The Sakura Wars franchise is quite the powerhouse in Japan, as it has received numerous video game adaptations, an anime series, OVA series, novels, stage shows, and now a movie, but if you happen to live North America then you may not know anything about this series. Sakura Wars was never quite the hit in the West as it was in Japan, so why was the film rescued in the first place? Does the film live up to it's predecessors?
Sakura Wars: The Movie takes place in an alternate 1920's where steam technology is beginning to surface and advance. Our heroes of the story are an all girl theatrical troupe that is also secretly part of the Imperial Assault Force as the Flower Division (I have no idea why It's called that. I find it dumb to be quite honest.) There are different divisions all over the world defending their own specific territories, Flower division focuses on Japan. Their jobs are to battle demons and defend their territory in giant steam powered mecha.
At the start of the film we're (kind of) re-introduced to the lead characters... Sakura (voice of Wendee Lee), our lead character, the perfect picture of naivety, sweet and a overly optimistic girl. Lachette (voice of Julie Ann Taylor), the new woman joining the flower devision. Maria (voice of Mari Devon), the cold and hardened leader of the Flower division. Ichiro, the man who formed the troupe. Sumire (voice of Michelle Ruff), the self professed star of the troupe. Lastly, Iris (voice of Carrie Savage) rounds out the primary lead cast, a member of the team who possesses psychic abilities.
It's here that we meet our lead villain, Brent Furlong (voice of Crispin Freeman.) Brent is basically your cookie cutter typical villain. He's the president of the organization called Douglas-Stewart. He has the normal motive of an anime villain, along with the more interesting and ultimately wasted sidekick Patrick (voice of the terrific Richard Cansino), create robots to take over Japan. The Flower Division troupe finds out of his evil intentions and goes all out in a (surprisingly) terrific all out fight between the two sides.
While I wouldn't say the film is for newcomers to the franchise at all... the characters are already expanded upon, the creators of the film expect you to know all of the back story since there is a continuity and the movie jumps right in the middle of the story, fans of the franchise should enjoy this entry. However, even for the hardcore fans of the series, this film is predictable from start to finish, it features rather boring characters, and a terrible lead villain, the lead character doesn't even get a whole lot of screen time until the final 20 minutes where all of a sudden she's Goku from Dragon Ball Z (meaning the movie up til that point is an ensemble, then she shows up after everyone's been defeated just to punk the lead villain in 2 minutes.) I'm sure there is much better Sakura content out there.
- Amazing Blu-ray upscale.
- Beautiful animation for it's time.
- Fans of the series should love it.
- Sakura. Why even make a film based on a franchise if you're gonna barely showcase your lead and titular character? That makes no sense at all. She's in it scattered throughout, but mainly stays in the background. none of the film focuses on her until she defeats the villain, and honestly she could be cut from the film entirely and replaced, and their would be no consequence to it.
- Typical villain. They couldn't find a decent villain for the story? They had to go with one of the biggest cliches out there? Doesn't really matter, his total screen time barely amasses to 5 minutes and he's completely wasted.
- Dub. We got some good voice work here from typical awesome actors like Crispin Freeman (Hellsing's Alucard), Richard Cansino (Ruroni Kenshin's Kenshin Himura), Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop'sSpike Spiegel), and Wendee Lee (Cowboy Bebop's Faye), but we also get a whole lot of shoddy typical early 2000's dubbing, which was usually pretty bad, this is no exception.
- No "Movie etiquette." - What happened to the rule about cluing non-fans in about what previously happened? You're gonna be lost if you have not seen the original series when it comes to the characters back story (this film provides none), or the world they live in. However the film's plot is pretty simple, so people who are not familiar with the series can watch it and try to enjoy it as a standalone film.
Video and Audio:
The picture quality of Sakura Wars: The Movie is outstanding! Seeing how the film is 13 years old, you would expect some age or grain, but this upscale to Blu-ray is truly fantastic, on par with the Yu Yu Hakusho blu-ray upscales from a couple years back. Obviously the animation style itself is a bit aged, but for a release from '01, it holds up quite well.
We're given 2 options for Audio, a TrueHD 5.1 English dub track and a True HD 5.1 Japanese Track. Just by listening to the dialogue, you can tell that this film was meant to be heard in the original Japanese. Besides a shoddy dub and lacking script, the film actually has a solid soundtrack that makes for effective background music. They really pop at the beginning and end of the films for the troupe's musical numbers.
- Interview with the Creator: A 22 minute interview with the creators of the film.
- Original Trailer.
- Japanese Commercials.
- Promotional Video
- U.S. Trailer.
- FUNimation Trailers.
I'm positive most Sakura fans will enjoy this film immensely, for them this film is recommended. BUT, for the common fan of anime who has not seen any of the Sakura franchise like myself, I cannot recommend this as the starting point. The film had shoddy pacing, predictable A to B story, pretty boring characters, and a one note villain. Rent It