To be honest, I haven’t really been watching anime lately. Between a mix of the ever-present moé cliches and having responsibilities towards other things, I just haven’t had it in me to really sit down and enjoy, and much less write about, anime. Today I somehow found the time to browse my favorite anime streaming site — lo and behold, there’s a new season of unfamiliar names pushing out the list of my yet unfinished obligations. Not feeling like devoting a block of time to finishing a show, I randomly clicked on a new one: Sakura Trick. Now, if I had researched this title first, I would have known that this is a yuri (girl love) title published in a seinen magazine, but it has never been my style to read about anime instead of just watching it.
I should probably take this moment to explain something: Despite this genre falling outside of my normal focus, it is not a genre that defines an anime show, but the narrative and tone of the anime that defines what genre it falls into. Thus it makes no difference whether Sakura Trick is yuri, I still judge it using the same criteria I use to judge everything else. Great character depth, narrative cohesion, coordination, the atmosphere transcends any genre, no matter if the characters are male or female, opposite sex or same sex. On the other hand, whether it’s a romance or action, if it relies on cliches or expositions revealing the shallowness in its creativity, then that is a strike against it.
It just so happens that Sakura Trick falls in the latter, rather than the former, as a vain exercise in the Japanese habit of passive sexism which portrays women as demure, helpless little creatures that we just can’t help but protect and adore. Today, we call that “moé”, but it is actually just a very small subset of Hirohi Azuma’s postmodern moé database (that’s another topic for another day). Case in point: What do you understand about the character from the picture above? She’s presented as a typical high school student, but the peculiar contrast with her behavior triggers another set of emotions towards her. Her arm sandwiched between her thighs, the other arm raised in front of the mouth, legs in the twisted knee position, slight blush, blank stare, and in pajamas, are all a calculated attempt to depict her as the main character; in today’s world of anime, the main character must be the innocent naivete encroached upon by the impure motivations of society. This is a frustratingly inescapable truth, whether we are following Kamijou Touma from To Aru Majutsu no Index, or Takayama Haruka from Sakura Trick — different manifestations of the same thing.
The following sequence all tells the same story without apology. There is a distinct lack of even trying to present any kind of subtext that could be attributed in any way to the originality of the character herself, instead of taking references (e.g. faces, poses, etc.) from pop culture and stringing them along resulting in a character without any substance.
Interspersed throughout this sequence, by the way, is another kind of thing that hopes to attract the hardcore fan base, the obsessive otakus who spend the most money in Japan buying anime-related products: “fanservice”. These are unnecessary — and by that I mean they either contribute nothing or even detract from helping us understand the events in the scene and the characters — shots of sexual nature. In this case, it may actually work in conjunction with the moé-ness in conjuring a strange untouchable pedestal for Haruka to comfortably sit on, subliminally working off both our sexual attraction and our instinct to protect. It gives this indescribable sensation that I posit has the same inner-workings as porn addiction: striving to obtain something that one knows is unobtainable. I digress.
Two-and-a-half minutes into the intro of Haruka and her friend Yuu reminding each other not to forget pencils or to wipe their mouths after breakfast (which conjures another image of picking food off of girls’ faces that only Japanese fetishists would understand), Haruka finally goes to bed and has a wet dream about Yuu:
Dropped! Dropped! Dropped!
I no longer have any patience for shallow contrivances of this sort. With 3 minutes on the clock, we already know everything that is necessary to know about Sakura Trick: a retread of every other vacuous piece that sustains on moé database cliches, like reshuffling a poker hand and presenting it as a new hand. In 3 minutes, Sakura Trick’s main character, Haruka, consists of nothing besides moé and fanservice, from which we learned that she has a rack, a shiny set of thighs, acts like a 12-year-old, and has an oral fixation on her still platonic friend Yuu. And between that there’s not one ounce of originality, so why should I expect anything to change in the remainder? Someone who proclaims that one must watch a show in its entirety to judge it wholly is a masochist, and he lacks understanding of his powers of induction: to make conclusions based on experience. He does it despite his insistence otherwise, or else he wouldn’t know that fire is hot.