Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin – Episode 1

By: Cy Catwell July 8, 20240 Comments
Lady Kamuhitsuki confronts Sakuna over her series of failures, including allowing humans into the realm of the divine and not properly doing her duties.

What’s it about? This is the story of two realms in the ancient land of Yanato: first, the Lofty Realm, residence of the gods; and second, the Lowly Realm, where humans toil the earth and live their lives. Princess Sakuna resides in the Lofty Realm as the daughter of the God of War and the Goddess of Harvest, whiling away her time by being as lazy as possible. That is, until she is banished to Hinoe Island, the realm of demons. Stranded outside her home, she sets of to make a life of her own, combining her inherent nature for fighting with her skill for the harvest…

I first came into contact with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin when it debuted on the switch in 2020. I had just moved back to the states months before, yet the rice fields I’d volunteered in while living in Fukushima were fresh in my mind. Safe to say that I quickly fell in love with this game, though that’s in part to its engaging gameplay and rice farming mechanics, which are delightfully detailed. 

And now, four years later, we’re getting to see Sakuna’s story all over again.

Yet bias isn’t enough when it comes to a premiere: this is likely to be watched by a lot of people with zero connection to the game. So, how does this fair from the perspective of watching it as if I were a new viewer? Read on and see!

A field of gloriously golden rice.

Episode 1 opens with Sakuna lazing around the Lofty Realm, where the gods play and live and conduct their business. Enter a group of humans who have crossed the Heavenly Bridge. They’re not welcomed but somehow fumbled their way into the land of the holy. Enter Sakuna, who watches the human’s arrival–and subsequent tussle–as if it’s a stage play.

What immediately becomes clear is that Sakuna doesn’t take her role as a deity seriously at all. Sure, she loves the trappings and the garb and the food and the alcohol, but… she mostly treats her life as luxury, even offering the rice her mother–and former harvest goddess–grew instead of mindfully tackling the task on her own. That is until Lady Kamuhitsuki, the reigning deity, gives her a duty that she doesn’t deserve and the  world goes a bit topsy-turvy in the following incident.

For you see, Princess Sakuna was tasked with removing the human intruders. Yet she only told them to turn back: clearly, they didn’t, and now, she’s in hotter water than she could have ever imagined. Gone is her lofty perch: now Sakuna is banished to the Isle of Demons until she fufills her duties. She’ll still be a god but in the land below, she’ll have to learn how to toil for her return to full divinity.

Sakuna fends off Takeribi in a drunken stupor.

I’ll admit that while I do have opinions on this as someone pretending to not know the story, I was also charmed by the nostalgia I have for Sakuna. Our titular protagonist is perfectly voice acted, adding a specific impishness to Sakuna, who is more than the sum of her parts based on the opening and her immediate plot-relevant one-way trip to the demonic lands below. There’s a punchy sense of comedic timing here that makes for a solid adaptation, which I’ll admit had me worried.

You see, I haven’t had the best of times with video game adaptations. Even my beloved Tales of Symphonia anime has its faults, and that’s, for me personally, one of the best. I don’t know if it’s the change in mediums, but it just seems that video game adaptations, especially text-heavy games, leave much to be desired.

Yet that’s not the case with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. I feel that this is a really solid premiere that sets up the main conflict–Sakuna’s lack of work ethic as a deity and subsequent banishment until she gets it in gear–and invites viewers to see if Sakuna can ever measure up. She’s already interesting ejnough at the start, and we get really solid foundational character development. Now, it’s just up to her story to develop her into a true goddess worth her title.

Sakuna shows off her duty scroll to Kokorowa despite not properly earning it with her own skills.

If I come from the perspective of a new viewer, I would say that Sakuna is engaging enough to tempt you to add this to your list. It’s doing something a bit different, adding the charm of a impish god to its plot about her riches to rags to riches again story. There’s also the layer of how these humans reached the land of the divine, which further intrigues. I do think there’s enough here that you don’t need to have played the game: it seems as if we’re getting a healthily truncated version of the video game narrative, which hopefully will intrigue people enough to play the game itself.

As someone experienced with the video game, I have to say that I’m a complete fan of this adaptation. It’s an easy watch and an even easier addition to my seasonal watchlist. I’m eager to see the story progress from week to week, and invite others to engage with this really genuinely enjoyable narrative. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at Sakuna’s growth over the course of her story.

About the Author : Cy Catwell

Cy Catwell is a Queer Blerd journalist and JP-EN translation & localization editor with a passion for idols, citypop, visual novels, and the iyashikei/healing anime genre.

You can follow their work as a professional Blerd at Backlit Pixels, get snapshots of their out of office life on Instagram at @pixelatedrhapsody, and follow them on their Twitter at @pixelatedlenses.

Read more articles from Cy Catwell

We Need Your Help!

We’re dedicated to paying our contributors and staff members fairly for their work—but we can’t do it alone.

You can become a patron for as little as $1 a month, and every single penny goes to the people and services that keep Anime Feminist running. Please help us pay more people to make great content!

Comments are open! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems.

%d bloggers like this: