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Sakura Wars TV Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

19 min read
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Sakura Wars TV Front CoverjA new telling of a classic tale.

What They Say:
Young Sakura arrives in Capital City to fight for the Imperial Floral Capital Defense Force, but all she finds is a weird opera company preparing for a big performance. What’s worse is that the ladies in the company won’t let Sakura join in any of their Rheingold games. Can she win them over by unleashing her Spirit Energy?

Based on the video game that took the world by storm, Sakura Wars TV brings you even more of the beautiful warriors made popular in the original Sakura Wars.

Follow Sakura as she joins the fight of her life. Will she ever be accepted? Does the world have a chance against the evil Wakaji and the mysterious Crimson Lady? Can everyone learn their lines before opening night?!!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and the previously created English language track that was done in 5.1. With the encoding at 224kbps and 448kbps respectively, each mix offers a decent presentation of the source material and the time it comes from. The forward soundstage has a decent application to it with dialogue mostly center channel placed but with some good moments where it goes bigger while also handling the quieter character dialogue material well. The action scenes are solid and they get a better bump in the 5.1 mix with the bass, but in the end both tracks service it well. The show may not be a big and bold one but it handles the music the best with the various songs while the character and action elements are just right.

Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The twenty-five episodes are spread across four discs in an odd six/six/six/seven format that works the space well enough, especially considering the source material. Animated by Madhouse, the release essentially repurposes the previous edition of this about a decade or so ago and it really needs some new and cleaned up Japanese materials. The show has some good detail to be had in the designs and mechanical elements and I like the color design a lot, but it’s working off some poor masters as there’s a lot of cross coloration to be had in it. It’s stronger in some sequences and some episodes more than others, but it does stand out even with all the ways modern players attempt to correct for this. There’s also some nasty dot crawl in a few areas, notably with the eye-catch sequences. The source material and the masters are definitely showing their age and it really needs something better done with it before another re-release happens.

The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized DVD case that works the template that Sentai has put into place for their Sentai Selects line. With a color appropriate strip along the top for the branding and a soft black border around the rest, the middle has the really great image of everyone in their uniforms looking great with some solid detail and some good mechanical design elements. It’s one of the more appealing pieces of cover artwork that’s been used over the years so I’m glad to see it again. The back cover goes a bit brighter as it uses a gold border here with a little mechanical aspect to it and within it, we get a good shot of Sakura, a few colorful shots from the show of a decent size, and a solid breakdown of the overall premise for the series. The episode and disc count are clearly listed as is the extras – though the 5.1 audio I wouldn’t exactly call an extra. The remainder has the standard production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. The release does offer a cleaner reversible cover and one that goes for the mechanical side with the mecha getting laid out with eight of them across the front and back while the center strip has the logo on the front and just the technical information on the back. It’s definitely a very different way of doing it but it offers up something for fans of that side of the show. No show related inserts are included with this release.

Sakura Wars TV Reversible Cover

The menu design for this release goes with a very simple but serviceable approach that gets the job done. Each menu is laid out the same with a pink stripe along the top, a block of episodes by numbers, and the simple navigation of languages and special features where applicable. The logo is done soft along the bottom while to the right we get character artwork that changes out with each disc. These spots are what brings in the color and pop to things as there’s some nice detail to them to be sure, but overall it’s a simple but solid menu that won’t stand out in anyone’s minds.

The only extras included in this set are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when the Sakura Wars TV series came out, some sixteen years ago just to make some of us feel old, I was always a bit on the outside of it because I wasn’t playing the games and wasn’t exactly enamored with the music because of that disconnect. The concept was one that I liked well enough but the passion for it that drove many fans through the game side was something that I never found to be properly conveyed within the anime experience – be it the OVA series, the theatrical feature, or this TV series. With the TV series in 2000, they opted to go and retell the story once again and start from the relative beginning – which really isn’t a bad idea overall. Sakura Wars TV takes us on the longer view of things, and though some of the first few episodes will see overly familiar if you’ve gone through the first two OVA series, it picks up really nicely after that.

The series gets underway in the traditional method, which is the arrival of Sakura Shinguji to the capital. With an invite from Ikki Yoneda, she’s come to be a part of the Imperial Flower Combat Troop, a first-line defense arm that protects the capital from demons and other spiritually based creatures. They operate as a secret arm of the nation’s military and have several differing divisions, such as the Dream or Wind units, each of them performing different aspects and goals. But it’s the Flower Troop that handles quite a bit of the front-line fighting and danger.

Sakura’s arrival at the headquarters proves to be everything she didn’t expect. Instead of a military establishment, it turns out to be the Grand Imperial Theater. And after making her way in and seeing one of the shows, she finds herself very fascinated with it, giving a nod to her more country bumpkin ways. After she manages to essentially ruin a segment of the Romeo and Juliet play that was being performed, she ends up meeting her new boss, Yoneda.

As it turns out, Yoneda explains, the Troop uses the theater as a cover to their operations. And though Yoneda doesn’t speak it outright, it also serves another more useful purpose, and that’s to foster teamwork and respect for each of the pilots. As each of them is required to participate in the plays, they end up learning to work with each other in a number of ways. When Sakura learns of this aspect of her employment, she’s quite unsure about the entire situation. And as the other women of the troop meet here, they pretty much shun her from the start.

A good portion of this first volume is centered around Sakura’s arrival and her learning the ways of her new trade. There is a substantial amount of trepidation among the cast about Sakura, and she works her way towards both winning them over and mastering her seemingly natural acting abilities. This works out very nicely as it gives a chance for all the primary characters to really be themselves and to expound on things important to them. But as we get towards the end of the first volume, the show starts bringing in the actual elements of danger in the form of an enemy as well as a new male member of the Troop.

The introduction of the enemy, led by Crimson Miroku and the large Wakiji that terrorize the city. Their arrival brings into play a number of things, from a government that doesn’t quite care enough about its people at times to Sakura learning more about the spiritual powers she has. The spiritual powers are slowly explored in these episodes, mostly in relation to the Spirit Armor, aka the Koubu, and how each of the pilots of the Flower Troop interacts with them. With the series taking place in the 1920’s, I definitely continue to like the mix of technology and the times to bring something different to the plate.

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