Sakura Diaries Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £24.99
  • Running time: 264
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sakura Diaries

Sakura Diaries Vol. #1

By Kim Wolstenholme     December 29, 2005
Release Date: July 18, 2005


Sakura Diaries Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Urara likes Touma. Touma likes Meiko. Meiko might like Touma, but Meiko will only date a college boy. So, what’s an underachiever like Touma to do? Well, if you’re Touma you lie and say that you got into the most prestigious college in Japan. If you’re Urara, will you keep his secret? Or will you use the secret to ruin his chances with the other girl?

The only way to find out is to take out your key, open the lock and sneak a peak into Sakura Diaries!

The Review!
If you like shows that depict girls cooking fantastic food and wearing nothing more than an apron, then this fan service heavy show is for you.

Audio:

The only audio track present on this release is the English dub, which for the most part is not too bad and doesn’t feel out of place with the animation. The setting for Sakura Diaries is so generic that really these events could have happened almost anywhere. Of the three main characters I found the voice actress for Urara the most annoying though, she’s just so goddamn cheerful all the time, and sometimes her pitch is so high it sounds as if she’s shouting. Apart from that there were no dropouts during the track and both dialogue and background music came through fine.

Video:

The video actually looks pretty good, apart from a certain amount of ghosting that can be detected in some scenes. The show has a good mix of daytime and night time scenes and the distinction is nicely done, although the show does tend to move from being quite colourful to reasonably drab.

Packaging:

This is certainly one cover shot that bound to appeal to the boys! The front cover is taken up by Urara looking rather seductive in cut off denims and a short white top, set against a cool blue background. The back cover has a few shots from the show along with the usual blurb and the ADV technical grid. As with many recent ADV releases the case is clear and comes with a reversible cover – another shot of Urara but this time in a bikini, against a pink background. The reversible cover also gives a listing of the episodes contained in this release. Both disks are held within a single DVD case with the first disk housed in a central flap.

Menu:

Static, but perfectly functional. All 6 episodes on each disk are listed by title against a yellow background with green flowers and the opening music plays over the menu. The menus for the second disk are similar, only this time we have the added extras option. It’s worth noting that if you just select a single episode to play then it automatically goes to the next episode without returning you to the main menu.

Extras:

The main extras are on the second disk of this release and consist of the standard clean opening and closing animation as well as the unused clean closing, which is just a different song over the end credits.

Trailers for other ADV releases can be found on disk 1 and include Lady Death, Mezzo DSA, Puni Puni Poemy, Gadguard and EVA platinum edition.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

Sakura Diaries suckered me in with the one quote on the back cover that indicated that it could be an animated version of Hollyoaks, Chester’s most popular teen soap originally created by Phil Redman (the man behind Grange Hill and Brookside). I liked Hollyoaks purely because it allowed me to watch something when I got home from work that did not require me to put my brain into gear and allowed me to relax for a few precious minutes. Recently however, I’ve managed to wean myself off my diet of soaps, but I was still going through withdrawal when I was offered the chance to review Sakura Diaries, and because of the Hollyoaks reference I decided to take the bait.

Sakura Diaries was created by U-Jin who is best known as a hentai artist (although I must admit to never having heard of him). Apparently Sakura Diaries isn’t at all like his usual work and is much less graphic than the majority of his output. However, saying that there are plenty of near naked girls wondering around and quite a few locker room and shower / bath scenes thrown in for good measure.

The story is actually pretty basic; Touma has come to Tokyo to take entrance exams for 3 of the most popular universities. He sees this as a way of getting away from his folks who run a hot springs resort and seem to think that their son is really good for nothing except for doing menial tasks around the resort. Touma is staying in a local hotel, and gets a visit from a girl the evening before his exams who appears to be a call girl. Eventually Touma manages to get rid of this girl, but she seems to be more upset than a mere call girl would be.

Unfortunately Touma fails the first 2 of his entrance exams, and his future in Tokyo is reliant on passing the exam to Keio University, the most prestigious university of his 3 hopefuls. On the way to the entrance exam Touma meets Meiko, a beautiful red-head who’s also hoping to go to Keio. In between exams Touma spends his time with Meiko and decides that she’s the love of his life, and makes himself believe that they’ll be together forever if he can just get into Keio.

