What They Say:
Haruka and Yuu have been best friends forever and they’ve always sat next to each other in class since… well, since they were just girls in junior high anyway. But on their first day of high school, they’re stunned to learn that the new seating plan has them on opposite sides of the classroom! So, since everyone knows that long distance relationships won’t work unless the parties involved put extra effort into it, they decide they need to do something extra special to permanently seal their friendship. However, deciding to kiss each other awakens a whole new level of feelings, and it doesn’t help that some of their classmates seem to be “involved” in similar circumstances.
So what’s a girl to do when her best girl friend suddenly seems more like a girlfriend? It’s a life lesson that the school curriculum isn’t normally prepared to teach, except maybe in French class, and our two young heroines are about to get a private education you’ll never forget! Discover the truth about the birds and the… er… birds, as two young ladies learn to deal with the pros and cons of intramural osculation!
The audio presentation for this release comes with just the original Japanese language track on in stereo encoded at 256kbps. The series is one that is all about the dialogue and it conveys it well enough here. Not that it has to stretch much or do anything truly special, but it at least captures the sounds of the moans, grunts and lip-smacking that fans want to hear. The dialog itself is straightforward throughout as it’s mostly center channel based with some nods here and there on occasion. The music helps to bring it up a notch with a little more warmth throughout, accenting scenes in good ways, while the opening and closing sequences are where it gets to show off the most. We didn’t have any issues during regular playback with this release in regards to dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamoprhic playback. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in an even six/six format. Animated by Studio Deen, the series has the right kind of look here with its almost soft but not quite approach to color and tone, making for something that feels warm and engaging without being too strong or vibrant to pull you out of it. The show has some good detail to a number of scenes, especially as the characters engage, and the overall look is a good one for the format. but it’s not without its faults, as there are a few areas of line noise that are noticeable during minor panning sequences and some of the darker room colors, such as greys, tended to show a bit more noise to it that was distracting at times.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized DVD case with both discs held against the interior walls. The front cover goes with a familiar promotional image by giving us the main group of girls we deal wit throughout together outside of their school. It’s done up in some good colors that highlights the atmosphere of the show and the lightness of the moment, and it’s good seeing the various designs and consistency there as well as the differences. There’s also the nice nod with Yu and Haruka holding hands together, which isn’t always noticeable at first. The back cover plays with the right colors as well with pinks and blues as well as some school elements, such as the summary being done on a sheet of yellow paper that conjures images of notes girls would give to each other. The shots from the show along the top and bottom are colorful, adding some additional pop to the design, and the image of the two leads along the right together, back to back and holding hands while not wearing their jackets or sweaters, adds the right touch. The technical grid covers everything cleanly and clearly and there are no show related inserts included nor a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty good if a bit busy as it takes most of the elements from the back cover and applies them here. The layout is done in the half and half form where the right has the artwork, such as the first disc showing the character artwork from the back cover, while the left does the navigation straight down. Since it’s a monolingual release, there’s no submenu for that and just one for the extras. The navigation is done over the yellow sheet of paper with pink text in a pretty good font that lists the episodes and the titles for both halves. The use of the cherry blossoms under the episode numbers is a nice touch as well. It’s an easy menu to navigate since there’s not a lot here but it’s functional and works perfectly fine.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four panel manga by Tachi that began in 2011 and has four volumes to its name so far, Sakura Trick is a twelve episode series animated by Studio Deen. I had missed out on the show during its simulcast but I was pretty pleased to see the positive reaction to it so I wanted to spend some quality time with it. Yuri themed shows are few and far between in general but they tend to be a lot of fun to watch in general. Some go a little further than others, but that isn’t all that unusual. But like the boys-love shows that come out, they can either be very friendly or they can get a little more intense. Sakura Trick doesn’t exactly get intense, but it’s not one that plays by the cute rules in a lot of ways. And that definitely works to its advantage.
The series revolves primarily around first year high school students Yuu and Haruka. The pair had been best friends in middle school and are looking forward to a great high school career together in the all girls school that they’re attending. Unfortunately, things takes a sad turn from practically the start as the two of them aren’t able to sit together, which they thought they would based on their last names. The close relationship the two share has its comical moments throughout this and we get a good bit of insight early on as to how their minds work. Yuu has the kind of slightly smaller girl archetype about her with the pigtails that are cute and a kind of slightly childish way she deals with things. She’s cute and outgoing. Haruka is a bit taller than her, a lot bustier and has a kind of softer approach, but also one that has her being very touchy feely and hands on with others.
With some standard character types about them, the show changes relatively quickly as their first day of school goes on and Haruka basically keeps building things up in her head that she really likes Yuu and wants to be always around her. And not just in a great friends way. She’s realized that she’s developed feelings for her and wants to act on them, but there’s that initial and wonderfully fun feeling of hesitation and uncertainty that exists there. From Haruka’s perspective, it’s really fun to see how she handles this right up until that moment where after the dialogue that exists, she goes in for the kiss. And what a kiss it is. The two end up locking lips well as there is definitely an attraction there that blooms into something else. What really helps to make this work though is that once it happens and once they talk about it a bit, it doesn’t fall into the whole denial and then a lengthy will they or won’t they.
In fact, they pretty much spend nearly every episode with a couple of kissing sequences throughout. And sometimes there’s even a little tongue. The pair do their best to hide their relationship, not out of any shame or anything, but just because it’s the kind of thing most kids do at this age. We see that in other relationship shows, the few that exist where there are kids in relationships, so it’s fun to see how not only do they hide it but they find lots of ways to spend time kissing when alone. A lot of shows do spend their time with characters doing things together, but few really spend their time letting the characters enjoy the intimacy and passion that comes from kissing. Watching Haruka and Yuu here, whether it’s on the balcony, in the classroom, under a jacket or finding empty rooms to hide in for a few moments, It’s easy to enjoy their relationship because the two of them really do enjoy each other. Removing the kind of tension that comes in most romantic series makes this a whole lot more enjoyable.
Not that there aren’t areas where some tension does come into play, but a lot of it doesn’t really come across to Haruka and Yuu and that keeps it pretty fun. While we get a couple of supporting characters in the show, most of which don’t really make much of an impact in general, we get a big one in the form of Yuu’s older sister Mitsuki. Mitsuki’s a third year and the student council president, so there’s obviously the need by the girls to avoid letting her know what’s going on. Mitsuki is kind of oblivious at first as you’d expect, but she eventually figures out what’s going on because the girls aren’t hiding it as good as they think they are. There’s some fun to it as she discovers what’s going on and gets all in a tizzy over it. But as it goes on, the tension and drama that Mitsuki brings to the show is that she realizes that she’s interested in Haruka. That puts Mitsuki in a quandary to be sure, but it’s fun to watch her struggle with it and how she views both her sister and Haruka.
The school based series runs through some familiar stories to be sure as we get sports, studying and other events, though at least we avoid the whole sports festival aspect itself due to not enough people being involved. That familiar side is definitely one of the weaker parts of the show, but it’s playing to the setting as best as it can while doing its best to focus on the characters and their relationships. The show tends to have more fun when it gets out of school though, such as the study sessions at home that turn into make out sessions or the whole shopping aspect which lets the girls have fun, though Yuu ends up coming across even more childish than usual here. And of course, the show has to have some fanservice. It is largely restrained, but we do get the whole swimsuit story in one of the later episodes and that provides for some comparison and skin, but even that feels like it’s more restrained than it could have been.
One of the things that frustrates me the most with anime is that so many shows end up revolving around relationships, it’s largely the will they or won’t they aspect. Will both sides admit feelings? Will they have a real kiss before the series ends? Most fail on both of those counts and it ends up being all about the denial. Here, we get the two characters kissing early on and then repeatedly, enjoying the experience and wanting and craving more. Though we get a little tension to work through towards the end, the bulk of it is about enjoying the relationship. Don’t get me wrong as I do enjoy the whole chase aspect that we get with a lot of series, including really long ones like Kimagure Orange Road and Maison Ikkoku, but there are so many great stories to tell about relationships themselves, both those at the start and those that have gone on for awhile. Sadly, anime tends to stick to one kind. So getting some of it here, and having it between two girls, definitely helps.
Sakura Trick definitely stands out because of the relationship side of it between the two girls since it’s not something we see in a lot of shows. I’m certainly not familiar with social issues in Japan when it comes to same sex relationships and its acceptance, but even in the US we don’t get that for lead characters. Supporting cast? Sure. But lead characters for primetime shows that are focused around it? They don’t happen. This is a late night anime show so it’s not comparable, but it’s great to have a show like this that’s accessible to fans that they can get into. Particularly for the up and coming generation that may not feel the same level of stigma that previous generations would have had. That it’s presented here in such a natural and great way really reinforces this as a positive show.
Sakura Trick is a solid high school relationship that tells a decent story but has a great character arc to it. That it’s between two girls may be the different aspect to it, but for me the really different part was that it focused on the relationship itself. And more so on the need and craving that can exist as the girls really get into being close, kissing each other and just being in each others presence. Sakura Trick is definitely accessible and it does things that a lot of other relationship shows find themselves unable to do because they want to just draw out the whole drama and comedy that comes from it. With great character designs, very enjoyable pacing and some great personal moments, Sakura Trick definitely works well and is the kind of show we need more of for a lot of different reasons. Here’s hoping that when it gets a Blu-ray release eventually, it gets a dub as well because it really deserves one, as do the fans.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.