Sakura Wars TV Vol. #4: Intermission - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen

Sakura Wars TV Vol. #4: Intermission

By Chris Beveridge     September 26, 2003
Release Date: September 30, 2003


Sakura Wars TV Vol. #4: Intermission
© ADV Films


What They Say
The nefarious Satani is up to his tricks again-and the only thing more horrifying than the wickedness of his actions is the revelation of his true identity! Meanwhile, Sakura must face the Spirit World in order to make peace with the troubled soul of her father; Iris finally gets her hands on her own Koubu; and the Crimson Lady is back for another death match. Just your average day on the job for the Imperial Flower Combat Troop!

The adventure continues as the girls of the Koubu face off against the lords of destruction in a tag-team, steam-punk fight to the finish!



The Review!
After three volumes of build-up and character stories, the series moves forward with actual plot and combat sequences. Plot!

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included a mix, a nice stereo one, does a good job with some minor directionality and a great use of the stereo channels for the music. The English track takes a step further and includes just a 5.1 mix that manages to bring some extra clarity to things, particularly the music. Unfortunately, no stereo mix is present so some folks may have downmixing issues. Throughout the Japanese track, we noticed no dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer here continues to be something of a mixed bag, and most of it looks to be source material related. The transfer in general looks soft throughout, but does have a number of moments where it looks really sharp. The softness doesn’t help in terms of aliasing during panning sequences. Colors look good throughout, though better in later episodes where they’re not quite as soft. Cross coloration continues in these episodes as it hits more of the characters around the edges and a number of episodes have more aliasing than normal.

Packaging:
The cover style continues with this release and is again a real highlight. After the darker cover on the last volume, things lighten up with Iris taking over and providing a yellow background set to the image of her in her cute dress, complete with bow in her hair and her teddy bear. It looks really nice and provides a deceptive cover to the content within. This is a fantastic looking image in its simple and almost elegant look. The back cover provides a few screenshots from the show and a basic premise of what it’s all about. The discs features are also clearly listed. The back cover overall looks light on content, with things spaced out more than normal. The insert included is a nice super-deformed piece of Iris in her kimono while fireworks go off around her. Also included, and a real big treat for newbies and hardcore fans alike, is a six page mini booklet that details quite a about the secondary characters, the troupe in general and also providing some sketch artwork of them. The downside to this one is that while the past ones have been done in the color over the cover, it’s done that way here as well. Which means yellow. Which means very hard to read and look at.

Menu:
Taking a cue from the front cover, it looks essentially the same but with the additional of animated blossoms falling down across the screen and some nice music playing alongside. Selections are along the left for each episode and access to the setup and extras is quick and easy. Access times are nice and fast and there are no transitional animations to slow things down.

Extras:
The extras again are really minimal here. We’ve got a textless opening and closing segment and that’s it. Both definitely look good, but it looks like the main focus here is on the show itself and the booklet.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the downsides to a lot of the anime Sakura Wars franchise is that so much of it is just character stories or slice of life kind of pieces where we get to know the characters better. These work out splendidly if you’ve played the games, since it lets you get an even better feel for their personalities and quirks. But in terms of just watching the shows, you can essentially see a lot of it and not see any real story.

With the TV series, there’s been hints of something bigger definitely at stake here and it’s this volume, reaching the halfway mark in the series, that brings it to the forefront. The premise is simple in that through various pieces of information, Yoneda reveals that they’ve found the headquarters of those who have been calling the Wakiji into the city and causing all the problems. Everyone mounts up, splits into two teams and heads into the area. All of this action is balanced nicely by the fact that Iris still hasn’t set foot in her own Koubu and the reasoning behind that. Of course, there’s nothing like foreshadowing within the same episode to give away how the climactic action sequence will be resolved.

With the attack on the dank little base, we get to spend more time with the villains of the show as the three humans that have been causing the trouble have laid their trap and play various games with the two teams. It’s nicely done in having the action be rather varied and letting each pilot show their strengths. It’s also good in that they’re not just running over the villains completely and making quick work of them. A nice balance of give and take is done, providing for a much more interesting battle.

There comes one major revelation from the battle, though it doesn’t mean much to the viewer until the following episodes. The main villain here, Resatsu, is someone that some of those in the Flower Troop command level know and his apparent involvement in all of this has caused surprise and quite a bit of shock for some. Sakura’s own battle with him, involving a rather comical swordfight that shows just how early she is in her training, causes her more problems than she realize as her sword becomes chipped for the first time.

Naturally, instead of following up on all the revelation that we’ve been given, the show shifts focus to Sakura and Ohgami going off to Sendai so that Sakura can get her sword fixed. Since it’s something that hasn’t happened before, and that the sword is highly important, there is a sizeable ceremony involved in fixing it with the special metals it’s made of. The repair of the sword is also an allegory to the fixing of Sakura, who finds herself lost to some extent after her dialogue with Resatsu and knowing that he knew her father. With Ohgami kept to the side since it’s a private ceremony, Sakura is set to find her path again on her own.

The best episode on this disc though is the third one, where we go back in time a bit and tell the tale of the last (first?) time the Wakiji attacked. This is before the Flower Troop and deals with a special four person squad that seemed like they were the only ones to be able to handle the job. Made up of Yoneda and a young (hot!) Ayame as well as Sakura’s father Kazuma, there is also Yamasaki. Yamasaki is of course the interesting one, as we’ve heard him called the father of the Koubu by Kohran, as he’s the one that designed the spirit armor to fight the Wakiji before he mysteriously disappeared.

The story tells part of their tale as they deal with one of the bigger infestations of the Wakiji in the city and the devastation it causes. But it also plays out the story of how the team works and the struggles within. With the four of them being needed by the military but despised by the regular soldiers, they do their job but have problems getting it done. Yamasaki’s coming up with the spirit armor is a huge breakthrough, but it’s not something that the military will spend any money on since it’s so expensive. But as the largest battle yet gets underway, the situation starts to change and the potential of the spirit armor becomes required through the acts of members of this special group.

This episode goes very much for the action, but it also works a lot of character bits in nicely. When you later shift to the older Yoneda and Ayame behind the desk and giving instructions to Ohgami, you realize much more of their pasts and how it influences the decisions they make as they send out the latest “crop of kids” to deal with a problem they were unable to deal with completely themselves. The background for Ayame alone really enhances that character and brought her much more to the forefront.

Between that episode and the changes for Iris throughout the others, this volume provided much more entertainment than I had been expecting from the series. Things were start to look bleak in terms of a real ongoing plot, but this volume really manages to turn around that opinion. I’m actually looking forward to seeing more now to see just how much is brought out to play with.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitle,16-page printed booklet including production sketches,Production notes,Clean opening and closing animation,Character bios

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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