Sakura Quest

February 11, 2018

What’s this? An anime about reviving an old dying rural town? Boring… But if my guts tell me anything, it is to never judge an anime by its synopsis. Okay, I’m guiltier because I judged it by its poster cover. Seeing how 5 cute girls are going to help revive a town with an aging and declining population, this is going to be fun, right? And hence in Sakura Quest, we are going to see them come up with all sorts of ideas and think out of the box in their bid to bring in more people to visit this rural town in the mountains while trying to maintain local traditions.

Episode 1
When Yoshino Koharu was young, her dream was to become a queen. But reality hits her hard because after 30 job applications, she has been rejected by all. Then she receives a call from Momonga Promotion Agency that there has been a job request from a client to be a spokesperson for a rural town. With nothing to lose, she packs her bags for a day’s trip to the mountainous rural area of Manoyama. Alighting from the train, there is a group of people holding a banner welcoming her. They are stumped to see Yoshino. Apparently there has been a mistake. The grumpy old boss, Ushimatsu Kadota has actually requested for Yoshino Tsubaki, a famous idol (whom Kadota is a great fan of). Too bad. She died 8 years ago! So the blame game starts. Whose fault is it? I guess somebody’s bad handwriting has some misinterpret Tsubaki that can also be read as Koharu. With all the costs taken into account, I guess they have no choice but to go with this plan. Yoshino gets to know a few other staffs working on the local tourism board like Shiori Shinomiya. Manoyama is supposed to be some Kingdom of Chupakabura but it is like a dead ghost town and many of its inhabitants have this sour puss looks. Not so friendly… At the castle where all the old people gather, Kadota starts the coronation ceremony to make Yoshino the queen. After a little party with the old folks, Shiori drives her to the cabin where she will be staying.

She finds Maki Midorikawa sleeping there. Because Yoshino doesn’t know what she is getting into, Maki shows her the truth. Uploaded online is the recent coronation ceremony that says Yoshino will be queen for 1 year! Instantly she calls her agency she didn’t sign up for this. Too bad if she had only read the finer prints of her contract… Still, she won’t take it and tries to go home. The only bus in town can’t take her to the train station. Yeah, there’s a weird wandering minstrel riding it… Better to walk. When Kadota learns she is trying to go home, he puts his plan into action. Dressed up as a chupakabura and pretending to attack Shiori in this lame act, naturally Yoshino runs away. Ignore that sword in the stone right in the middle of the road. Because their act is so pitiful, Yoshino just plays along and smacks the chupakabura with her bag. That really hurt for an old guy. No choice but to stay here, Yoshino learns how some of the people really love their town and want to invigorate it again. Locked out from the cabin, she decides to stay at the castle. She looks through the old photos on the board during its heydays. One of the group pictures here has young Yoshino as the queen. Then she remembers she has been to this place before and the reason why she wanted to be one. So she dresses up as a queen and sleeps on the throne. Next morning, Kadota sees this and believes she has made up her mind to become queen. Well then, looks like he has already going to make her work.

Episode 2
Yoshino is now tasked to sell manjuus. However another miscommunication error a thousand boxes! Blame game again… Kadota throws down the challenge for her to sell them all in a week. If she can, she is allowed to leave. Shiori meets Maki for the first time, she recognizes her as some extra in a popular detective movie. Her character seems to be popular here. Yoshino and Shiori walk around town to personally talk to people to buy them. From the bus driver Takamizawa, café-cum-fortune-teller Angelica, the grumpy waitress Erika Suzuki, the even grumpier old hag Chitose Oribe, the merchant board head who is always at odds with Kadota, nothing sold. They talk to Oribe’s granddaughter, Ririko since she is an occult maniac to find out more on chupakabura. Yoshino gets an idea to upload this onto the website by staffs Minou and Takashi Yamada points her to a web designer living in the outskirts. Meet Sanae Kouzuki. Her house is a dumpster and I hope she likes the company of bugs. Not. After telling her their issue, Sanae comes up with a plan to design a fancy website. After that they set up a tent to sell the manjuus in front of the castle. First day results: Not enough hits on the website. What does this mean? Nobody came to buy. So they try to tweak the headlines with symbols and somehow make it the queen’s fault. Second day results? Shiori’s family came to buy out of pity. Well, that’s a start. Maki suggests making a video. So we have this lame but excusable chupakabura slaying video that turns the monster into delicious manjuus. The results? Only the wandering minstrel came… A week has passed and with less than 5 boxes sold, I guess Yoshino failed. So are the girls going to eat all of it? Well, if it’s to fight depression… Mmm… They taste good.

Episode 3
So Yoshino’s failure and punishment is to ride around town? Nobody’s watching this parade… Yoshino sees Maki meeting her brother, Kousuke. She tells him she isn’t going back to Tokyo. As Yoshino has planned to stay here, she has her stuffs moved from Tokyo. As there is a regional mascot contest, Yoshino is nervous preparing for the interview although she has a script in hand. But when the interviewer asks questions not in the script, she starts to fumble. She feels down because it makes her realize she doesn’t know much about Manoyama. She tries to talk to the old people but you know how cranky some of them can be. Some of the young ones don’t really mind the slow pace of this town. Some just honestly hate it. Like Erika. So brutally honest. Yoshino learns that Manoyama’s old mascot based on the town’s specialty vegetable called Kabura Kid. However it died out very fast and during that time since UMAs were popular, that is why chupakabura became the thing. At the mascot competition, Kadota realizes his chupakabura mask is missing. Somebody accidentally threw it away. Blame game… The other girls try to find where the Kabura Kid costume is and I can’t believe they could do it and run all over the place in such a short time while the competition is still ongoing. When they finally find it, they drive as fast as they could to the competition grounds. At the same time, Minou and Takashi have found the chupakabura mask in the dump site but it stinks. So either wear the stinky mask or the torn Kabura Kid costume. At this point Yoshino puts her foot down. It doesn’t matter, she realizes by talking with the people, they don’t want the town changed. So she goes up on stage. A chupakabura wearing a kabura headgear? Then she starts her endearing speech about the town and how neither mascots were popular. So what it is that is important? Something that Manoyama holds important. What is it? She doesn’t know. But she wants to find that out with the people over the next year as their queen. In the end, the girls have a little party of their ‘success’. I guess third from last isn’t bad. Yoshino agrees to stay here for a year but with a condition that Shiori, Ririko, Sanae and Maki become her cabinet ministers. She feels she can do it if they are with her.

Episode 4
With the truck dead, the girls take it to this mechanical maniac, Busujima AKA Doku to fix. He is impressed when Yoshino manages to activate some robot jukebox. Must be her hands with some hyaluronic acid. What?! He also takes this chance to test out some exoskeleton that would help make lifting and carrying heavy things easier. After seeing the beautiful ranma woodwork, Yoshino wants to promote the wood carving district. They meet Tatsuo who runs a wood carving shop. He is eager to help but his pupil and senior, Kazushi isn’t impressed. After a few discussion, they get this idea to combine traditional art with cutting edge technology. So they test out the exoskeleton and fit it with ranma carvings. While it may look good, it isn’t practically as the wood could get in the way and break easily. Then they have another great idea. Transform a wooden Buddha statue into a vending machine! Wow. It’s really so cool! This might work. With all the hype of its potential, it is cut short when Kazushi scolds them to stop their shenanigans. Some of the old folks like Oribe are protesting of this blasphemy to mix their tradition with this futuristic sacrilege crap. The girls feel sorry because it’s like doing the same thing of making a sushi flavoured soda (something Doku did). Yoshino and Sanae got to apologize to Kazushi and sincerely wants to help promote Manoyama’s wood carving. They thought he would understand since all of them came from outside Manoyama. However Kazushi points out Sanae came here because she ran away from something difficult. He came here and knew what he was facing. He is different. When asked to name the wood he is using, they can’t. How can they promote something they don’t even know? Sanae feels depressed as she talks to Yoshino how true Kazushi’s words are. When she was in Tokyo, she worked nonstop to meet deadlines. Even when she isn’t performing, there will be someone else to replace her. Unlike Kazushi as he is the only one who can do what he does. That’s why she can’t argue back. Since she can’t put her heart into this, she wants to quit and can’t do this anymore.

