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

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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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Karandi James


Sagrada Reset Episode 24: Kei is Everyone’s Hero

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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 Episodes 19 + 20: An Interesting Development

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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 15 + 16: Why is there no restore power?

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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 12

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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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Sagrada Reset Episode 11

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Review:

I was 99.9% sure that at the end of this episode I was going to drop the show. Dead girl is no longer dead, I have no further investment in the characters or mystery, and now we’re kind of getting a filler episode following the apparently human character who is making most toasters look like they have a personality. Actually, I’m sure my toaster has more personality. Although worst of all is probably the absence of Asai Kei. While he isn’t the most dynamic character ever, his presence in this show keeps things kind of clicking over and without him we really are just stuck looking at sleeping cats and buying ice-cream.

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So why am I not declaring this show dead boring and being done with it? Because I stupidly watched the preview and once again it looks like things might become interesting. Why I would believe that when this show has squandered almost every chance it has had at being interesting is an interesting question and one that I’m sure I’ll come back to in a few week’s time. For now though, despite going on a break very soon, I’ll probably continue with this show into the next season which means I’ll catch up on episode reviews after my break. Either that or announce that I’ve officially dropped it.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 9

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Review:

Part of me really wonders why Sagrada Reset is determined to tell its story in non-chronological order. For some shows it works and keeps things interesting but for this show, where we’re already moving back and forth in time through resets, it really just makes it harder to string together the timeline and basically you end up feeling like these events lack context.

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This episode takes us back to two weeks after Soma’s death and to be honest it does answer a few questions. We start to see Misora’s absolute dependence on Kei for the resets, even if her reasoning is pretty ordinary, and we also see how Kei made the decision to continue with resets despite the death of a friend. It’s a nice bit of information about the characters but would it have made any difference if we’d seen it back when we first had Soma’s death?

The other thing I picked up that I’d already kind of figured out is that Kei is really good t sophistry. His rationalisation of his choices has always been based on a range of assumptions (some more believable than others) and his decision to use the resets anyway was no different. What was a bit different was that Misora actually picked up on the fact that most of Kei’s spiel was just that. He believed he needed to reset but didn’t believe any of the rest of his own arguments.

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This show remains fun to pick apart and theorise about, but individual episodes are still pretty slow and fairly ordinary to watch. This episode was no exception basically being an extended flash back full of dialogue and absolutely no action of any kind (unless you count eating a Kit Kat).

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 7

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Review:

I still do not actually get what is Oka Eri’s issue with Kei other than the fact that he gave her advice that apparently he has decided was not so great while she disagrees, but she is dominating this episode with her brash personality like a force of nature. In a show full of very serious characters who seldom emote, Eri’s open hostility and playful cruelty (even if her motives seem pretty vapid when not entirely muddled) is a breath of fresh air.

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Of course, we’re still obsessing about the MacGuffin and I still don’t know if it is in anyway significant.

I just had one question specifically about the end of this episode though. If Oka Eri actually uses her ability to implant a memory in Misora, doesn’t that mean Misora’s reset ability will come back. And after that happens, as long as Misora actually does reset before the time limit passes, won’t the false memory be erased? So would Misora gain her reset ability back with pretty much no consequence? And if that is the case and I wasn’t totally lost on the explanation of how Eri’s power worked, doesn’t Eri realise that using her ability again on Misora would have that effect? Or does the reset not effect an implanted memory?

Well, part three of this sequence is next week and I’m guessing we’ll get to some sort of conclusion.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 6

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Review:

This episode was surprisingly compelling after last week’s little bit of a stall for this very odd series. We started four years ago watching a young Kei Asai on a train being given a phone and essentially lured by curiosity to continue onto Sakurada. This surprised me because I thought I remembered Kei saying his parents had left and he’d chosen to stay, but now it looks like his parents were never in the town (maybe I just mis-remembered).

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Jumping back to now we see a little more of the Bureau, though nothing that resembles an actual explanation, and Kei is asked by more than one person to hand over the MacGuffin only as far as we know it doesn’t do anything. That said, in terms of characterisation, this episode was leaps and bounds ahead of previous ones and we even get some actual reflection from Kei about the choice he made to die two episodes ago.

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I kind of like that there are lasting impacts of this choice both on Kei and the girl he let kill him and remember doing it. The episode ends with a red eyed girls declaring herself to be a villain threatening to take Misora’s reset ability away and Kei asking Misora to reset. Between new characters, hints at the Bureau’s beginnings, character development, and quite a number of scene changes, this is a fairly dense episode for all that it feels laid back. Still no idea where this is going though.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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