Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 17 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 24.95
- Running time: 75
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Sakura Diaries
Sakura Diaries Vol. #4
By Roman Martel
February 18, 2002
Release Date: February 27, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.1
(on a scale of 1-5)
English Acting: 3
Touma, man or loser? Touma, pervert or hormonally challenged? Touma, liar or gifted storyteller? These questions were the ones that plagued my mind as I watched this final installment. Would I be distracted by panty shots and cleavage moments? Would I be able to stomach the pain of the embarrassment that Touma and Urara dished out? Or did it simply come down to the fact that I kept waiting for someone named Sakura to write in a diary?
The final disc of Sakura Diaries is just like the other three. We've got great sound and picture here, there were some moments when the master didn't look too good, but all in all, it was a well done disc. The menu is pretty simple and easy to navigate. The keepcase will catch any male's eye and the back makes the story sound lurid enough to get someone to consider buying it. It is missing the number of channels used for the sound and the number and names of the episodes on the back of the case. There were no extra's in this case but there were trailers on a separate menu instead of starting when you pop the disc in. That's a plus. This disc is just as good, technically, as the previous ones, so let's bounce on to the content.
I'll review the final disc (spoiler free) first and then do a series review and a quick editorial on the two versions of this series, which will probably contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
The conclusion of Sakura Diaries reveals itself and so does Urara. Well she doesn't really reveal herself, at least not any more than she has previously. In the first episode on the disc, Touma is recovering from being dumped by Mieko and Urara gives him a nice back scrub. Of course things quickly deteriorate from there, but Touma's feeling better and that's what's important. We also get to learn about an interesting little custom that involves hair... But ... moving on. In the second episode Touma tries to focus on his school-work and not on Mieko... or Urara ... or the desire to get rid of those hormones the quick and single way. But temptation in the form of Urara in a tiny bikini keeps interrupting him. The final episode has all the main characters making decisions about their lives. Will Touma stay with Urara after he finds out her dirty secret? Will Urara stay with Touma once he decides what he wants out of life? Will Mieko stand for being a trophy? And does anyone get the sharp blow to the skull that they so desperately need?
The animation and sound have stayed constant in this disc. You got lots of fan service, as usual. It's all from Urara this time, so Mieko fans will be a bit let down. There's a goofy superdeformed moment in the first episode while Touma fantasizes about Urara doing some naughty things as she scrubs his back. And those were handled with the usual skill. You've also got the crazy backgrounds and over the top pans and freezing. It's kept in the same style and fits the show very well. The animation isn't the best I've seen but the directing style both dramatic and comedic do raise the grade a bit. The creators of this series knew you were watching this for the soap opera plot and the fan service and they don't try to be much more. So the animation and directing reflect that. Good solid job in that area, especially with the ending.
This leads into the plot as well. Because it's a soap opera you have a pretty good idea how things are going to play out. But you have hopes that maybe Touma will stop being an idiot, or maybe that Urara will not be so naive, or that Mieko will see that she is using people. But if that happens than the love triangle will fall apart. So the plot is fairly predictable, but the ending is the touchy part. What has been good about this show is that most of the time the characters act just like real people would in those situations. Things get a bit over the top, but you expect that. If the ending was handled in a typical Hollywood fashion it could make this series suffer the weak ending syndrome. Instead the writer and director stuck with the characters and ended things the way they should have. I'm happy to say that this series ended the only way it could have and left me with a smile on my face. I like to see people stick to their guns.
The acting was a bit weaker here for some reason. Most of the time it was solid and well done, especially Touma and Urara. But Mieko and Mashu have a whole scene in the last episode and it came off rather empty and lacking in something. It was a key scene and it did pull me out of the series a bit. Other than that Urara's voice is real hit-and-miss; sometimes she's good, and sometimes my eardrums shatter from the pitch she hits. She's very good at doing cute, and naïve, and in puppy love all at once. Touma comes across like a big time dork as well. The dub script takes some liberties here and there, but the basic plot and tone are unchanged. It's an entertaining script and the actors pull it off pretty well. I can see some people switching to Japanese but the English is worth giving a try. Overall you get a decent job with the dub in these key episodes.
