It had been a long time since Sakura Wars had gotten a complete TV show before this one came out so it was definitely a big deal. Between this and the new game the franchise was finally going to hit it big again. I get the feeling it wasn’t quite as big a hit as they intended at least since to me the series seemed to vanish again. That being said, the show is great. It’s easily the most complete Sakura Wars product out there and in 12 episodes it accomplishes a whole lot. This is absolutely the kind of vibe you want to have for the show and the new cast is a lot of fun.
The show starts out with a very engaging scene as a monster shows up to kidnap a kid named Klara. She is stopped in her tracks when a mysterious lady shows up known as the White Cape. Both of them are interrupted when Seijuro along with two guest stars from foreign combat revues show up. Seijuro takes the girl over to his team to look after her since it’s clear that a lot of villains are after her. While he will be away in Europe tracking down some clues, he leaves Sakura in charge of the team. She vows to watch over Klara with her life and the two of them hit it off really well. The rest of Sakura’s teammates are pretty cool about this as well. It won’t be so easy though. The Moscow team have arrives and claim that Klara is one of them and demand that the team hands her over. They refuse but the Moscow team is appealing to the government so this may be taken out of their hands. Can Sakura and her team protect this kid?
When you think of Sakura Wars, action usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’s more of a drama or slice of life that includes a lot of action. Well, this show definitely tossed that out the window. There is a ton of action here and as you can probably guess, I was a big fan of that. The first scene in the show is a pretty powerful battle between the various characters. We got to see Excalibur and another girl briefly as they helped Seijuro fight these girls off. They definitely feel more like guest star characters and so you shouldn’t expect to see them do much again until the very end. Still, they had excellent character designs and just really helped to start things off on the right note. They’re exactly the kind of allies that you want to have by your side at all times.
This was also a nice way to build up the stakes and get the show ready from the start. It wouldn’t let up after that either as you could typically look forward to some kind of fight going on in each episode. Surprisingly the heroes don’t fight the demons quite as much as usual since it’s mostly the Moscow group getting in their way and the Black Cape. The monsters probably figured they should lie low for now and I don’t blame them. They do look pretty good when they appear though as the main unit had a lot of trouble with them. There is even one moment in particular that is pretty rough for the group since they had to be saved. It just goes to show that there is always someone stronger after all.
This time around the animation is in pure CGI. Fortunately this is an example of using CGI the right away. The character designs are on point and the fight scenes look good. Naturally with hand drawn animation I’m sure the show would have looked even better but this one handled everything pretty well so I had no complaints. The energy effects are still quite vibrant whenever the characters are attacking and the fight scenes are good. There’s one scene where White Cape has to deflect a ton of bullets and she does it with ease. Then you’ve got Leila blocking Hatsuho’s punch with ease which was another pretty hype moment. You can still feel the impact each time which is definitely the important part.
Then we’ve got the soundtrack. The opening is pretty solid and it feels like a nice remix of the classic intro. That said, the ending is what really stands out here. It is quite stellar and just feels like an epic way to end each episode. You’ll be at the edge of your seat each week as you wait for things to continue. In the actual episodes the music is a little more forgettable though so mainly it’s the beginning and ending where it shines.
Still, this wouldn’t be Sakura Wars without at least having some time to calm down and just enjoy the sights. We get one full episode where Sakura gets to go on a family outing with Seijuro and Klara. The main villains as well as the rest of the heroes all decide to tag along and wreck this little trip of theirs. It’s pretty interesting to see even the villains get in on this. I suppose it may have been a decent time to try and steal Klara away but you feel like they’d never get away with it. You could say that this is the only episode that doesn’t seem to further the plot so in a way it’s like filler.
It was a fun episode though and it gave Shiba some much needed screen time so that alone makes the whole thing worth it. The show balances out the genres pretty well. Aside from that happy episode then you get a more emotional one early on with Hatsuho as she feels bad that Seijuro didn’t choose her to be leader. The tough truth is that Sakura was just better suited for it. Then of course you have the pretty serious episodes of the climax where the villains are making their big play. The show succeeds at every theme so whether the heroes are just having fun on their own or jumping in to make some kind of great stand against the villain, the episode really flies by.
The writing is on point throughout but you would expect no less. The ending to the series is also very satisfying. There are a few ways they could have gone about this of course but this was the optimal route. Additionally, there was one character moment that would have just been plain unfortunate but the very last bit of the ending made sure to correct this. Make sure you stick around til the very end of the show. Ultimately the ending was just great when you consider all of that and so the whole show benefits as a result.
