Sakura Wars is one anime/video game series that I’ve never gotten into, which baffles me extremely. Granted, a majority of the video games never came out here, but with the steampunk elements, the wonderful character designs by Kosuke Fujishima and the fact that its set in an alternate history, there are plenty of things to love about the series, from my own personal tastes. I had seen the original OVA’s, way back when ADV films had released them on VHS, but I never got around to seeing the initial release of Sakura Wars: The Movie, which Geneon had released back in 2001. The film, follows the third video game, where the Flower Division, a mecha combat squad belonging to Japan’s Imperial Assault Force, is being ousted by an American Company. The Douglas-Stewart Company has found the means of replacing the Flower Division, by introducing pilotless mechas, which will slowly be implemented, while the girls sit on the sidelines until they’re needed. Even though this seems like a grand idea, for both Japan and America, head of the company, Brent Furlong, has nefarious plans for both the Flower Division and Japan.
The Production I.G. produced Sakura Wars film is a beautiful, yet empty film. The film requires a good amount of knowledge of the Sakura Wars franchise, in order to understand the character dynamics and overall story. While the film does its best to let the uninitiated in on the fun, there where plenty of times where it helped that I knew a bit about the series going into the film. Director Mitsuru Hongo (Outlaw Star, Shamanic Princess) does a decent job in the writing duties and overseeing the project, even if it feels like its for hardcore fans only. The only visual aspect that I had problems with was the use of CGI for the mechs. Granted, this film came out 13 years ago, but it still is pretty hard to take in a film’s major action scenes, when it has some pretty sub-par CGI, compared to today’s standards.
Funimation’s double dip of this film presents it for the first time on blu-ray, in where it presents a decent video transfer, a bombastic audio presentation and a minimal amount of extra materials. The video is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The Sakura Wars film showcases a melange of colors, from bright greens, reds and even pink. While those colors tend to pop out in any transfer, the look of it is quite soft and somewhat washed out. The audio is presented in two Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes, one in English and the other in the native Japanese. The Japanese track is the one that I preferred, even though there are moments of laughter that are induced from some moments of “Engrish”. The battles sequences are robust and full of activity and the overall presentation is solid from both mixes. The only major extra on the disc is a 20 minute interview with different creators, such as Oji Hiroi, the creator of Sakura Wars, Director Mitsuru Hongo, Mecha Designer Atsushi Takeuchi and president of Production I.G., Mitsuhisa Ishikawa. The interviews are each a bit brief, but slightly insightful to the Sakura Wars franchise and the feature film.
While its certainly beautiful and full of wonderful characters, Sakura Wars: The Movie, presents something that only hardcore Sakura Wars fans will want to go after.