Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Sakura Quest, Dive!!, & Knight’s & Magic

I really don’t want to include Sakura Quest in this season wrap, because it means that the show is over and I’ll have to move on to new places. But here we are, with three more summer shows completed and my heart in a better place than it was before. Each one of these series inspired me differently—they inspired me to seek purpose in whatever I do and wherever I am, to dedicate myself fully to any given task, and to always improve no matter the achieved success.

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

Sakura Quest

Those of us who stayed behind in Manoyama along with Yoshino received the best finish we probably could have asked for, one that brought together all the wonderful community members with their histories and desires and sent us away with gratitude and hope. Sakura Quest stands up there among my favorites from P.A. Works; I would even go so far as to group it with other heartwarming, community-centered stories that have resonated with me and left a lasting impression, show like ARIA, Hanasaku Iroha, and Barakamon.

Manoyama reminded me of the purpose that can be found at home, no matter how small, and of the responsibilities residents must uphold for their community: to honor the history and traditions of the past that built the foundation for the present, and to adapt with the changing times to promote a home that cares for all of its residents and welcomes outsiders.

Yoshino and the mission to revive Manoyama started out slow and clumsy. We saw that in Yoshino’s personality, too quick to act, too quick to assume. We saw it in Kadota in his stubbornness and pride. Many of the community members were stuck in their views of the future, some resigned to their town disappearing and others skeptical of outsiders. I saw quite a few of my peers drop the show as Manoyama’s tourism board stumbled through mistake after mistake. Those errors were necessary experiences that helped the characters, especially Yoshino, grow. This coming-of-age story isn’t so much one for Yoshino as it is about an entire town and all of its residents.

And I totally called the ending from the start of this show: the festival, the sakura trees, mhm. 😉

Rating: 2 dango

Dive!!

I always enjoyed watching the swimming and diving portions of the Olympics growing up, so Dive!! was as much a nostalgic experience as it was critical. While I did care about the characters and their aspirations, I couldn’t help but feel that the story had so much more potential than the reality we were given, one with mediocre writing and visuals that did little to impart the appeal of the sport.

Starting with what worked in the show, I have to admit that the novelty of the topic and the mostly male cast were probably the biggest draw to the series. Water as a setting is pretty normal in anime, with shows like Free! and Amanchu!, and beach or pool episodes featured in most series, but this is the first time I’ve seen one centered on the sport of diving. What is with water shows and exclamation marks, anyways?

The young men who make up the Mizuki Dive Club (MDC) all exhibit very different personalities and looks. There’s the insecure yet passionate main character, his upperclassman with a beautiful body and confidence to match, a wild cliff diver reluctant to transition to indoors, and our protagonist’s friends with varying levels of low self esteem. We explore their different motivations and abilities, and watch them grow as both divers and human beings. I was mostly invested in Fujitani, who at the beginning outclasses his club members and seems to have zero weaknesses.

Even though Sakai is our protagonist and we see most of his inner struggle and improvement, he doesn’t grab the eye like Fujitani does. He’s written too oblivious of his girlfriend and best friends to the extent that I have little sympathy for him when he finds himself alone. I also found it oddly dissatisfying watching him dive. For all his professed love of the “concrete dragon,” I see little of the competitive fire in him that fans tend to find so irresistible.

Then there’s the goal of the Olympics that also bugs me. I don’t have any knowledge myself of what all goes into qualifications, but the seeming ease with which our divers discuss the Olympics juxtaposes their lack of accomplishment elsewhere. Fujitani has his name out there, but the others do not. I also can’t help but wish that a loftier journey like theirs would be drawn and animated to a level far above the average high school sports show, which is definitely not the case here. Overall, Dive!! is a show that may interest those of you who follow diving or who love sports anime and don’t have high expectations beyond the basics.

Rating: 0 dango

Knight’s & Magic

I hope we’ll be getting a second season of Knight’s & Magic some day because I could always use more of Ernesti Echevalier to lighten my spirits every season. Distilled to its essence, this story is pure love for mecha, which in this show are referred to as Silhouette Knights. Forget about new world rebirth, kingdoms overrun with monsters, or warmongering nations. What really matters here are the machines that allow our protagonist and the warriors of this world to take up arms against one another, for sport just as much as for war. Ernie never rests on the latest creation; he always looks ahead to the future by learning and improving wherever he can. He inspires the people around him and the viewers of the show with his fervent dedication to his craft and its surrounding ideology. Most importantly, this show is fun. I found it impossible to watch without grinning or truly laughing out loud.

