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AKA: 桜Trick
Genre: Yuri slice-of-life romance comedy
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Licensed by Sentai Filmworks; currently stream on crunchyroll
Content Rating: 16+ (brief undetailed nudity, fan service, adult themes and situations, and more fan service)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Azumanga Daioh, Bodacious Space Pirates, MariMite, YuruYuri
Notes: Based on the ongoing seinen manga of the same name written and illustrated by Tachi, serialized in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Miracle since 2011.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Sakura Trick

Synopsis

Wikipedia) Haruka Takayama and Yuu Sonoda were inseparable during middle school, but upon entering high school, they end up being seated on opposite sides of the classroom. Having to spend time with more friends, the two decide to make their relationship special by kissing each other in secret.

(Disclaimer: No actual LGBT people were consulted or involved in the production of this franchise.)


Review

It is absolutely no secret that the yuri genre (often referred to euphemistically as "girl's love") often has little to do with actual LGBT issues, rather, aiming to entertain and titillate a primarily male viewing audience. A great case in point is YuruYuri, a show that eschews any actual attempt at portraying social issues in favor of obnoxiously cute girls being obnoxiously cute at each other while occasionally pandering to the male audience's baser instincts with snippets of obvious fan service, which I'm certainly not going to pretend equates to quality television (even as I await the third season of that show with bated breath, like a favorite junk food).

Sakura Trick is essentially YuruYuri with T&A. It's like someone challenged the creators of this show to be as fan-servicey as possible without actually showing nudity or panty shots, and the result is remarkably, and uncomfortably over-the-top "titillation" that involves a team of the naughtiest cameramen imaginable, slow-panning over thighs and breasts and butts, while our vapid, ditzy, whiny, possessive lead characters Haruka and Yuu take every possible excuse to make out with each other. And no, don't try to make this into a drinking game, unless you intend to die of cirrhosis inside of three episodes ... though weirdly, probably the most egregious and over-the-top fan service in right there in the opening sequence (which, even more bizarrely, features 100% more nudity than the ACTUAL SHOW).

Weirdly, once you get past the whininess of the leads and their chronic inability to hide what is supposed to be a secret relationship, not to mention the naughty cinematography, what we get are a bunch of high school girls who are, in fact, pretty likable - though I wouldn't consider any of the characterizations deep, attempts at high drama and angst are fairly quickly deflated by a solid core of silliness and lightheartedness, which in this case is actually rather welcome. Sakura Trick isn't meant to be a drama, really - honestly, the biggest surprises of the series for me involve one character not actually being into other girls (or at least just waiting for the right closet key to come along!) and the actual development of several characters (particularly Haruka, who, while perpetually flighty, at least finds it in herself to actually stand up for her relationship with Yuu when it counts).

In technical matters, this is very much a fan-service driven show, and therefore a lot of emphasis is made on making the girls look very pretty, particularly during Haruka and Yuu's periodic (some might say incessant) liaisons (or those of other characters, later on), though you never see anyone get past that baseline between first and second base. Oddly enough, there are a lot of brightly-colored shots and backgrounds, probably to emphasize in a way what a "rose-colored" view of the world this is we are watching. There's also some mildly interesting metaphorical imagery of each of the characters -- though I do have to say that Haruka's hair-kerchief is one of the weirdest hair decorations I've seen in a very long time, especially outside of a fantasy series.

It seems almost extraneous to discuss the voice cast -- Haruka (Haruka Tomatsu - Asuna in Sword Art Online) and Yuu (Yuka Iguchi - Index from A Certain Scientific Franchise) do just fine, though the scene stealer (not always in a good way) is Yuu's older sister, the highly "imaginative" (read: delusional and transparently-closeted) student body president Mitsuki (Saki Fujita - Mahiru Inami in Working!!). Musically, it's a barrage of sickly sweet bubblegum pop and dialogue interspersed with tons and tons of chimes and sound effects (more so than the usual series).

Now, I won't lie to you: I actually enjoyed this show. Whether that translates to an actual recommendation, though, is another story entirely. I really wanted to quit this show from the get-go (and I don't blame the majority of my friends who *did*), but in persevering for review purposes, I strangely actually found myself rooting for these characters to find their happiness. There's a certain earnest sweetness to how the show treats the actual relationships that I really sort of admire. Unfortunately, you have to dig through a lot of exploitative imagery to get there -- there's no escaping that this is, at least on the surface, highly objectifying and fetishistic, and that's going to make this a very polarizing series.

Sakura Trick is a shallow but sweet-hearted romance comedy hidden under many thick layers of fan service and titillation. For those of you looking for a serious treatment of LGBT issues, you might be best served looking anywhere but here, but *if* you really desperately need a yuri fix and aren't horribly offended by what you see in the opening sequence then you could actually do a lot worse than this. Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Probably the most inappropriate a show can get without actually featuring nudity (apart from non-detailed nudity in the opening sequence) or onscreen sex, this series features almost incessant ogling and suspicious camera angles of high school girls making out with each other. Older teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Sakura Trick © 2014 Tachi / Houbunsha / Sakura Trick Production Committee
 
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