Shaenon takes a crawl through the manga version of one of Makoto Shinkai's beloved films.
If you are into video games at all, you've probably heard of the Saturn Role-playing game Sakura Taisen. An enormous success in Japan, this female interaction/battle simulation never made it to the United States for some reason (most likely because of Sega USA's inept marketing -- the system was already dying at that point), but somehow managed to get the attention of industry followers.
This is for good reason. Featuring character design by Kousuke Fujishima (Oh My Goddess!, You're Under Arrest), the game was absolutely charming, and had more funny little side-games than Final Fantasy VII could ever dream of.
...Which is why this OAV series is so disappointing.
In 1919, Japan is still recovering from the first Demon War (obviously a parallel with World War I), and it's betting its hopes on Kanzaki Heavy Industries, who have developed the ultimate fighting mecha. (This IS 1919, after all). The problem is that they have to find the pilots with enough mental ability to use them, and that won't be easy.
So, several young women with especially powerful psychic abilities from around the world are chosen to pilot them. They aren't really getting along too well together, but at least they're assembled. Sakura, the series' namesake, is just getting her training together, and she's the last to come to the group.
There's nothing wrong with the story itself... Hey, it carried the video game rather well. The problem is the inept story-telling. Sakura Wars drags on so long setting itself up (for what, I'm not sure), that it's exhausting to watch. It's only a four-part OAV series, and in the two presented here, the main character of the game hasn't even been introduced yet!
Worse yet, the characters pretty much fit into nice little stereotypes. There's the boyish jock, the prissy little girl, the tough business-like Russian woman, the bitchy rich daughter of the boss, the nerdy Chinese inventor, and the simple, trained country girl. None of the characters are memorable, and watching them bicker and argue is simply mind-numbing. (ADV dubbing them with bad accents didn't help this any, although the dub is adequate overall.)
Having watched Sakura Wars, this tape is going to be one that will sit in the inner depths of my cabinet for a very, very long time.
Overall : C-
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