This is review number three hundred and eighteen. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Sakura Trick. It’s a twelve episode anime about a bunch of girls kissing each other. No, seriously, that’s all you need to know. We have girls making out. This show is awesome. Of course, I have my complaints so let’s read on.
Yuzu and Haruka have been best friends since middle school. In their first year of high school, they are bummed to find out they aren’t seated to each other. They soon decided that they should have something between them that none of their new seatmates can ever have. In an empty classroom, feeling incredibly happy and curious, the two of them kissed. This special moment is something these two girls would do over and over again.
Taking the Pants Off
I’ve put off doing this review for a long time now. I saw Sakura Trick back in May and I kinda procrastinated until June putting off this review. It’s a combination of being addicted to Harvest Moon at the moment and also really having no motivation writing a review for a show that gives you mix feelings. Sakura Trick is your standard cute girls doing cute things kind of show. It’s a marshmallow anime with your standard group of girls spending their school days together just talking about random stuff and making fun of each other. Oh, and they also kiss. They actually kiss a lot. Wait. That’s not right. The two main characters actually kiss a lot. When I first saw the anime, I honestly thought it’d just tread the Yuru Yuri line where the show will tease the characters making out but never deliver on the promise. I’m used to not seeing girls kiss after seeing so many shows not promising on the goods. I also knew that Sakura Trick won’t cross the yuri road because the main characters aren’t your basic seme and uke. The anime doesn’t have a forceful protagonist to act as the initiator to pressure the other girl into doing stuff with her. It’s a standard to have one submissive and one forceful character when you’re doing same sex stories because it adds a risky subtext to the entire idea. The two characters of Sakura Trick are two ordinary marshmallow girls that just acts happy and sh*t. There’s no way they’ll actually kiss. At some point in the first episode though, this happened:
They didn’t just make out. They were full on tongue action-ing each other and even moaning as they kiss. For once, an actual show delivered on the yuri promise and it was both shocking and awesome. There are very little shows that actually let two girls lock lips but there are a bunch of them teasing it. It feels satisfying that Sakura Trick’s goal wasn’t to tease but to actually make girls kiss. They kiss very seriously and in a very hot fashion as well so I really thanked the mighty pikachu when I was watching this anime. The mix feelings came in halfway through the show though when I experienced this thing where you get too much of a good thing. In each episode, the two characters always kiss. It sounds awesome at first but then I realize that this is a marshmallow show where nothing really serious happens. There is no story for a cute girl doing cute thing show so the entire yuri layer is shallow at best. The characters do kiss but the satisfaction fades early when you realize two girls kissing as hot as them should have a more mature story to go along with it. It needed a lot more than what a marshmallow show can give us. The novelty of two girls just kissing and doing that every single episode can get tiring. It eventually led me to drop the show and then pick it up recently just to write this review. It’s disheartening though that I have always wished for a show with a strong yuri undertone only for it to be a very unsatisfying show for me.
The anime is a straight forward show of a couple of girls enjoying their life in high school. It opens with the two main characters actually entering the school and then gaining friends. Immediately, you can tell that the chemistry among the characters is pretty great. Nothing felt forced and the show progressed as your standard marshmallow show. You can also spot the couples early on and you’ll be giddy with excitement with the thought that they’ll kiss each other as well. Anyways, the anime is nothing unique. Aside from constant make out scenes, the show flows like your typical marshmallow show. The anime is divided into different skits with a few jokes displayed in each and an ongoing theme in each episode to tie them all together. The characters would just talk about things in the classroom, there are scenes of them walking to school and back and even your typical sleepover scenes. As I always said, if you’ve seen on marshmallow show then you’ve seen them all. They are all the same except for this one individual theme that sets each of them apart. For this anime, it’d be yuri. It’s actually presented in a smart way as well since you’re given yuri scenes at the end of each skits or when the show is about to end. It’s like a wonderful reward for sticking with the boring aspects of the show. For having to sit through all the uninspired dialogue of the show, it’ll give you two girls wildly eating each other’s mouth. This will then urge you to watch the next episode until you’ve reached the end. Marshmallow shows are inherently dull so the yuri scenes revitalizes the show from time to time.
Marshmallow shows aren’t just dull though. Another trait these shows possess is that they are also cute. The characters don’t just do boring dialogue. They’d be doing it in a cute fashion. They’ll react in a cute way and it’s really enough to carry the show for twelve episodes. Some shows can go longer with just cute sh*t, actually. The ones in this show are special because it is also tied in with the yuri elements that makes it awesome. The cuteness often comes in the form of unapologetic flirting and extreme horniness. Some of the characters really have great chemistry because they are often teasing each other. With the yuri undertone of hugging each other and biting each other’s ear, it comes off as cute but the intended goal is different. It’s cool that way. The cuteness gives the anime an air of innocence that the show actually utilizes to pull off some of its daring yuri scenes. An example would be when one of the characters got jealous. She came off as a child pouting but she is actually irked in a romantic way. See, it’s cute and this sets us up for a kissing scene. The show doesn’t have the conventional moe blob though and most of the cuteness is really just a more subtle jab at the yuri that I do admire. Given the chemistry of the characters and their history, even linking arms is enough cuteness to look hot as well.
The yuri scenes goes above the realm of cuteness though. One of the reasons this show is fun to watch is because the marshmallow elements provide the cuteness but the yuri gives us mature intimate romance. Wait. It’s not exactly romance since the characters admit it themselves that they often kiss because they get in the mood. They just feel like kissing so they fool around. I don’t think “love” is ever part of the equation but I’d consider hot lesbian kissing as such for this review. Their “love” is often counterintuitive of the marshmallow notions of the show. You’d expect girls like them to just sit around and drink tea. The show points it out as well that what they’re doing is both naughty and hot. The main characters hide the fact that they kiss each other from their friends but as the show progresses, they kiss a lot and they often do it in public places. The yuri elements isn’t just awesome fan service. There is also a bit thrill when the characters become more daring. I think they admit it themselves that they shouldn’t do it but they still do. The more they do it, the more you wonder if they will ever get caught. The simple idea that they will be caught actually adds to the awesome fan service the yuri provides. They got into the mood a lot as well. In later episodes, they’d do it with their friends around with the other girls not being the wiser. My favorite would be when they did it in the pool with the other girls swimming in it. They do this because it’s fun, I guess. If you watch this, I’m sure your imagination will fill in the rest. The idea of two girls just locking lips though in a public area really makes the yuri aspects all the more enjoyable.
As I said though, the novelty fades away the more you watch. While the yuri fan service is still alive and strong until the end, the simple reason that only two characters kiss in a lot of the episodes can make it a bit boring. I was personally a bit irked when the other couple got very little screen time in later episodes. This is annoying because the other couple actually has a story behind their kissing. It’s not like the main characters that acts out their horniness veiled in a questionable puppy dog love with each other. The two main characters also don’t really mix it up. They really just kiss and if you’ve seen them do it over and over, it’ll easily become tiring to watch. It got to a point where it was as boring as the marshmallow aspects of the anime. If the classroom scenes where the group of girls just talk comes off as shallow and boring then that’s how the yuri scenes eventually turns into as well. Sometimes, they often just kiss because it’s a mandatory part of the anime. It’s really annoying when you know they’re forcing it and it’s even more annoying when it’s something you really enjoy in the show. I think I got sick of the two main characters kissing by the time they did it the tenth time and, I counted, they kissed more than twenty five or so. It’s too much. I personally believe that it’s too much shallow fan service. I don’t mind it in the first six episodes or so but since they keep becoming more daring with how they kiss, I think it deserves maturity in the story as well. You’ll soon realize that this anime is really just lazy not considering character growth yet still utilizing strong yuri aspects blindly. I remember one episode where the two main characters did start feeling awkward with each other but it just didn’t feel right. You can tell it’s forced. It’s not properly developed and, at the end of the show, it’s just another yuri aspects lazily utilized by the anime. I do give points for exploring fantastical concepts like the characters acting out a wedding or pinning each other down to the floor but it just looks shallow when you keep dodging character development. They fooled around so much that it needs to be addressed that their relationship has indeed grown. The show doesn’t want to mention it though so they’re just fooling around with no strings attached. It doesn’t quite look as hot when you think about it that way. They’re just two horny girls acting on their urges. Ok, that’s hot but you can bet this anime can make it boring.
