• Sakura Wars - The Movie


    published in Empire No.79, Sydney


    Sakura Wars – The Movie – like many movies following OVA and TV series in anime – is partly dependent on familiarisation with established characters, yet it also affords a rich experience for those coming to the film afresh. Aiding the experience in this case is the film’s amazingly imaginative meld of 1920’s Japan with an alternative fantasy projection of how technologies might have been created and developed in an alternative universe. Yes, it’s Steam Punk cyber-aesthetics again, but Japanese anime excels in both defining and expanding that diorama.

    CG graphics are pumped throughout Sakura Wars – sometimes with undue bombast – but traditional cel-animation artistry attenuates the PS2 mecha obsession. Notably, the characters are never swamped by a fetish for over-designing. The core team of girls in the Sakura Wars franchise are the Imperial Fighting Flower Troupe. Mostly, they plan, rehearse and present musical theatre in a style referencing the famous all-female Takarazuka Review. Covertly, they operate squat but powerful mobile suits, working as free agents for the military to defend the capital against recurring demonic attacks. It’s a wonderfully delirious mix of nationalistic politics and spiritual balance.

    Particularly fascinating – though not to everyone’s taste – is the conclusion of the film. All action and adventure peaks about four fifths through the movie, leaving the final fifth to be the climax of one of the troupe’s musical numbers. On the surface, it’s a disruptive device. Yet it sharply brings into relief how committed the troupe are to expressing their values through music and song as much as hardened warfare. The final theatre piece melodramatically expresses a theme of forgiveness which would be unimaginable – and entirely dismissible – in western cinema, yet is strangely appropriate on the gilded stage of anime.