Sakura Wars TV Vol. #6: Curtain Call - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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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. #6: Curtain Call

By Chris Beveridge     December 18, 2003
Release Date: December 23, 2003


Sakura Wars TV Vol. #6: Curtain Call
© ADV Films


What They Say
Our heroes are on the run after the combined forces of evil destroy the headquarters of the Imperial Flower Combat Troop. Without a base of operations, the girls are at the mercy of Satan (Satani) and his infernal crew. But the forces of good still have a few unplayed cards. Will it be too late in the game to win the jackpot?

The Review!
Barreling through the final four episodes, the team faces its toughest moments yet and has to do it on their own.

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:
Bringing the cast to a close is Kanna, which shifts to a pale reddish pink hue that’s similar to how previous covers were done. Kanna comes across nicely here with a mix of softness around the lower half and some richer colors along the center. 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 new equipment that shows up in these episodes and a bit on a few other minor pieces.

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 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 some amount of adrenaline flowing, the final four episodes of the Sakura Wars TV series sets to bring their main storyline to conclusion with Aoi Satan while also showing that the cast has grown over the course of things and are now a functional team. While the main storyline does end nicely, the other part continues to feel fairly forced and blunt enough at times.

The main storyline rumbles along with Aoi Satan and his crew continuing their search for the fifth and final stone so that they can raise Edo Castle and begin their ascent to real power in this world. Aoi Satan moves somewhat to the background during the initial stages of this, letting Crimson Miroku instead take the lead along with the little boy in the frontal assault on the Flower Troop’s home base and theater. Their attack is fairly devastating and it forces everyone to go on the run as the complex is evacuated.

So now without a home and holed up at one of the research stations instead, the team starts to falter as revelations start coming up about who Aoi Satan really is. That particular revelation is most devastating to Kohran since she had such faith in him and his designs that it shakes her to the core, something which causes the team to start fraying as the battles get more intense. While the Troop tries to regain their balance, Aoi Satan sets his plans in motion to devastate the bulk of Tokyo via his Wakiji while he unearths the final hidden Tenkai Stone – and a bloody massive stone seal at that.

Both the main plot and the character growth plots converge as the battle for the ruins of Tokyo comes into play. The main storyline plot of Aoi Satan continues to be mildly interesting but it’s standard villain fare, and what little motivation the character had is basically tossed aside at the end to simply have him look cool. But it’s hard to sympathize with a villain whose prey gets away because they’re running from him and he’s simply walking. Villains would win more if they put some effort into things.

The Flower Troop team itself is given a push to become something more than they have been, partially due to the Commander and Vice-Commander disappearing from the scene as it gets more heated. Each has their own reasons for doing so, and it forces Ohgami to become the real leader of the team and set his plans into motion to deal with Aoi Satan. And while the team does fight together effectively, there isn’t the kind of oomph and rush to it that you’d expect, mostly because outside of Iris and Kohran, pretty much all of the characters are the same as they were in the beginning. And while I may be misinterpreting the character, I continue to find Sumire completely unlikable in this version.

There’s some sense of closure at the end of all of this, which is a plus, though it’s another show the feels like it’s closing the first book of many instead of a single volume. The wrap-up is just a bit too fast and too easy to really give a feel for how things are after all that’s gone on, as well as any real sense of comradeship from the team though it’s supposed to be hinted at through some of the kids that walk by. The ending isn’t exactly unsatisfying, but it fits the nature of the series, which is damning it faint praise really.

In Summary:
Though I’ve enjoyed numerous aspects of the Sakura Wars franchise overall, this particular venue didn’t manage to win me over all that much. Between feeling like the same kind of episodes were repeated several times and the added feeling of “been there and done that” due to the previous two OVA series, it took some effort to get into the shows groove. And even once there, we didn’t last long before it went off the tracks again. Add in my complete lack of interest in the games that supposedly truly flesh out the characters, and the series becomes fairly mediocre overall. There were some good moments, but they were far outweighed by what seemed like dj vu.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Ending

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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