This anime has six characters and a few supporting characters. There are six girls here because we have three couples in this show. Technically, there’s only two but I think the third pair has something going on as well that does make me happy. The first couple is our main characters. Haruka and Yuu are the characters that locked lips more than twenty five times. They were middle school best friends that will attend the same high school. Upon entering the school though, the two of them suddenly got intimate. There’s very little context but if you’ve seen a lot of marshmallow shows that imply two characters being extremely close to each other then the relationship between our main characters is nothing new. You’ve seen it before but this time, they decided to go all the way and actually fool around with each other. As I said, there is no real story here. The marshmallow format flow the same with skits containing jokes and then the anime build up the two of them locking lips. Once they got daring though, Yuu’s sister actually got suspicious. I think this is one of the recurring plot points in the show. It doesn’t progress. It just pops in and out when it pleases. Yuu’s sister got a hunch that the two of them are doing something naughty. She doesn’t immediately become suspicious though because she has a thing for Haruka as well. She would imagine the two of them kissing as well and it distracts her. It’s another cute aspect of the show and it adds to the thrill element as well knowing that Yuu’s sister is on to them yet they still do as they please without any care. Character wise, the two is completely one dimensional. Yuu is your typical overly cute character that pouts a lot and easily gets jealous when Haruka gets close to someone else. She also gets flustered easily so there is a bit of embarrassment when they kiss which is also cute. Haruka, on the other hand, is your typical overly friendly character that just smiles a lot. In a group of girls, there’s always this character that just goes along with whoever is joking around. Haruka fills this role. She is also often the one asking for a kiss. I am mostly bothered by the fact that there is no seme/uke interaction between the two characters. It’s always more fun to watch a submissive character succumb to the aggressive character’s whim and we’re lacking that for the main characters. They often just switch roles and it’s because they need to act cute all the time. Some scenes get naughty but it’s lacking some really steamy foreplay and playful banter that I personally enjoy in yuri.
Another pair has that though. Shizuku and Kotone is the other yuri pair in the anime and they actually have the seme/uke element and the also possess they playful banter that makes yuri awesome. They barely get any screen time though. I think they also have a story because they are related to each other yet they have fallen in love. From the small time they were mentioned, it’s established that Kotone’s family is strict and she ran away from home to shack up with Shizuku. The other girl is concerned though because of all the events that happened, she isn’t quite sure if Kotone really loves her or she is just being treated as a play toy by Kotone. Of course, our impressive seme would find a way to reassure the gentle uke that her love is pretty genuine. It is so f*cking annoying that this pair is side characters to a bland and shallow puppy dog fool around our main characters have going. This pair is actually a full pledged yuri pair. They’re serious with each other, their interaction is beyond romantic and they have a serious story that strengthens their love. Remember, they got little screen time. I think the series only focused on them four times often just half the episode. Despite that, I still enjoyed the hell out of them more than the ones the anime tried cramming down your throat. This also adds to the decreasing enjoyment in the show. I want this pair more than the main one yet I can’t get it. This pair is better and the other pair is sh*t compared to it. The more the anime establishes that this pair is superior the more I slowly got tired of the show. I mean, is it even worth watching when you know you can’t get what you actually want from this anime?
The weird thing about this show is that the most enjoyable characters are actually the one pair that doesn’t kiss at all. They’re even the top characters in the MAL page. It’s insane. I’m talking about Yuzu and Kaede. They’re a couple of best friends that know each other by heart. Yuzu is the typical loud type that has a lot of energy. Next to her is the quiet and level headed Kaede. In the show, you can call them the comedy and straight man because they always initiate a lot of the jokes and gags in the show. Kaede especially does this a lot by playing mean tricks on people. Yuzu would often just laugh away when it happens. Yuzu is also especially adorable because she is often clueless about certain things concerning her friends. She doesn’t know that her four new close friends are locking lips when no one is around. Yuzu doesn’t care though as long as she is having fun. Kaede is more intuitive though often picking up subtle hints about her friend. She often just stays quiet though because she doesn’t want to bother Yuzu with it. I think that’s the fun thing about this pair. They’re not romantic in any way but they have genuine feelings for each other. It’s not forced like the first couple and it is not playful foreplay like the other couple. It’s just two girls that understand each other and supports each other very much because they love each other. I actually thought these two would get it on later on but I soon realized that they are the best pair in the anime because they don’t cross that line. You know something is wrong in a shoujo ai anime when the best couples aren’t the shoujo ai ones.
There is also one element of the anime that I think was badly wasted. In the story, it was established that they will be the last batch of high school students in their school. The school will no longer accept students and then close after they graduate. Throughout the show, they keep talking about the school shutting down and how gloomy the place will be once they become second year students with no juniors below them. There is this wonderful air of uncertainty and a little bit of unexplained nostalgia that I think is a big positive aspect for this show. If it was implemented properly then the shoujo ai elements of the show would work a lot better. We have a bunch of girls making memories in the final days of this school. They could’ve balanced out the cute and yuri elements much better if they explored this story some more. With the school closing soon, the girls could have fun displaying their cuteness but also get serious when they’re alone confronted with the uncertainty of the future. The anime utilized it a bit at first by having the girls kiss in empty classrooms and hollow gym sheds that school clubs once stayed at. It’s an effective part of the story that is really underutilized. There’s wasted potential here that could’ve made the show a lot more enjoyable. It’s the marshmallow fluff elements that prevented this part of the story to actually blossom. It just wants everything to be laidback and sweet. Nothing serious to overthrow the intended slice of life feel the show is aiming for. Well, you have yuri elements there so I think it’s already clear that this isn’t your typical marshmallow anime. Why is it suddenly having an identity crisis? It’s stupid.
Despite my complaints about the overall aspects of the yuri elements and how overdone it became, this is still a one of a kind anime. There aren’t a lot of shows that’ll let two girls lock lips and that alone is a big reason to like this anime. It might get tiresome towards the end but I still think the experience is pretty worth it. Studio Deen did a pretty decent job with this adaptation. This is a studio that is really unpredictable. They have a wide range of works under their belt from BL shows to action heavy shows and I love how you’ll never expect the kind of shows they’ll produce next. Some of them are badly mediocre though but I’ll give a cookie for effort. If there’s one studio I’d confidently say can produce good shoujo ai then it’d be Studio Deen. After all, they’re on the forefront in shounen ai shows. All the notable ones are produced by Studio Deen so I hope they explore the shoujo ai genre more and deliver more awesome girl on girl scenes. I truly believe we need more girl on girl shows to balance out the otome shows we’ve flooded in the industry. You can trust the guy who directed Mariaholic to deliver on this shoujo ai anime. Kenichi Ishikura did a wonderful job adapting the manga. He is able to set a proper mood for the shoujo ai and also give us some well-paced slice of life. I have a problem with the shallowness of certain aspects of the show though but I think the manga had the same flaws. He directed some really good shows including Natsu no Arashi and the ef series. It’s a shame his works aren’t that prominent. I think he just needs to play around with his style. He adapts the source material well and I think that’s a great talent but he just needs an M.O. to make him stand out. I know a lot of bland directors and I don’t think Kenichi is one of them. He is also not that great either. He put effort on the thing that made this anime special though: the various making out scenes and I love him for that. Anyways, Sakura Trick is a pretty enjoyable show and I hope it starts the shoujo ai trend sometime down the road. I can only hope.
Sight and Sound
Tachi did an incredible job in designing the characters. Sakura Trick is one of those awesome four panel manga where the visuals just nicely stand out. Like most impressive four panels, Tachi excels in giving us small details that elevate his designs. He fits a lot of incredible details in the four panels he has to work with. I love authors that give that much effort to their work. His design is your typical sexy school girl that has wonderful legs and a curvy body hidden behind your uniform. It’s a typical design for yuri to have really sexy girls hide their appeal in their school uniform. Tachi applies the same in his works. He then adds a wonderful shade to the uniforms and then utilizes empty spaces to make the faces look clean. He then puts some incredible amount of details on the eyes while also capturing the perfect expression for that one small panel and then makes it complex by drawing the hair in such a beautiful manner that it naturally waves. I honestly tried doing that to GISS’ hair and it is f*cking hard to do. Tachi does that on a small panel and he makes it look easy. It speaks to the amazing talent this guy has. Each character has their own little details that make them unique. Even though he follows the typical school girl format, the design on the hair and the expressions vary making each character unique and easily recognizable. I love how he has a wide range in making the characters different. Even though Yuzu and Kaede has the same school girl template, you can tell each other apart and it’s thanks to the detail work Tachi puts in. The designs are even more impressive when four or five characters are featured in the same small panel. Again, he makes it look easy. Capturing a vibrant atmosphere in four small panels while also displaying individual traits for each character requires crazy talent and Tachi clearly has it. Telling a story in four panels is one thing. Setting a pace for a long intense make out scene is on an entire different plane of talent. I saw the kissing scenes and it is exactly the same as the ones in the anime. It’s vibrant, dynamic and very much intense. Tachi is able to set the mood in just four panels. My mind is really blown away. For the anime, the design is intact. The sexy school girl hiding in their uniform is captured by the show but the consistency often varies. Some scenes have more details than others. Tachi’s work is different wherein the panels are really filled with details. It’s a shame the anime wasn’t able to keep things consistent. His designs are simple though so the school uniform and the hair style are nicely adapted into the show. The small details are done away with though but it’s not that big of a change. Animation is where things become a bit problematic.
