Sakura Wars OVA 2 Vol. #2 : Wedding Bells (Mania.com)
By:Robert "DarkSong" Piekut
Review Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Finally I get my hands on the second volume of OAV2, and what do I have to say? I didn't think it really was possible, but this disc is even better than the last volume! After I finished the final episode, and watched the ending credits spool by, I found myself pumped up and ready for anything - and very few things out there have that kind of effect on me.
Once again, I watched this primarily with the Japanese 5.1 audio track and only listened to the English track until I had to either pierce my eardrums with an ice pick or change audio tracks to preserve my sanity. Sorry dub fans, but due to the nature of Sakura Taisen and it's amazing Japanese voice talent, if you're watching the English language dub, you are missing all the goodness that makes this franchise what it is for it's legions of fans.
From what I did hear of the English language track, it was well done, but being only a normal stereo mix, it was definitely missing something. And the Japanese 5.1 track is just fantastic - usually I'm not really all that impressed by a 5.1 track, but there were some parts on the disc that made great use of the 5.1 effects. One part that sticks in my head, is that in the show you hear a door open somewhere in the distance - and because of the quality of the 5.1 mix, I actually put the disc on pause and got up to see who had walked in the door downstairs. I was amused to find nobody there realizing it was part of the audio track. Now that is good use of what 5.1 can do, right there.
Once again we get a nearly flawless video transfer - I couldn't find a single thing to complain about, no matter how hard I looked. And once again, depending on which audio track you select from the DVD menu, you get the appropriate VA names displayed in the OP sequences - which is a nice touch. And unlike the problems with the first volume, this disc seems to interface with your DVD Player as check if you have presets. Mine is set to default to Japanese audio, English subtitles, and when I let it run, it DID display the proper VA names for this disc. My only gripe is that once again even though both Orihime and Reni have bits in the OP sequence where they could display the names of their VA - once again they were neglected. This irritates this Orihime fanboy to no end de~su!
Suffering from the same flaws as the previous volume, I find myself looking at the cover to this disc, and shaking my head. It seems that ADV has once again gone back to the evil Scanavo keepcase, whereas I really liked the 3-piece hub style they used in the last volume. The insert once again is a foldout poster, with the front featuring a shot of the cast in a scene from episode6, superimposed over a Koubu. The reverse features some interviews with two of the production crew members, and an background bit on a third, giving us some good information in how this OAV isn't your typical Sakura Taisen production.
And then there's the cover itself. The back cover is fine, with the exception of the overall colour scheme, which causes everything to just blend into mush. The spine itself is fine, except that the font for the disc title and number is once again eyestrain inducing. But the front cover is one again the culprit to cause me to drop the grade a whole letter. It's a mishmash featuring Orihime and Kanna in the foreground, with Reni's Eisenkleid and Sumire's Koubu below them. In the upper right corner you get a tiny image of Kanna over the tiny banner containing the volume title and number in a tiny font. Do you see a tiny bit of a problem here? And all this is over a red and gold vaguely flower-shaped blob of a background. The only thing I can say about this cover, like the first one, is a resounding "YUCK".
The return of "YUCK" haunts us with the menus for this disc. We get the same treatment as the previous volume - the same washed out effect due to the dreaded gold overdose. Menu response time is snappy, and we get the same music playing in the background as we did on the first volume, which is fine by me. And the little animations in the background are there also. But once again paired with the gold overdose, is the abuse of what looks like a "diffuse" filter from Photoshop, which combined causes me to dock it a whole letter grade as well.
As I've said before, I'm usually not all that super-excited about extras - give me a rock-solid release of the content, and I'm usually happy with that. However, after seeing what goodies the first volume had for extras, it had me looking forward to what they would serve up for this disc. And on this disc we get some great stuff and some bad stuff.
It starts out with a lovely clean OP sequence, and then goes onto the production sketches, once again done in a slideshow fashion. This is where the ugliness begins to rear its head. In the sketches for Orihime, they label it with her name as "Orihime Solette" - and then in the very next part, the show her father, and mention that Orihime's family name is "Soletta" - which is the correct spelling. The next mistake is in the background for the Yakuza members, where they mention their bosses is driving a mecha made by "Kanzaki Heavy Machinery" - which is incorrect, as it is "Kanzaki Heavy Industries". There are 2 or 3 other slight bits of incorrect information not worth listing here, but overall I do really like this extra. Usually you only get this info and illustrations in an imported artbook, and unless you read Japanese you don't understand the text.
