Sakura Quest is a P.A. Works original anime series about a group of women working together in a small town. It begins with recent college graduate Yoshino Koharu heading to a small town for what she thought was a one-day modeling contract. It turned into a year-long contract with her running attempts to boost a small town’s flailing tourism industry. It is also an incredibly approachable and inherent honesty portrayal of a different coming of age story, about that feeling when we first enter the workforce, deal with our first out of school failures, and try to finally make it on our own in our own way.
Of the main cast, one of the more relatable characters is Sanae Kouzuki. Kouzuki is a web entrepreneur who worked for a long while in Tokyo. She worked hard and she worked long hours. She worked and stressed herself so much, in fact, that she ended up hospitalized. When she returned to work, she found that all the things which she felt were resting on her shoulders were being filled and completed by others. Despite the high opinion she had of her own use in the workforce, what she found was that the world kept on turning even when she wasn’t there. She came to a realization that she was replaceable in her job that despite having the weight of the world on her back, she found that she was able to be replaced. So, she left. She ran away from the environment and began to do freelance work in the countryside.
That feeling of being replaceable at work can sometimes creep in sentiments that you are replaceable in life. It can eat away at your self confidence and lead to sorrow or depression. It’s a growing lie that we as a culture continue to tell each other. Meaninglessness, dehumanization, hopelessness, these things hurt us as they compound upon the stress in our lives.
Enter Yoshino. Yoshino is the newest person in town. She’s young and forced into a role she did not expect (because she did not read the fine print). When Kouzuki tells her about her past situation, Yoshino shows great maturity and explains to Kouzuki that she’s irreplaceable. No matter what another person may have done in Kouzuki’s role, they’re not her. They do not have her experiences, her ideas, her interests, her motivation. As Yoshino says, “I’m sure there was some part of you hidden in that work.” She put herself into her work and that’s something no one else can do. She was irreplaceable, inherently because she was who she was.
Yoshino is absolutely right. We are each unique individuals made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, 1 Timothy 5:1-2). Our individuality sets us apart and that’s a good thing. The Psalmist in Psalm 139 talks about how the Lord made each of us unique and how he was crafted very specifically. In verses 13-16 it reads:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Before we were born, the Lord knew what we were to look like. He crafted us very specifically, very uniquely as the Psalmist points out – that’s amazing. I am not like you. I am a bearded, balding, engineer who grew up in upstate New York and loves anime, all music, and Star Wars. My experiences make me unique. I am what I bring to the table at work, in my family, and in friendships. It’s what makes me the employee, husband, and father that I am. I do not parent like my sister does. She’s a nurse who grew up and remained in upstate New York. She also likes Star Wars, doesn’t understand anime, and loves an assortment of music (but not country). She’s married to a lawyer (my brother-in-law) also named Matt who enjoys Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Star Trek. They are different individuals who parent differently than me and who bring different things to the table than I do. It’s these differences that make friendships so amazing. We need to embrace the differences not pretend they don’t exist!
How does that apply to the girls in Sakura Quest? As Yoshino points out, Kouzui’s fingerprints are all over her work whether she realizes it or not. She is unique and therefore how she completes things will be tailor made from her. She’s not her coworkers and that’s a good thing. What makes her who she is will be different and makes her the invaluable member of the group that she becomes.
How about you? What makes you different? What makes you unique? What makes you irreplaceable?
Sakura Quest can (and should) be streamed legally on Crunchyroll in the United States.