With the establishing arc out of the way, Sakura Quest delves into more of Mayotama’s issues, and it does it with smart exposition and an economic focus.
Having already introduced its main cast members as a likeable lot, each with distinct personality traits, the anime also develops some new sympathetic characters with the same forward-momentum that carried the previous episodes. But first, it has to consolidate its cast under one roof.
When Yoshino and her friends’ moving truck breaks down, the group has to solicit the help of the old and eccentric town mechanic, Doku. His skillset turns out to be useful for more than just fixing trucks.
The geezer loans the ladies some powered exoskeletons he created to help them lift boxes, and the suits return throughout the episode as another potential tourist attraction, often to comical effect — when Yoshino tries to have a suit decorated with Mayotama’s wood carvings, it proves too impractical to reasonably consider.
Sakura Quest‘s in-between moments bear crucial exposition
As a lot of these logical story progressions unfold (truck breaks down, mechanic fixes truck, etc.) Sakura Quest continues to do the bulk of its exposition in short, in-between moments. While the key point at the start of this episode is the five women moving into Yoshino’s dorm, Sanae’s comical fear of bugs despite being a nature blogger is reinforced when she shrieks at a centipede under a moving bag.
The boxes still get schlepped around, but we simultaneously learn about who the characters are. However, this exposition method isn’t equally applied to each character.
Ririko remains one of the least developed members of the main cast, and while a few cuts hint at the relationship she has with her mother, it’s still more difficult than it should be to explain who Ririko is. Her sheepishness, curiosity and technological bent is highlighted as she interacts with Doku’s gadgets, but beyond that she still feels like a quiet enigma.
Her mother on the other hand is restated as a hard-nosed shopping district chief who wants the best for Mayotama’s merchants — without trampling on tradition.
Yoshino’s vending machine prototype is insensitive
And therein lies the major conflict of this arc. Yoshino and her impromptu ministers congregate to think of something to champion as a tourism attraction, and she settles on the town’s artisanal ranma wood-carving. But the way she goes about prototyping promotions is insensitive.
As an outsider, Yoshino wants to emphasize the town’s strengths while using a modern twist to attract tourist, but the flair she incorporates with a wood-carved Buddha that transforms into a vending machine (thanks to Doku) is a huge affront to tradition-lovers like the senior wood carver Kazushi.
When Yoshino fails to even name the type of wood used in the carving, she proves again a tendency to overlook the important heart of a matter in search of the quick promotional win. Yoshino feels earnest in her efforts here, but Kazushi’s reaction alludes to why previous marketing attempts may have failed in the past.
The growth path of Mayotama’s queen remains clear. She needs to truly understand the townsfolk she represents if she’s going to make big strides, and her struggle with helping the old coexist with the new continues to draw you into the story. That’s why the rift Kazushi opens with Sanae is especially jarring.
“There’s nobody to take his place,” Sanae says. “He’s the only one that can do that job,” she observes of his incredible carvings, admiring the work of another adult that moved to Mayotama from elsewhere.
“You weren’t simply running away from something difficult?” he asks, cutting through her niceties and hitting her with an existential challenge.
The park-bench chat resurfaces economic themes
While focussing on the specific traumas of her past, the subsequent talk between Sanae and Yoshino on a park bench again brings to the fore economic themes like demand and worker motivation. As Sanae looks up at the night sky, the cut is mirrored by a shot of her sulking in a big city while looking up at a sky scraper six months earlier.
These closing scenes effectively set up connected storylines that should be engaging to follow in the coming weeks. Sanae’s ability to do meaningful work is challenged, Yoshino’s aptitude at marketing the town will be further tested, and Kazushi’s desire to preserve tradition at the cost of a wider reach marks a hurdle that Mayotama’s queen will have to clear.
As long as Sakura Quest continues to weave it’s snappy exposition into its entire cast, the anime still feels like a compelling watch this season.