Sagrada Reset Series Review: Why An Interesting Premise Isn’t Always Enough

Overview:

Sakurada is a town where the majority of the people have power. One specific power each that can be used under specific conditions. Most of these powers are harmless and fairly useless individually, but this is still a point of concern for those watching over the city. Kei’s power is that he doesn’t forget anything including time even after the world is reset by Misora. By combining their powers they are going to work to help people.

Review:

Sagrada Reset (or Sakurada Reset) is a fairly interesting anime. That will probably be hard to believe if you spend even five minutes doing a google search on it and see the parade of reviews of the first, second and third episodes and then see that the internet went pretty silent on this title as a large number of viewers dropped this and moved on. However, this is a 24 episode anime and one that the writers clearly intended people to watch the whole of rather than receiving instant gratification each and every episode, and to be honest I’m really glad I watched this through to the end, despite my own stated desire to drop this show mid-season.

There are plenty of shows where the whole is greater than the sum of their parts and some of those actually manage to be decent week to week, so I guess the question I’m left with is why was Sagrada such a frustrating viewing experience when stretched out from April to early September?

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For a lot of the reviews I read of the early episodes, it was the characterisation and pacing that was killing the show. The characters were compared to robots, androids, lifeless dolls and pretty much anything else that has about as much personality as a brick. It wasn’t even that much of a stretch. These characters do spend a great deal of time sitting very still with limited movement other than the occasional head tilt, talking in a manner that to the average listener sounds grossly unnatural. To be precise, the characters are ridiculously precise in a way that no-one ever is when speaking. It is an odd experience listening to them and there isn’t much visually happening to distract you.

That isn’t the same thing as a criticism though. Certainly it isn’t natural, but natural is probably not what anyone intended to go for with these characters. So for the first three episodes, I found these characters fascinating. Not actually good characters or terribly real, but interesting in that unique, what-are-they-doing kind of way. Admittedly, by mid-season, some of that charm had worn off and what I was left with was stilted characters who I will admit now were developing (as evidenced by where they end up) but it was happening so slowly that it was almost imperceptible until you actually reflected back.  Kei in the final episodes isn’t the Kei we met early on despite what the other characters might say and Misora, the emotionless robot girl herself is almost getting close to real person status by the end and you can’t really put your finger on when that transformation occurred because it has been a slow build of a myriad of tiny changes.

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Basically, the characters won’t work for everyone and none of them are going to end up on my character of the year list, but I am going to remember them because they don’t fit into the average moulds I’m used to seeing marched out onto the screen in anime. Again, not sure if that is positive, but it isn’t a criticism either. It just kind of is and different people in the audience will respond to them differently. For a lot of people that response is to turn the show off.

The second major criticism of the pacing is a harder one to discuss. The pacing is incredibly slow. Even with a two year time-skip by the time I got to the end of this show’s run it felt like I had been watching it forever. Part of that I think will be solved now that the full show is released and I intend to revisit this show and binge it in three or four blocks to see if that makes the pacing any more tolerable. With the pacing as it is though… Well, you have to either be really interested in the premise or find the characters really fascinating if you are actually going to push through with this one particularly during the first twelve episodes. Fortunately the second half definitely hits the accelerator and while it is still fairly measured, it isn’t making you want to pull your own hair out anymore.

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But these aren’t the only issues the show suffers from. It also suffers from a main character whose motives and actual personality are murky. He isn’t the good guy trying to save the world because he can. He isn’t on any kind of ego trip. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the best. He openly admits he is being selfish and that his own goals don’t have any higher meaning other than they are what he wants to do. Basically Kei Asai is the central figure of a story and his actions do drive a lot of the plot but those actions regularly have no significant meaning behind them. There is the motivator of trying to undo the death of Sumire Soma from early in the story, but most of the missions Kei undertakes for the Bureau have no direct connection to that event and it is hard to see what benefit Kei is seeking from his actions sometimes. That made it hard to care whether he succeeded or not, a lot of the time.

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Misora isn’t much better. Particularly early on. She seems so empty and useless as a character, her entire identity defined by how Kei sees her. It would be very easy to rant about female characters lacking agency but when we see the entire journey Misora takes, while it doesn’t make her earlier character all that palatable, it makes it hard to get on a high horse about character development. Misora arguably has the most development as Kei, despite changes that you would expect from the life he has lived, doesn’t gain anywhere near as much in terms of personality as Misora does from the events and experiences.

With the two central characters being hard to care about or rally behind, it keeps the audience at a distance from the show. There’s limited investment in the events and in their outcomes early on. Not to mention, Misora’s Reset ability is overwhelming and it is hard to imagine something coming along that she couldn’t fix despite the early blunder where a Reset had already been used making it ‘impossible’ to fix Soma’s death.

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Yet despite all these potential criticisms and deal breaking flaws that the show exhibits, there is one thing that having watched it from start to finish that I am very happy with. This is a planned and fully cohesive story. With one exception (that I’m hoping does tie in and I just missed it), every one of the earlier stories and events that Kei and Misora go through in that first half of the series is utilised and drawn back into the central plot as the show moved into and through its final arc. Conversations and ideas that felt meaningless, bewildering, or tacked on and then forgotten, suddenly serve great purpose and come together to make an ending which is rich in meaning and purpose and feels genuinely rewarding. Part of the reward is that you succeeded in the endurance test of not dropping this show, but the other part is that what you are seeing is actually satisfying story telling.

It is the kind of thing that is seen far too rarely in anime. As a medium, anime is there and then gone. One season is quickly followed by another and so many shows come out that viewers take one or two looks (and a lot follow a three episode rule) and make their choices. So shows stack their ideas and displays of prowess and frequently forget the greater narrative leading to stagnating middle-seasons and convoluted or messy endings (or worse, a non-ending). For everything that Sagrada Reset has against it, that ending alone made it worth my time.

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But, I wouldn’t have gotten there if I hadn’t been drawn to other aspects of the shows. The main draw for me was the premise. The town of Sakurada was interesting and the way powers could be combined and used for unexpected purposes was enough of a novelty for a slowly moving plot to keep me coming back even at the mid-season point where I seriously considered letting this show go from my line-up. The interactions between the students and the bureau also gave me hope that this story had some greater purpose or meaning in store for us and ultimately it did do something with those ideas even if it was never quite what I expected. And that was the other part of the show’s charm. It never quite went the direction I thought it might go but it never did anything that you could consider overly crazy with its narrative. Everything was logical and methodical and while that may not sound all that appealing, I quite appreciated it.

I will put a warning on this anime though if you are triggered by acts of self-harm. Kei has very little sense of self-preservation and some of his tactics and moves are quite underhanded and on at least two occasions violent. So while this show is not a gore fest or anything of the sort, those scenes are confronting, more so because the rest of the events are so benign.

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This isn’t an anime I will recommend because the vast majority of people are not going to like it. However, it you’ve got the time and you like to see something that takes a slightly different approach (not a radical reinvention or innovation but just not exactly the norm), then this is worth watching. If you make it through to the end you’ll probably gain some satisfaction though whether you end up feeling it was worth the time it took to get there is something only you can decide.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 24: Kei is Everyone’s Hero

Review:

As this is a final episode review I’m not worried about spoilers so if you are concerned, please go back and read some of the reviews of earlier episodes.

I know with absolute certainty that writing a full season review of this is going to be really hard. There are some things about this show that I have loved (and that’s why I made it through all those very long feeling episodes), but the glaring flaws of the series haven’t gone away. They carry through right to this final episode and are actually emphasised by the fact that a lot of this episode returns us to the thoughts and feelings we had back in those first few episodes nearly six months ago.

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Having resolved the whole power loss thing and the future of Sakurada (or at least found a temporary solution so things can go on hold) the majority of this episode focuses on the inter-relationships between Kei, Misora and Soma. Though, we do get flashes of pretty much every other significant character from the series so we can see that they all in fact got a more or less happy ending. It is a blink and you miss it nod to the fact that other characters exist.

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Despite the fact that the main plot resolved itself, I actually found this ending reasonably satisfying because the story started with this trio and has been shaped around their relationships, so giving a final episode to properly provide closure here didn’t feel like an added extra. It actually felt like the writers had carefully considered what the main story was and realistically it was always about Kei, Misora and Soma as the whole powers getting taken away crisis only really came up toward the end of the run.

Yeah, I’ll get to a full review soon but right now I’m feeling pretty happy with how this played out even if the actual viewing during the mid-season became incredibly frustrating.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 23: When Going Back to the Beginning Works

Review:

Sagrada Reset has been an odd watch and as watch the penultimate episode the show is truly demonstrating that if nothing else this was an incredibly well thought out project, even if that very calculated nature early on made the series a someone stilted viewing experience and one that wasn’t particularly enjoyable in the early stages. Despite that, this episode only works because of the foundation that was carefully laid out and these last four episodes and this final arc has been an incredibly satisfying viewing experience.

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As always, the characters take time out even during what counts as an action sequence, to discuss their personal philosophies and question the meaning of their actions in dialogue that really does not sound natural and yet after 23 episodes of this I’ve kind of gotten used to it as a viewer.

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Kei still settles issues with threats of self-harm rather than threats against others, a throw back to one of the very first cases he worked on where he actually cut himself before a reset. It is pleasing to note that Asai Kei isn’t on some epic journey of self-discovery. He is who he is and while his views might be a little off, he remains true to them and they dictate his every action. Personally I find him too idealistic and immature to really get the admiration many of the other characters seem to have for him, but as a character he is ultimately more interesting than someone who is just going to fight to get stronger every episode. I also like that the double agendas characters have used all the way through the series comes back in this episode where Kei is seemingly trying to convince Urachi but is actually working very solidly on persuading someone else to join his side.

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Unfortunately, Misora’s role in all of this was glorified secretary but it kind of looks from the preview like she’ll have a bigger part to play next episode. And I am really kind of wondering what is going to happen now Sumire has returned to Sagrada?

It is hard to say without seeing the final episode, but I really think this is a series that if you bailed out on early is worth giving another shot to now that you can binge episodes in bulk. This has become quite an interesting story when you look at the whole rather than the individual parts which admittedly are a little buggy.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 22: What’s Next, Kei?

Review:

We’re so close to the end now and I have to say, this show has becoming surprisingly great to watch in its final arc. I’m actually thinking this story would have worked much better as a binge because all that set up wouldn’t have taken months, but hours and I’d probably have tolerated it better. However, that’s hindsight for you and it isn’t as though I can go back and tell myself just to wait until this finishes airing.

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Kei is getting the gang together and then faces off with Urachi in a last ditch effort to save Sakurada from having memories of powers removed. It is odd because I don’t want Urachi to win but Kei’s overall motivation is pretty flimsy. He likes the town and the powers. That seems like a really weak motivator for attempting to defy a government agency, reverse time, and now kidnapping.

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Still, Urachi is entirely self-motivated and really hasn’t thought about anyone outside of himself so I wouldn’t want to see him come out on top. It is also good to see Kei relying on the others to keep his plan, whatever it is, moving even if he does seem to be using his ‘friends’ like chess pieces in this match.

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From the looks, this show has two episodes left and I’m really hoping it can end on the high it seems to be heading for and doesn’t manage to fall apart by trying to be overly clever at the end. If it can do that, than this has the potential to be one of my favourite shows of the year despite how irritating I found a lot of the first half. Of course, that is ‘if it can do that’.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 21: Decisions and Consequences

Review:

There’s a real sense of tension in this episode and it is a feeling that has been lacking from the majority of the season. Suddenly it feels very real that Kei might lose because for once resetting is not going to solve the problem and the witch has run out of tricks to help him. That said, Kei has always found a way before even if his methods are questionable. He was described by Urachi this episode as ‘insane’ rather than ‘honest’ and I have to say that some of his earlier action probably support that analysis of his character.

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Soma has given her last hint to Kei and is now trying to not be a liability. This leads to her nearly taking her own life, which of course leads us back to the question of the swampman and whether or not this current Soma is actually Soma or just some program Soma set in motion. It’s interesting because there is no answer and ultimately you are just looping through rationalisation which has kind of been the reason I stuck this show out. It makes me think things through but doesn’t simply drop an answer on your lap if you wait long enough.  That said, it hasn’t made individual episodes any more exciting to watch, but suddenly all of the characters have come together and are choosing a side. Will Sakurada still have people who can use abilities in a few days time or not?

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It seems that Kei came to some sort of decision by the end of this episode but as usual he hasn’t bothered to let anyone else in on his thoughts so the audience are pretty much in the dark. Though Urachi did make me really curious about what he has written in his notebook.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 19 + 20: An Interesting Development

Review Episode 19:

Thinking about it, I would have to say that this was the best episode this show has so far delivered. What is kind of strange about that statement is that nothing that happens in this episode makes sense of is interesting if you haven’t sat through at least 17 of the previous episodes (the glass marble one is still making me scratch my head about why it existed). Still, this episode delivered and while I expected Misora to be targeted I probably should have paid more attention to the time frame for the show; both the time Kei and Misora have spent together and the time that Urachi can actually effect. I may have seen that development coming if I’d put the two together after the last episode. But I kind of like that sort of development that catches me by surprise but makes perfect sense.

This week we get a back story for Urachi and I like that they don’t spend too much time trying to make him a sympathetic character but do establish his goals and motives and it all kind of makes sense even if you do not want him to actually succeed.

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However outside of this, we finally get closure on why Soma Sumire died. No more speculation or half answers but actual truth and understanding. Also, the whole swamp man story from way back when returns which is a nice bit of cohesion for the series.

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The scenes between Soma and Kei this week are some of the best with Kei actually emoting in a genuine fashion for once and Soma finally not being the ‘witch’ but just a girl (or a copy of a girl) who isn’t going to end up with the guy she likes because she prioritized his happiness (maybe). It was kind of adorable.

Anyway, glad this show made a last minute attempt to pull itself out of a downward spiral and this second half has been really quite interesting, though probably not enough to offset how slow that first half was.

Review Episode 20:

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And we have entered what appears to be the final story with part one of five and abilities have been wiped from Sakurada with people forgetting them. However, Kei can’t forget and after one day of exploration he decides that abilities need to come back so he’s going to get Misora to reset.

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Of course, she’s been reverted to before she met Kei and has no reason to do what he says and more importantly has no memory of his power. Enter the photo that they were given which creates a replica of the place when abilities existed and then give a nod back to the fact that before Misora met Kei she just reset whenever she saw someone cry. Yes, the guy who has been pretty robotic all the way through has finally cried though to be honest I’m not sure if it was because of the situation or just because trying to reconcile all those different memories, both real and fake, just finally got to him.

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So, they now have two days to find a way to stop history repeating and abilities being wiped from Sakurada. On the bright side, even Kei acknowledges there isn’t really a reason abilities are needed and that he just likes it. I’d be kind of disappointed if they tried to pull some kind of theme of justice out of this at this point given all the way along we’ve been subject to the whims of the characters.

Looking forward to these final episodes.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 17 + 18: Too Late To Save It But Things Are Finally Moving

Review Episode 17:

It is a shame it has taken 17 episodes to get to this point where finally the audience is given some insight into how such a town came to be and what its purpose might have been. Though, outside of that, the story continues as Kei tries to correct everything he sees as wrong even though no one else seems to even care what is going on the Bureau continues to either be a faceless entity or represented by the sub-group who are clearly pushing a personal agenda that may or may not be problematic (I can’t see the future so what would I know).

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Overall, Soma seems to still have things going her way but we’re still in the dark as to what it is she’s trying to ultimately accomplish. It would be nice if there was some clarity around that soon. As always, I find the idea of this show more interesting than its reality.

Review Episode 18:

That was actually a really good episode. Not just good compared to everything that had come before it, but just great to watch. You finally feel like there’s some pay off from watching through all the very stilted conversations this show has thrown at you.

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The character motives still remain a little murky and at times you just have to wonder how they think things will be better if they succeed, but at least all the little incidents are starting to make sense as to why we sat through them (except the girl in the glass marble – that one is still a mystery).

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There’s one more part in this particular arc and I’m really looking forward to it now. I still don’t actually think I should recommend this for people to watch. As a viewing experience it is still kind of lacking, but at least I’m starting to feel like it has been worth sticking it out.


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Sagrada Reset Episodes 15 + 16: Why is there no restore power?

Review Episode 15:

I’m going to get this out of my system first: Why didn’t Misora tell Kei what she learned in the dream world? He reset it out of existence and because he didn’t know about it, it’s gone except for Soma’s malicious comment at the end. She may not have trying for malice, but telling someone they erased a crucial character development point from the girl they just admitted to liking is malicious no matter how you want to spin it.

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Okay, this episode ends the whole dream world story though to be honest the resolution was pretty much believe in yourself and reach out to friends or whatever and even the show itself didn’t really seem to care in the end about what happened to Michiru so I doubt we’re supposed to either. It really feels like this whole arc was just an excuse to get all the other players into place.

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This show is still incredibly slow even when it packs that much information into an episode the pace of events feel like they are crawling, but I kind of need to know what Soma is up to, so next episode here we go.

Review Episode 16:

This episode starts a new story arc and I must say this one has started in a pretty interesting manner. Then again, this show has never had a problem with intriguing ideas, it is more delivery and characterisation that it falls flat in.

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Soma is playing a fairly dangerous game by the looks of it and she’s most definitely dragging Kei (and by default, Misora) into the mess. From a relationship side, Kei finally actually spoke to Misora and made sure she saved after that point so for once he won’t reset their relationship progress out of existence. That’s a step forward. Too bad it took 16 episodes to get there.

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Okay, I am going to finish this show. I was thinking of dropping it now the new season had started but I can’t help it. I’m curious and want to know how this ends.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 14

Review:

This episode kind of took talk fest to a new level as we had various characters insist they are right and that they know some sort of truth and the audience is left wondering what the point of any of it is given everything of consequence occurs only within the dream world. If they are asking us to wonder about the validity of actions within the dream world and whether they are of consequence and whether this is real or not, I guess it works, but otherwise I’ve kind of lost track of what the actual plot of this story is.

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Next episode is the last in this particular story arc so I guess we’ll wrap up the dream world thing but whether that brings us any closer to knowing what this story ultimately intends, who knows.

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Part of me wishes I didn’t care what Soma’s plan was, what Kei is ultimately trying to accomplish and whether Misora ever develops an identity outside of Kei. A lot of me wishes that I didn’t care about the nature of the entire town and whether they ever explain any of it. This isn’t fun to watch but I’m continually compelled to watch just one more in the hopes of some sort of answer.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 12

Review:

I’m kind of lost again with the timeline on this story. I think we jumped forward again after the resurrection/recovery of Sumire but I’m not entirely sure. That aside, she’s alive and giving cryptic messages and answers to people seemingly for the sake of them not explaining things. That really drives me crazy about this show. It seems she has no actual reason not to tell someone and yet she simply gives them the ‘that’s a secret’ line and the audience are left with nothing to go on and nothing to work with. If we at least knew the reason for her secret keeping that would be something.

Outside of that, I am glad that Sumire set Kei right about who was responsible for her resurrection and subsequent life. He didn’t listen, but she least explicitly pointed out it was her plan and he isn’t responsible for what happens next.

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Now if only Misora could take a page out of this book and not just blindly listen to and follow Kei. I’m sorry, but Kei’s reaction to Misora’s reaction after the black out just kind of made me want to slap him.

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About the episode itself, they go inside a dream world because Kei is interested in seeing whether this will help Sumire (even though Sumire has told him that it isn’t his problem) and for some reason they take the cat girl with them but we don’t see her again this episode (guess that’s important later), and for some reason there’s someone from the Bureau there as well. Other than that,  I got nothing in terms of what this episode does. Well, Kei gets cookies.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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