I have a confession to make: I love yuri. Whilst it isn’t my intention to make myself sound perverse, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge my fondness for all things yuri, or Girl’s Love as it’s sometimes called, when reviewing Sakura Trick, just so you know I’m coming at this from a place of huge bias. Sakura Trick is based upon the 4-koma manga series by Tachi, and is probably the most well known and popular yuri series to come out in recent years, and has accumulated a sizable fan base since it first aired in 2014. Is there more to this series than just girl-on-girl action though? In short; yes.
In case you’re not aware, Sakura Trick is about best friends Yuu and Haruka who have just started their freshman year in High School. Although they’re in the same class, they’re given seats at opposite ends of the classroom and Haruka quickly gets jealous of Yuu making new friends. To remedy this, the pair decide to do something in order to deepen their bond that they wouldn’t do with anyone else and they end up sharing a kiss in a vacant classroom full of sakura petals. After that one kiss leads to many, they quickly realise that their friendship will never be the same again.
Despite the fact that my overall opinion of Sakura Trick is generally positive, the biggest issue I do take with it stems from the relationship between the two leads. It’s certainly not bad, in fact I’d say it’s downright adorable, however the problem is that it doesn’t feel as if there’s any kind of growth or arc for their relationship. Right at the beginning of the series, the two girls are already very close friends, and even after they share the first kiss, I can’t help but feel nothing really changes in the grand scheme, other than the fact that they sneak off to kiss now and again. There’s no real build-up to the two becoming a couple, in fact they share their first kiss about 10 minutes into the first episode, and after that, there isn’t really any turbulence or struggle in the relationship either, at least, not until right near the end, but by then, it’s too little, too late. I’m not trying to say there has to be some sort of drama for a relationship to be good, but there definitely could have been more done in this department to make it a little more interesting. Only compounding this matter is the fact that there is an interesting relationship in the show, it’s just not between the two main characters. Yes, two other girls, Shizuku and Kotone, also have a secret relationship, albeit one with a bit more going on in it, as it’s revealed that one of the girls’ parents has already arranged for her to get married. Honestly, I think that alone has enough potential to carry a show, but it’s largely in the background and is rarely mentioned. It’s really frustrating because I genuinely think that this is a brilliant idea, yet it’s just squandered. If this idea had been applied to Yuu and Haruka’s relationship, it would have made the series infinitely better, in my opinion.
Now, despite the fact that I just spent a whole paragraph complaining about it, I actually did end up liking Sakura Trick quite a bit. This is mostly because of the characters who are a likable bunch and have some great chemistry together which produces a lot of great comedic moments. It’s not exactly laugh-a-minute, but there’s a decent amount of jokes that managed to make me laugh a surprising amount. Then of course, there’s the inclusion of all the yuri scenes, which is probably going to be the most divisive element of the whole show, and could make or break this anime for some people. I’ll be totally honest, the yuri elements are my favourite part of the whole thing, and are very well executed. If people have read any of my reviews before, they’ll know I’m generally not huge on fan service, and whilst all the yuri here is very much fan service, it feels a lot less exploitative than a general ecchi anime, as well as appealing directly to my interests, so I really liked it. If you’re not into the whole yuri thing, I still think that there’s enjoyment to be had here, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first romantic comedy I’d recommend, and there are better examples out there, such as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, that deliver more laughs.
Sakura Trick is animated by Studio DEEN (Fate/stay night (2006), Is This a Zombie?, When They Cry) although you might not think so at first glance. The studio is very much going out of their way here to do their best impression of Shaft (Madoka Magica, Nisekoi, Monogatari) and the general art style and direction is heavily reminiscent of Hidamari Sketch, although I’d be hesitant to call the style a rip-off, considering the fact that the director of Sakura Trick, Kenichi Ishikura, directed several episodes of Hidamari Sketch, as well as the entirety of the third series. Still, even if the style isn’t wholly original, that doesn’t make it any less of a good-looking show. I’m a huge fan of Shaft’s general style, so it’s no surprise that I absolutely love the look of this series too, with its bright colours and use of textures to really make scenes pop. I haven’t seen much of Studio DEEN’s work, admittedly, but this is probably the best-looking show of theirs I’ve watched.
MVM’s release of Sakura Trick is Japanese audio only, with English subtitles. The Japanese cast all do great, providing the group of cute girls with suitably cute voices, with the cast including voice actors such as Yuka Iguchi (Monogatari, Fairy Tail, Girls und Panzer), Haruka Tomatsu (Coppelion, Gintama, Punchline) and Hiromi Igarashi (Hellsing Ultimate, Brave Witches, High School Fleet). Music is provided by Ryosuke Nakanishi, and is a pretty decent soundtrack, but nothing too memorable. The same can be said for the OP and ED too, which, whilst serviceable, are generally nothing spectacular.
If you like yuri, then this is absolutely a must-see, in fact, if you like yuri, you’ve probably already seen this show. Even if you’re nonplussed by yuri, I could still somewhat recommend Sakura Trick, as it’s largely enjoyable, although don’t expect anything groundbreaking or new.Title: Sakura Trick
Publisher: MVM Films
Genre: Slice of Life, Romance, Comedy, Shoujo-Ai
Studio: Studio DEEN
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes