Sakura Wars the Animation – 1st Episode Review
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Synopsis: Ten years after the demon war, the new Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division is assigned a new captain, Seijuro Kamiyama. Now, Sakura and the rest of the troupe must adjust to the change, face a demon invasion, and prepare for an upcoming tournament. They’ll have to juggle all this while keeping up with their training and continuing to put on shows at their home, the Imperial Theater. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Sakura Wars the Animation, as many might expect from the title alone, is a video game to anime adaptation based on the long running video game franchise of the same name. This title is a direct adaptation of the most recent entry in the franchise, which acts as a soft reboot for the series, and is set to launch world wide later this month. What’s offered in this game’s anime however is hardly compelling. Starting on the surface level Sakura Wars the Animation makes exclusive use of CGI for all of is animation, from trains, to the mechs and even its entire cast of characters. We’ve never had an issue with CGI anime in concept, but Sakura Wars is one of the less impressive examples of CGI in the anime medium. Character movement feels stilted and dull, even if the character designs are generally fine otherwise. It’s only when we switch, very briefly, at the end of the episode to Mech vs Monster action that this style starts to click. The Mechs movements feel powerful, and the monsters beastly. Otherwise the rest of the episode is a bit too wooden to hold your gaze.
Linny: I’d like to start my part of the review by mentioning that I am definitely not the target audience for Sakura Wars as I have very little interest in mechs… or musicals for that matter. Yes, this show does indeed feature musical numbers, if you are also clueless about the franchise like I was going on. This first episode opens with some action but then spends a fair amount of time focusing on the theatrical performance life of its main cast. This contrast doesn’t work for the best as the musical parts feel so distanced and disjointed from the earlier fight. It doesn’t help either that we skip over proper introductions for any of the characters until the end of the episode, and even that is merely dropping in their names. You’re just thrust into the daily lives of this group of girls who unfortunately display only the most basic and generic of personalities. Making matters worse is that the fact that Sakura, our ‘main’ female character, comes across as especially slow and idiotic, getting completely caught up and mumbling the word ‘family’ when their captain, Seijiro refers to their theatre troupe as a family as if this is the most innovative, novel and emotional revelation ever. Yes, she is clearly infatuated with him but it all feels like such crass low level male fantasy material; a ditsy girl who hangs on every word and is thoroughly impressed by everything that comes out of some dude’s lips. Combine that with the extremely skimpy outfits that the villains of the episode were wearing and you’ve got a show that’s clearly aimed at being predominantly male fantasy fodder.
Tom: Sakura Wars really drops the ball on introducing us to the cast. We understand Sakura’s romantic dilemma, but learn nothing about her as a character to make her someone we want to root for. The same goes for all the other girls as well, leaving their dialogue boring and bland enough that it’s entirely unmemorable. The episode eventually takes a turn towards plot, doling out a ton of exposition, some of which feels superfluous since we witnessed the events the cast is discussing, only further dulling potential interest. Overall I think Sakura Wars the Animation is a safe pass for the season. Even if this episode kind of interests you with the setting and Mechs, it might still be best to simply wait till April 28th and give the actual game a go on the PS4.
Linny: Anime shows that are adapting video games are usually some of the worst executed and Sakura Wars is no exception. Its characters are painfully hollow and you can easily tell who the self insert/player character is. Not only does this first episode fail to establish its cast as deep and well rounded but it doles out information in the most clunky of ways. From a rather extended look at the theatrical parts to the girls literally introducing themselves to a pack of mechanical/magical wolf like beasts for no other reason than to finally give the audience a chance to learn their names, it’s all a narrative mess. Sakura Wars seems to have no idea on how to dispense information organically, either regurgitating it in large chunks or just injecting it into the most bizarre moments. And thanks to the sub-par animation quality, it’s hard to imagine even a fan of the original game series being able to truly enjoy this adaptation, making Sakura Wars the first easy skip of this season.
Sakura Wars the Animation is available for streaming via Funimation.com