Sakura Wars TV Vol. #2: Overture (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, July 13, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, July 08, 2003
What They Say
The Imperial Flower Combat Troop gains two new members: Kouran the Brain and Kanna the Brawn. But the Evil Darkness has gained new members too: Setsuna the Imp and his trusty companion Resatsu the Lumbering Brute! To make matters worse, the printing shop has delivered the programs for the Gala Premiere and they're full of spelling errors!
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 Sakura Wars OVA. Can these lovely lasses harness their inner power to defeat the demon world? Will Sakura finally prove herself as a true member of the team? Who will survive when Sumire finds out about her billing in the show?
The Flower Troop is back and hard at work trying to achieve their individual goals while letting the entire concept of “team” fall by the wayside.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included a mix, a nice stereo one, does a good job with some minor directionality and a great use of the stereo channels for the music. The English track takes a step further and includes just a 5.1 mix that manages to bring some extra clarity to things, particularly the music. Unfortunately, no stereo mix is present so some folks may have downmixing issues. Throughout the Japanese track, we noticed no dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer here continues to b something of a mixed bag, and most of it looks to be source material related. The transfer in general looks soft throughout, but does have a number of moments where it looks really sharp. The softness doesn’t help in terms of aliasing during panning sequences. Colors look good throughout, though better in later episodes where they’re not quite as soft.
The fantastic looking covers continue. This release is very purple/lilac in color with a great near full length body shot of Sumire in her kimono with her Koubu set in the strip behind her. The English logo is across the center with a heavier purple and even has the volume number and name just below it. This is a fantastic looking image in its simple and almost elegant look. The back cover provides a few screenshots from the show and a basic premise of what it’s all about. The discs features are nice and clearly listed. The back cover overall looks light on content, with things spaced out more than normal. The insert included is a nice super-deformed piece of Sakura in her kimono while fireworks go off around her. Also included, and a real big treat for newbies and hardcore fans alike, is a six page mini booklet that details quite a number of items about the show such as conceptual design pieces of the characters.
Taking a cue from the front cover, it looks essentially the same but with the additional of animated blossoms falling down across the screen and some nice music playing alongside. Selections are along the left for each episode and access to the setup and extras is quick and easy. Access times are nice and fast and there are no transitional animations to slow things down.
The extras again are really minimal here. We’ve got a textless opening and closing segment and that’s it. Both definitely look good, but it looks like the main focus here is on the show itself and the booklet.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a varied but interesting first volume, the second set of episodes of Sakura Wars TV brings us to the more ordinary days in the lives of the women of the Flower Combat Troop as they all start to adjust to the new personalities that live there. This of course creates conflict, and generally speaking, conflict makes for good storytelling.
The bulk of the conflict, which is evident throughout much of this volume, stems from an “Everyone vs. Sakura” form. The majority of it though comes from Sumire with everyone else sort of falling into line with her, since even though she’s not in charge of the group, she has that forceful personality that everyone else ends up following. This becomes strongly evident as the group is practicing for a new play, a one-off performance at that. Sumire and Sakura end up having a sequence where the two have to dance together and Sakura’s level is nowhere near ready, so she has a fair amount of problems in keeping up.
Since Sumire already dislikes her, the tension fills even quicker. To make matters worse, the performance is on the same day as the memorial for Sakura’s father, so she won’t be able to attend that. Even Sumire runs into an issue when the program book for the event misspells her name as Tsumire. Things get so bad that Sumire essentially walks off during the rehearsals and says that she won’t be there for the actual performance either.
We also get a new cast member added during this volume, a young woman named Kohran Ri. This young woman, complete with charming glasses, comes in from one of the other divisions to help out now that the Wakiji are being more brazen. She’s a bit scatterbrained at times, but when it comes to the Koubu, she’s a mechanical genius. She’s there to help restore the units as well as to help train the women into being more in tune with their machines. There’s an amusing sequence where she ends up showing them how she’s able to take each of them down even though she’s the lowest ranked when it comes to the spiritual power levels. It comes down to her ability to connect her heart to her Koubu’s “heart”.
And that’s where things fall apart with the “team”. As she’s about to explain this, Sumire insists she wasn’t well that day and Maria even has some issues with the results. Before Kohran can even explain anything, the two stalk off, leaving Sakura with her. Sakura of course is curious to learn more and to connect with her Koubu so that she can do better. But the attitudes of the others, as well as the still standoffishness of Iris and Kanna, manage to push me more into not liking any of them as the show progresses. I know it’s standard team building material like this, but the continual sniping actually makes me lose interest in the characters and start checking the running time to see how much more there is.
There is one really good episode here, though I’m unsure if it’s enough to save this batch. Episode nine (which is presented here in its home video version, due to the Japanese studio apparently not wishing the original broadcast version to ever be seen again) brings us to Maria’s past in Russia where she witnessed her fathers death and then took up arms with a comrade of his, learning his trade and becoming quite the good resistance fighter. Her past shows why she turn so cold and ruthless at one point and some of her regrets over it. This ties nicely into the present when a group of Wakiji invade the city from the underground, managing to keep the Moon Troop offbalance enough to make serious inroads into the city.
Maria ends up working with just Sakura as the two race to save Ohgami since he’s been kidnapped by one of the string pullers of the Wakiji and they work well together. Combined with the help of Ohgami and then working to help salvage the Moon Team’s problems, this episode provides a good dose of action and actual cooperation among some of the members. It’s these elements that I figure will start showing up in the next volume that will help things go more smoothly, but the real lack of it in the first three episodes provides some unentertaining time. I almost felt like Ohgami, sitting at the table, wondering why nobody spends any time together there.
This volume took some effort to get through, but there was some nice payoff with the final episode. Hopefully things will improve as it continues on.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Eight-page printed booklet,Production notes,Clean opening and closing animation,Character bios
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic DMR-E20 DVD Recorder, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen