Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 120
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Sakura Wars / Sakura Taisen
By Chris Beveridge
October 26, 1999
Release Date: October 26, 1999
What They Say
© ADV Films
All four episodes! The year is 1919. The World has barely survived the first Demon War and the next is about to begin. Conventional weapons won't cut it, neither will conventional soldiers. Humanity needs the few, the proud, the pure: the Spirit Warriors. Recruited from around the world, these women are beautiful both inside and out, but can they master their steam-powered spirit weapons in time? This is the world of SAKURA WARS, an all new animation epic based on the best-selling video game that took Japan by storm. Now all four action-packed episodes are available together on one DVD featuring English and Japanese audio tracks, English subtitles and a host of other extras. Don't miss out on the action as SAKURA WARS explodes across North America!The Review!
Well, while this is a video game to anime conversion, it's a really spiffy one. Let's get into the disc itself first.
The audio is clean and clear throughout with two exceptions. Dialogue is good and undistorted and there's some minimal use of the front soundstage, though for the most part it's coming out of the center channel as it should. The problem with the audio arises on the 3rd and 4th episodes in the opening song sequence. On the 3rd episode, the front speakers are much lower while the rear speakers go up a lot. The first two episodes pretty much had a nice balance. The 4th episode plays louder than the first two but is balance between the front and the rears. It's rather odd in how it worked out, but it's not detrimental, it's just... curious that it would happen and get by. The sound levels do no affect anything else on the disc that I could find.
As for the video, it's exceptionally crisp throughout the majority of it. There are a few minor moire lines that show up on occasion, but as mentioned in other reviews this is primarily due to NTSC and you'll see it from the lowest release to the biggest Hollywood release. Colors are vibrant but never seem to be over saturated or bleed. An excellent presentation.
There's a wealth of gorgeous images to be used for cover artwork and ADV has chosen wisely. Definitely a great looking picture in my eye and should get an extra glance or two from those passing by it on the shelves. The back gives plenty of information and screenshots as well as menu shots. Plenty of information on what's on the disc and who did everything. The only thing missing and has been missing on every ADV release to date is the region coding. With anime being as much an international thing as it is, region coding listing is important folks. The insert doesn't contain any chapter stops, but does have a short list of titles that are out and should be coming out while the other side contains some great artwork of the entire cast.
One thing that ADV really does shine in over most of the other studios is their menus with their interactivity and overall production design. This release continues that tradition with some snappy menu shifts while being very quick to access each selection. Another bit that shows extra care is the scene index menu, after loading briefly, are motion menus. Very nice. The only downside to the menu is in language selection as after you select a language or a subtitle option, there's no way to really tell that you did as the colors don't change or anything to indicate what you selected actually took.
The subtitles on the disc seem very close to the recent Pioneer release style as seen in Tenchi Forever, which isn't bad but I'm not sure if it's the best thing yet. Depending on your seating distance, they may be a bit hard to read (especially for us aging otaku) but there's a good border around it so they're visible at all times throughout the presentation.
The only thing that really bummed me out about this disc is a problem between episodes. We watched the show the first time around with English subtitles and Japanese language. When the first episode ended and the second began, everything reset back to the default of English language and no subtitles. This is the first time I've seen an anime DVD release do this and I'm just wondering what the authoring logic behind it was. Heck, even the angle resets.
And yes, there is an alternate angle on the disc and it works quite well. The disc naturally defaults on angle one which can be found occurring in only one place: the opening credits of each episode. Angle one contains the English voice actor credits while angle two contains the Japanese voice actor credits. It took a bit of playing to make sure it was the only place using it, but of course if I had read the back of the case I would have known that right off the bat.
Slick. I like it. Except that it reset at the beginning of each episode. :)
The show itself is quite a bit of fun. Taking place in the 1920's with a steampunk style, it's all a prelude to the video game that the characters are from. I've never played the game myself, but I found this release to be pretty interesting and has achieved the top spot as my favorite game to anime conversion, passing over the earlier release of Darkstalkers.
The nice difference with this kind of show is that it does focus on the characters more than most fighting game shows, though some may find this series very slow. The majority of action doesn't start until the third episode, but for those looking for something different from other video game conversions, this is a title definitely worth looking at. And that's coming from someone who just about hates fighting anime after seeing too much of it in recent years.
The one final thing to note about this release is that it came out within a week of the second VHS volume being released which contained the final two episodes. With the DVD containing all four episodes for the price of one release, this is definitely a great value for your dollar, especially when you can get some great online discounts for it. I don't know what ADV's intention was in releasing it this way with it being a newer release (catalog titles can be hoped to be released at this value), but I like to think of it as their way of showing a good faith in the DVD format and giving the fans something of value and a reason for VHS people to think about moving over to the format.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.