Of course it comes as no surprise to find out that while Meiko did get into Keio, Touma didn’t, but here begins his deception. Touma pretends to have passed his exams in order to impress Meiko in the hopes that Meiko will decide to go out with him (apparently she only dates university students!). On arriving back at home to work as a janitor at his parents hot springs resort, Touma realises that he does have another option open to him, he can return to Tokyo and become a prep school student, retake the exams and finally attain his dream of being a student at Keio. This will allow him to continue seeing Meiko, and hopefully persuade her to go out with him while continuing the charade of actually being at Keio. So Touma returns to Tokyo to enrol in prep school and stay with his Uncle who has an apartment in the city.

On arriving at Uncle’s apartment Touma is in for another shock, when he finds the girl who visited him in his hotel room, half naked and cooking him dinner! This person isn’t actually a call girl at all, in fact she’s his cousin Urara, who was only pretending to be a call girl to see whether Touma recognised her! Urara has only met Touma once before, but this was at a very low point in her life, when Touma managed to cheer her up. As a result Urara has decided that Touma is the only man for her and has convinced herself that she’s in love with him! So the love triangle is set, with Touma trying to get Meiko to go out with him, while Urara is trying to show Touma how much she loves him. It’s not long before Urara realises that Touma didn’t get into Keio after all and is only pretending to be a student there to impress Meiko, who Urara has understandably taken an instant dislike to.

With all this set-up in the first couple of episodes the remaining episodes continue to explore the ‘relationships’ between Urara, Touma and Meiko, with both Urara and Touma actually deceiving the object of their affections. However, the main failing of Sakura Diaries for me was that the whole thing was just too drawn out. The whole story could have been told quite happily in half the time, and would probably have been better for it. However, you can’t help feeling that if this had been the case, that the show would have had a lot less fan service in it, and when you get down to it the main appeal of the show is the fan service.

Unsurprisingly most of the fan service elements of the show come from Urara, who’s quite happy to show her affection for Touma by wandering round the apartment half naked or cooking him dinner wearing nothing more than an apron. However, saying that Meiko also gets a short look in as well, when she and Touma end up in a Love Hotel for the night after having a bit too much to drink.

The tone for much of the series is quite light which suits the subject matter, however at around the half way mark the tone changes slightly to become a bit darker (although this doesn’t last for long). It was also this episode and the one following it that really made me realise that I actually didn’t like the characters at all. Without providing any major spoilers, I’ll just say that Touma takes Urara’s hospitality a bit too far, which, for any normal person, would have meant that they were ostracised forever, but Urara’s such a nice girl that she just doesn’t talk to him for a few days and then acts as if nothing ever happened.

When you’re watching a show with a fairly small cast of characters it’s quite important that there are aspects to the characters that you can either a) identify with or b) like. The main characters in Sakura Diaries are missing both of these pretty much essential qualities, although some of the minor characters (such as prep school regular Akimoto) are much better realised. Urara is just too nice and forgiving, and sometimes comes across as a bit of a doormat. Touma is totally self-absorbed and seems to have no morals whatsoever, and Meiko is a something of a tease and appears to be quite unobservant for a pupil at a top university.

Overall though, the story is just too weak for the long running time. There are only so many times that you can watch Touma deciding to tell Meiko about his deception. It’s also rather annoying watching Urara fawn over Touma, believing he can do no wrong when she really knows the opposite is true. The phrase “wake up and smell the coffee” was shouted at the TV screen on several occasions when yet again she forgives Touma for being a total arse.

However, the worst failing for this story is that there is really no resolution for any of the characters. To be fair the story the series was based on was still on-going, but the ending doesn’t even attempt to tie any of the loose ends up, at least as far as I was concerned. Considering the series took quite a while to get going and never really picked up the pace the sudden ending was probably to be expected, but it just seemed too sudden. Maybe it’s because I was really hoping for Urara to finally realise what Touma was like, something I should have realised would never happen.

In Summary:
There’s really nothing to recommend Sakura Diaries unless you’re after lots and lots of fan service, which the show delivers on quite a regular basis. The characters are paper-thin and are on the whole unlikeable and at times just plain annoying. It’s a shame in a way because the basic story did show some promise, but ultimately it failed to deliver.

Features
English Language 2.0,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Bonus Unused Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

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