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ADV Films presents
Sakura Wars OVA II #2: Wedding Bells (1999)

"This has to be kept strictly under wraps."
- Kasumi Fujii (Akemi Okamura)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 26, 2002

Stars: Chisa Yokoyama, Michie Tomizawa, Urara Takano, Kumiko Nishihara, Yuriko Fuchisaki, Mayumi Tanaka, Maya Okamoto, Kazue Ikura, Akio Suyama, Katherine Catmull, Catherine Berry, Lane West, Lauren Zinn, Boni Hester, Jessica Schwartz, Kelly huston, Jessica Smollins, Brian Gaston
Other Stars: Ai Orikasa, Masaru Ikeda, Uyako Hikami, Akemi Okamura, Yuki Masada, Nachi Nozawa, Meredith May, Cassie Fitzgerald, Kelly Dealyn, Meg Bauman, Lana Deitrich, Michele Déradune, Corey Gangne
Director: Susumu Kudoh

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (7+)
Run Time: 01h:37m:31s
Release Date: November 26, 2002
UPC: 702727031724
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+A-A C+

DVD Review

The final three episodes of the second Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen) OVAs, based on the highly popular Sega video game, continue to develop the characters, while delivering a couple of pretty humorous stories. Set in a steam-powered, early twentieth century Japan, the technology adds an interesting aspect, but mecha is not the central theme in this OVA set, which serves more as an introduction to the cast of the Sakura Wars television series. As such, like the first three installments, these generally focus on a pair of girls from the Imperial Flower Division Combat Troupe, a secret fighting team fronting as a theatrical ensemble.

The opening episode finds Chinese born Kohran Ri and Italian Orihime Soletta in the thick of things when an unscrupulous landlord sets his thugs upon the residents of the Chirripa Row Houses where Orihime's artist father lives. Complicating matters is the costume Kohran is wearing to model for the painter, who is creating the cover for the latest in the extremely popular "Red Lad" comic books. Recognized by the youngsters of the community who believe the real Red Lad has appeared to save them, Kohran, Orihime and the rest of the troupe have to attend to business while not shattering the dreams of the kids.

The last two installments form a single story arc, exposing the background for the Shinguji family's heritage as the fighters of evil, and the role Sakura has inherited by her bloodline as the Flower Division reels with the prospect that Sakura is secretly leaving to get married. When the girls of the support Wind Division overhear a conversation suggesting Sakura has impending nuptials, their gossip spreads like wildfire. When the young girl disappears without a word accompanied by Yoneda, the troupe's stage manager, the Flower Troupe has to come to terms with what has happened, until the scenarios surrounding Sakura's betrothal take a dark turn. Meanwhile, the events going on cause Sakura to consider her role in life, while those around her reflect on her family's history and their connection to the young warrior.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the original OVA, this series was a welcome return to a group of fun and diverse characters, whose personalities were really brought to the fore in this set, as the interplay between the cast is what drives this show. Those looking for a lot of mecha action may be disappointed, but the steam punk angle does come into play in a lesser role here, and Kohran's "improvements" add to the comic depth. The look of these episodes is again gorgeous, and the character design is very attractive. I did feel that the flashbacks used in the last two episodes felt awkward in their placement, and while necessary to tell the backstory, could have been handled in a less jarring fashion. The Japanese voice acting is stellar, and while the dub acting is also good, I'm not very keen on the choice of accents used or the deviations from the original script. Overall this was another fun excursion, and now that we know the players, the TV series should be all that more enjoyable.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: This is a very nice looking release, with vibrant colors and solid blacks, which render the wonderful artwork very well. Compression issues are extremely minor, but there is a fair amount of interlace jagginess in the animation, especially during fast movement or pans. Otherwise this looks great.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in either Japanese 5.1 surround or English stereo. Both tracks sound great, with good directionality and a full tonal range. The Japanese track is understandably more enveloping, with plenty of surround activity and an immersive quality. Dialogue is clean and clear, and easily discernable. No technical deficiencies were noted.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Andromeda, Noir, Sailor Moon, Saiyuki, Sakura Wars TV, Wild Arms
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Clean opening credits
  2. Original Japanese release artwork
  3. Production sketches
  4. Mini poster
Extras Review: Like ADV's first OVA release, angles are used for the title sequences, showing either the Japanese or English voice actors in the credits. Subtitles are available for just song translations or the full show, but one thing I wasn't as keen on was that if viewing in Japanese, the songs were only subtitled in romaji. I would have preferred a fourth option with English subbed songs, although this can be accessed by switching subtitle streams on the fly.

Production artwork is presented as a 12m:31s slideshow, accompanied by the show's theme song. This includes character and mecha designs, settings and props, plus biographical material for many of the ancillary characters. There is a good diversity of sketches, and makes for an interesting feature, rather than just pages and pages of artwork, which can be a bit dry.

Character bios include Flower Division members Kanna, Sumire, Kohran and Orihime, card picture exhibitionist, Chibasuke, the Wind Division—Tsubaki, Kasami, and Yuri—and Sakura's father Kazuma.

Artwork for the corresponding three original Japanese DVD releases includes cover and insert shots—these are gorgeous!

The original Japanese promos run 7m:56s, covering soundtrack CDs, trailers for the original DVD releases, plus Sakura Project 2000, Sakura Wars 3 and a bit of live action.

Previews for Andromeda, Noir, Sailor Moon, Saiyuki,Sakura Wars TV and Wild Arms complete the on disc supplements.

A foldout mini poster pack-in is backed by interviews with animation producer Motoki Ueda, screenwriter Hiroyuki Kawasaki and director Susumu Kudoh. Unfortunately this wasn't included with our screener copy.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

The second Sakura Wars OVA provides some well needed background material for the characters, while also containing some good action and plenty of humor. While it may be a little slow for some, the gorgeous artwork and steam technology make for a welcome change from typical anime themes.

 


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