It’s time to look at the Sakura Wars OVA. I actually saw the show before the OVA but this one certainly makes for the quicker review since it’s only a handful of episodes. It’s a pretty solid alternate look at the series. It’s got a greater focus on the origins of the characters and works as a solid prologue for the most part even if it ultimately ends up catching up to the main series a bit. You could almost watch the first 2 episodes of this show and then cut right to the main show for an almost seamless experience. Of course, you will have to get used to the new voices if you’re watching the Dub though so that’s one thing to keep in mind here.
The show introduces us to the setting. It’s old style Japan but the world is a lot different than the one we are used to. Monsters continue to attack the capital so the Flower Brigade has been tasked with taking them down. A lot of the older members are already dead or not strong enough to win though so now we need a new generation. Several characters are brought in who I will talk about shortly. The main character is Sakura and as the daughter to one of the strongest warriors of all time, people expect big things from her. There is certainly a lot of pressure. Will she be up to the task and do the heroes really have what it takes to defeat an entire army of fighters?
Right away you can tell this show is buffing the power levels quite a bit compared to the show. It feels more accurate to the game to me. I haven’t played the original Sakura Wars but I played the Wii game and the characters were all quite powerful there. You had elemental attacks and special abilities while in the TV show for the most part that just wasn’t there. Kanna is able to punch through solid brick and Sumire/Maria are using elemental energy blasts. It’s definitely nice to see and the battle on the bridge was pretty exciting due to that. I also liked the aerial fight scene against one of the monsters where Iris took him down for the count. Iris is greatly improved from the TV show here. In general I think the OVA’s short length helped it really focus on giving you a solid peak into the video game.
I also always like seeing the heroes get together for the first time. It makes for a lot of solid banter and the OVA doesn’t disappoint here. It’s not surprising in the slightest that Sumire and Kanna would be bickering right from the jump. Their idealogies and personalities are just completely different so they won’t see eye to eye. They do work well once a battle is on though and that’s the kind of dynamic you want to see. Constant bickering is fine if at the end of the day you still join forces to stop the enemy in front of you. That’s exactly how these things should go. Sakura and Ogami start to take the show over for the last two episodes but the first two are really about the other characters who get the starring spot.
The writing is definitely solid. The characters are introduced well and you quickly get a feel for them. The animation also holds up rather well. It looks pretty much identical to the show. It’s certainly old enough where you can tell the OVA’s age to an extent but there aren’t a lot of shortcuts taken or anything like that. It’s very smooth. To an extent the fact that it’s going for a very steam based aesthetic also means it won’t look quite as flashy as some of the other titles. It’s not exactly Gundam but that’s also why it’s good that we finally got some more energy attacks here. It gives the show a chance to show some solid energy effects here.
Sakura is the main character of course and she’s solid. Sakura is definitely quite nervous at first and doesn’t believe in her abilities as much as she could but she gradually gets over it. I feel like she’s not hazed quite as much in this version although the characters can definitely be tough on her all the same. I’m glad that at least Maria and Kanna would stand up for her at times but even then Sakura had to fend for herself at times. Even Iris was surprisingly antagonistic towards Sakura. You’d think that she would at least cut Sakura some slack but I guess she didn’t want to risk being out with the in crowd. Well, Sakura does a good job of pressing past this and shows them why they need her on the team.
Sumire is definitely the meanest character of the group but it’s part of what makes her fun. She adds a lot of division to the group and you always need a member like that stirring up the pot. Her rivalry with Kanna is especially good and we even get a bit of a fight scene between them which I wasn’t expecting. That was a lot of fun and if they hadn’t gotten interrupted I fully believe Kanna would have won that match. Based on the strength we saw earlier she would have punched through Sumire’s weapon like it was butter. Sumire’s technique is the best from the group though and against the aliens she is an absolute machine.
