant and sterile in a way that fits thematically, but it's also wasted on generic backgrounds. There are ways to make shows that are animated for pocket change look good, but Sagrada Reset isn't really taking advantage of them, in spite of its ability to establish a particular tone.

In its first few weeks, Sagrada Reset isn't quite a good show. The visuals are all just talking heads, while the writing manages to be even colder than its fatalistic heroine. However, the setup is interesting, and there are even some good bits of writing along the way. I could see the story turning out better if they make certain choices down the line, most importantly confronting the show's central relationship. As it stands, this was easily one of the season's lesser premieres, but there is more promise to this show than most of its mid-tier brethren. It's also two cours, so we'll be in this one for the long haul. Please end up being at least a little bit interesting, Sagrada Reset.

Grade: B-

Sagrada Reset is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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