We once again get to see the Japanese R2 covers and artwork, and after seeing them make me even more dissatisfied with the R1 covers. The Japanese promos this time around include the commercials for the OP and ED singles to the TV series. A trailer for the second Sakura Taisen game - which they oddly translate the title as "don't give up your life", rather than the commonly accepted "You shall not die" (which I'll write off to slight differences in translations), the Japanese trailer for OAV2 and four of it's six separate discs as released in R2, and then finally something that had me literally bouncing in my seat - one of the trailers for the third Sakura Taisen game (which happens to be my personal favourite of the bunch). The only thing marring my enjoyment of this is that for some ungodly reason they translated the title as "Is Paris fired up?" which is outright incorrect. There is official SEGA merchandise with the correct title "Is Paris burning?" and that title itself was inspired by a novel, and a movie made in 1966. I can't see a reason as to why they would get this incorrect, except for a lack of thoroughness in checking things. Oh well, at least the trailer itself is gorgeous, with some incredible CG as well as traditional animation in it.
And saving my biggest gripe for last in this section, we have the character bios. Now, I don't know who came up with these, but I definitely wouldn't have described the characters in the way they are here. Some of the adjectives they use to describe the characters in fact contradict each other. I can write off the odd descriptions as being the opinion of whomever was tasked with writing them, but my beef is another piece of outright incorrect information. In Sumire's bio, the text there says, "Her father is an important industrial leader who developed the Flower Division". This is wrong, because her father has little to do directly with anything related to the Flower Division. In fact, it is her Grandfather that is responsible for driving forward the development of the Koubu (the spirit armour) that the Flower Division uses. I really wish that they would check this stuff for accuracy before it gets put onto a DVD for release like this.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second volume continues telling stories of the various members of the Flower Division, and we get some more great insight to the girls and how they interact with each other on a daily basis.
The first episode on the disc features Orihime and Kohran, probably the two most mischievous members of the group. Orihime's father has been commissioned to do a cover artwork for an upcoming Shounen Red comic book. Since Kohran did his voice for the radio performance, the creator requested she be the model for the picture. During this time, they run afoul of some Yakuza thugs intent on demolished the row houses for the slumlord that hired them as well as the children of the area who instantly think Kohran is the REAL Shounen Red. Backed into a corner by the thugs, the other Hanagumi members come to their rescue. But to do so without shattering the childrens' dreams, they arrive in a hot air balloon dressed as other cast members of the Shounen Red story, and handily defeat the thugs in a humiliating manner. This episode had me laughing until I had trouble breathing several times.
The last two episodes on this disc deal with Sakura being called home to Sendai to help officiate a wedding in her family, with Yoneda coming with her to stand in as her father. Naturally, in classic Sakura Taisen style, a combination of eavesdropping (a popular pastime for the girls there) and misunderstandings, the others think that Sakura has been called home to be married against her will. Naturally, they do not find this acceptable, and set out to rescue her. However a train worker strike forces them to hijack the Flower Division's airship and they speeding off to rescue Sakura from a horrid fate.
During these two episodes, in bits and pieces of conversation between Sakura, Yoneda, and Sakura's mother and grandmother, we get a lot of background into Sakura's past. We get to see why her father died in the Kouma Wars as a result of the responsibilities of bearing his bloodline, and why Sakura has the same responsibilities as well. In one particularly poignant scene, we see that Sakura's father Kazuma is aware of what he will have to do, and he makes Yoneda promise to look after Sakura when he's gone. A lot of good solid information which helps people figure out "Why is it Sakura Wars, when she's just one of the girls in the group".
In closing, despite the intense nitpicking for mistakes I did on this disc and the previous volume, I've got to say that this has been a fantastic release by ADV. After finishing watching this disc, I was left with such an upbeat and happy feeling, totally satisfied in the story I had just watched. And let's face it - when you come from watching a show with that sort of feeling, you really can't ask for much more.
1) RCA 25" TV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE845 DD/DTS receiver, S-video cables, Fibre optic audio out to receiver, Paradigm speakers. 2) Toshiba MD-1612 DVD-Rom, PowerDVD 4.0, ViewSonic G810 monitor
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen