Another game-to-anime conversion comes to town, and with the Sakura Wars games having something of a cult following, Sakura Wars TV has a lot to live up to. The Flower Division is about to receive their newest member ” just as the forces of evil, led by Aoi Satan, are lining up to oppose them…
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?
Audio is provided in English 5.1 surround and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. With the series having a bit of a theatrical bent, there’s good use made of music throughout, while both music and effects make good use of the available channels to provide some directionality. There were no obvious encoding problems.
Sakura Wars TV is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect, and to be honest, the video isn’t great, especially during early episodes where the focus seems noticeably soft. While this gets better as the series goes on, you could never say that the video looks anything other than average. The poor quality leads to some noticeable instances of aliasing.
The set comes in a sturdy chipboard box, with 5 thinpacked discs within. The box features a rather dark and unclear image of a koubu that wraps around both sides, with a smiling image of Sakura on the spine. There’s a technical information panel on the base of the box. To be honest, I can’t say that’s it’s a particularly appealing or eyecatching piece. Each keepcase inside the set has an image of one of the girls on the front, along with an episode listing, disc credits and technical information on the rear cover – much better to look at, but since they’ll be hidden away inside the set box most of the time, sadly a bit of a waste.
Each disc uses a simple static menu, featuring one of the girls from the series. Direct access is provided to each episode, and there’s a submenu available for language and subtitle selection. It’s all very simple and quick to use.
1920’s Japan,and the nation’s capital city is being developed into a bustling metropolis. However, demons are also growing in number, and so the city’s administrators have put a plan into action to protect the growing city: using mobile suits of armour known as koubu or spirit armour, a division of the military has been assigned to be the city’s protectors – although perhaps strangely, the members of the Imperial Combat Troop, Flower Division also work for the city theatre when they’re off-duty. The group’s newest member, Sakura Shinguji, has just arrived in Tokyo, but while she has the talents required of a koubu pilot, she’s somewhat lacking in common sense ” between getting herself lost on the way to the Flower Division’s HQ, interrupting a performance in the theatre and wreaking a large amount of havoc backstage (courtesy of a koubu running out-of-control in reaction to her latent spiritual power), she doesn’t exactly make a good first impression with her new colleagues. Her acting skills ” or initial lack of them ” don’t help matters, either.
Sakura Wars is based on a series of video games, and as well as this TV series (from what I hear, possibly the most despised part of the franchise amongst fans of the games) there have been a number of OVA releases, featuring both the Tokyo troop that stars here, and the more recently-added Paris troop. The basic idea in any incarnation is essentially the same, though: actors by day, fighters by night, the featured troop must fight to save their home city from the forces of evil. The star of the show here, as the name probably gives away, is Sakura herself: the newest member of the troop and the latest descendant of a family with a long history of powerful spiritual abilities, her skills are of particular interest to the troop commanders, while her humble personality eventually endears her to almost everyone she meets. In short, a really likable character.
Shame the same can’t be said for some of the other girls. Sumire in particular is someone I’d dearly love to slap – she’s the most self-centered woman in anime, with a large dose of “Me! Me! Me!” in everything she does that makes her a chore to watch. Maria is the most military of the girls – not really surprising as she’s the de facto commander at the beginning of the series, before new captain Ohgami’s drafted in. She’s cold and calculating, but does have a heart hidden in there somewhere ” although there are times when she behaves more like Sumire than an order-following officer, which usually feels somewhat out-of-character. Young girl Iris is the last to be around at the beginning of the series ” initially she only acts and doesn’t fight, but she does have some curious latent abilities that come in useful later in the series. On the downside, she’s a very withdrawn young girl who doesn’t interact well with others.
As the series goes on, two more members arrive: Kohran, the token tech genius who also fights – she’s one of my favourite characters in the series, with her cheery outlook on life and her well-placed words of wisdom and encouragement. She’s also probably the most “normal” of the girls, lacking any real character flaw; while Kanna’s almost the comic relief, with her over-the-top reactions to everything.
The girls are the first of the show’s problems, unfortunately ” for a lot of the series, there’s an awful lot of sniping that goes on (usually by Sumire & directed at Sakura), and it soon wears thin. The girls at times behave more like primadonnas than military officers, and I found that hugely annoying when it happened. There are one or two scenes where you think they’ve learnt to respect each others’ talents and abilities & that the sniping will stop ” but then next episode it’s back to square one again, and it becomes very hard to just ignore it and enjoy the rest of the show.
Some of the character interactions are good, though. There are some wonderful scenes between Sakura and Iris, as Sakura tries to befriend the shy child of the team and get to know her better, while Kohran and Kanna both have a sunny outlook on life and other people that lets them get on with anyone. There’s also an undercurrent of romantic feelings between Sakura and the groups captain, Ohgami (although nothing direct is ever said about it), while the Flower Division’s commanders, Yoneda and Ayane, both come with their own baggage from the past that makes them a very interesting pair.
The forces of evil are represented by the Black Sanctum Council, led by the snappily-named Aoi Satan, formerly known as Yamazaki and who previously was quite well-connected with certain members of the Flower Division. He’s assisted by a collection of typically villainous types, but unfortunately neither he nor his sidekicks ever get developed past the role of token villains ” instead, they’re just there to give Sakura & co someone to fight against when the story requires it & occasionally create some internal conflict, thanks to Yamazaki’s past connections with some of the characters. It’s rare that there’s any real sense of threat that comes from their actions. Sakura Wars TV relies more on its characters and their relationships to keen your attention, and the action side of the show is left feeling lacking as a result.
The end result is a bit of a let-down ” the premise is good, most of the characters work well (although Sumire’s constant sniping does spoil the dynamic, at least for me), and Yamazaki’s past history provides any number of hooks that could have been used to good effect ” but by the end of the series, I couldn’t help but think that nothing outstanding had really happened. The girls act, fight, and learn about each other, but it’s all in a way that never really grabs you by the throat or leaves you actively eager to see the next episode. A lot of potential wasted.
Sakura Wars TV is a series that relies on you liking its characters if you’re going to get much out of it, and unfortunately some of those characters and the way they interact with others is hugely annoying. The more action-oriented side of the show also doesn’t really live up to its promise. There are good moments in there too, but for me the series simple doesn’t live up to the potential that its setting and characters provided, and that makes it a disappointment.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: December 27th, 2005
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28″ widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.