Sakura Wars TV Vol. #5: Stage Fright -

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Mania Grade: C+

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  • 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. #5: Stage Fright

By Chris Beveridge     November 17, 2003
Release Date: November 11, 2003

Sakura Wars TV Vol. #5: Stage Fright
© ADV Films

What They Say
Sakura finally realizes her dream of starring in the Imperial Flower Combat Troop's new show, but the devious Satani has more than a bouquet of roses with which to reward our star. What will the team do when their key player is running plays for the other side? And how can they win if their coach is missing in action? Will the old traditions prove to be the way to a new victory?

Based on the video game that took the world by storm, Sakura Wars TV brings you even more of the beautiful warriors made popular in Sakura Wars. This volume takes you four episodes closer to the exciting conclusion of the epic battle between our high-strung heroes and the tireless shadow dwellers. Things will get a lot worse before they get any better.

The Review!
Sakura finally takes on a lead role, but her doing so causes ripples they spawn larger problems. Add in the past recurring in the present and tensions rise all around.

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.

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.

The cover style continues with this release and is again a real highlight. With the previous volume lightening things up a bit with the light yellow for Iris, things take a slight turn darker with an interesting murky shade of green for Kohran. She’s done up in her red Chinese style dress and we get the image bar of her Koubu. 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 goes into the Cinderella character designs and some of the pieces about Satan Aoi and his accomplices. There’s also some cute designs that deal with the end-theme characters.

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.

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 the main focus here is on the show itself and the booklet.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the fifth volume of the series, some of the themes from earlier on are coming back into the forefront here. Add in some figures from the past returning in the present and there’s an odd mix of episodes here.

The volume opens with the latest play being readied, this time Cinderella. Unlike the last time Cinderella was put into production though, Sumire is not getting the lead role. This time it’s Sakura who has gotten the lead and it’s causing all sorts of issues. Issues that I had thought were being worked through earlier in the series but apparently are still strong. Sakura’s definitely nervous about being the lead in the play and her nervousness is coming through in poor readings and not being altogether really in the right frame of mind when it comes to her rehearsals.

With Sakura in the lead, it’s very little surprise that Sumire is not taking it well. Her jealousy and fear of Sakura’s rising star and the possibility of her own diminishing is still having something of a stranglehold on her and becomes a real problem both in the rehearsals and in the actual combat unit moments. During the training exercises and even during combat she finds herself thinking about the changes and ends up causing trouble either in missing cues or overstepping in formation and setting things wrong. The problem with this, at least in my mind, is that she’s been having this issue since practically the moment Sakura arrived and it seems like they’ve resolved it at one or two points but it keeps coming back. It’s such a poor plot point and just has me rolling my eyes every time it comes up.

One of the plot points that comes up is learning something of what the Black Council is up to. Going back and using some good local Japanese religious mythology, Tenkai is brought back into the present by having them send Satan Aoi to find the five Tenpu Stones that, once shattered, will allow the force of the powerful Tenkai back into the world. Since that’s most definitely not something the government wants, the Flower Troop is sent to locate the three remaining stones that haven’t been found yet and defend them. Since the group is still not operating well as a group, it’s little surprise how quickly they blow the job.

The one interesting aspect to these episodes is the return of Yamazaki. With Kohran still admiring him and then there feelings that are still there from the colonel, Yamazaki opts to make his move by working through Sakura. Simply just meeting her on the street, he becomes friendly with her by regaling her with tales of her father. The two get along well, particularly since Sakura is overly respectful and eager to hear anything of her father. The only time she’s even the slightest bit cautious is when he offers her a present, a small bell, something that her father had given Yamazaki some time ago. With the promise to keep it with her at all times, she sets off to tell everyone about finally meeting someone who is important to so many people.

Of course, it’s obvious where the bell will come into play, with it being a way for Yamazaki to control Sakura. With this pawn of his now inside the compound, he sets about wrecking some havoc and creating chaos, chaos that takes others some time to see through before it can be dealt with. What becomes really bothersome during all of this is Sumire’s attitude, which is again reflective of what was mentioned earlier in her dislike of Sakura. While the two will eventually become friends of some sort, the way Sumire is now is simply unpleasant – to the point where I’d rather skip her scenes entirely.

In Summary:
With this disc bringing us to within a few episodes of the series ending, the plot is only now actually starting up since the bulk of the series is a character study. The plot feels a bit weak and somewhat rushed, but at least there’s some progress and forward-flow going on with the show now. There are parts of this series that I continue to like, particularly the Iris related episodes of the previous volume, but this one just felt like it was going through the motions to get ready for the finale. Those that play the games may find more things interesting here than I do since they’re likely closer to the material.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,8-page printed booklet including production sketches,Production notes,Clean opening and closing animation,Character bios

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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