The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sakura Trick

Title: Sakura Trick
Genre: Romance/Comedy/Drama
Company: Studio Deen
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 10 Jan 2014 – 28 Mar 2014

Synopsis: Takayama Haruka and Sonoda Yuu are two girls who have a secret: they’re in an intimate romantic relationship with each other. Their high school will close when they graduate, and they resolve to enjoy life and love while they can.

The Highlights
Romance: There are sweet moments peppered throughout, but the relationships are only occasionally interesting.
Comedy: Funniest when the show portrays the characters as they are — dorky kids who are enjoying life.
Drama: Dull. Show is much more enjoyable when it’s lighthearted.

Sakura Trick is a frustrating show to watch for someone who is rarely won over by the allure of cute girls doing cute things. There’s just enough lighthearted fun in this series to not dismiss it out of hand, but the fun moments aren’t leveraged nearly enough to make up for when Sakura Trick hits on more typical, boring humor and relationship drama. It’s a shame, because the moments when the series really clicks are surprisingly funny, poignant and charming.

There’s a scene in the first episode where Haruka and Yuu go to an abandoned classroom and reflect on their future lives at school. They get close and decide to kiss for the first time; they lock lips and kiss. They stand there. And stand there. And stand there. Suddenly they both start gasping for air. They were so wrapped up in their first kiss that they forgot to breathe. It’s a funny moment that shows Sakura Trick at its best. Haruka and Yuu are as in love with each other as teenagers can be, but they’re so inexperienced that they don’t quite know how to express it. That is a formula that rarely stops being funny, because it strikes at the heart of what it’s like to be a teenager and experience things that are new to you. Everything feels overwhelming, even when it’s joyous. The scenes where the group of friends simply plays around and their personalities bounce off each other can be good fun, too.

Unfortunately, Sakura Trick doesn’t dip its toes into that pool often enough. Usually once an episode a story will find an excuse to sequester Haruka and Yuu in some spot where they can be alone for some make-out time. It’s an interesting novelty the first couple of times it occurs; however, for anyone not not interested in that sort of thing, it quickly becomes boring. These parts are also the most frustrating bits of the series, because they rely the most on convention and cliche. Watching Yuu and Haruka be gushy and romantic to each other is kind of funny; they spout these lines that sound cool when you’re a teenager, but dopey when you’re an adult. They could be read as an extension of the scenes where Haruka and Yuu are shown as dorky teens in love, but the tone of these scenes makes it apparent that they’re played straight.

Then there are the more dramatic moments. The drama is OK when it’s relatively light. Nobody expects this series to be an incisive social commentary; it’s just not that type of series, nor is it trying to be. But it is capable of garnering sympathy for couples who are exploring their feelings for each other in a world where a lesbian relationship may not be welcome. It’s not entirely believable, since this is one of the most welcoming worlds for lesbians I’ve ever seen, but the thought counts. Nothing else works all that well, though. There are occasional rifts in Haruka and Yuu’s relationship, which are difficult to buy into because they like each other so much. These get tiresome when they repeatedly play on the same points of growth for both girls. Then there is a love triangle that starts off silly, grows serious and concludes in the safest possible way.

Even when the content isn’t at its best, though, Sakura Trick can at least be counted on to look pretty. The art direction in this series is quite good; the show makes fantastic use of a wide variety of colors, its work with shadows is often visually interesting, and there will usually be a scene or two in each episode that is laid out in a particularly cool way. And if there’s one thing the scenes of boring melodrama are good for, it’s providing the backdrop for a visually spectacular scene.

Sakura Trick is a decent series. It can be quite funny when it’s more concerned with showing the characters as they are (silly teens in love) rather than what a lot of the audience wants them to be (cute girls making out all the time). It’s often goofy fluff, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I just wish it had more often been the entertaining sort of fluff rather than the boring sort of fluff.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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