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ADV Films presents
Sakura Diaries: Chapter 1 (2000)

"Goodbye, Tokyo Success Story. Hello, miserable life of failure."
- Touma (Mitsuaki Shinden)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: January 18, 2002

Stars: Mitsuaki Shinden, Kyoko Nagaue
Other Stars: Rumi Kasahara, Mako Kondo
Director: U-Jin

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (17+ for nudity, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:05m:56s
Release Date: June 25, 2000
UPC: 702727003127
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-A-B- D+

DVD Review

I always say, if you can't think of an original idea, go with something clichéd. It might not be brilliant, but at least it won't offend! No, wait, I don't say that. I hate it when movies, or TV series for that matter, keep recycling the same old plots. Perhaps that's why I was so disenchanted with Sakura Diaries, a romantic comedy anime that does nothing original, or even very interesting.

Created by celebrated artist U-Jin (better known in Japan for his work in hentai—explicit sex comics), this disc contains the first three episodes of the series, and follows the exploits of Touma, an all around failure. He's tried—and failed—twice on his college entrance exams. He travels to Tokyo one final time, for his last shot at the tests before he moves back home to run the family inn. He's surprised when a young girl appears as his hotel door, offering him sex. It's Urara, a high school girl who hints at a past between the two. Touma doesn't recognize her, but she's his cousin, and has been in love with him for years (ok, cultural differences and all, but ew). He rebuffs her offer, saying he has to study for the test (instead he spends the night... uh... doing a lower body aerobic workout). The next day, he meets Meiko, another potential college student, and instantly falls in love. But he subsequently fails his test, and she only wants to date a college guy. You can see where all this leads.

Touma decides to lie, and tells Meiko he got in, but at a different school. He then enrolls in cram school and goes to live with his uncle, which happens to be where Urara lives! Plenty of time for inadvertent nudity, then. He discovers who she really is, but stays on course to win Mieko's love and finally get into college, thus setting up the love triangle that will no doubt play itself out predictably throughout the next nine episodes of the series.

As I said, the plot is nothing new. Even that isn't necessarily a deal breaker, though, and I'm sure I'd still enjoy it if the characters were interesting, likeable, or amusing. Unfortunately, none of them are. Touma is a particularly flat lead, whiny and self-pitying. I've seen love-at-first-sight stories before, but as it is presented here, Touma just seems ridiculous and idiotic. Video Girl Ai did a much better job portraying the fevered passion of youth. Mieko is likewise a bore, her personality non-existent. Maybe that's because we're supposed to sympathize with Urara, but that doesn't excuse the fact that all of her scenes are boring. Urara is by far the most interesting of the three, but even she has little more to offer than near constant "fan service," which isn't really basis for a character.

Though the animation quality is good, and the character designs are nice, everything is brought down by the rather mediocre dialogue. It's clearly an attempt at creating a wacky, bubbly, screwball comedy, with occasional goofy animation, but it comes off feeling like quirkiness for the sake of quirkiness. The few bits that are funny feel totally gratuitous (like Urara's near-constant nudity).

Now, I know this show has its fans, but it takes more than frequent cartoon boobies for me to enjoy a show. Hopefully things will improve, since I'm planning to invest quite a lot of time in reviewing all four volumes of this series. Right now, though, I'd like nothing more than to re-lock the diary and throw away the key.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Sakura Diaries is a pretty new show, and the video transfer looks really nice. The print is very clean, with rich, saturated colors. Artifacting isn't a problem, but there is some evident pixelization in busier scenes. Probably one of the better, more attractive looking discs from ADV.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Japaneseyes

Audio Transfer Review: Dialogue is clean and clear, but the mix makes little use of the front soundstage. Music is used rather sparingly, but fills things out a bit. Overall, though, this is a basic track, appropriate to a dialogue comedy.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dirty Pair Flash, Tekken, Burn Up W, Queen Emeraldas, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sakura Wars, Martian Sucessor Nadesico, Ninja Resurrection, Slayers, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, Legend of Crystania
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras are limited to an extensive trailer gallery, with spots for 12 other ADV anime series. Included are: Dirty Pair Flash, Tekken, Burn Up W, Queen Emeraldas, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sakura Wars, Martian Sucessor Nadesico, Ninja Resurrection, Slayers, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, and Legend of Crystania.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Sakura Diaries has its fans, but I found it unsatisfying. Not funny enough to be considered "wacky," not enough heart to be touching, and all around, a little flat. Definitely rent this one before making a purchase.


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