Episode 5
Yoshino and the other girls take this chance to learn more about wood carving while Sanae bums around searching for a meaning. Running away again? Yoshino has this grand idea to turn the local wood carving into something likes Spain’s Sagrada Familia. They’ll call it Sakura Pond Familia. Plus, this big project once attracting the eyes of the world will attract more people and more jobs because people will come here eager to contribute to the sculpture. However this plan is rejected by Kadota. Just one big problem: They have no money! Tatsuo shows Sanae shoes made out of wood carving. He was inspired by Cinderella. Though this might make purists Kazushi mad, he doesn’t care. It seems the ranma Kazushi is working on, the owner who requested it just died and got cancelled but he continued to work on it. Stubborn. Sculpting is just a job and not getting paid is pointless. The girls are pondering who could be their ideal artist. Could it be that wandering minstrel? They look him up on the internet. Real name is Alexandre Cena Davis Celbidache. So sophisticated. Just call him Sandal. He is noted for some awesome street art. They think of asking him but sees him getting picked up by the police. Maybe not. Biggest joke of the day… After Yoshino shows her sketch of what her grand sculpture is to look like, they go source for funding. Yoshino sees the wooden shoes and after talking with Sanae about jobs and being praised, Sanae is motivated to help. She suggests using crowdfunding. But where to put this sculpture? As many people arrive at Manoyama at the train station, it is like the gateway to the world. They can make its interior like the Sistine Chapel. First they go to talk to Kazushi. It will take more than their knowledge about wood to impress him. Sanae knows a way to ensure Manoyama’s sculpture remains here without compromising his ideals. The ranma he is working on when finished, is placed at the train station’s entrance. The first step. Many more to come in the future. Yeah, they won’t be alive to see it completed. But guests arriving are certainly wowed by the magnificent carving.

Episode 6
A film crew will be here to film a shoot at Manoyama. Everyone is excited it will give the place a much needed PR but Maki isn’t pleased and opts out. Yoshino meets 3rd assistant director, Fujiwara. He hands her a list of things to do from securing permits, extras, food, etc… I guess showbiz isn’t that easy. So they go look around for locations to shoot. At Oribe’s confectionery, she didn’t like how Kadota told them they could shoot her so she chases them away. Till Ririko points out their manjuu was going to be in the film and if they aren’t, they’ll use the chupakabura ones instead. Come back! When the director, Sonoda finally arrives, it seems he ones this abandoned run down house as the final day of the shoot because he is going to burn it down! Is that in the script? Shiori protests since it is haunted but Sonoda likes it even more. Shiori will handle to seek permission from its owner. Surprisingly she is more than happy to get rid of it. So she lies she is unable to contact the owner. So Yoshino has other abandoned house they can try to use but Sonoda insists on that one. The town folks are here when the shooting begin. They have famous actors like Taiga Hayama and Moe Sawano. This zombie flick looks cheesy… More problems when an actress scheduled to arrive tomorrow has injured herself. Yoshino thought Maki could step in but she gets angry and rejects. Sanae isn’t pleased about this so she is going to lecture her. But she sees Moe talking to Maki who is her senior. Moe admires her acting but is surprised to learn she has quit the theatre and is unsure of her acting future. Sanae talks to Maki as the latter reveals Moe was able to make her big break because she did weird things on variety shows like eating a cicada. Maki couldn’t and realized that is the same of having an abusive employer. All Sanae has to say is that if she rejects the world she passionately pursues, it is disgraceful. Also, she needs to apologize to Yoshino.

Episode 7
Ririko seems to be very nervous as a stand-in. It is too late to switch or else production will stop so Maki goes to advise her. She nails it the next time. Yoshino receives word from Fujiwara that they need to reschedule some scenes. Because it is going to rain, they will be shooting tomorrow’s indoor scenes today. This means she has to round up all the elementary kids to play the mini zombies. Maki asks Kousuke for a favour and he manages to do it because mainly of their father who is the vice principal of the school. Maki isn’t impressed because she doesn’t want to see dad. Sanae thought she could stop those kids from fighting but instead one slaps her butt and all starts teasing her ass. See Ririko back away slowly… Maki finds Ririko in her old classroom. Ririko thanks her for the advice. Maki once went to this school and wanted to act in the Snow White play but ended up playing a tree. The abandoned house holds special memories for Shiori as an old lady who recently passed away used to stay here. Yoshino confronts Shiori about lying so Shiori tells her off that she is one to say for abandoning her own hometown. Eventually they both apologize and Shiori has to come to terms that the house is going either way. Later Kousuke has Maki watch an old play from her class. Dad was in charge of filming and only focused on Maki. He got scolded by the principal later. Sonoda is on a whim changing the script again. He wants the lover to dive into the burning house. Although many disagree, Moe wants to do it. Her agent reminds her this is dangerous and she has no replacement. She still wants to do it. Maki will be her double. She might be taller but if they film it from an angle, it can be done. The house is set on fire. The cameras are rolling. Maki rushes towards the burning house. It looked like she jumped in but there is a hole outside the door where she leapt into. The take is fabulous and with that, the filming ends. That’s a wrap. Fujiwara goes to thank Shiori for the house. Because Yoshino told him to put it in the special credits of its owner. The girls celebrate their hard work and the next day as Fujiwara promised, he has referred Manoyama to other directors. Yoshino eagerly picks up the call only to hear the eager beaver wanting to shoot a big time movie about car chases and blowing up temples. Looks like somebody oversold them…

Episode 8
The girls meet Shiori’s older sister, Sayuri who is a paediatrician. With the family making great food, Yoshino wants to make Shiori as the leader of the C-Rank Gourmet as they are working for an exclusive dish for Manoyama. Of course Shiori declines as she has no confidence. This prompts memories of some failed hamburger many years ago. So the girls come up with strange combo dishes… They won’t win any hearts in cooking anime shows… As Sayuri is leaving town due to her work, the family eats out at a fancy restaurant. This place is run by Kumano, Sayuri’s old classmate. He went to France to study to become a chef and recently returned to take over his ailing father’s ramen shop in which he turned into a French restaurant. The grandparents didn’t hesitate to ask Kumano to pick anyone of their 2 granddaughters when they learn he is still single. He modestly declines as he would be wasted on them but Sayuri didn’t think so. The girls with Kumano try to catch some fish. With their bare hands? The girls think Shiori and Kumano have good vibes together. They also try to incorporate some French ingredients from his list but more weird dishes came out. Shiori’s father talks to her about the future. He wants her to live the way she wants although Shiori prefer things stay the same. So Shiori talks to Sayuri about this. Thanks to their parents and grandparents providing for them, they have nothing to worry about. But things won’t last forever. Shiori learns Sayuri was interested in Kumano but because she thought he lived in a different world, she felt hard to approach him. Funny, because Shiori thought Kumano said the same thing about her. Oribe storms into the office to complain the C-Rank Gourmet is on the same day as the annual summer festival. Yoshino feels guilty since she didn’t consult the board of merchants beforehand. So they all go to apologize and as usual, Kadota isn’t really sincere. Oribe voices her opinion. Kadota always did things his way. When he changed Manoyama from the kingdom of kabura to chupakabura and tried to sell weird manjuus based on it, she tolerated it all because the ingredients were locally made. Now he is trying to revive that crap but using ingredients from the outside (despite the cost being cheaper). Kadota argues all that matters are bringing in the tourists or else nothing would happen. Yoshino thought of taking responsibility by cancelling C-Rank Gourmet but Shiori steps up to take responsibility as the leader of this project. She will think of something to put smiles on people’s face.