Lets talk about the characters now. First up is Sakura, the leader of the team. She is a very dedicated fighter who stuck to her guns and wouldn’t let Klara go. She also took a lot of big risks in putting her life on the line to protect Klara. Sakura also mastered the more powerful suit of armor pretty quick. It’s clear that she is the most powerful member of the group, especially thanks to her sword skills that she can use even without a suit. When you put that all together, her allies just don’t have anything on her. Seijuro made the right choice.
The bond between Sakura and Klara is also just a lot of fun. Sakura’s always got her back. As for Seijuro, he doesn’t get a whole lot to do here. The higher ups keep throwing him on wild goose chases so he can’t help out at home. From what we see he is clearly a good fighter though. While Black Cape was able to take on the entire Sakura team and do well, Seijuro was able to take on 2-3 of them at once and came out on top. He’s easily one of the most impressive fighters in the series so that’s why it’s a shame that we couldn’t see him fight more. He has trained the team well though.
Klara has a big role of course and she’s good. Now it’s not always easy for a kid character to be very impressive as worst case they can just be really annoying and hold everyone back. Fortunately that isn’t the case with Klara. She’s just a nice kid from the start. While English isn’t her first language (Well, technically it would be Japanese since this is a translation) she does well at fitting in and even throws in a few Russian lines on occasion. The fact that she has some special abilities helps out quite a ton as well. There’s a lot of build up to this so when she finally gets to join the team the scene feels very well earned.
I was also glad that Seijuro was quick to let her help instead of just wasting time and trying to stop her. She is a member of the team after all so it only makes sense that she would jump in right? This is one case where Klara feels necessary to the team’s dynamic so it was good that she was on board. She ended up being a lot more fun than I had expected. Then we have Hatsuho who is the power member of the group. Unfortunately because of this she loses just about all of her fights. It’s sort of like Sailor Jupiter from Sailor Moon or Tauros from Saint Seiya. Since they are the power members of the group, they are always the first to get wrecked to show how powerful the next villain is and after a while you wonder if they really are the strong member. I guess physically yes, but when Hatsuho is physically weaker than every villain she encounters in the series, that makes things rather difficult for her.
It does lead to one of the best scenes in the show though when she throws a punch and Leyla casually catches the hit while also bringing Hatsuho to her knees. Hatsuho has a tough time here in other scenes as well like when she lost to the demon twice and then growing jealous of Sakura. Fortunately the two talk it over with Sakura being oblivious to what the chat was truly about and then Hatsuho was able to get over it. It was good character development because staying jealous would have just made her look really bad. As it stands I do like Hatsuho quite a bit but she’s got to work on that.
Azami’s the ninja of the group and is not nearly as talented as she thinks she is. This leads to a lot of fun little scenes where she does her best. My main issue with her is the fact that she seems insanely weak in a fight. Ninja stars aren’t going to work on giant monsters. Additionally she seems like the character who would be quickest to betray Klara so I definitely would not trust her in the slightest. Anastesia is another member of the group but unfortunately she really gets nothing to do here. I guess maybe she had enough screen time in the game so they decided to skip her here but it is a shame since everyone else got a big role. All we know about Anastesia from the show is that she’s probably the most serious character of the group.
Claris is more of a low key character but she is quite solid. Her magical attacks definitely look a lot more impressive than the bullets and ninja stars everyone else is using. She is a very pleasant character who is happy to help and doesn’t really worry about anything. She’s quick to try and cover for Azami despite not being too invested in what’s going on just because she is a good friend. So while she doesn’t do a lot in the show, she leaves a very good impression. Their boss Sumire doesn’t do much either but you wouldn’t expect the boss to get mixed up in all of this. Mainly she is notable just because she was on the original show so it’s nice to see that she moved up. Hopefully one day she can access her powers again and suit up, defying what we thought was possible.
Then you have Hakushu, the White Cape. The show makes it plain as day that they are the same character so you don’t have to worry about spoilers. The show is definitely self aware about this the whole time as her disguise is completely obvious. All she does it put on a mask and a cape but everything else is the same from her voice to the hair style. In her first scene we have Sakura chasing White Cape and when she turns the corner there is Hakushu who half heartedly says the Cape ran off. Hakushu also tends to make errors when talking as if she was White Cape and always has a weak excuse as to why that happened.
The show has a blast with this so get ready for the big reveal. Either way Hakushu is easily the best character in the series though. The fact that she is portrayed as the most powerful character while not having a robot is pretty incredible. She always jumps in to help and is willing to do a whole lot more than any of the other characters. The scene of her deflecting tons of energy blasts using super speed is pretty incredible. It’s clear to see why she commands so much respect as Sakura’s boss. Part of why she is the best character is because of how many times she saves the characters. Aside from that, she also seems to be the most intelligent as she stays one step ahead of everyone else. She also finds time to run an orphanage so she is truly a woman of many talents. She steals any scene she is in.
Then you have the main villain Kaminski. This guy is your classic take over the world kind of villain. There’s not much different about him but he does have a flair for the dramatic which works really well. In general he tends to be a fun guy. He keeps a polite demeanor about him at all times even though you know it’s most likely fake the whole time. Considering how long he kept up this charade though, you feel like he gets really sloppy by the end. If he hadn’t suddenly tried being as evil as possible and being cold to Leila then he had a good chance to win this. It almost felt a little out of character for him to be honest as he made things really easy for the heroes. Well, either way he was a pretty charismatic villain that’s for sure and definitely not someone to underestimate.
Leila is his right hand woman and a great villain. She’s the standout villain because of her great character and hype demon form. Her story is a tragic one since she looks up to Kaminski and sees him as a hero so she chooses to ignore the fact that he is manipulating her the whole time. Again, at least he was pretending to be nice which is good so why wreck a good thing and start pushing her away? Leila does all of the hard work throughout the series and is quite powerful. Not only is she able to take on the whole Sakura team with ease but I dare say even White Cape would have a tough time with her. Part of what makes things tragic for Leila is there’s also a lot of memory and emotion tampering going on within her so she is rarely in her right state of mind. You’re certainly rooting for her to break free the whole time.
Then you have Shiba who is a solid mechanic here. One thing that separates him from most is that the guy can actually build useful things that don’t break. It’s a bit of a foreign concept in Sakura Wars where usually the geniuses are a little eccentric to put it mildly or just build walking disasters. This guy even showed some leadership experience like when he had the team tail Sakura. This guy’s a pure comedy character that’s for sure but he excels at it and all of his scenes are a blast. Now, would I sacrifice a scene of his to get some more of Excalibur and the other heroine? Absolutely, but that was likely not on the table anyway so I’ll take what I can get here.
This show even manages to avoid having much of any real fanservice. The fact that the show is CGI probably helps a bit with that since even if the character design for Leila’s super form could have gone tricky, the show didn’t go there. Aside from CGI, that’s just a directing thing though so the director did really good to always play the scene straight. She’s a demon fighting the heroes, the show never tries for anything other than that. That’s when you know that the show is going to be a really solid adventure from start to finish. I suppose we have the gag of Shiba running out of the shower to get slammed but I wouldn’t really count that to be honest. If you like the gag of someone yelling as the camera fades out though, Shiba gets a lot of that.
While the animation is quite solid as I mentioned, I will say that it’s still hard not to chuckle during the dance scenes. Maybe it’s because of how smooth and gracefully the characters move, but it’s just hard to take the villains seriously when they’re just dancing as they talk about the plans. I will say that it’s fun when Leila styles on the heroes while dancing though. Now that’s a whole other level of disrespect right there. There’s even a dancing battle so you can tell the show was having some fun with this. Hey, if you can do solid dance numbers and want to show off the animation why not right? Then you have the epic stills where the colors really jump out of the page and you’re reminded of the potential of CGI all over again. Honestly if every CGI show looked like this we wouldn’t have any problems. Hand Drawn would still be the best but this would be a much more respectable backup plan.
Overall, Sakura Wars: the Animation is a terrific anime. The government looks pretty bad as they fall for every trick in the book but Sakura’s team stays strong throughout and makes sure to protect Klara. When they fail that job White Cape is always around to help out so they have a great system going. Part of what sets the show apart from the rest of the titles in this series is how much action it has. The rest of the Sakura War titles just can’t match this. The best bet would be the OVA for Revolution but that is shorter so by definition it can’t match up. This one’s got fights in pretty much every episode. The final episode especially goes bold with this as the whole episode is really a big fight scene. By the end of the series we learn why one character is so exceptionally strong and I dare say that leaves room for a nice sequel someday. Honestly the humans are in a fantastic spot right now so they don’t need to worry but it’s still good to be prepared. One plot still going is the demons approaching. It’s implied that as long as Klara exists they will keep on coming so ultimately they need to find a way to take out the demons for good. That would make for a fun sequel.