(Spoilers in this review) A lot of things happened in this episode. I’ll try to talk about each event in isolation.
Maki’s acting group is concerned that the ending where the dragon dies is too depressing, which causes Maki to change it such that the dragon appears in spirit form and thanks the villagers (kind of like what happens in Star Wars).
I think Maki and her acting group needs to read more Shakespeare if they think that ending is too melancholic. I’m starting to think, however, that the play is indicative of the inherent themes in Sakura Quest (I will elaborate later on).
Yoshino admits that she is the only one who lacks a long-term goal. Shiori was working for the Tourism Board before Yoshino joined, Maki has her acting trope, Sanae can do web design, and Ririko is probably going to inherit her grandmother’s sweet shop. As a result, Yoshino, and the viewers, are left wondering what she’ll do after her year-long contract is over. All I’m wondering about is the field of study Yoshino pursued in college since she seems to have no direction or skills to call her own.
Noge-san, the guy who owns the bookstore, has outright closed his book store in order to start his book cafe in the refurbished middles school. Not much else to say about this within this section other the fact that Maki and Ririko came together as a
loving couple team to see how Noge is doing. I can’t decide if Maki should be with Sanae or Ririko and if Ririko should be with Maki or Yoshino.
This next section is going to be a little long-winded.
A former Manoyama resident who runs the highly successful Belem bakery chain offers to open a branch in Manoyama. Ririko’s grandmother is unable to find any owners who are willing to rent out their shops. Akiyama, the one Merchant Board member who lives away from his store, is unwilling. During an emergency meeting for the Merchant Board (with the Tourism Board as honorary guests), Ririko’s grandmother considers disbanding the Merchant Board since the shopping district has basically become obsolete (due to the supermarket as well as internet shopping). The other merchant then try to pressure Akiyama to rent out his store until Yoshino says that they shouldn’t pressure others for the sake of the revitalization for Manoyama. Akiyama then revealed that when he rented out the store to an outsider in the past, he ran out on him and Akiyama had to pay off the loan. After hearing his story, one of the merchant feels ashamed that he didn’t want Belem to occupy his store because of the smell and volunteers his store for the bakery. The old man apologizes to Ririko’s grandmother for forcing Akiyama and for what happened 50 years ago (when they had planned to run off to Tokyo). She accepts his apologies and tells the Tourism Board that the Merchant Board will be officially participating in the Mizuchi Festival.
I had said earlier that the Dragon Girl play is emblematic of some of the core themes in Sakura Quest, which was accentuated when they cut away to Maki being harassed by the villagers while Akiyama was being pressured by the other merchants. Some outsiders have been unpleasant people in the past (Ririko’s mother and the guy who set up shop in Akiyama’s store), but Yoshino and Sanae have repeatedly demonstrated that they genuinely care about Manoyama and have shown that not all outsiders are self-serving snakes.
Since they can’t find the true Golden Dragon, Yoshino opts to make use of the toy Golden Dragon as one of the three treasures for the Mizuchi Festival. However, the old man brings forth some bad news: the government is actually planning to absorb Manoyama into the neighboring city of Tomikura.
Wow. I think Sakura Quest might be headed towards a BAD END. I guess we will have to see. I do appreciate how the real Golden Dragon is seemingly gone for good. But will the Mizuchi Festival change anything now?
The events within the episode are making big strides towards the end, but now Manoyama faces its direst situation yet. Yoshino finally makes an insightful comment regarding revitalization, but is it too little, too late? Only two more episodes until this series concludes!