Episode 9
Shiori herself is surprised. She took action because she wanted to help Yoshino. While eating at Angelica who is serving soumen to everything, Shiori then hits upon an idea. She proposes to have a soumen expo as well as a contest for the best soumen in which the winning dish will be made the official dish of Manoyama. This would be in line with the summer festival’s theme. Oribe agrees to this. Yoshino goes around soliciting participants for their expo’s booths. At Kumano’s restaurant, they taste his great French toast. It was the dish that changed his life. He was making it in school and Sayuri tasted it to be good. That was when he decided to go to France and perfect it. The only problem was French toast was created by an American. And so he became a French chef. But the day he left for France, Sayuri didn’t turn up. Funny, because Shiori heard her sister said the same thing. So before Sayuri moves out, Kumano talks to her and it seems they were both waiting at the same station at the same time but how did they not meet each other since the place is small and you can’t possibly miss each other. Yoshino has some creative idea to make the expo more exciting. Looks like she is collaborating with Doku on something big. As Shiori is racking her brains, she freaks out realizing she got the date wrong. Then she realizes this calendar is last year’s. The expo is a hit. Before the winner of the contest is announced, Yoshino has a few words to say. Actually, she is in her swimsuit as she shows off this huge soumen machine. It’s like a video game whereby you try to catch soumen and eat them. It’s messy. Doku is operating behind. Shouldn’t he automated this part too? I think this will only resonate with kids. Many of the people love Shiori’s happy soumen and seek her permission to incorporate it in their own menu. Kumano is at the expo and is given a note to meet Sayuri and the calendar. When they meet, both are perplexed until Sayuri sees the calendar. Looks like she got the date wrong and she waited on the wrong day. They laugh it off as Kumano invites her to his restaurant to try out his perfected French toast.

Episode 10
There is going to be some romance tour of Manoyama. Basically a matchmaking programme. Sadly, only 3 ladies from the city sign up. Kadota wants Yoshino to help input some ideas and make those women settle down here. Looking through the programme, most are cheesy. Are they even trying? They suggests a tour of the sake brewery, fireflies and a stay at an old-style house. Feeling something is missing, it is also suggested they put on a traditional Manoyama dance. However Ririko decides to opt out since she isn’t good with traditional stuffs. Flashback shows she has always been a weird kid. Because of that she is always by herself. Yoshino and Maki welcome the 3 ladies. I’m sure if they’re here to find a lover, any hot guy would do. Like Takamizawa. Too bad he is married. The town is bustling because the next town’s singles club heard about it and came here. All men. Boy, this looks like an awkward den of predators. They have lunch at Angelica’s place to meet up with some of the guys from the local singles club who signed up for this. Erika can’t help take a sarcastic swipe at those old hags and Sandal starts playing a cheesy wedding song with his violin. Night fall, they have BBQ in the open as Yoshino and co put on the Manoyama dance. Kadota then narrates about its ‘origin and legend’. Long ago there was a dragon who lived here but hates revelry so the dance and song keep it away sealed in some shrine. Suddenly it rains so everyone starts running for cover. Some of them stumble into a small shelter that has a dragon statue. Could this be part of the legend? It looks dirty and nobody has been taking care of it. The lightning scares them and accidentally breaks the statue. Oops… Do we have a bad feeling about this?

Episode 11
Doku has fixed the shrine. But it seems strange things are happening. The throne room is messed up. Did the dragon come to visit? Also, Ririko is sick after catching a cold from the rain. At the rock climbing facility, one of the girls thought somebody is watching them. Could it be Sandal? But he reveals a surprising history to Yoshino. His great grandpa visited here for business and fell in love with a local woman. However he brought her back to his country where they got married. Hence Sandal is 1/8 Manoyama. Yoshino believes this is a great love story for this tour. While having a lunch break at a restaurant, the waiter brought an extra glass of water because he thought he saw an extra person with them. A guy with big eyes and beard. Could it be a dragon? When Yoshino goes to check on Ririko, she is chased away by Oribe who blames her for getting her involved. It is revealed that Oribe’s son married a woman who came from outside Manoyama. Because she couldn’t stand the place or want to take over Oribe’s shop, she left. Dad followed her. But after Ririko was born, they divorced and dad was shortly posted overseas. Therefore in Oribe’s eyes, her son was tricked by an outsider and that’s why she doesn’t like them. While visiting the wood carving shop, as they take photos, one of them pops up a weird character behind. A dragon?

Later Yoshino and Ririko meet outside. The latter has discovered an alternative but forgotten tale of the local dragon tale. The people wanted to learn more of the dragon and danced around the fire. However this scared the dragon. When the people realized they were wrong, the dragon had died of loneliness. They wrote a song to comfort it. The song is mostly forgotten. Hence Manoyama is a place that accepts outsider. Yoshino thinks this would be a great inclusion for tonight’s final tour but that is when Ririko snaps back that she is not like her. Yoshino is everything that Ririko cannot do. She feels nobody understands or accepts her. Surprisingly Sandal is singing that dragon song. He learnt it from mom who learnt it from grandma who learnt it from great grandma. She used to sing it to him when he cried. Yoshino manages to persuade Oribe to come see Ririko’s performance tonight. One of the girls realize somebody is watching and it is revealed a big beardy guy who is her ex. So they’re getting back together? He couldn’t let her go and tailed her. Last night’s lightning scared him as he fell into the pond and he took refuge at the throne room. Once everyone gathers, Yoshino tells a brief story of the alternate dragon story. With Sandal on his guitar, Ririko sings the song. It gets better with fireflies lighting up the place. The next day, everyone sees off the ladies at the train station. They would love to come back next time but isn’t so sure about marrying and settle down here. What about the couple who just got back together? Well, their parents are against them marrying. Ririko suggests eloping here and hence another great idea that Manoyama is a town for elopers is born. Really?

Episode 12
The 20th anniversary of the Kingdom of Chupakabura is coming up. Kadota introduces them a host of a famous TV show who in turn introduces his network’s director, Amamiya who is also a Manoyama native. He plans to do a show on how the girls are going to revive the town. It’s like a reality TV, right? So we see the cameras rolling on them in almost everything they do from meetings to the fieldwork. Is Shiori trying to look smart in glasses? However with everything feeling so normal, Amamiya can’t find elements that would make viewers get involved. Yoshino didn’t like how she is being called normal. Some of the girls learn Yoshino was here as a young kid and thought this would help spice things up but they decide it could be a pain and just to keep it a secret. With sponsorships not hitting the target, the girls are forced to contemplate on sizing down. Luckily Amamiya has managed to bring in some good news. He has managed to get Ptolemaios, a popular rock band to come perform here. Wouldn’t that be costly? Don’t worry. His network will cover those expenses. It’s not a bad deal since they are getting free advertising too. Because they are a little hesitant, Amamiya blows his top for giving excuses. This is a great chance for them so why hesitate? After filming a short promo of the town, Yoshino and co talk to Oribe and the other merchants. They are seeking additional help and funding. This does not sit well with many of them because they already have their hands full with the festival and it is pretty convenient for them to be asking this. Is this the much needed drama and tension needed for the cameras? But it is suggested that since people will be coming from far and out of their way here, why not make it worth their while and give discounts? With some agreeing to this, Oribe approves to help out with the funding since they have some reserve funds. If they don’t use it for this, when will they? Besides, if they’re going to do it, do it right. Deep in the night, Yoshino is woken up by Maki and Sanae. They see lots of early birds camping for tomorrow’s show. It’s going to be crazy.

Episode 13
Talking to the campers, it’s not like they want to camp out here. There are no proper lodgings. But beware of bears! Next day, the girls greet Ptolemaios. They look so dead. Must be the long journey. Soon the people come streaming in. Takamizawa must be shocked that there is a long queue for his bus and is full for the first time. The day events go well until it is time for Yoshino and co to do the quiz event. Due to delays from Ptolemaios, their concert started shortly after the quiz show is about to begin. This means the clash of events as the crowd starts streaming out to go watch their live concert. Well, the quiz show must go on despite the few people remaining. However, with Ptolemaios playing so loudly, probably the whole of Manoyama could hear them. Especially the quiz show next door in which people had a hard time hearing Yoshino asking the questions. After Ptolemaios is done with their show, the quiz show reaches its final round in which Sandal won?! He wins a trip for 2 to Guam. Who would he like to bring with? Kindaichi the policeman???!!! I know they are singles with no luck with women but do they have to be this gay?! At the end of the day, a small celebration party is held. It is considered a success when you consider they fulfil a year’s worth of tourist quota in a single day. But the true problems arise tomorrow. Garbage everywhere, the town is as dead as before (like as though the people just vanished) and the most heart breaking of them all is all the coupons handed out are thrown away. They thought the show would give them some reprieve but let’s just say the power of editing has the girls feel down as it doesn’t show what it is truly needed. Even if the programme is considered a success with many viewers, the girls ponder if this is what they wanted. I mean, how many people would come all the way out here again? Yoshino is hit hardest because they got all excited by Ptolemaios and the TV show and they should have learnt that reviving the town isn’t just about getting people to come. She questions herself about what she has done for the last 6 months. So is she going to quit again?

Episode 14
Yoshino takes a break and returns to her hometown. Same with Sanae and Maki but they’re bored and feeling more like outsiders. Yoshino meets up with her friend who is working in the government department of supporting new residents. She suggests how Manoyama an important strategy to revive a rural town is to have permanent residents instead of temporary ones. Then she meets up with her younger sister, Nagisa who is still schooling. She thinks she is having an easy and carefree life but gets ‘jealous’ when she finds how normal it is. How normal you ask? She has a boyfriend! Sanae meets up with her old colleagues who try to persuade her to come back to the city with the interesting projects they have but Sanae currently prefers where she is now. Likewise, Maki goes out drinking with Moe who proposes they both can hit it big with a director who is trying to find talent in his next project. Yoshino and Nagisa are at the local festival. Yoshino catches up with some of her old friends before her parents join in. She learns mom isn’t from this area and dad managed to show her the beautiful side of this town while they were dating. Meanwhile Shiori and Ririko are going around checking out abandoned houses as they have this proposal to turn them into B&B style. However they remember Kindaichi’s warning that there were suspicious people spotted loitering around them. Don’t look now but here they are! They’re speaking Spanish! True Spanish! Those guys try to be friendly to them but obviously they don’t understand a single word of Spanish and freak out!

Episode 15
Yoshino and the rest are back. But back at the castle, they are shocked to see Shiori and the rest partying with those Spanish people! Apparently they are from a group called Cryptid Twelve whereby they go around the world in search for unsolved supernatural mysteries. The Chupakabura has recently got their attention. See those local single guys trying to impress the Spanish chicks with their broken ‘Engrish’… Yoshino feels good to be back as she knows she has a place to return to. But this prompts the question of what she will do when her term ends. Speaking to Ririko about it, it never crossed her mind to leave Manoyama. If she did, grandma would be lonely. With the Cryptid members here, they are looking into the B&B issues. Because they are foreigners, there is this language barrier that prevents locals from cooperating smoothly. So how long are they staying? Until they find the Chupakabura. That’s like, never? At least until the drying event. It seems tomorrow they will drain the water from Sakura Pond to clear up some black bass problem by drying it out since it will cause some damage to the ecosystem. Plus, it hasn’t been done so for 70 years. While it will take some time and the people are excited about it, Kadota doesn’t look too happy. As this is the request of Cryptid, he is probably letting it happen (Cryptid believes Chupakabura is related to the kappa who lives in the water). This event has made several more Cryptid members wanting to come here. This means lodging problems. But Yoshino is unsure of this is what Manoyama wants for its rejuvenation as she wants to avoid making the same mistake during the festival. There is a house owner who is the only one who registered as B&B so Yoshino and co head over to clean up. That night, a camera picks up something moving in the middle of the pond. Cryptid makes a move. It turns out Kadota is drowning! Man, he can last that long? He is okay although is hospitalized. The girls wonder the rational of him jumping into the pond in the middle of the night and it could be some old ghost story. Doku calls Oribe about what Kadota did. Something about that thing from 50 years ago is back. Something Kadota desperately doesn’t want that existence to be known by everybody and hence the ‘drastic measures’.

Episode 16
The girls hear a loud crash. It’s Kadota unconscious at the wheel and he crashed into a pillar?! Did he escape from hospital? He has fever since he was running in the rain too. Back to the hospital. Next day as they investigate, it seems the car was tied to a rope trying to pull something out from the lake. Ririko then shows the rest an old photo. Kadota, Oribe and Doku were once in a band during their high school days. As they ask Doku for the story, he reveals they were indeed in a band named Garage Band. They had a pretty good song with good lyrics but singing in Manoyama won’t turn any heads. Because their parents will not allow such a thing, they decided to run away and make it big in Tokyo during the night of the festival but Kadota didn’t turn up. Instead, he went to cause trouble by singing on the float during a procession on Sakura Pond that caused everything to tumble into the water. Thanks to that, the festival was never held again. Not that it was popular to begin with. That’s why Kadota was allowed to stay here. In the end, only Doku went to Tokyo himself for college. The band broke up and Kadota and Oribe were at odds ever since. Further research about this old festival reveals it was to worship a dragon shrine. It was located where the pond is before it was then relocated after the pond was created. Hence the procession was held over the water.

More flashback reveals Oribe suggesting to Kadota to run away to make it big at Tokyo since Doku is going there to study. However Kadota had second thoughts. He kept wondering if Manoyama was no good for him before her realized he wasn’t going to run away anymore and thus that crazy act of wanting to wake up everybody to make this place interesting. Ririko talks to grandma that she wanted to leave Manoyama once. She heard from Doku and her amazing voice. Oribe couldn’t remember much of it as she advises it will be the same for her too. When you get old, you stop caring about all your dreams. That’s why before it happens, she should get out there and do whatever she wants. With the pond fully drained, they see whatever that lump of decaying stuff there is. The guitar and shrine float must have been ‘fused’ together. Can’t tell. So this is what Kadota might want to pull out to prevent everyone from remembering that embarrassing past. After Cryptid Twelve leaves, Yoshino talks to Kadota if he would like to revive the old festival because seeing how the people had fun gathering at the dried up lake. She proposes to Minou but he is sceptical as they are lacking the budget and manpower. For the first time, Shigaraki stands up and speaks. There are 3 sacred treasures needed if they want to revive the festival. It is essential for the festival to be held. However their whereabouts are unknown. Challenge accepted.

Episode 17
Reviving the Mizuchi Festival is going to be a challenge. The staff, hanging drum and golden dragon are missing and not even the old folks know anything about it. But they discover a lead that an old cultural anthropologist professor might know something about it. However he lives far deep in the mountains of Warabiya. Rennosuke Suzuhara is a bit eccentric and grumpy. He toys with them about wanting to revive the festival and hints one of them is residing in a store of a certain traditional house. Yeah, they he didn’t say it was his so the girls go on a wild goose hunt to ask other old residents of Warabiya. Nope, they don’t have it. They soon hear complaints from them and directing their frustration to Takamizawa since there are plans to cut the bus routes to Warabiya. It costs over 10 million to run a bus a year and they’re not getting the numbers. Yoshino and co go discuss with Suzuhara and the other old folks. They give their opinions but Suzuhara shoots it down with realistic facts. When Sanae suggests moving out to a denser place, Suzuhara comments about the people working hard to earn their right to live here. Breaking up a community is like breaking up a culture. He points out he is also from Tokyo and has no connection or special feelings to Manoyama. But unlike her he already has roots here. He suggests Sanae to use her expertise. Hence she comes up with the idea to teach everyone how to use iPad and technology! They might get a little carried away talking how technology will soon have driverless busses and this causes a kiddie fight between Takamizawa and Erika! A local live streaming channel is also created for the locals. But at this point all the problems also pop up because you know, the toxicity level is rising. Who says old people can’t be nasty too? Yoshino sees Suzuhara about this problem and since the time is right, he is going to take her hostage. Soon an online video of Suzuhara and the old folks of Warabiya is streamed live. They are putting up a rebellion to protest the removal of bus routes to their area. Are they annexing themselves from the Kingdom of Chupakabura? Yoshino has ‘joined’ their cause.

Episode 18
Yoshino calls the rest and says she is voluntarily becoming their hostage. She feels very needed. Sanae realizes they have been set up since as Suzuhara lists a bunch of demands. That night Maki goes to deliver some of the beer and snacks as part of the demands (because the old people are also going to record themselves having a party as nobody is going to listen to you if you only whine and complain). A little bit of booze and now she’s partying with them. Next day, a makeshift sign stands out at the entrance of Warabiya. They are calling it now the Republic of Warabiya. Ririko films the residents going about in their daily lives as per the demands while Sanae talks to Suzuhara. He knows he can’t do this forever and his plan is to make people in Manoyama aware of the problem. He also knows this village won’t be here forever and hence wants to record its culture before that happens. He will rescind the withdrawal when the time is right. With the old folks adept in using IT, Takamizawa hopes Sanae could teach him too. Yoshino continues to stay with the old people and they really want to pledge their loyalty to her if she ever replaces Kadota. They joke about this being a fairytale like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Sandal the prince? Right, he quips back the prince come riding on a bus! Next day, Takamizawa surprises everyone with an app and new business model, an on-demand bus. Let’s say this is very much like Uber. In this van, you use the app to pick what time you want to be picked up and to where. Long ago Takamizawa had this idea and proposed it to his company but back then it would cost a lot since an operator is needed and the idea was shelved. Now with technology, it is so much easier and cheaper. Though, this experiment is only confined to Manoyama for now. With that, Suzuhara makes a video to rescind the withdrawal. Suzuhara then leaves a cryptic message on the forum board on the whereabouts of one of the treasures. Sadly, that night he suddenly passes away! A funeral is held and he has left a will donating his property to the municipal government. Sanae sees a stack of books in a corner and learns he has been researching about this town every day without fail since he came 20 years ago. She realizes this is what he meant of putting down roots. The girls learn the name of the previous owner of this place (the same name on the forum board) and find the staff right next door. It’s too heavy for them to carry. Well, there’s the on-demand bus. So convenient.

Episode 19
The search for the drum leads the girls to an old school that has been closed down for a decade. Uh oh. Ririko and her ghost stories… Everyone freaks out even more when they see somebody. Well, it’s Maki’s dad. Let’s say they are on bad terms. Very bad. As the school’s ex-vice principal, he still keeps it running since it is not abandoned. After hearing what they are looking for, he shows where the drum is located. But it is badly damaged and it will eat up a lot of their budget just to repair it. Before they leave, Yoshino sees a beautiful mural but learns it will be torn down the year after the next. Yoshino creates a proposed committee to revive Mizuchi Festival. They are travelling the routes proposed for it. As the reason for this festival is lost, Yoshino needs a better motivation to bring people here. Kadota helps out as atonement as he still feels responsible for ‘destroying’ this festival 50 years ago. That’s why he tried like a madman to help Manoyama on his own. But looks like he has to start back from her. Thanks to her, he has no choice but to face it. Maki makes a rare visit home. It gets worse when dad comes home. Argument. Something about Maki dropping out of college to go into acting that didn’t turn out too well too. Mom had to stop them since today is her birthday. Maki also receives a letter from a famous director in Tokyo for an audition. If she is successful, she’ll get bigger movie roles. However she is not interested (the application was just to pacify Moe) and this upsets Kousuke as she is wasting this chance. Yoshino and Sanae discuss in turning the closed school into some lodging for the festival. Ririko is trying to upload her dragon song online for others to know but has doubts so she seeks Maki’s advice since she has experience as an actress. The other girls soon learn from Kousuke about Maki’s opportunity. They want her to take it. Yoshino drills it into her head she will regret it if she doesn’t. Yoshino might be doing her best as the queen but she doesn’t know what next year will bring. For Maki to know what she wants since young is amazing. So don’t waste it. Maki changes her mind and manages to catch the last train to Tokyo.

Episode 20
The audition results are in. Maki is happy when her name is called. Too bad those called can leave. Although she failed, she feels better about it somehow. Really? Why are you crying? I guess this means Maki is free to help Yoshino and co. Learning the school never had a proper closing ceremony, they plan to do one and contact those graduated and moved away to attend. Since it is snowing, lots of people are feeling depressed. Sandal can’t paint outside, no one rides Takamizawa’s bus and nobody patrons Angelica’s café. Yoshino has this idea of allowing Sandal to use a room of the school as his studio in which he totally loves it. They send in the closing ceremony proposal to Maki’s dead. He agrees to get approval from the education board. Also, there is going to be a play about a blood soaked Santa? It’s one of the school’s famous urban legends. Maki becomes the director of the play and they get a few of the locals as actors. The alumni of this school turn up for this closing ceremony. The taiko drum performance starts it off before this Santa comedy play. The wow factor that had the crowd giving them a standing ovation is the feature of the mural in the end. Yoshino then makes her closing speech. She surprises everyone that she has this proposal to use this school as a base to spread Manoyama’s culture. Instead of demolishing the place, they can revive the halls and open it to the public. And so the closing ceremony becomes an opening ceremony. Everyone applauses to the great idea. Maki is now inspired to do a play for that dragon song. They can incorporate it into the Mizuchi Festival. The drum is taken away for repairs. Funny, because nobody asked for it to be repaired. It seems a mysterious good Samaritan under the alias of Santa ordered for it and paid it in advance. Christmas comes early for Manoyama? But Maki has an idea who that Santa is. Thanks papa.

Episode 21
Shiori is surprised that there is a hitchhiker flagging her car down to go to Tokyo. In this snow? Turns out she is Erika and running away from home! She is brought back to the dorm as they ask why she wants to run away so badly. I guess she’s had it with this crappy place. She makes it sound so easy that she can survive in Tokyo. Yoshino convinces her to stay here for the time being and do more research first. When they go tell Angelica about it, she didn’t even realize her daughter is gone until she rushes back to see the runaway note. Oddly, Erika still has to attend school while in the midst of running away. As Maki sends her, she tells a story that ends with a cliff-hanger. She’ll continue the rest after school. Too bad Erika might feel she has gotten the raw deal because it is Shiori who picked her up. Shiori is a bit down ever since Erika’s rant of this crappy place. Shiori couldn’t understand why as she has lived her entire life here as well as all her family and friends are here. Therefore Shiori thought she might be the odd one out and only one who thinks this way. She tries to find out Erika’s reason for leaving this place. Simple. She can’t see herself growing old in this empty old town. It scares the hell out of her.

