Sakura Wars (Japan 1997)

Rating: **
Review Date: 6/22/99

Kind of a letdown after seeing all of the ultra-cool toys and striking imagery. This is a 1920's revisionist period piece based on a Sega video game of the same name. Earth has developed an impressive steam based technology and has just survived a war with a race of Giger-like aliens, er, demons. But, the enemy is about to rise again, and it's up to a group of six young girls with exceptional spirit power to defend the planet. Of course, you've got the reserved and mysterious commander, the brash and violent tough chick, the rich and prissy snob, the brilliant but clumsy inventor, the impossibly cute wide-eyed ten year old girl (who's the most powerful of the bunch), and the serious minded heroine who carries her father's sword and all of the responsibilities that come with it. Unfortunately, all but one of the characters are totally uninteresting and exist solely for the purpose of creating a group dynamic, complete with personality conflicts and comedic pratfalls. However, they're all great fighters, and the action scenes are vicious, exciting, and well executed - when it comes down to it, these chicks mean business.

The one character who is extremely interesting is Sakura Shinguchi (played by "Tenchi-Muyo!" (1992) voice actress Chisa Yokohama). Besides being a total babe, she's a female samurai with a sacred mission to honor her family and defend her planet (her father died while fighting in the previous demon war). Her character is handled very well, allowing her strength, beauty, innocence, and fierce determination to shine through without the forced lapses of air-head syndrome that the other characters tend to suffer. Sadly, the story is extremely slow and tedious, and for a video game adaptation the action sequences are sparse and all too brief. Thankfully, Kousuke Fujishima's ("Oh My Goddess!" (1993), "You're Under Arrest" (1995) ) playfully warm character designs were enough to keep me interested between combat sequences, and the animation quality is good throughout. Overall, it's a slow and boring action/drama spiced up with some neat technology and a light sprinkling of ass kicking demon slaying cuties.