Asai Kei looking badass. A shot from the second OP.
Once, in 2010, I bought an issue of The Sneaker, a now-defunct magazine with serialized light novels – that’s when I first heard of the series. Sakurada Reset, by Kouno Yutaka. It was at its second volume back then. I pretty much forgot about its existence, until November 2016, when its animated adaptation was announced. In April this year, I checked out the first episode. And was blown away.
Sakurada is a special place – a seaside town where… superpowers exist. One day, one of its residents, a highschooler named Asai Kei gets introduced by a friend, Souma Sumire to a girl, Haruki Misora, who has the ability to turn back time. Her power proves useless, though – she doesn’t retain the memories of the previous world after she uses Reset. Asai Kei’s special ability, however, is perfect memory – so perfect, he even remembers what happened before Haruki resets the world. Together, their powers complement each other. Haruki is a kuudere, but it turns out her lack of emotion actually comes from too much compassion. What Asai Kei sees in her is a perfectly good entity. Being an ethics nerd and an uncompromising perfectionist, he wins her trust and the couple goes on a grand quest of “erasing people’s tears” – everytime there’s a suffering person in need, Asai Kei will attempt (and succeed, always) to make the person happy. He’ll also make sure all the interested parties are content and nobody else suffers because of his intervention, which will force him to face many moral dilemmas. And do it without resorting to violence. He always saves *all* the people from the Trolley Problem, that’s the kind of badass he is. During the 24 episodes of the anime, the two will meet all kinds of superpower users – solve their problems, make friends with them, and make use of their abilities. They’ll have to deal with the Bureau, an organization in charge of controlling the superpowers of Sakurada. Meet with the Witch, the owner of the ultimate superpower. Try to pacify Murase Youka, a supervillain with a grudge against the Bureau. Get help from Nonoo Seika, who can get into minds of cats. Cleverly fool Sakuin, a living lie detector. They raise Souma Sumire from the dead by using a sweet combo of superpowers. And win against Urachi Masamune, who wants to completely rid Sakurada off superpowers, by pulling off an impressive display of chessmastery and “no, it’s ME who’s behind YOU” shenanigans.
So, Sakurada Reset is a superhero story… with a Makino Yui OP! However, the heroes and villains of Sakurada don’t wear spandex, nor do they have bombastic names ending with “-man”. They mostly wear school uniforms and bear rather down-to-earth, human names. What’s more, the show goes out of its way to paint Sakurada as a quaint, charming place. Trying to prevent a cat’s death. People arguing over a curious-looking stone. Using supernatural abilities to enter photos. Eating KitKat. Pretty music. That’s the aesthetic Sakurada Reset is going for – no typical superhero comic grimdarkness in sight. Sentimental X-Men.
I love Sakurada Reset. However, it’s a story that chooses its fans, no wonder it’s more of a “hidden gem” than a series with any potential for mainstream popularity. It has plenty of features you might hate. In essence, it’s a chessmaster story with time travelling, which, out of necessity, makes Sakurada Reset a convoluted, tough-to-follow mess. It requires
constant attention. This anime is very dialogue heavy, so much so that the decision to animate the novels was suspect in the first place. Maybe Sakurada Reset should have remained a novel series. Thankfully, it’s rather slowly paced, which makes all the
hopping from branch to branch of the tree that is the multiverse more palatable. It’s also a romance. The love-hate relationship that Haruki and Souma, both wanting Asai Kei for themselves, have going on is super sad. Yuuki Aoi’s godly voice makes me feel for Souma Sumire even more – it’s probably 50% responsible for me liking her so much. Although the only person the show acknowledges as “emotionless” is Haruki, pretty much everyone is a kuudere in Sakurada. The show being endless dialogues of calmly speaking, unemotional people might be another hurdle to jump over for some people. That’s consistent with the kind of experience Kouno Yutaka decided to serve the viewer, but it’s understandable that people might not like that. And in the end, Sakurada Reset is a Gary Stu story. It’s all about observing how Asai Kei the perfectionist badass gets out of yet another conundrum only by talking to people and saves everyone without exception. He’s pretty much Shiba Tatsuya, but much more believable and less quick to perform asspulls. And instead of magical not-guns, he has two cute girls. Checkmate, Onii-sama.
Anyway, Sakurada Reset is divine. It’s “my kind of story” to an extent so big, I can’t help but be amazed. Kouno Yutaka is now on my list of people to look out for. He’s written some mysteries too, I’d like to get my hands on that someday. I finished rewatching it yesterday, a few weeks after it finished airing and I have to say it’s one of the shows
that should be marathoned instead of being watched week to week – since it’s so leasurely-paced and depends on your memory and attention so much. One of my favorite anime of the decade. Go watch it!