Yoshino is going around talking to individual shop owners about the festival’s revival. In fact, it isn’t just a revival but a brand new one. When she stumbles upon a closed café, Noge who runs a bookstore from across tells her it has closed down a year ago. Yoshino doesn’t mean to be rude but asks the businesses of the shopping district doesn’t look good. Noge tells her it is just to support themselves. Many move out because their children grew up and got jobs in the city. As for why they don’ rent it out, all shop owners live above their shop lot and won’t like strangers walking in just like that. After all, many don’t want their lives changed. Even if there are new stores opened here, will Yoshino shop here? And how often? Though she says she would but looks like for a big chunk of it is that she’ll visit the supermarket. Shopping districts aren’t relevant anymore. Ririko and Maki overheard Takamizawa and Kindaichi talk about some legendary treasure supposedly grant you a single wish they buried long ago as kids. It turns out to be the golden dragon. Together with Noge, they buried it because they couldn’t decide on a wish. And until they do, all of them have to come together and piece together a secret code to open it. Yoshino feels a bit uncomfortable as a foreigner she came to Manoyama to change and revive things. From Noge’s talk, she wonders if she is forcing others who only want things to remain as they are. Just like Warabiya’s case. Are they being pushy? Shiori becomes most vocal as she argues she was born and raised here. She will never stop loving this town. They agree to find a way to make the shopping district relevant again. Yoshino receives a message from Takamizawa that they are going to dig up the treasure. Too bad they need to decode the code that looks like a long incantation list.

Episode 22
Looks like they can’t remember how to crack the code. It’s going to take a while. Erika bugs Maki to complete the story. The moral of it is that wishing for something isn’t enough but one needs to be resolved too. This only serves to make Erika angrier. Later Shiori talks to her and thought a little about what she said. It is true she might not know about reality and it is good that Erika has a dream. But she should wait till she is grown up a little to achieve that. Erika doesn’t want to be dead in this town but Shiori assures her everyone here is living. Erika experiences pain in her teeth and it looks like her molar is going to drop out (baby teeth should drop out at a younger age but some drop out later). As there are no dentists open now and no pain killers suitable for kids, is internet the only hope? I suppose doing the pressure points on her foot is aggravating the issue. Ririko called her grandma who then called the pharmacist at the shopping district to open the store just for this. After this is settled, Yoshino feels a bit bad. She never shopped there and usually got her medications from the supermarket. I guess this is the special service only local shopping districts can provide. A call comes in from Angelica that her son, Anji is missing. In this snow, everyone goes to look for him but to no avail. They think he might want to find the treasure’s location as his wish is for Erika to return. Not here either. Kindaichi gets a call from Sandal asking how to brew tea. He found Anji at the park and brought him to the police box and he is asking for tea.

After returning Anji to Angelica, Erika returns home and he hopes she will not go away again. The adults advise her she can still make her dreams of opening a clothing shop here and can talk to one of those shuttered store owners to take over. Erika goes ‘berserk’ complaining nobody is going to wear nice and cute outfits here. I mean, are you going to wear them while tending the fields? Only the monkeys and cows are going to compliment you! If that’s the case, Anji promises to open one here for her. This has the adults think they need to get their act together and to make kids feel they want to live here. After Erika eats a cookie, her molar falls out. Erika resumes her waitress job. Still grumpy as ever. Shiori hopes they can go to Tokyo together. No thanks. She’ll go herself. Shiori has this idea to hang lanterns outside the shops at the shopping district so it will seem inviting even though they are closed. With Doku installing LEDs in them, there’s no fire risk. Takamizawa and co finally crack the code. They dig up the treasure… Just a toy dragon! Oh well… They return to see the beautiful lanterns illuminating the shopping district. Another lesson learnt: You can’t wait for someone else to grant your wishes. You have to do it yourself.

Episode 23
Yoshino sees the CEO of a famous pastry franchise, Belem. As he is a Manoyama native and attended that closing ceremony, he wants to help the town’s revival and open another branch there. While this is good news, they think it would be a problem convincing Oribe since you know, another rival confectionary. Surprisingly but not she agrees since it is for the greater good of the shopping district. The only thing they need now is one of the shop owners to rent it out. However it is no good as many live on the second floor are not willing to do so. There is only 1 person who doesn’t live above the shop and elsewhere: Akiyama. When Yoshino and co visit him, he declines them. Plus, Oribe visited earlier and he too declined her. The girls didn’t know they would hit this roadblock. Erika learns Belem is opening here and really wants to work at that place. She loves their pastries. Well, at least we know that will be her reason to stay. She gets aggressive suggesting those not operating their shop should just hand over! Oribe calls an emergency meeting with everyone to discuss the fate of the shopping district. As Noge is opening a café at the abandoned school, once that place is popular, she thinks of disbanding the board of merchants. Their way of doing business is outdated and they don’t want to force others who don’t want to stay open. Everyone then turns to Akiyama and pressures him to rent it out. Oribe stops everyone from pestering as Kadota makes Yoshino say something. It seems she too agrees of not forcing everyone. Sure she wants to revitalize Manoyama but not in a way where some loses. This is not revitalization but just development. They should come together and think what each of them can do for the shopping district.

It is then Akiyama says he doesn’t want to go through that again. Many years ago when he rented his shop to an outsider selling accessories, he was happy and helped out anyway he can. But 6 months down the road, he disappeared. Akiyama was the bank’s guarantor so you can imagine what he went through. He told nobody except Oribe because if he did, the board of merchants’ contempt for outsiders would grow stronger. All he wants now is to be left alone. One of the old guys then decides to rent out his shop because compared to Akiyama’s story to his own pathetic reason of not liking sweet smell is nothing. Yoshino thanks him as Akiyama asks her why is she doing so hard for Manoyama when she is an outsider. That’s because Manoyama took her in. Kadota finally says sorry to Oribe for that long outstanding grudge. She moves on and keeping up with this feel good momentum is that the board of merchants decides to officially join the Mizuchi Festival. Yoshino gets Noge’s permission to borrow his toy dragon for it. To get a real one costs a lot and this toy dragon is still a dragon. With everything looking so bright, there can’t be anything bad, right? Well… Here comes Kadota with bad news. Those guys in suits seen around Manoyama from time to time, looks like there are rumours that Manoyama will be absorbed into Tomikura.

Episode 24
Kadota reveals he was invited secretly on the absorption council. It is a dilemma for everyone because it will bring life to the place but weird things will happen like renaming of things. Although they will get better government services, Manoyama will also become a minority and their voices will be hard to hear. But for now the importance is to preserve Manoyama’s culture and hence the revival of Mizuchi Festival. Amamiya comes down to warn them that the TV host will be coming to propose changes to the dragon play. It seems he wants to replace the lead actors with idols and this means Ririko will not sing as intended. This also puts them in a dilemma because the exposure of this show will allow many others to know more about Manoyama. When the TV host is here, Kadota loudly protests against it. He will not accept his proposal because they are trying to revive a tradition and if they’re going to do it, they’ll do it their way. And that’s that. The Manoyama citizens put up their own videos to the countdown of the festival. Things are looking up with more and more people supporting and funding it. But Yoshino’s pals bring up the topic of her leaving at the end since they overheard her agency called her recently to discuss the end of her contract. Yoshino might consider returning to Tokyo and get normal jobs. After all, you get used to it and you can find inspiration anywhere. But she thanks them for helping her through the year and giving her lots of inspiration. As they are cleaning the shrine, clearing the moss on the stone reveals names of those who created the Sakura Pond. Among them are Sandal’s great grandparents. Despite the hectic schedule, everyone manages to surprise Yoshino with a birthday cake. The festival proceeds well and the old guys get to carry the shrine with ease thanks to Doku’s exoskeleton. When Kadota learns about the names on the rock, he gets an idea to make sister cities out of Manoyama and Sandal’s hometown and use it as leverage against the absorption. Well, what do you know? Sandal follows Mayor Naumann on social media and lucky him. Currently he is on a vacation in Japan and enjoying every moment of it. Kadota is going to get him here and drives his car all the way to Kanazawa! Oribe fears he might destroy the festival again but Yoshino puts her faith in him that he will return before the dragon play.

