Sakura Wars OVA 2 Vol. #1 : Return of the Spirit Warriors -

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen

Sakura Wars OVA 2 Vol. #1 : Return of the Spirit Warriors

By Chris Beveridge     August 23, 2002
Release Date: October 08, 2002

Sakura Wars OVA 2 Vol. #1 : Return of the Spirit Warriors
© ADV Films

What They Say
Friendship, loyalty, and teamwork-the binding forces of the spirit warriors. Captain Ohgami reflects over his adventures with the Imperial Flower Combat Troupe as he prepares to depart for a new assignment, but turbulent winds are brewing. For more than one member of the Division, the coming storms could mean disaster: an evil voice from the past, the pressures of stardom, and the advent of cinema threaten to break up the Imperial Floral Assault Unit! Don't miss the latest chapter in the saga of the Imperial Troupe, Sakura Wars: Return of the Spirit Warriors.

The Review!
It’s been nearly three years since the release of the first OVA series on DVD, and a refresher is definitely in order before watching the episodes in this new OVA series.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. And in something of a rare event, the Japanese went and made a 5.1 language track for this. This track is rather well done, with some solid use of the rear speakers for ambience and various sound effects during action moments. The main use is to really build a well layered forward soundstage, and it comes across great here. The English language track is done in a standard stereo mix, which sounds good but definitely lacks what the Japanese 5.1 track provides.

I’m hard pressed to find anything wrong with this transfer, and the extremely minor thing of some slight shimmering around character edges during a handful of panning sequences is the ultimate in nit picking. Other than that, this is a fantastic looking transfer that takes advantage of a very vibrant piece of animation. Colors are rich and lush, backgrounds are wonderfully solid and cross coloration is non-existent. ADV also did the same thing they did with their original OVA release in that depending on the selections you make in the language menu, the opening credits play different angles. Angle 1 provides the characters with their English voice actors while Angle 2 provides their Japanese actors. This process had some problems way back in 1999, but works flawlessly on this release.

After seeing the artwork show up online and wondering what they were thinking, I have to admit that the style for the cover works much better in hand. The deep yellow background provides the character artwork the chance to be much more eye-catching. The front cover lets Sakura and Sumire with a couple of their armors below them as the cherry blossoms fall. The back cover provides some small screenshots and a few lines of a summary. The discs features and technical information is all clearly listed, and there’s a small volume numbering on both the front and back covers as well as the spine. The insert isn’t a standard one, as it folds out to a nice four panel poster featuring the cast. The reverse side has two interviews that provide some nifty bits on the series background and what goes into the show.

The menus are done up in a similar style to the front and back cover with the colors and general layout with various bits of animation playing through the menus, including submenus. There’s music playing along well, keeping it lively. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is pretty standard.

There’s a good selection of extras here for the first release. The clean opening animation provides a good look at the shows opening and includes the original logo. The production sketches segment runs about eleven minutes and provides a look at designs as well as commentary on things. It’s a rather interesting way to do what is normally a static image section. The character bios provide a brief piece on several of the cast members, but not enough for first timers to really know who’s who. The original Japanese DVD cover artwork and inserts are shown here for the three episodes presented on this disc, and I love this inclusion every time it happens, especially with the inserts as those are rarely done. There’s also a six minute video of original Japanese promo’s that go through the various Sakura Wars anime. There’s also a number of pieces from the musicals.

I admit it. I want the musicals. Please! They look so… intriguing!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This new Sakura Wars OVA series, released in 1999, is very different from the original OVA series that preceded it. While that one dealt with the introduction of Sakura to the Flower Division of the Imperial Capital military and her taking place in the theater troupe, this series focuses more on the various characters and expands on what we know of them – provided you’ve only seen the anime and not played the games.

The spirit powered armors don’t even make an appearance here.

Each episode takes a look at a particular character and gives them their moment to shine. Provided you know who everyone is, as there are no real introductions here, this is great. If this is your first foray into Sakura Wars, expect much confusion but some fun stories. For example, the opening tale deals with Maria, the daughter of a Russian/Japanese love, she spent time in New York before coming back to Japan. Her mafia past is coming back to haunt her with the Major for whom she once fought for has come to extract revenge. The tale is simple, and gives you some great sequences with Maria, but half the characters aren’t referred to by name. The finger snapping thugs in the beginning are great and I love their style, but I can’t for the life of me figure out any of their names.

The second episode deals with the youngest member of the troupe, Iris, and how she has to deal with wanting more out of her life than constant rehearsals. This ties in with Reni, the next oldest of the cast, who does all that he can to support her and the way she shines when she’s on stage. It’s a good tale of figuring out that you can be older and still retain the child in you, but also provides some fun little scenes with boat chases in the waterways. I also loved the fact that there was a quick subtitle for a Ramune vendor during this episode, and having learned about that from the Steel Angel Kurumi translator notes, it added just an extra special bit to this show in that I knew more than I used to.

Sumire manages to take the third episode, which goes into the real spiritual side of things in dealing with the ghost of a dead actress who wants vengeance. The parts I enjoyed here the most focused on their attempts at making a film, with Sumire playing the Crimson Lizard and being the nasty character required. It’s also the only real episode that even vaguely touches on the whole spiritual side of the series.

One allure to this series for me continues to be the timeline. We’ve seen a number of shows set in the Taisho era lately and have learned quite a bit between translator notes and our own studies. While this one certainly is intended to be accurate as we’re dealing with pseudo-steampunk, I find it to be one of the more interesting modern eras. The animation for this show is also a major draw, with some very richly done OVA animation that is rarely seen these days. This has to be one of the cleanest looking OVA’s I’ve seen in a long time, and it was just a visual treat to watch.

Sakura Wars is very hard to recommend, since it simply does not stand well on its own. Having enjoyed the original series years ago, I’ve got some groundwork but would have been much better off rewatching it prior to this disc. ADV should do a price-drop of the original prior to this release to generate interest and to help ensure that people will enjoy this one. I found it to be quite a bit of fun and a good way to pass the evening and am looking forward to the concluding volume of the OVA episodes.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Character Bios,Clean Open,Special insert with a poster with Japanese staff interviews printed on the reverse

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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