One of the most surprising aspects of this single cours show is the amount of ground it covers. We journey with Ernie to what feels like a large portion of his new home continent, beginning with school, then to the battlefront against monsters, and then later against neighboring guerrilla forces and the entire force of an expanding kingdom. The range of experiences doesn’t feel stretched or disconnected, probably thanks to the glue that is Ernie’s quest to make the best Silhouette Knight that he can. As his knights get more powerful, so do the challenges he must overcome. Old expectations of the Silhouette Knights are broken, as are the conventions of their makeup. Why not implement automatic back weapons in addition to the handheld ones? Why not build four legs instead of two?

Another takeaway of the anime is its approach to crises. No matter the circumstances, Ernie faces forward with an attitude of positive action. He never freezes up in indecision. In a genre that tends to agonizing decision making and overly long battles, Knight’s & Magic opts for clear-minded choices and strategic fighting (for the most part…forget about the million-sword guy).

I encourage those of you who enjoy mecha battles or fantasy to watch this show. You will not be disappointed, and you may walk away like I did with a mind to put together your own kit…with a few modifications, of course.

Rating: 1 dango

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11 thoughts on “Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Sakura Quest, Dive!!, & Knight’s & Magic

  1. I found Dive!! to be more enjoyable after watching an episode than I thought it would be when I turned each episode on. I actually thought it did pretty well with almost all the aspects of the series, and given the way that Japan is a complete non-force on the Olympic Diving stage, I thought that it was actually fairly realistic for a goal, especially given that it was for a home Olympics. Host countries generally get a free pass into all of the competitions, and with Japan not qualifying ANY Mens 10m Platform divers for the Rio Olympics, that shows you that there’s not really a deep field or a world-class scene in that discipline (They did send two men for the 3m Springboard, and one woman for the 10m Platform events, but that appears to be it). So the goal is realistic, as is the idea that someone like Tomo could come in and qualify, especially given an off night by the favorites.

    I actually didn’t have a problem with the story, things like Tomo’s girlfriend splitting with him for his brother, or Okitsu’s “Diving his own way”. I actually thought that was a good side story, and got that kind of checkbox out of the way for Yoichi and Tomo. But what I totally didn’t like was the fizzled out ending, where they don’t show us Tomoki winning the trials, just made sure we knew it later. That was pretty annoying, give us our cathartic release! Let us cheer for the main character! I don’t know if Japanese writers who do endings like that think that they’re clever, or if it’s some thing with a cultural background that they can’t just show what happens for gratification, but there are tons of stories where we don’t get to see the thing we want to see, just get told that it happened (romance is terrible about this, as a genre).

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    • Well see, I’m glad someone with more knowledge of the Olympics entrance process can help enlighten me! I didn’t know the deal with host countries and their “free pass.” It’s too bad we weren’t able to see the MDC divers actually compete at that level to see if they were able to get Japan up there on the podium. Like we both hate, they didn’t even include Tomo’s dive at the qualifiers! We build up over the past episodes to see him do a successful 4 1/2 forward dive, only for us to have to imagine his triumph in front of everyone.

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  2. Knights and Magic was a surprise for me … particularly because I generally do not mix with almost any anime that involves mecha for some bizarre reason. But I was okay with it here. The series was okay, but that it could be okay for me was something I was not expecting. Go figure….

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    • Do you think perhaps you were able to enjoy it because of the high fantasy angle? The energy harnessed for the mecha’s power isn’t really like anything I’m used to in other mecha shows, though I really haven’t seen too many. Anyways, I’m glad it was able to surprise and entertain you! It’s always nice to stumble across something that reminds you to not always follow your instincts.

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  3. Knight’s & Magic (superfluous punctuation aside) was a good show for me this season, because you knew that the good guys would win in each conflict. I don’t want every show to be like that, but I like to have a show that does that as a refuge in a season. The enemies were pretty stupid, but the relentless positivity of Ernesti was a good point of the show.

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    • It’s funny how in many other battle shows an omnipotent main character can get too boring, yet here Ernie’s constant success somehow continues to delight. Maybe it’s because he always seeks improvement, and takes so much joy out of analyzing his opponents’ strengths. Those are qualities I could use myself!

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  4. Sakura Quest was the kind of show that I think that PA Works needs to have more of, even if I’m going to say next that it wasn’t super great like Shirobako. I like PA Works shows, but usually they have an issue that really turns a lot of people off. With Sakura Quest there was nothing like that. It was steady and high quality throughout, realistic in tone and scope, and let the characters learn about themselves without having to have overt moral teaching moments that beat you over the head. The characters were likable, and I really like Bunbun’s designs.

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    • The character designs really are pleasing and when I see them I can usually expect to enjoy the show. I wonder if that will ever mislead me.

      I actually put SQ up there of equal enjoyment for me as Shirobako since the two take different angles on early adult life. I also consider SQ easier to re-watch as single episodes, especially if I’m trying to convince someone to watch it for the first time, as opposed to Shirobako where I feel that I’d need to rewatch an entire arc. Either way, they both made me cry.

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