What They Say:
After being rejected from job after job, Yoshino Koharu’s career prospects are looking dire. That is, until she gets an offer to become queen! But what she thought was a one day gig turns into a year-long commitment to the small rural town of Manoyama. Stuck out in the country with an entire town’s expectations on her shoulders, it’s up to Yoshino to show the world what a hidden gem Manoyama is!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub that gets the 5.1 boost. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and handle the material well since it is almost entirely just dialogue based. The show works with the small moments between a lot of characters so there’s some good placement throughout and easy work with variable levels that adds to the fun but in the end it’s largely a center channel based piece when you get down to it. There may be a couple of slightly larger moments of silliness here with a reaction or two but it’s pretty standard fare throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by PA Works, the show has a really great look to it as most shows from this studio do, especially original works, with detailed character designs and great settings. It’s not big on high-motion animation sequences or anything but it fits with the style of the show and what it’s doing. The series has a real world design with good colors that handles the natural side well while also coming across well for the various style buildings and other settings. Colors are solid throughout with some really nice depth to some of the scenes. When it does go a bit bigger it stands out well with some very fluid sequences and movement. I’m generally a fan of PA Works projects and this one is no exception.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for both formats on both hinges. The o-card replicates the artwork on the case itself that looks good here with a bit more color definition as we get the main cast of girls all leaping about as set against a bright blue sky with some clouds. It’s not a cover that really tells you anything beyond cute girls but as a second volume it works nicely to give us a good short of them all in their kind of standard approach. The back cover goes for a white and pink background with the flowers mixed in as we get a good summary of the premise and several good-sized shots from the show itself instead of the usual tiny shots. The extras are clearly listed (hint: it’s just trailers and those aren’t extras) while the technical grid is pretty easy to read below it as it breaks down both formats. While there are no show related inserts included with this we do get a reversible cover that uses the same cover artwork while the back side has the episode breakdown by number and title against a white and pink background.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice for a static menu as we get the flowers from the back cover with the pink and white design expanded to the whole screen. The right side uses the character artwork from the cover in a good way as it works against the background well while the left has the mildly ornate logo and navigation in their own boxes with the gold framing. It’s simple but it works well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. With little here besides the show itself, it’s very easy to navigate and setup.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series airing in the spring and summer of 2017, the second Sakura Quest set covers the back twelve episodes of the original series by PA Works. I missed out on the first season but there’s more than enough here to be able to figure it out as it goes on and enjoy it with what it presents. In fact, it made for a nice little challenge in a way just to see if it could be pieced together. The general premise is that a group of young women are working out of a rural town named Manoyama where they’re trying to bring it back to life through the tourism board. This was highlighted by the board crowning a young woman, Yoshino, as the Queen of the Kingdom of Chupacabara and that brought in a lot of social media attention for what the tourism board is trying to do.
The central idea for this is definitely interesting and we’ve seen it covered in other shows to varying degrees over the years. The ideas employed to try and figure out how to save the town are ones that many face and it comes from decades of neglect as well. Many of the older residents here are just winding down and admitting that things have changed in a way that they can no longer adapt to. When the kids get old enough and leave for the big city, that just signals the regular end of order for things. Access to the town drop off and a lot of the focus early on is on the bus route itself, which can’t justify being here. There’s a lot of things about this that’s worthy of discussion and I do like that they come up with a solution, albeit one that will be problematic down the line no matter what as it’s just a band-aid kind of fix. But it’s one that comes with the younger folks helping the elders figure out how to connect with the modern world through technology. There’ll always be these elements but it felt like this show kind of overplayed that – even if it does come across in a number of Japanese shows related to this topic.
The show also continues to work with the background storyline of looking for the treasures that exist in the town and get the clue for the final one being part of an older storage house. This is actually a bit of a ruse in a way as it deals with someone playing his own game in trying to get the tourism folks to understand that they need to rethink how they’re dealing with the situation. And that is true as there’s a lot more to really do effectively here, which is good to see various folks with experience pushing them in this way. But there’s also a lot to like in listening to the younger folks, whether it’s the tourism group and how they’re trying to apply a range of ideas to revitalizing with a look at the long-term of the local kids that are seeing that their only real path is to escape here because there isn’t any future that they can – which is typical teenager to begin with.
I really like what the series does as it progresses, dealing with some of the various character relationship dynamics that have existed over time, focusing on some of the connections (or lack thereof) of the women from the tourism board, and even the transition out of being queen for Yoshino. It doesn’t come up with all the answers, or many in general really, but it asks the questions and tries to tackle it as best as it can. This is a larger problem that a lot of places around the world have been facing for decades that only seems to be accelerating. There are interesting ideas and lots of conflicting and problematic ways of trying to resolve it, but they all require a significant change in what must be done and how we approach. Which, of course, means it’ll stick to the band-aid approach.
I really liked Sakura Quest with what it’s doing and what it’s asking as well as the way it set everything up with the tourism board. I didn’t feel quite as connected to the cast having missed the first half of the series but they’re very accessible here and come across well since it’s not a “high school girls save the town” concept, but young women out in the world making their way and using connections to try and solve a real problem. Funimation’s release is well-done as we get a great looking release with some appealing PA Works animation as well as getting a dub that lets the actors work storylines and characters they may not get to often. While it’s disappointing that there’s nothing in the way of extras here, even a commentary, the core show is worth the price of admission.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: August 21st, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.