Kanna is the best member of the group although she and Sumire are close. I just like Kanna’s confidence and how she is always ready for a fight. She also makes the right choice in heading off to avenge someone. The OVA is a bit vague on this and she settles her business off screen. Still, she has to go and do this while the enemy is around. Why should she have to wait in the building? I’d say that Yoneda made the wrong call here. Then we have Maria who is not quite as emotional as the other characters. She still likes to enjoy life and its experiences though, she just keeps it to herself more. Her main weapon is a gun though which I’d say puts her at a bit of a disadvantage next to the other characters. In shows like this guns just don’t do a whole lot. If anything they just hold you back and prevent you from really accessing your full abilities. Part of why I like Maria is she doesn’t bow to Sumire like some of the others. When Sumire threatens to not be in the play because Sakura will lead Maria basically shows her the door and tells Sakura to lead anyway.
Then we have Iris who is greatly improved from the show. In the show Iris could often be annoying, had no idea how to use her abilities, and would just get in the way a lot. Here Iris is a whole lot more confident and takes down the enemies like it’s nobody’s business. The heroes would have been in considerable trouble without her. She can still be a little mean to Sakura but for the most part Iris is a much more consistent character. I think when you’ve got a kid with overwhelming ability it’s nice to see them confident for a change instead of still working to train at it. Then we have Kohran but from the main girls she gets the shaft here. She spends most of the episodes still working on building the mechs and as a result doesn’t even get to interact with the other characters much. By default she would be my least favorite character for that reason.
Ogami takes a little while to really show up here but to make up for that he gets a whole episode to himself where he tries to write a play. It was a pretty fun episode and I’d say that the plot was handled well. We even have an interesting meta subplot where his inner self is following him around and helping out. He’s a solid character. I do feel like the fact that he can’t fight as well as the other characters hurts him a bit but as commander the main thing he just needs to be able to do is make good plans and execute them. At the end of the day he does good in this task so it all works out for him. He is a pretty solid commander and he’ll only continue to get better. He would have gotten even more props from me if he was able to take down all of the monsters by himself. Now that would have been impressive!
Ayame doesn’t get a huge role but she definitely makes for a solid sub-commander. You get the feeling that if she was able to harness the energy abilities the way that the others could she would have been commander instead of Ogami. She certainly seems well equipped for the task, but I suppose if you can’t access the power then that’s the end of that. Yoneda is also a better commander here than usual. I still don’t particularly like the guy all that much but he was absolutely correct in yelling at everyone for prioritizing a stage play over an alien attack on the city. Really guys? That one’s a no brainer. I know they worked hard on the play but you’ve absolutely got to go after the aliens right away. The sub-general should have told them all right away and they all run off after Ogami. So Yoneda seemed like a capable leader here and he also knew when to stay out of the action.
The mecha themselves are let clunky here which is good. I remember thinking at times that it seems like the heroes could fight better without them than in the suits in the show. In the OVA it seems more like they help channel the abilities to their fullest so the heroes can use elemental attacks. I feel like that helps to justify their use a lot more. I still have my issues with the suits like the fact that if you fall down in them you can actually get trapped though. That seems like a huge oversight. I think that’s the point of the designs to an extent but I still think they could have been better. I’d also have liked to see one fight where the heroes try to fight without them and lose to really spell out that they need the mechs. As it stands I have some doubts but I will definitely give the series this, the suits have a very unique design. I can’t think of another anime where they look quite like this.
Overall, Sakura Wars is definitely fun to check out. With only 4 episodes it’s not like it’ll take you a long time to get through either. The characters are well written and the plot is pretty interesting. It does feel like the adventure just doesn’t end of course, but it’s not like this was meant to adapt the whole game. If you want a full adaption then for that you get to watch the whole show. This is like a preview of the story which I have seen less of in anime format. It would have been nice to have seen more of the villains but that’s why I appreciated the fact that we got a few more action scenes early on. In some ways that’s why I would say it even beats the full length TV show but at the same time that one’s just so much longer that it gets to do a whole lot more. SO for example, on average each of these 4 episodes would beat the show’s, but when you take the full 26 vs 4, I would still say that the TV show wins. The climax was pretty intense there. If you want a solid mech anime adventure then you should definitely check this one out.