Sakura Quest Episode 25
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 25 of
Sakura Quest ?
Much like the town of Manoyama, Sakura Quest ends its run by staying true to itself while constantly moving forward. The series has had a clear way of doing things pretty much from the start, and it continues along that path for this final outing. For better or worse, this last part of Sakura Quest is every bit a Part Two in the vein of all its past arcs.
Even the big final ‘problem’ from the end of last episode is wrapped up in the usual fashion: professionally, realistically, and surprisingly fast. Kadota secures the Mayor from Sandal's hometown, they have a few scattered issues getting back to the festival in time, and everyone helps out to pull things together by the end. There are some more strong callbacks scattered throughout, such as Maki's father filming the play or Deku and Oribe mocking Kadota for almost flaking out again, but overall it's the same strong progression we've seen from the show all along. It's neat to see all the work that goes on in the background while the civilians are simply enjoying the festival, and there's some good outlining of the talents the locals have put into working the event. But while it all feels very dense in a satisfying finale-level sort of way, it's also mostly perfunctory at this point, with the core crisis averted by the first third of the episode.
After that, the show heads into its standard victory lap mode, albeit the biggest one ever to bring the series to a suitable finish. There are a few standout scenes that sell this ending so effectively, first and foremost being the dragon story play capped off with Ririko's song. After initially appearing back in the first half of the show, her song has been teased a few more times leading up to this, and the properly-scored, full-length version definitely lives up to the hype. Her voice actress's excellent singing is the feature attraction, but everything about how the scene is executed bumps it up to outstanding. After the ‘big problem’ at the beginning is solved, this scene emerges as the true climax, the centerpiece of this last episode and one of the best scenes in the show period.
We're next treated to another of the show's wrap party scenes. These are always a treat, and this is the biggest one yet, bringing everyone together in an engaging way. However, it's the following scene with the more intimate conversation between the core five Tourism Board members that stands out more. It serves to expound on the team's plans post-series, with a few surprises mixed in (like Ririko travelling), but all satisfyingly in line with everyone's characterizations. This scene also excels in reinforcing Sakura Quest's themes, as the characters' discussions of their various adventures evoke sentimentality for the recent memories they have made in the town, which echoes the point of revitalizing enthusiasm for Manoyama as it is now. In this respect, the story makes clear that the team has succeeded in their quest. Manoyama's status is no longer determined by wistful nostalgia for the past, but by the very recent accomplishments and impact everyone has made there. Sakura Quest would have done better to trade its simple symbolism for this more clever meta-theming more often, since it's made these last few episodes more effective.
Yoshino's decision to ultimately leave Manoyama also represents some smart implementation of the show's core themes. The idea that she must maintain her ‘outsider’ status to keep moving forward while helping others do the same lines up with one of the show's major points. This idea of not rejecting the change brought about by outside cultures and ideas is spelled out again by Kadota, as Yoshino abdicates the throne and the Kingdom of Chupakabura is dissolved once and for all. Occasionally, Sakura Quest's lofty speechifying has come off as too obvious for its own good, but it works in this case as a big speech being given by a character to an audience in-universe. The rest of the wrap-up mostly plays out as short clips involving various characters, finishing out with the right amount of sentimentality. It seems a bit too typical for a series finale in a show that worked best when it didn't play to tropes too hard, and Shiori kicking off an almost-literal sakura quest is possibly too on-the-nose as well. But I'll let the series have it, since everything paid off so well.
The finale closes out with a suitably emotional train-station goodbye, an effective curtain call for just about all the characters involved, and still more strong call-backs to some of the earliest jokes in the series. The revelation that Yoshino has found her calling as a sort of travelling town-revival-specialist fits with what we now know about her passions, bringing the show even more effectively full-circle. Overall, Sakura Quest was a mix of the typical and the surprising, in the same way that a forgotten small town can seem nostalgically familiar but still hide its own endearing quirks. Its strong acknowledgement of the audience in the last arc definitely bumped up the effectiveness of its finale, even as its old formulaic proceedings held it back a little. It truly was a great year. Thank you, Sakura Quest.
Sakura Quest is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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