I like the opening and the end themes for this show. They seemed a bit random when I first viewed them, but over time they grew on me. The rest of the music was pretty standard for the most part. There were a couple bits of music where the melodramatic moments of the plot fit perfectly with the score and it just made it that much better. I did notice a place in the last episode where I swear I heard music was used in an episode of Pretty Sammy or Tenchi. Kinda weird @_@.
This final disc of Sakura Diaries was entertaining. It was a good mixture of soap opera characters and plots, and fan service galore. The ending handled itself much better than Amazing Nurse Nanako did. There was no odd change of pacing or feeling to the show. Sakura Diaries kept focused on its goal, to have a group of characters get into all kinds of relationship strife and give you fan service along the way. This was a satisfying ending to a good series.
*** Series Reviews and A Tale of Two Versions***
As a series, Sakura Diaries was able to keep me interested and looking forward to the next disc. This surprised me a bit, especially after having being disappointed by Amazing Nurse Nanako. The real key to this series was the ability to create characters that were just close enough to people you know (or yourself) but to exaggerate them a bit. It made you connect to the characters and hope to god that they wouldn't screw up again. It worked. At the end of each episode you are left wondering just how Urara or Touma is going to react to the new situation or how they will end up screwing it all up.
And while the plot of the man surrounded by temptation and chasing after the "wrong girl" is not really a new one, the story managed to remain pretty fresh and entertaining because of the character dynamic. I will say that I am still pretty angry at the way Touma treated Urara in the second disc. That attempted rape was something that felt almost too much for even Touma to try. It almost made me dislike him so much that I was unwilling to continue the show. The fact that Urara put up with it made it even worse. Of course there are people that feed off of violence in relationships, but that is usually explored in hentai, not in a fan service-packed show. This put me off a bit and made me really want the ending to not work out in anyone's favor.
And that is just what happened. No one ended up with anyone else. It was just as it should have been. It was pretty much the general consensus between myself and Ladycat that all these characters were just a bit too immature and had some growing up to do (since we are old and bitter we can say things like that). And it was only with that kind of ending that I was able to really stomach the show past the second disc. So in a way the tone changed for me. In the first disc I was having fun watching Touma screw up and try to land the girl of his dreams. After that little scene, it became the quest to see Touma get just what he deserved and in a way see Urara get over the clown. Unfortunately that doesn't happen. But I suppose one out of two isn't that bad, right?
So if you're looking for a show with lots of fan service and that will keep your attention this is the one for you. I think the characters could have been a bit more likeable or maybe a bit more fun could have been had in places, and this would have been a great series. I will pull this out again, especially if I need to see a panty shot or just witness the true power of the loser named Touma.
For those of you who were wondering if the entertainment factor would be changed because of the changes made to this version of the show, I have to say that it didn't seem to effect my opinion of the series. I'll clarify a bit here. The big controversy with this series is that a Laserdisc version of the series was released in Japan with added footage. This version is the same you would have seen had you caught the show on its Japanese run on T.V. As far as I can tell, there were no moments that felt like they were edited or that seemed to have something missing. Most of the new footage is fan service (from what I've been able to tell and not too pertinent to the story).
So what does it boil down to? In my mind the series is not harmed by the missing footage. But I also advocate getting the less cut version whenever possible. Ack!! I'm contradicting myself again! I think that if you want to see this show in the Laserdisc cut, contact ADV and let them know how you feel. Would I buy the LD cut of Sakura Diaries if it was released separately? Probably not, but if they offered a trade in program, I would be interested. In any case, contact ADV and let them know. The more interest shown in the other version, the better the chances of getting that version released.
Roman J. Martel
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General Electric Performance Plus (25 Inch), Sony Playstation 2