Episode 25
Kadota is at the place but he needs to put on something recognizable. Chupakabura mask? He is scaring others in search of Naumann. Naturally he gets arrested. Thankfully Naumann is looking for directions at the police box. As the festival runs its course, Yoshino is surprised her family is here to visit. When Kadota is taking too long to return, they get a call from him that his car run out of fuel. Shiori goes to get him and this is one of those occasions the on-demand bus is useful. They manage to get them in time but since most of the roads are blocked, they have to make the rest of the way via foot. During that time, Naumann gets lost but thankfully he wanders into the parade carrying the shrine and even takes part in it! The dragon play proceeds smoothly with Ririko singing a beautiful rendition of the song. In the aftermath, the staffs celebrate. Kadota and Naumann are like good buddies now. The girls talk about their future. Like Ririko she plans to go see the world after this but promises to come back. Yoshino has also decided as she expresses her love for Manoyama as her second hometown. Early next morning, Yoshino sees Kadota. A year has gone by in a flash as he quips it is better she leaves now or stay too long and she won’t be an outsider anymore. But what is he going to do for the next queen? Don’t worry. He too has decided. Yoshino’s final speech as the queen is recorded as she conveys the beautiful town of Manoyama and how it changed her. Then, Kadota makes his speech how Manoyama forgot its cultural roots and needed a queen to remind them. As it is every individual’s responsibility to pass on Manoyama’s culture and change-cum-adapt to the times, they do not need a queen nor the Kingdom of Chupakabura now. He hereby relieves the queen of her duties and disbands the kingdom. Later, Yoshino and her pals plant a tree symbolizing them. Shiori has a dream to keep planting sakura trees to turn Manoyama blooming with them. Everyone sees Yoshino off at the train station. Probably the entire town lined up along its path to wish her goodbye. The most touching one is Kadota who reduced Yoshino to tears as he tells her she will always be welcomed here. The Kingdom of Chupakabura now has been renamed as Sakura Pond. Although Yoshino has left Manoyama, she didn’t return to Tokyo or her hometown. She is now starting to help another town possibly located in the tropics.

Home Is Where The Heart Is
Despite the overall feel good and heart-warming overall, I have mixed feelings wondering if Yoshino should have stayed at Manoyama or not. Now that she has left to help revive other towns, it is like as though her mission is completed and hence there is no more reason for her to stay. Thankfully without her now, the people of Manoyama can go on living better lives. Had Yoshino stayed on, she would have become part of them and things would go on happily like they used to. But there is this sort of danger when one gets so used to it. Complacency sets in and history might repeat itself again. Who knows? It’s all good feelings now because it worked out but in the future, nobody could tell. So perhaps leaving Manoyama was the best option since she came to do what she needs to do and that’s that.

Surprisingly but not, the story is not boring as I was predicting it to be. It might not be the best story or series for the season or the year but this series is definitely entertaining and worth watching if you have too much fantasy adventures, violent blood spilling action, shameless fanservice comedies and the ubiquitous high school settings. Maybe it is an original anime and not based on any manga or game. Though the plot of reviving a dying town might not sound appeasing, the more interesting aspects are how the various characters of the town go about and do their best in a bid to make Manoyama a better place to live and visit. Yes, it isn’t just about bringing in outside people to stay temporarily or longer but also a plan to improve and enrich the lives of the locals.

So I’m glad that it is mostly a win-win situation for everybody. Manoyama might not have become as popular and attractive as Tokyo but it retains its charm of a traditional and easy going countryside town. I mean, let’s be realistic. You can’t have everything and be the best town ever. Manoyama is Manoyama and it doesn’t need to be another hectic and bustling Tokyo or Tokyo v2. Even if all the old people of Manoyama has kicked the bucket and do not live long enough to see how well Manoyama has grown, but the legacy and effort they put in would surely be remembered for a long time to come. Of course, proper recording and the young ones continue to uphold the traditions play an important role too.

Speaking of realism, I know I am being a little sceptical here but the way I say Yoshino and everyone going about doing their job promoting ideas feel like they are too easy. It’s like child’s play. Maybe there are lots of preparations going on behind the scenes that are not shown here and since I don’t come from such a sleepy town, I do not understand or feel such sentiments. Maybe in this small town, things get moving a bit faster because of the closer community that is fostered. The gap between rank and file isn’t large and everyone is like family here. Therefore seeing Yoshino and her cabinet ministers easily getting approval and getting things done with ease sure makes it look like it is just so easy in managing a small town. Of course there are some problems and challenges faced but in the end it always turns out for the better. I mean, doesn’t it sound like a fairytale. I know this is just anime and we all love a good ending but like I said, blame my scepticism and the harsh reality that made me think so.

Also, now that Yoshino has decided to go on a revival spree (assuming she does this for the rest of her lives), assuming that all the dying towns in Japan are revived again, Yoshino feels like some sort of angel, doesn’t she? A town gets touched by her ideas and efforts and gets the revitalization they pretty much needed. Theoretically that would sound awesome as this means no dead or dying towns in Japan ever. But just the realistic problem of the people visiting and making those towns lively again. Assuming the population of Japan is somewhat ‘fixed’ and if they are interested to check out certain towns, this means deserting another. Sure, we can assume this rotation thingy like visiting this town today and another town tomorrow. If people are so free to visit towns, does this means mega cities like Tokyo would soon be dying? Because you know, you just cannot create people out of thin air. They need to come from somewhere. So revitalizing a town in the sense of bringing more people could mean turning others into dead town. So by the time Yoshino finishes her entire revitalization across Japan, Manoyama might be dead again. This is of course I am assuming in extreme cases. Of course revitalizing doesn’t mean bringing in the crowd. It is also about culture preservation and documentation which I believe is what Yoshino is going to do.

Although the characters are lovable and they will grow on you that in the end you would love to support all of the Manoyama citizens in the end, I feel that they aren’t too deep. After all, the main priority is to revive Manoyama and if you get too many character development and drama in between, it might be very distracting. So I believe there is a right mix of how the characters are portrayed, played out as well as how they grow along with this town. Like the ex-city girls Yoshino and Sanae, they were mainly finding a place to belong. Even Maki could be said to be one because after failed attempts in the showbiz industry, this is where she ends up but it is all a blessing in disguise if I should say so.

So for Yoshino who became the queen of Manoyama, like anybody who has spent their time and devotion to something, they will naturally grow attach to it. I won’t say that Yoshino does a perfect job as the queen but she does try her best. It is that the reason why the people of Manoyama loves and respects her. She earned it. Thankfully I want to say that most of the stuffs she do turn out positive because if she fails, I am guessing her head would roll. But that’s another story. Yoshino puts dedication in her job better than most representatives of their districts because after all, what has she got to lose? She is in this for the long run but that will soon look like something short turn once you start having fun and loving it. As an outsider, probably it is one reason why many of her suggestion works and hence a perfect example of what thinking outside the box is. After all, Manoyama gave her a chance when so many in Tokyo did not so why not repay that opportunity? Now she has gotten the experience and has found her true calling in reviving other similar towns. Yoshino the Reviver. Hmm… How does that sound?

