Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A+
- Video Rating: A+
- Packaging Rating: C+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: A-
- 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 Edmund Lee
December 08, 2002
Release Date: October 08, 2002
Being a fan of the Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen) franchise, when I pop this disc into my player, never in my life was I so excited (well along with the last volume of Princess Nine since it came with my order) to see this second OAV series. Can you tell what I think about this show?
On the first episode on the disc, it's basically a story about Maria's past coming back to haunt her. A shady character, by the name of Valentinov, comes to Japan looking to exact revenge on Maria. He sets up bombs in the Imperial Theatre, which forces Maria to come face with the past she wanted to leave behind.
The next episode deals with what it is like to grow up. Iris is definitely having one of her days where the pressures of performing was getting to her and that everyone in the Hanagumi trying to help her deal with it. Blaming everyone for not treating her properly, she took it on herself to have a day off. Concern for her well being, everyone goes out searching for her. Much fun and excitement comes after that.
And finally on the last episode of the disc, the Hanagumi are on set filming for their first movie appearance. Of course nothing goes smoothly and soon rumours fly when there is said to be a ghost haunting a studio lot for their last scene to be shot in. This is one great episode if you are a Sumire fan such as myself.
So each episode is a self contain episode that basically tells a story about some of the adventures of the Hanagumi division when they aren't fighting the enemies that invades Teito. I must say that this OAV series heavily relies on the fact that you have a basic understanding/played at least one of first 2 games of the series. This not only helps in understanding the characters, but generally the whole feel of the Sakura Wars world. Being a fan of the series itself, and played all 4 games, I tried looking at what makes it worthwhile for someone who's new to this series. The stories within this DVD provide a real treat and enjoyment that anyone can really get into, but generally I can see new fans scratching their heads and wonder who and what each of the characters are and what their relationship between each other. Hell, I bet that no one would guess Reni is actually a girl and why Iris always hangs around her a lot. If there's one thing many would like about this OAV series, it's probably the music. If the
Now onto the technical side of things, the video presented here, is in a word, perfectly gorgeous. Unlike the original Sakura Wars OAVs ADV release a few years ago, the transfer here is just picture perfect. The only problem with the video, and this is just minor nitpicking, is during certain panning shots, there's some aliasing and shimmering, but like I said, it's just nitpicking.
The audio side of things amazes me more with the Japanese 5.1 track. Ambient sounds came across sounding clear and the great use of directionality across the soundstage. The English 2.0 track came out sounding great too, but it didn't have the depth like the 5.1 Japanese track. Not that you would want to listen to the dub much anyway.
The extras are a god sent if you are a Sakura Wars fan. A creditless OP to start things off is a good sign. Next comes the production sketches, which runs about 8 minutes. It's neat to see designs of the items in the Sakura Wars world. A character bios, while is interesting, it didn't have enough background information about the characters. The cover and insert scans of the first 3 Japanese DVDs are up. Then this is my favourite part of the extras, the Japanese promotional footage. There are 2 trailers for the Saturn to Dreamcast port of the first 2 games, and trailers for the live performances. These live performances are performed by the seiyuus themselves, something that is rather rare to see these days. And having own 2 of the many live performances they give, I can tell you it's just as fun as what you see in the trailers. And finally 6 trailers of new/upcoming ADV licensed shows.
One thing to note, seeing as I am a great fan of the Sakura Wars series, the Japanese Vass has a special place in my heart as they are the real stars that help make the characters come to life and to hear a dub version of the characters is probably blasphemous to all the Sakura Wars fans out there. Well the dub hit me with a great surprise, as I was impressed with how well it turned out. "What? You gotta be kidding me, this is Monster Island we are talking here" as some of you might be saying about now. Yes I know Monster Island, the bastard child of a dub house for ADV, whose track record hasn't been so great. I dunno how, it might have been that the VAs gave more energy in their performance, but anyway it all worked out well.
Okay lets see what works. Katherine Catmull (Sakura), while I preferred Amber Allison's version of Sakura, she still manages to keep the charm and innocence of Sakura's character, at the same time keeps a tone of confidence circling about her character. Lauren Zinn (Sumire) is another that impresses. She just nails the part of Sumire real well, example of this is the first episode where she adlibs the play, that had me cracking up, although the Sumire laugh isn't as great as Michie's one. Since most of the Sakura Wars fans know, Kanna and Sumire make a great watch as they are usually at each other's throats and Lane West (Kanna) compliments Lauren a great deal. It's a great match up I say. As for the translation, it is accurate to a point. Nothing major I found in terms of re-writes, but there were a few points that is either glossed over, or expanded upon. Nitpicking but I guess this is from someone who watches the dub with the English subs turn on. If it were off, I wouldn't have nitpicked.
Now for what weren't right about this dub, firstly the fake accents. The worse culprit is from Jessica Schwartz (Iris) and Boni Hester (Kohran). Catherine Berry's (Maria) was alright, but it feels like it's not really part of Maria's character (too much Urara Takano). It's just disappointing that Monster Island still retains those accents. Lucky Orihime didn't get hit with a cheesy Italian accent. Second, the odd directing. At times while I was watching the dub it seems that the ADR director got confuse at certain scenes or that he makes the characters seem out of character, Orihime is a good example. Third, this might sounds weird, but the hell?!!! Something's just not right with Kaede. Too youthful, just waaayyy too youthful.
It's hard for me to recommend this to anyone who isn't too familiar with the world of Sakura Wars, but if you aren't afraid and are open to a possibility of enjoying what makes this franchise so loved by many fans, then give it a go.
JVC XV-N5 DVD Player, Panasonic TX-76PW10A 32" Widescreen 100hz/Progressive Scan with component cables, Panasonic SA-HE70 receiver, Wharfedale speaker set and Sony sub-woofer