Sakura Taisen - Sumire Special Edition (of 1) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 01, 2003
Release Date: Thursday, July 03, 2003

What They Say
Sumire Kanzaki, a top start has been singing songs with The Imperial Music Group, as well as fighting as a member of The Imperial Flower Attack Team in their attempts to protect the capital of the empire against the forces of darkness. But Sumire has begun to feel a sense of loss and has been worried all day.

After a long period of consideration, she finally decided to retire, an announcement that meant she will gracefully resign as both a singer and a fighter. Sumire's sudden decision shocked her fellows in the Flower Party and her legion of fans.

Unfortunately her decision is so firm that there's no chance of changing her mind. Although her co-workers and her fans will have mixed feelings about this decision, we must all respect her wishes.

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The Review!
Sumire has decided to retire from the Hana Theater Group and this OVA is all about it.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language. There is only a Japanese language mix presented here and you get the choice of a 5.1 mix or the 2.0 stereo mix. The 5.1 mix sounded quite good with a much more distinct and clear feel for dialogue placement across the forward soundstage. I couldn’t detect much if anything coming through the rear speakers though. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Originally released at the end of 2002, the Sumire OVA special is a single episode show that comes across quite well here. The transfer manages to avoid most problems with only some edge cross coloration creeping into a few areas, most notably during sections that are more finely drawn, such as posters and the like in backgrounds. The colors are nice and solid without any noticeable bleeding and aliasing is very minimal as well.

Using the same cover as the Japanese release, we get the very attractive painted image of Sumire set against the cherry blossoms tree background as her outfit ruffles in the window and she waves her two fans. It’s very nicely drawn and has a certain coloring style to it that gives it the feel of something older. The back cover provides a short summary of the premise and a listing of the production credits. The technical information is all nicely presented in a grid, though they do list the extras in the overall running time as well as not mentioning the 2.0 track. Region coding is not listed here, but the disc is definitely region 3 encoded. The keepcase is clear, but the reverse side of it is plain white and there is no insert. The disc itself is silkscreened with artwork from the front cover.

The menu is a good looking animated piece that uses a great bit of animation from the show itself where Sumire tosses a flower out at the viewer, done in a faux widescreen mode. Below the animation shot is the selections. One of the things I didn’t like is that selecting the audio causes the menu to reload since it’s on the “top” menu as opposed to its own menu. Access times are decent and the loads are pretty standard, especially with the animated piece on the top menu.

Only one extra is included here and that’s the seventeen minute featurette that brings us the behind the scenes look at the cast working on the show. Each of the actors provide their thoughts on the event, as well as the director, expressing their sadness over Sumire’s leaving as well as what a great performance she’s had. Surprisingly, this extra is subtitled in English but looks to have been something of a rush job. When the Japanese names come up on the screen to indicate both actor and character names, the subtitles come up with [Japanese Names] and leaves it at that. Some other bits throughout the extra are weak, such as “&” showing up and some lines going very close to the edge of the screen. At the end of the featurette, there’s also a Playstation game advertisement.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I’m still not a huge Sakura Wars fan, something that likely can only happen if you play the games I think sometimes, I do enjoy the characters and the setting. At some point, it was decided that Sumire would retire (due to I believe the voice actress) and instead of replacing her, they used it as an opportunity to move things forward.

The story is pretty much self contained here, with Sumire explaining that she is retiring from the Hana Theater Group to return to her fathers company, as there has been sufficient work caused after a recent incident. Another reason, we learn as things progress, is that she’s really come to see just how brightly Sakura will shine on stage and in life. Sumire is determined to let Sakura have that chance, but she also wants to exit the stage on her own terms and at the top of her own career.

Much of the show is a backwards/forwards mix of the actual event, where we go back to see her giving notice and then to the day of the event where she meets with various members of the Troop and talks with them about their time together, each one being approached differently of course. The best moments come with Sakura though as the two are on stage, and Sumire can’t even look Sakura in the eye as she explains her reasons.

While this is an enjoyable little episode and probably one of the more emotion filled ones, it’s something that I can see as being a hard-sell in the North American market since it’s just one OVA.

The discs production itself, the first thing we’ve seen from Century Universe, is very well done for the most part. Visually they’ve got things done right, mostly solid menus proper audio tracks and decent looking English subtitles (white with a thin black border). A lot of the questions come down to how the translation is, and I think this one qualifies as decent but could be better. There’s likely some cross translation issues, especially if (and note, I said *if*) it went from Japanese to Chinese and then to English. There’s nothing terribly glaring like the “Yap” we’ve seen in some other region 3 titles, but there are areas where even if you don’t know a lick of Japanese, you’ll wonder if that was translated right.

With this release, I’m cautiously optimistic about Century Universe’s releases. While I figure English subtitles are not their main selling point or market, I hope that they can get them a bit smoother and professional looking as they progress with other titles. With this being the only real complaint with this release (both in-show and in the featurette), it’s definitely not a bad way to start out.

Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,Chinese Subtitles,English Subtitles,Malay Subtitles,Behind the Scenes Featurette

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: All
Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
Released By: Century Universe
MSRP: 12.99
Running time: 23
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen