Sakura Wars the Animation – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

Sakura Wars the Animation is an anime-tie for the 2019 game, Sakura Wars, which is a soft reboot of Sega’s Sakura Wars video game series. It is not to be confused with the 2000 Sakura Wars anime or the 2001 Sakura Wars movie which are both adaptations of the original Sakura Wars video game from 1996. I’m starting to think they should’ve stuck with Shin Sakura Wars, the Japanese title for the new game and anime.

Per the usual disclaimer, I have not played the game. At the time I’m writing this post, it’s not even out yet in the States until April 28th. The timing of this anime’s premiere might seem odd, especially since it’s actually a sequel taking place one year after the game, but keep in mind that the game has been out in Japan for months now and Funimation is simply simulcasting the Japanese broadcast.

I went into this show with the most basic knowledge of the franchise. Sakura Wars takes place in a fictionalized version of the Taisho period and follows the Imperial Combat Revue, one of many branches of a worldwide organization that secretly uses giant robots to fight demons while masquerading as a theater troupe. The 2019 game takes place years after the original five games and follows a new generation of the Imperial Combat Revue that operates more publicly. 

It would most certainly help to have played the game. Almost all the characters seen here in the anime act familiar with one another and there is no direct explanation about who they are and what they do. There’s even an appearance by a returning character from the original five games and the build up to that appearance really only works if you’ve played those games (and only the fifth one ever came out in the West). Fortunately, the show seems solely focused on the new story. There doesn’t seem to be any specific mention of the events of the game.

As for the new story, it appears to center a lot around a girl named Klara (Misaki Watada), the sole survivor of the recently devastated Moscow Combat Revue and the target of the demons and a mysterious swordsman. Seijuro (Yohei Azakami), captain of the Imperial branch, participates in a mission to rescue Klara and takes the girl to Japan, entrusting her safety to his team. The sudden appearance of Klara and the attention she’s getting from Seijuro initially peeves one of the Revue’s pilots, Sakura (Ayane Sakura), though she later agrees to help after learning about the situation and resolves to get along with the new recruit. Time will tell if the story will pan out to anything meaningful or memorable.

A more immediate concern is the animation provided by studio Sanzigen. The overall aesthetic looks perfectly fine and you have character designs by Tite Kubo so that’s a nice bonus. There is however a slight roughness to the way characters move and emote. If you’ve played Fire Emblem: Three Houses and seen that game’s animated cut scenes, you might know what I’m talking about as Sanzigen also worked on those (though I will say it’s not as bad as it is in Three Houses). It’s less noticeable during the mecha action scenes though that can be attributed to the mechs moving faster and being machines as opposed to humans. I won’t go as far as call the animation Millepensee bad but it will be a deterrent for some viewers. Maybe it’ll improve in subsequent episodes though such a notion tends to be rare in anime.

OP: “Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan – Shinshou” by Ayane Sakura, Maaya Uchida, Hibiku Yamamura, Ayaka Fukuhara, and Saori Hayami

Damn, that song is really catchy.

ED: “Sakura Yumemishi” by Nana Mizuki, Manami Numakura, and Sumire Uesaka

Thanks for reading!

Watch Sakura Wars the Animation on Funimation

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