Sakura Wars

Sakura WarsType: TV Series
Episode Count: 25
Genre: Historical / Mecha / Sci-Fi / Drama
Vintage: 2000

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 17 Mar 2006

Grade: B

This is one of those shows that on the surface looks like it shouldn’t work, but once it gets going, nothing seems out of place after all.

Plot Summary
In 1920s Japan, Sakura Shinguji has come to to protect the Imperial Capital as the newest member of the Imperial Combat Troop’s Flower Division. The Flower Division pilots steam-driven machines, called Koubu, using their spiritual power. Things don’t start smoothly for Sakura, though. When she arrives at headquarters she sees not a combat base, but a theatre where rehearsals are going on. As she wanders the grounds, Sakura stumbles into the basement where the Koubu are kept, and then they suddenly react to her presence, causing quite a commotion. As Sakura has now disrupted not only the rehearsal that was going on, but also their machines, she must overcome the rest of the Flower Division’s dislike for her if she is to be welcomed as part of the group.

The Review
This is a series I predicted I would like by association, based on the following ingredients: Kosuke Fujishima’s character designs (I like Ah! My Goddess), and Chisa Yokoyama’s voicework (since I liked how she did Sasami in Tenchi Muyo!, and her singing). Add to this that I like traditional Japanese clothing, like Sakura’s robe and even the red bow in her hair. Before I knew much of anything else about this show, I already liked it. It’s a good thing that when I finally saw it, I in fact did like it after all!

Sakura Wars (or Sakura Taisen, if you prefer) takes a bunch of ingredients that aren’t usually mixed together, but the way they are put together just seems to fit. It’s one part Sailor Moon, one part Gundam Wing, and one part, oh, InuYasha in the Industrial age instead of the Feudal, and a microscopic dash of Evangelion. Add to this the element that it is based on – of all things – a dating sim game series that is wildly popular in Japan, something I would never had guessed if I didn’t find it out elsewhere first.

The two main stories in Sakura Wars are the character drama involving Sakura’s efforts to gain acceptance in the group, and the story of the Flower Division’s defense of the capital. The mecha side of the show is straightforward enough, with the obvious unique part being how the machines are piloted and that it’s the 1920s, not the future. The character story is where the show gets fun, and most likely where its roots in the dating sim are shown. I wouldn’t know for sure, since it’s not likely I’ll ever get a chance to play the games.* Each character is, as suspected, an archetype of one kind or another… here’s the rundown:

Sakura – innocent but powerful
Sumire – self-righteous primadonna
Maria – cold and detached
Iris – enigmatic 10 year old
Kanna – rowdy and easygoing
Kohran – bookish, from the Kansai region (I kept thinking of Kero-chan every time she spoke, since they share a similar accent!)

Overall, the show does a good job with everything; it’s not out to break any new ground. But when it comes to shows that are fun to watch without leaving you scratching your head afterwards, Sakura Wars is a good pick. After all, who wouldn’t want the ones defending your city to be girls in a theatre troupe?

*since this writing, I have played Sakura Wars V, which is not related to this title specifically (as Sakura Wars TV is based on the earliest installments of the game series), but confirms my suspicion of this particular point. To retain the tone of the original writing, I am leaving the review unaltered in this case.

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