As for the rest of her cabinet ministers, there isn’t much I could say about them but they provide the support that Yoshino needs. It is a good thing Maki is around because she is like the handywoman of the group as her little experience here and there allows her to be knowledgeable and handy about almost everything. Sometimes I feel it is like a little running joke because it is like she knows everything but yet didn’t make it big. Then there is Ririko who looks like she is stuck with that deadpan emotionless face and an occult freak but many times she helps out her team when they are stuck with the folklores and researches she has done. Shiori is the liveliest of the group and a local girl who loves her town so much. Last and not least, Sanae might look out of place in the sense that in this backwater town, do you need an IT specialist? I mean, if you look at her specific job of handling the IT side, it might look like she is the most redundant. Heck, having Doku as the ‘science’ guy is pretty much sufficient for this town. And of course as we have seen Manoyama embracing some sort of technology so all is not lost.

If I have to point out the most interesting character of them all in the series, it has got to be Sandal. This guy is cool, enigmatic, positive and very calm in his very own way. Sometimes I feel like he is the angel that watches over Manoyama! No kidding. Because do you not feel that sometimes he is the saviour in certain times likes when Anji got lost and who was the one who found him? This wandering artist also has his own funny charm and wit and you can hear it mostly at the end of the next episode preview where he makes a short quip of things. At least it makes you break into a little smile. So why is this guy bumming around in a sleepy town like Manoyama? I believe it has got to be more than just his ancestral roots since he did come from a western country town. Only Sandal himself knows the answer to that.

However if I had to pick a favourite character, it had to be Erika. Yes, this grumpy but realistically honest girl is one of the fun characters to watch. Her comments really sting you but only because it is the truth. It is with mixed feelings that I find it sad she hates so much this town she spends all her life in (and doesn’t hesitate to badmouth it) and wants to get out but because of this, I find her really funny and lovable. I suppose Erika is at an age where she thinks she knows everything and can handle everything by herself. Hey, at least I’ll give her points for being confident even though her simple plan wouldn’t be so easy if she ever goes through with it. Sadly Erika doesn’t get as much appearance and even though there were a couple of episodes towards the end that puts her in the short limelight, I guess it is better than nothing. So I am guessing one of the biggest motivation for her staying is Kousuke. There are hints she likes that guy and since this guy is dead set on staying in Manoyama to become a taiko drummer, there’s her motivation to stay back as well.

For the other residents of Manoyama, I guess they’re pretty okay. Like Doku and his crazy inventions that are mostly more of aesthetic than practical and Takamizawa who doesn’t get bored being the only bus driver around town. At least he gets to wear his suits. I believe Kindaichi isn’t the only policeman in this town but I only see him around most of the time. Not forgetting Kadota and Oribe who are at odds for so long that seeing them on good terms is just a bit awkward. Who’d knew that the crazy backstory of them was the cause of this long standing tension (and the death of a certain festival). So I guess Kadota must have been regretting it all this time and turned into a grumpy old geezer trying to make amends by reviving Manoyama with his crazy antics, something that is always opposed by Oribe. I also want to mention about a staff in Kadota’s office, Shigaraki. This guy literally has no dialogue (until that one time he stood up and spoke which surprised us – and the last time we will hear of him speaking) and he has this big freaking frown on his face that says I-wish-I-was-not-here-doing-this-job. Yeah, how can a person on the tourism board be this unhappy looking? The kind of face that would scare kids and be good enough for children’s horror stories. He doesn’t even move much from his seat and at one point I was starting to think if he was just part of the office’s furniture.

The art and animation are pretty decent. Nothing much to shout about but it is still pretty much okay. Young people look pretty but the old folks really look, uhm, not so pretty. Just old. Sorry. I mean, it really shows age has really caught up to them. If the art style also feels so familiar it is because P.A. Works produced this and they maintained their trademark character designs as seen in many of their previous works such as Shirobako, Glasslip, Tari Tari, Hanasaku Iroha, Charlotte and True Tears. This is a reason why many of the characters look so familiar like as though they are that character from a different anime in an alternate world. For example, Yoshino has this close resemblance to Shirobako’s Aoi, Erika looks as close like True Tears’ Noe and Shiori having this close similarity to Glasslip’s Touko. Also to note, because of this at first I thought Sakura Quest and Shirobako are almost similar because it follows the story of 5 girls trying their best to complete something in their industry. Well, generally speaking.

Voice acting… MAMIKO NOTO MAKING HER CAMEO AS SAYURI!!! Nothing else needs to be said. Just kidding. The cast list is very long as there are many minor and background characters popping up in almost every episode. Too bad I only recognized Hiro Shimono as Yamada, Mikako Komatsu as Sanae and Youko Hikasa as the young high school girl version of Oribe. I thought Tomokazu Sugita was the voice of Minou but it turns out to be Daiki Hamano (Yatoji in Re: Creators). But the most surprising seiyuu among them all is Sandal. He is not voiced by a Japanese native but a foreigner! Surprise, surprise. This character again. Though he is not the first character voiced by a foreigner that I have heard but it has been a long time since I heard one. No wonder he sounds so different that it is refreshing. Sandal is voiced by an Indian, Vinay Murthy who is of course proficient in the Japanese language and this is so far his only anime role. Oh right, there is another foreigner here but only as cameo in the final episode, Eric Kelso as Naumann. I also believe actual foreigners were also hired as those Spanish people.

The rest of the other casts are Ayaka Nanase as Yoshino (Osamu in Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi), Reina Ueda as Shiori (Jasminka in Little Witch Academy), Chika Anzai as Maki (Reina in Hibike! Euphonium), Chiemi Tanaka as Ririko (Tsuji in Sansha Sanyou), Atsushi Ono as Kadota (Blitz in Re: Creators), Maki Izawa as Oribe (Hatobane in Kujira No Kora Wa Sajou Ni Utau), Kazuhiro Yamaji as Doku (Eugen in Granblue Fantasy The Animation), Katsuyuki Konishi as Takamizawa (Laxus in Fairy Tail), Nanako Mori as Angelica (Eiko Yamano in Knights Of Sidonia), Tomoyo Kurosawa as Erika (Kumiko in Hibike! Euphonium), Masashi Nogawa as Kindaichi (Rakshas in Berserk), Youji Ueda as Noge (Usui in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) and Yuusuke Kobayashi as Kousuke (Subaru in Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu).

All the opening and ending themes including the few insert songs are sung by [K]now_Name (it looks like not only the naming of groups these days are getting ridiculous or creative as they put it but the way they use symbols and all too). The first opening theme, Morning Glory has this hip and playful feel to it but the second opener, Lupinus doesn’t appeal much to me since it is more of pop rock. The first ending theme, Freesia is also quite good as well as the second ending theme, Baby’s Breath with the former being hip and the latter having this calming and sunshiny beat.

Overall, this series is still a great watch despite not one of those hyped and mainstream titles. It is one of those hidden gems of the season or year. Those who watch it would definitely find it satisfying in the sense that you get to learn some life lessons and the broader and more meaningful concept of family or community. And those who are working would resonate well that after a hard day of work, it is always well worth to see the fruits of labour grow. Like the old saying, sometimes you might not end up where you want to be but you will always end up where you are were meant to be. And for Yoshino, she has found her place of calling. A place she could really call her home. Welcome home, Yoshino. Wherever she may happily be.

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