Sakura Quest's exploration of rural depopulation
Sakura Quest is the most recent series from studio P.A. Works’ “earnest girls working earnestly” genre that it started back in 2011 with Hanasaku Iroha. Sakura’s story starts charmingly enough with the cherry-blossom haired Yoshino being mistaken for a singer from the 60’s and subsequently being hired by the tourist board as a representative of the rural town, Manoyama. Thus begins twenty five episodes of Yoshino and fellow cohorts Shiori, Maki, Ririko and Sanae trying to revitalise the ailing town.
At its heart, the series is about people fighting against the depopulation of a rural town. Once it moves past its initial two-episode stories of Yoshino attempting (and failing) with quick-fire tourist pulls, there are extended arcs focusing on the aging residents on the outskirts of town, as well as the perils of using flashy media pulls, alongside an undercurrent of resigned acceptance to the situation the town finds itself in. And what ultimately awaits it should the situation continue.