First off, what we have here is a silly school romance comedy that’s far better-looking than you’d expect, like Love Lab last Summer. A typical shortcut is employed (not coloring in the extras), but we liked the clever use of symbols to preface actions and lines by characters, be it Yuu’s flower, Haruka’s ribbon, or Yuzu’s…a yuzu for Yuzu. That frees up animation resources for when they counted the most, like when Yuu and Haruka are in close physical contact, which is surprisingly often.
Any hopes of this being a subtle Yuri show along the lines of Aoi Hana or Sasameki Koto surviving past the cold open were were promptly, cruelly defenestrated by the off-putting OP, which was a bit too exhibitionist for our taste. But once that was over, things settled down nicely. There’s no trick to Sakura Trick; it never comes close to anything resembling drama or peril. It’s just a pleasant slice-of-life about two girls starting high school who are Pre-Into each other. Their exploits probably wouldn’t be too scandalous except in more conservative high schools. We’re not sure whether this is one such school, but it can’t hurt to not get caught regardless!
The episode is split into two stories (a la Kill Me Baby, mais contrairement Kimi ni Todoke). The big event of the A-part—Yuu and Haruka’s first kiss—informs those of the B-part: Haruka is worried Yuu forgot about it, but is ultimately proven otherwise. Yuu (Iguchi Yuka) is the shorter, peppier, more naturally popular one while Haruka (Tomatsu Haruka. Haruka Matata!) is the taller, bustier, clingier, more jealosy-prone one. And even though the A-part is mostly from Haruka’s POV, there’s a good overall balance to their interactions and banter. They work as a couple.
We enjoyed how a big reason Yuu and Haruka got to be alone so early and often was essentially because their school is failing, because there aren’t enough kids to justify keeping it open another year. That means there was a vacant, lightly-guarded classroom to retreat to. They eventually end up in a spot of playful danger when teachers notice the door ajar and lock them in, but Haruka’s initial clumsiness is neutralized by Yuu’s surprising strength and athleticism. Hey, we’re talking about them jumping between verandas—get your minds out of the sewer! On that note, we’re pleased to report that there wasn’t a single panty-shot in the whole installment, which is…kind of amazing.
Rating:7 (Very Good)