Sakura Wars

Sakura WarsType: OVA
Episode Count: 4
Genre: Historical / Drama / Sci-Fi
Vintage: 1997

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 25 Mar 2007

Grade: C

Fun to watch, but lacking in depth, though there is a disclaimer to that…

Plot Summary
In an alternate 1920s Japan, the hope of protecting the capital from an evil force of mechanical creatures lies with the newly formed Imperial Flower Combat Troupe – a team of young women from around the world who pilot steam driven robots with their spiritual energy. When the team is not training to protect the capital, they perform as a theatre troupe for the local citizens.

The Review
I must have been spoiled by seeing the TV version of this series first. Though that was a year ago and I wasn’t trying to, I couldn’t help but compare the two as I was watching this 4 episode OVA.

Sakura Wars is based on a Japanese video game which has never been released in the United States. This means that those who have not played the game, including myself, are missing one very important thing to fully appreciate this series: context. This short series assumes that you already know the characters and backstory. Since I saw the TV version of Sakura Wars first, I had the benefit of already knowing the story, since that version was longer and didn’t rely so much on the video game to fully appreciate it. If you take away the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see how this OVA can leave a viewer scratching their head a bit.

Since this was the first in a string of Sakura Wars anime titles, benefit of the doubt can be applied, and it is easy to understand how this was a series created for fans of the game. It’s fanservice in the pure sense, and at least on the Japanese side, might also be considered a seiyuu showcase. Neither of these are a bad thing on their own. Voice acting is excellent, with some big names including Chisa Yokoyama, Ai Orikasa, and Michie Tomizawa, to name a few.

Storywise, I can only assume that it relies on the video game. A lot happens in these four episodes, but at the same time, it seems as if not much does. Another slightly frustrating aspect is that there is such a large cast to cover in only four episodes. Again, this probably defers to the game.

Sakura Wars is a good series, but without knowing the characters or story ahead of time it may be confusing and vague. I would hesitate to recommend this as a first outing into the Sakura Wars animeverse unless you have played the video games (the intended audience). I’d instead opt for the television series incarnation, which starts from zero and introduces everything from scratch.

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