The Sakura Taisen franchise is one that dates back to the mid 90’s, one of SEGA’s longest-running franchises. Massively popular, it had no shortage of cross-media properties…until the mid-2000’s, when the franchise dropped off a map. But when the fans decided strongly in favor of bringing the franchise back, Sega did so with gusto.
They didn’t hold back either, creating a game that feels like more work went into it than all the previous entries combined, given the level of graphical fidelity present. Of course, what’s the point of doing Sakura Wars if an anime isn’t involved?
That’s where New Sakura Wars: The Animation comes in. Just like the original television series, the story appears to be an adaptation of the 2019 PS4 title. It’s a world where humans have been at war with demons for years now, with only people in special combat organizations having the power and weaponry to stop them. Japan’s organization, the Imperial Combat Revue, takes in the last known survivor of the Moscow Combat Revue, hoping she’ll get her memory back…and protecting her until she does.
The first two episodes consist largely of setting up the core conflict and introducing us to the main characters of the series. The second episode does this in a way that feels literally identical to how a video game might do it. Our lead, Sakura Amamiya, takes their new member on a guided tour of their base, going to every room in the base and introducing us to everyone that matters. This wasn’t a bad thing, but after a while it felt a tad strange, as usually there are ways of handling this that aren’t so obvious. But this is probably the best way to make it easy to understand and not waste too many episodes.
This series puts in far more work to be “interesting” than the original television series did, which even managed to make robots vs. demons boring, somehow. Part of it is the brighter color palette, but also the fights are more dynamic, as the girls dispatch dozens of demons by themselves to protect the city.
There’s a lot to get through in these first two episodes as far as the routine, but one thing I would like to talk about is the plays. This franchise has heavy roots in Takarazuka, which were all female Japanese theater troupes that were popular during this era. The original series put tons of effort into the amount of work the girls had to do to prepare for each show, tying it into the story lore by saying this honed their spiritual energy for combat. The first episode had a tease of this element being on display again, with the girls putting on part of a show. As a huge fan of Revue Starlight from 2018, I’d love to see them develop that element of the show and rely on it a little to aid in storyline development.
If there’s anything frustrating about the series so far, it’s how off-putting the animation is. It’s mostly beautiful, but there’s an obvious 3D element that’s hard to shake, even if it’s better than any other implementation we’ve seen before.
The other thing is the development of the main female character, Sakura. She’s a lot like the original Sakura, but far more obsessed with being loved by the team’s field leader. Hopefully this fades over time, and she can attain her own character rather than tying herself to some guy. Anyway, this series is already a good deal better than the original, and new fans and old alike will find plenty to enjoy.