Inconsistent character design is fine by me but the inconsistent animation bothers me a lot. Marshmallow shows aren’t hard to animate and some studios even show of their animation chops because it’s so easy to create these cute shows. Studio Deen presented a pretty inconsistent show. Some parts are extremely well animated while certain dialogue scenes look sloppy. Need I mention the OP sequence? I would just like to say that I hate the OP sequence. It’s embarrassingly bad. The recycled animation and the awkward dance scene are painful to watch. It’s not all bad though. The animation excels where it truly counts: the make out scenes. The kissing animation is very complex. The girls would shove their tongue in the other girl’s mouth, there is a moment where the kiss is broken and then they kiss again and even the small details of having the heads move back and forth because of how forceful they are when kissing is so outstanding that I decided to GIF every single one of them. I didn’t GIF the last episode though. I didn’t like the kissing scenes there. Anyways, it’s not just the kissing animation that’s impressive. The show also implements different camera angles, CG cherry blossoms on some of them and a pan out shot for some of them. The camera work plus the intense animation creates for a really impressive moment animation wise. It balances out the inconsistent animation during certain scenes in the show.
A little side note though. I love how the background of the show has male characters. It establishes that this school has male characters and they’re often lovey dovey with female characters as well. It just adds another layer of yuri into the anime when the girls are kissing each other despite the abundance of male characters to meet. It’s just a little detail that makes me smile.
The anime’s OP song is “Won(*3*)Chu KissMe!” by SAKURA*TRICK [Haruka Takayama (Haruka Tomatsu), Yuu Sonoda (Yuka Iguchi), Kotone Noda (Yuuka Aisaka), Shizuku Minami (Hiromi Igarashi), Kanade Ikeno (Mai Fuchigami), Yuzu Iizuka (Megumi Toda)]. It’s basically performed by the characters of this show. It’s your typical romantic song about someone declaring how much another person means to them. It’s cute and the lyrics are pretty decent. For such a large cast though, I only hear one person dominantly singing in the OP. I think other characters had some share of the lyrics or maybe Haruka Tomatsu trumped all their voices, either way it just felt forced to me. The OP sequence also felt forced. I really hate this OP. The recycled animation is scene during the first moments when the girls glanced at each other and then did the exact same dance. It looks weird. Then we have a girl break dancing and then an ensemble of girls doing some random awful sh*t together. Plus points for the bouncing boobs but what the hell is this? It honestly turned me off the show at first but the OP opened with the main characters kissing and I just knew I had to endure all the dumb stuff.
The anime’s ED song is “Kiss(and)Love” by SAKURA*TRICK [Haruka Takayama (Haruka Tomatsu) and Yuu Sonoda (Yuka Iguchi)].This is sung by the two main characters. Again, I only hear one voice but maybe that’s just me. The song is just like the OP song. It’s your standard love song about someone being in love with another person. This one is more about the characters though as it tells about two close people who share their secrets with each other and spends precious time together. The song is muddled though because of the retarded ED sequence. I’m convinced someone else directed the OP and ED. Its fan service heavy mixed with chibi to replace scenes that require high animation. I don’t get it. It looks lazy and confusing. Who came up with these sequences?
8/10 “It has girls making out. How many anime revel on that fact?”
I’m sure a lot of us wished to watch an anime where girls actually kiss each other. Sakura Trick fulfills that wish in a wonderful way. It is still your standard marshmallow anime though with a lot of boring dialogue scenes but it’s balanced out by the shoujo ai moments. I personally have some complains about the yuri elements but I still think this anime is unique simply for being proud of those elements. If you ever watched a lot of cute girls doing cute things show and wonder what if these characters started making out then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you’re a sane person that just enjoys marshmallow anime then you’ll like this one as well. I recommend it.