Successfully selling out shows and protecting the Imperial Capital from demon attacks, things seem to be going well for the Flower Division, even if leader Oogami is away. When a new member joins the squad, one who has a history of not working well with others, will the team be able to maintain unity as a brutal new force threatens to destroy Tokyo and everything they’ve been fighting to protect?
The first feature film adaptation of the insanely popular franchise, Sakura Wars: The Movie has so much going for it: terrific animation courtesy of powerhouse studio Production I.G., beautiful character designs by renowned artist Kosuke Fujishima, and many interesting characters providing a very interesting look at an alternate world where steam power rules and mecha fight demons. Despite all these advantages, the film has one serious flaw: it relies too heavily on the assumption that viewers will have experience with previous iterations of the series.
While not a totally ridiculous expectation; the massive popularity of the games, shows, plays, and music is phenomenal in Japan, there is a decided lack of accessibility in the United States. Some series have indeed been released over the years, but the meat of the canon relies on the game series, of which a single game has been localized years ago on the PS2, and featuring characters new to the series and most certainly not in this film.
Character introductions are short and the plot picks up quickly; possible unmanned replacement fighters for the girls are proving more efficient at repelling demonic threats and their sponsor may or may not be what they seem. It’s a pretty general plot that doesn’t offer any surprises but the strength of the characters if you do have familiarity with them, carries the film admirably. Each character has a moment or two, especially when in combat and showing off their special techniques, where they are able to shine.
The focus of the film does lay with Sakura and the newcomer Lachette and they come into conflict more than a few times during the course of the picture. The final scene, which is basically the finale of one of their stage performances, is absolutely great and features these two characters providing a musical interlude that echoes their real life worries and motivations. An excellent addition to the film, I always felt that for a series in which musical theatre is such a big plot of the history, there is a decided lack of actual portrayal of these sequences in the media.
Sharply animated, with a fluidity seldom seen in anime, even today, Sakura Wars is a superbly designed animated film that will more than satisfy fans of the franchise. Non-initiated may have a harder time getting into the film cold turkey, but the solid action and good characters should make an interest in previous adaptations a foregone conclusion.
You may enioy this film if you liked: Sakura Wars TV, Moeyo Ken, and or Hellboy films