Sakura Trick is a yuri anime from this year, started in January finished in March. The manga it’s based on was written and drawn by Tachi and the anime version was handled by Studio Deen. Studio Deen has done several yuri series/ series with heavy yuri content before. Including Maria sama ga Miteru, Yamibo and Simoun. So far, none of these series have been bad, although some have come closer than others. That being said, Studio Deen has done some pretty egregious anime in other genres. Such as Kore wa Zombie desu ka. Still, they do have a pretty good record so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.
Our story begins with a group of students entering their first year of High School. Haruka and Yuu, two girls who attended Middle School together, end up in the same class, but on opposite ends of the room. Haruka sees Yuu link arms with other girls and runs to an empty classroom, feeling dejected. Yuu follows to apologise, having known in advance that her actions would make Haruka jealous. The two have a conversation during which Haruka reveals that she thought they were special to each other. Yuu argues that they are and she will prove it by doing something with Haruka that she wouldn’t do with anyone else. This leads to the two of them kissing rather passionately.
This has, quite possibly, the fastest hook up I’ve ever seen in a romance series, with the two leads getting together right away. Most of the series involves them and their friends getting into shenanigans with the two of them trying to hide their relationship while sneaking kisses. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single episode without Haruka and Yuu kissing at some point. Sakura Trick is something of a rarity since the tension doesn’t come from how the two leads will get together. Rather, it comes from two sources. The first being whether or not they’ll get found out. The second being that Mitsuki, Yuu’s older sister, also develops romantic feelings for Haruka. That’s going to make family gatherings awkward. Honestly, I prefer this type of narrative to the more traditional one. If you’re watching a romance, you know that the leads are almost certainly going to hook up eventually and it can just get annoying watching or reading a bunch of material that teases about it. At least this format dispenses with all that crap and just lets you enjoy the cute elements of their relationship while also providing some story threads for tension that basic pattern recognition doesn’t instantly give you the conclusions for. So, the tension does work pretty effectively, even if most of the series is more dedicated to cutesy or comedic slice of life moments.
There are a lot of comedic elements in this series and, as a whole, they’re really well done. Just about every joke hits the mark and there aren’t any that don’t at the very least elicit a smile. The relationship between Haruka and Yuu is positively adorable. The series also manages to have a narrative that flows pretty smoothly in spite of the episodes being largely unconnected. There’s a very clear chronology for the series.
There’s really only one problem with the narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty major one. There’s a secondary romantic couple with two of Haruka and Yuu’s friends, Kotone and Shizuku. The problem is that Kotone and Shizuku are cousins. In all fairness, they don’t get a huge amount of screen time, but it’s still really disturbing every time they get a scene. The worst part is that there doesn’t seem to be any awareness that this is a bad idea. It’s treated as “cute” within the series. Because when I think of cousins snogging, I think “oh, cute.” Oh, wait, I don’t because it’s not cute. It’s just messed up. There’s not even a good reason for them to be cousins. They could’ve been childhood friends and it would’ve made no difference to their story arc.
The characters in this are really good, overall. Haruka and Yuu are adorable and have great interactions. The major side characters like Mitsuki, Kaede and Yuzu are a lot of fun. Even Kotone and Shizuku have some good character moments if you can ignore their disturbing relationship. Now, the side characters tend to be pretty much non-entities, the teacher, Rina, Sumi and several others. They don’t exactly feel like one-dimensional stereotypes, but they come pretty close. Although, to be fair, they do have a purpose within the story even if it is a very small one and it would be highly unreasonable to expect every minor character in a twelve episode series to get developed. Furthermore, they do serve their functions just fine.
The art in this is kind of lazy. The character designs themselves are nice and there are some good sequences, particularly the way they animate the ending. However, the backgrounds are pretty bare and people who show up in the background are frequently drawn without any features. They’re just kind of blank. The artists also dispense with any kind of detail for the backgrounds on several occasions, replacing them with colourful heart patterns or some such thing.
The worst factor in the artwork is the fan-service. There are a few scenes where they use it for the sake of a joke, but more often they just have random fan-service scenes or oddly angled shots for the sake of fan-service. Did they really think they needed to play up to the heterosexual male gaze in a series where girls frequently kiss each other? All the fan-service ultimately does is detract from the cutesy elements.
There are some really good actresses in this. Our leads are played by Iguchi Yuka, who was also Mako in Girls und Panzer, and Tomatsu Haruka, who played Anjou in AnoHana. They both do a really superb job and really convey the chemistry between Yuu and Haruka perfectly. They also got Fujita Saki, Ymir in Shingeki no Kyojin, and Fuchigami Mai, who was Miho in Girls und Panzer as well as Alice in Doki Doki Precure. All the actresses do really well in their roles. The music is really good too, helping accentuate the mood.
The ho-yay factor is going to be a 10/10. I know, the fact that this is a yuri romance probably clued you in. Haruka and Yuu have a really good relationship and it does develop and strengthen throughout the series. We also get the kissing cousins, who I really don’t want to talk about in any detail. Mitsuki’s feelings for Haruka are also really well handled and lead to some good moments, both dramatic and comedic. Rina is also heavily implied to have feelings for Mitsuki, one of the only traits she has. Yuzu and Kaede have a really close relationship that could have pretty easily moved into romantic territory, but never does.
Why no, I don’t find anything odd about there being no straight characters in the main cast. And no, I’m not just saying that because straight characters are rare in my own writing. Hurriedly changing the topic, Sakura Trick has a lot of affectionate scenes. As previously stated, pretty much every episode has a kiss at some point and there’s also some hand holding, cuddling up and the like, but the series never moves into explicit sexual territory. It prefers to keep things cutesy. Which is a good thing given that the characters are pretty young and cutesy material is far better suited for the atmosphere as a whole.
Sakura Trick is a pretty good romance. Yuu and Haruka make for an adorable couple, the comedy is effective and the sources of tension are really good. Still, the series is hurt by the secondary relationship between Kotone and Shizuku and the use of pandering fan-service. If you can forgive those problems, you will probably enjoy the series for its cute and funny moments as well as the romance between the two leads. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Kill La Kill.