Known as Sakura Taisen in Japan, this is a franchise starting with video games by Sega (starting on the Sega Saturn) and RED Company (now Red Entertainment), branching out into OVAs, several TV series and a movie. The games, now at their sixth release in the series, are a combination of Dating Sim and tactical combat, and have a near-fanatical following. Though most have seen no release outside Japan, the first two games were officially released in Russia in 2006 and 2008 respectively, and the fifth game was released in North America on March 30, 2010. A hilariously fun play-through of the first Sakura Taisen game can be found at the SomethingAwful.com forumsnote Now locked again with the images and whatot fixed up., for those curious about just how this blend works. (Warning: May not be suitable for Iris and Sakura fans.)Set in an alternate world, it is the 1920s. Instead of World War I, in 1918 an occult conflict called the Demon Wars pitted hellish creatures from another plane of existence against a plucky Four Man Band. Although the humans won, half the Band was lost. With international approval, Japan continues advancing its groundbreaking steam-powered technology, preparing for the demons' inevitable return.In Japan, these preparations take the form of the Teikokukagekidan, the Imperial Floral Defense Force. The Hanagumi ("Flower Division") is their elite squad of warriors, equipped with the steam-powered battle armor called kohbu, and the weapons and skills needed to fight the demons when they return. Because of a quirk in the part-magical technology of the kohbu, all the members of the Hanagumi (save for their commanding officer) are women.Taking advantage of a pun in Japanese ("Teikokukagekidan" can mean "Imperial Floral Defense Troop" or "Imperial Theatrical Troupe", depending on the kanji used), the Hanagumi make their headquarters underneath the Imperial Theater in Tokyo. When they are not fighting the forces of Hell, they maintain their cover identities as the cast and crew of the theater, allowing for a lot of music in between the battle scenes, and no small amount of incidental comedy.Despite the Hanagumi's purpose as as combat unit, Sakura Taisen spends surprisingly little time in battle. Instead it focuses on first the background and establishment of the Imperial Defense Forces, the recruitment of its members, and follows that with close studies of the various characters. The OVAs' weak point is that they are intended to supplement the video games on which they are based, rather than expand on them for the non-gamer. As a result, entire plotlines are left hanging because they are resolved in the games. This can make the first six-episode series very unfulfilling unless the viewer is more concerned about the characters than about their situation.The second series barely even mentions the demon conflict, instead focusing entirely on specific incidents within the lives of the Hanagumi and jumping among the time periods covered in the various video games. These stories are more self-contained and satisfying, and showcase the sense of "family" among the Hanagumi. In both series the animation is outstanding, and the English dubs (produced by ADV Films) are quite good, featuring a cast that manages to deliver the multinational/multicultural feel of the team quite well.As of early 2005, there are also a third and fourth set of OVAs, focusing on the new Hanagumi team established in Paris, France. The third series has been licensed by Funimation, and was released under the name Sakura Taisen: Ecole de Paris in North America in late 2005. The fourth series is named Sakura Taisen: Le Nouveau Paris, and continues following the Paris Hanagumi. The fifth series of OVAs (based appropriately enough on the fifth game) is titled New York, New York, with a new adventure for the New York-based Hoshigumi.In addition to the OVAs, there is a movie, released in 2001. Like the episodes of the second series, the film is also a self-contained story in the same continuity (no Alternate Continuity here, thankfully) and leaves no hanging plot threads behind; the new character introduced here even goes on to appear in the later Sakura Taisen V game. The movie does assume you have familiarity with the characters and game timeline (providing no explanation as to why Ohgami isn't even present for almost the entire movie). The movie also substantially expands the world of Sakura Taisen beyond Japan, exploring in greater depth the dynamics of the prototype team fielded in wartime Europe. The movie takes place just after the end of the third game (Paris) and before the beginning of the fourth (which ended the "Tokyo arc"). This makes extensive use of CGI effects, particularly for the kohbu.Note, however, that Geneon (then known as Pioneer) licensed and dubbed the movie instead of ADV Films (note: FUNimation now owns the license to the film, along with other titles by Geneon), and the voice actors they cast are (with a few exceptions) markedly inferior to their predecessors. This is a surprising failure on the part of Pioneer, which has made its reputation with outstanding casts. In particular, there are none of the wide variety of accents and dialects heard in the ADV Films version. This can be quite jarring to a viewer used to the multinational sound of the OVAs.There is also a TV series version which is an Alternate Continuity from the OVAs. Aired in Japan in 2000, it follows the plotline of the first game but with multiple (and major) alterations, particularly in the personalities of the villains and some of the principals themselves. The TV series bears an overall darker tone than even the original games. Despite being self-contained and largely separate from the OVAs and even somewhat from the franchise's personality, the TV series fails to solidly establish the Hanagumi's characters, almost unconsciously expecting the viewer to already know (to an extent) who's who. In the end it largely ends up an exercise in angering fans, but is a fair introduction for series neophytes. The animation betrays the lower quality typical of OVA-to-TV transitions but introduces a consistent, slightly altered, character design style and maintains the franchise's reputation for stellar voice acting and original music (in Japanese).And then there's the manga, which was released in Japan from 2003 to 2008 and adapts the first game again, without the drastic alterations of the TV series. Most of it has been released in English by Tokyo Pop. However, a few volumes were not translated since the company ended a majority of its operations. A motion comic production of the manga adaptations is currently in the works by TOMOTOON.An enjoyable, fun, and well-heeled franchise, Sakura Taisen is a legendary license and is one of the few franchises to make a truly successful expansion into nearly every form of media. The series' voice actors regularly performed (up to 2008) in sold-out Broadway-style "live shows" and radio dramas (all set in the Sakura Taisen universe), and a Sakura Taisen cafe/store stood in the SEGA amusement center in Tokyo until its closing in March 2008.Sakura Taisen remains a hallmark of anime culture, something of a paragon of what "old-school" shows were like, with upbeat, almost sickeningly positive characters and plots, ridiculous amounts of merchandise, and very little irony.Today the series appears to be in an indefinite hiatus as a result of weak sales of the fifth title and its tie-in merchandise and anime, but every now and then rumors will come out of Sega of a sixth entry in the series or a revival.An attempt to localize the series for digital distribution has sprungup.A character page has been started.Ichiro Ohgami, Sakura Shinguuji, Erica Fontaine, and Gemini Sunrise also made an appearance in Project X Zone, a cross over game between Namco, Sega, and Capcom.A recap for the TV series has been started.Trope Pages for Sakura Wars: The Movie, the Sakura Wars TV series, and the fifth main game have been started.
The series provides examples of:
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Americans Are Cowboys: The primary love interest (and thus the most promoted character) in So Long, My Love is Gemini Sunrise - Texan samurai cowgirl. Though she is far from the only American character in the game as it is based on the New York branch.
It's uncertain exactly when the world of Sakura Taisen diverged from ours, though it may have been several centuries ago; at one point in the manga, Yoneda finds references in an old history text to a war fought between Japan's samurai and supernatural enemies resembling the demonic entities. Possibly a case of Parallel History, as many nations and events seem to be identical or similar to our world; for example, Yoneda is cited as being a great hero of the Russo-Japanese War, and Maria comes to the team as a veteran of the Russian Civil War.
There was also a mention that the British Empire (aka the British Colonial Empire) exists in the ST world.
Anime Theme Song: One of the catchiest anime songs of the nineties — a bizarre but effective mix of rock, pre-war J-pop, and idol charm, with an oddly compelling martial aspect.
Artistic License - History: There was no World War I, yet Russian revolution of 1917 still somehow happened, despite the fact, that Russia's constant failures in WWI were the chief reasons, that the revolution happened in the first place. If not for the war, Russia would probably turn into a constituional monarchy, since that was where it headed after the revolution of 1905.
There's also alcohol being served openly during Prohibition, although it could be argued that in this timeline Prohibition never happened.
In the fifth game, it's stated that Jazz originated in Harlem. While it's true that Jazz was especially popular in Harlem, it was really invented in New Orleans.
Batman Cold Open: The opening to the fourth game shows the Teikokukagekidan stopping two runaway trolley carts.
Batman Gambit: The Grand-Mère and Ambassador Sakomizu do this in the events of the École de Paris OVA by leveling empty houses near Lobelia's hideout to cut off several escape paths, which leads her into an ambush conducted by the Préfecture de police de Paris. This was followed by the use of ultrasonic devices to pin Lobelia onto the wall. Following her escape into the sewers, more Préfecture de police de Paris officers ambush her there with rifle grenades and cryotorpedoes to get her guard down and severely lower her spirit energy by making her use her pyrokinesis powers. Ambassador Sakomizu fires an anti-spirit bullet from a sniper rifle to paralyze her so that the police can easily capture her before she is incarcerated in prison, which would lead to her recruitment in the Paris Assault Force by Ogami in the events of Sakura Taisen 3.
Big Damn Heroes: Things are looking bleak for the PariGumi in Chapter 7, when out of nowhere comes Sakura, Sumire and Iris in their kohbus, and starts to wipe the floor with the baddies, despite being underpowered (compared to the Kohbu F models)! Also doubles as a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
The PariGumi gets to pull this one off after Soletta and Leni are captured by the enemy; only, Kayama ends up being the one to actually save the both of them.
Again with the PariGumi, only this time they come to the Hanagumi's rescue, in 4. Of course, this was only after Ohgami's Paris heroine convinced him to order the PariGumi to launch and come to their aid.
Bitter Sweet Ending: By the end of the first Sakura Taisen game, the Hanagumi defeated Tenkai and his minions, but they lost Ayame after she was turned into a demon, but not before she died saving Ogami from being killed.
In the Le Nouveau Paris OVA, the Parigumi defeated the count and his plans to destroy Paris, but it's implied that a lot of death and destruction was done by the time Erica used her spirit powers to "save" him. While Paris rebuilds the Eiffel Tower, the count's benefactor responsible for breaking him out of confinement is still on the loose in France.
Broken Pedestal: Kohran undergoes a crisis of faith when she discovers that the inventor of the kohbu armor, whom she has revered for years, has become the Big Bad.
Brown Note: The trailer for the English release of Sakura Taisen V has many viewers claiming that "that voice is going to kill them". Thankfully for them, it's downplayed in the final product.
But Not Too Foreign: In Sakura Taisen 5, which is set in New York, not only is the main character Japanese, but so are Subaru and the merchant you can get special bromides from. Mission Control member Anri is also half-Japanese, and Sunnyside and Gemini are Americans who are fans of Japanese culture.
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Justified in ST3. The French military and police weren't trained to fight off demon invasions and it was their defeat that forced the French government to allow the Paris Assault Force to take the lead in raiding Salut's hideout.
Child Soldier: Most members of all three Hanagumis are, at the oldest, in their late teens or early twenties. Iris and Coquelicot are the most notable, being preteens.
Chilly Reception: Ogami in the games. Sakura in the TV series/OVA. Shinjiro in So Long, My Love. Ogami is belittled and used as errand boy as part of a Secret Test of Character, Sakura is mocked and looked down upon as a newbie Country Mouse, and Shinjiro isn't who the Star Division wanted - perhaps ironically, he's put through much the same as his uncle endured (except with more hostility, given that Hot-Blooded Cheiron and Emotionless Girl(?) Subaru are the ones putting him through his paces) because they expected to be see Ogami himself.
In Sakura Taisen V, Gemini mentions that she once saved America with the help of some friends back home some time before that game started. Assuming she's referring to the events of Episode V-0, Western players are unlikely to get the reference.
In the same game, Sakura meets up with Taiga after his transfer to Tokyo from the Imperial Japanese Navy's academy prior to meeting with the "commander" of the Imperial Assault Force. Back in 1, Sakura meets Ogami in the same way.
Sumire's first scene in 1 has her asking Ohgami to get a replacement fork for the one she dropped. Guess what Sumire's first event with Ohgami involves, in 3.
The angel who shows up during Erica's special skill in 3 looks rather familiar. That's because it happens to be Ayame.
Ohgami asks why the Baragumi are still staying with the Hanagumi, and their response to his question is pretty much familiar if you've ever heard Geki!Tei in full.
One of the training Blanches seen in the Sakura Taisen 3 OVA has markings that Douglas-Stewart was the main manufacturer. Guess who gets involved as a major bad guy in the animated movie?
The first is this: Commander Yoneda is missing, Orihime Soletta has been ambushed and brainwashed by Patrick Hamilton, Maria is missing after attempting to investigate Douglas-Stewart, Kaede Fujieda and Wind Division are placed under house arrest at the Great Imperial Theater, and the Imperial Flower Combat division has been placed on indefinite standby and isn't allowed back at the Great Imperial Theater.
Sumire Kanzaki: What can we do, I ask you? Shoghei-Maru (the airship) has been sealed, Wind Division and the deputy commander [Kaede] are being held at the Imperial Theater. What can we do in such a predicament?
The second one comes during the final battle. Brent Furlong's monstrous Japhkiel form overwhelms Flower Division, and Rachet's Eisenklider is incapicated and out of commision, and the Division's spirit power has gone down.
Determinator: Everyone to an extent, but mostly Ohgami. In 4, there is a part where the boss disables everyone's kohbu, so everyone else is down except for him, and he has a few seconds left before he himself gets taken out of the fight. So what does he do? Fly right into the enemy's face, stab at it with his kohbu's swords, then get out of the pilot's seat moments after his kohbu has been totally wrecked, only to stab his sword at the monster's face. Followed by an Unflinching Walk out of the explosion that occurs.
Dialogue Tree: Complete with timer to complicate the system; sometimes letting the timer run out [saying nothing] is the right thing to do!
Dub Name Change: Some names were changed in the English translation for V, but in the English dub only. The original names are preserved in the script of the Japanese dub edition, though a typo still lists Sagiita's English name on some of her bromides, as do Plum's and Rikaritta's. Her original name is also on her office door in the English disc. While the name changes were never explained, in at least the case of Sagitta and Rikaritta, it may have had to do with both characters having names wildly inaccurate for their cultural backgrounds.
Eagleland: The fifth game; type-1 to a ludicrous degree
Filler: The PS2 Version of the first game has an exclusive chapter that was added on for the sole purpose of 1) providing a Kohran-centered chapter which the original version of the game lacked and 2) to provide the Three Star Division pilots who appear in later sequels with an early cameo to keep their fans happy.
Gaiden Game: A few of them, although the most notable are "Sakura Taisen Monogatari ~Mysterious Paris~", where players assume the role of a Japanese private eye named Kojiro Akechi and Miki Akechi, a dancer at the Chattes Noires. This was followed by "Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 ~Kouya no Samurai Musume~", where players play Gemini prior to her arrival in New York City and "Dramatic Dungeon Sakura Taisen ~Kimi aru ga tame~", which takes place a year after the events of Sakura Taisen 5, including the OVA.
Gatling Good: Erica's upgraded Kohbu F2 sports a Gatling gun. Still comes with a cross.
Gender Flip: From 2010 to 2011, Red Entertainment created a two-game series called Scared Rider Xechs for the Playstation 2 (later ported to PSP). The series is a reverse harem equivalent of the Sakura Wars franchise. The game includes similar graphics, and mechs are involved in the storyline.
Gratuitous English: Constantly. Particularly annoying in the English release of Sakura Wars V because if you're playing the Japanese disc, you can actually tell when the characters are using English but the translation doesn't match.
Also in the movie. It's averted in the English dub, but it's played for fun in one scene.
Gratuitous French: Played with in the original Sakura Taisen games, but also prevalent in the Japanese and English versions of the École de Paris OVA.
Heroic BSOD: Happens to Ohgami and his nephew Shinjiro after being recruited to join with the Tokyo/New York Fighting Troupes. They had a hard time at first since they were suppose to be officers in the IJN before they were relegated to employee duties, but they eventually got over it.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: Players of the English release of the fifth game may feel like this is in effect as staple concepts are barely explained in the beginning. Being the fifth in a popular series, it assumes familiarity with them and the other divisions. Even some of the promotional material assured those who have somehow played earlier games that all of the systems they're familiar with and more are in this game but gave no such assurance for those new to the series.
Leitmotif: Inverted as whilst the characters each have themes they usually change for each game — that is if the characters appear in more than one game
Let's Play Spirit Armor's LP of Sakura Wars I has been ongoing for six years and is nearing completion. The man has pledged to do I-V, so at this rate he very well might have a Sakura Wars VI or even VII to deal with by the time he finishes V (Although that last one might be unnecessary). The LP can be found here. He translated his entire playthrough for your enjoyment, so you'd better be appreciative.
The Musical: This starts to get confusing as it becomes a case of "A Show Within A Show Within A Show" at times. Aside from the in-game musicals performed by the various teams there have actually been several musicals performed in Takarazuka style (although it should be noted that these musicals do feature the majority of the male seiyuu playing their respective characters too). What makes it even more special is that, unlike a lot of musicals based on anime/games, all the seiyuu respectively play their characters leading to some very funny scenes such as the seiyuu who plays Ohgami being extremely short and Iris' seiyuu makes a joke on it since she is taller than him. Usually a musical takes the form of two parts. The first part is a story that focuses on the characters themselves and the second part actually has the characters perform a play/musical such as Blue Bird. The latter got significantly longer as the musicals progressed. The Hanagumi team naturally had the most musicals. The Paris and New York troupes did not get that many. In fact the Paris troupe only had one mini-musical made.
Also noteworthy is the special stage show (and OVA) to say good bye to Sumire and her voice actress Michie Tomizawa, when Tomizawa decided to leave the franchise.
Technically speaking though that didn't happen so much musical wise as she continued (and still does) to make guest appearances and even attends the live events. Seiyuu wise it's actually Orihime's seiyuu Maya Okamoto who now doesn't attend them since she now lives in the USA when she moved there after 1999 to study theater note Although she did move between America and Japan before moving back to the latter (at least temporary). She finally returned in the 2011 Budoukan show. .
Mythology Gag: Maria's White Russian commanding officer Yuri having a physical resemblance to Ken Nakajima. Considering that Kosuke Fujishima did have a hand in character designs, this is not a surprise.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the second episode of the TV series, had that Wakiji not shown up and attacked, Sakura would not have been able to prove that she was capable of helping defend the capital and wouldn't have been able to become part of the Imperial Flower Division.
Psychic Powers: Most everyone, with Iris and Erica being the most overt. Diana also is supposed to have such strong powers that they're physically harmful to her, but she rarely has overt displays of them.
Real Life Writes the Plot: The reason why the Sumire OVA was developed, given that her seiyu Michie Tomizawa was going to get married and retire.
Rollerblade Good: Strangely enough, while kohbu have wheels built in their feet, only Glycine is shown using this feature in both combat and cutscenes.
Rousseau Was Right: The games fairly unambiguously take the position that humans are innately good and just need proper guidance and support to avoid going astray. Genuine evil comes from external forces like demons or The Undead.
Rule of Cool: Everything from punching acid out of the way from launching robots and airships from underneath city streets.
Running Gag: Erica is repeatedly arrested by the police for running around in town with her machinegun. Also Erica's tendency to smash her head against poles, doors, or whatever nearby. This happens when she sleeps.
Sumire and Kanna getting into arguments.
Kayama showing up with a guitar to impress Ogami and the girls, despite having little knowledge of playing it.
Rosarita using her pet weasel as emergency food.
Shinjiro being forced to dress up as Peppermint or being given new nicknames by Michael.
Samurai Ohgami, Sakura, Taiga; in a looser sense, Sumire and Gemini as well.
At one point in the manga, an announcement is made at the beginning of a play: "Also, please turn off your steam mobile phones..."
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: In the movie, after Maria is missing while investigating Douglas-Stewart, Sakura and whoever's left in the Imperial Flower Division decide "let's go back to the theater, take it back and get back our Kobus and defend Tokyo", even though they were placed on indefinite standby.
Sakura: Hey, I know why not?
Everybody Else: Huh?
Sakura: Do what we can while we can. I don't want to live with regrets in my heart. Come on! Let's do this together.
Iris: Let's do it!
Leni: Let's do it!
Kanna: Let's go for it!
Korhan: I'm with you!
Sumire: I suppose that we must.
Secret Test of Character: When Ohgami is first transferred to Tokyo, he's only told about the theatrical side of the Hanagumi, as a test to see whether he's compatible with the group outside of battle, and the kind of person they'd be willing to follow in battle.
Also, near the end of Sakura Taisen V, Mr. Sunnyside informs Taiga that he will have to sacrifice one of the members of the Hoshigumi (Star Division) if he is to defeat Nobunaga. In the end, it turns out that the correct choice (and the one Taiga makes) is to ignore Sunnyside and vow to keep everyone alive.
Show Within a Show (As part of their cover, the Hanagumi put on plays in the Theatre, e.g. "Crimson Lizard" or "Les Miserables"; Sumire's family owns a movie studio which occasionally employs the troupe in films; they also take part in radio dramas and model for characters in manga.)
That said, Sakura Taisen 3 shifts matters a bit further towards cynicism in the introduction of previously mentioned Boxed Crook Lobelia, brought onto the team in exchange for a reduction of her thousand year prison sentence and explicitly threatened with death if she messes up. To quote a line from her first episode.
Coquelicot:Lobelia... You're making us look like the bad guys...
Symbolic Blood: Steam seems to be the Kohbu equivalent for blood. In the TV series, the Kohbu are often seen blowing off steam right after being knocked out or immobilized, regardless of whether there is any visible damage or not.)
Takarazuka: The Hanagumi perform as an all-female troupe; the "Teikoku Kagekidan" and its subdivisions are a Shout-Out to the famous Takarazuka Revue, or "Takarazuka Kagekidan".
They are also partly based on the Schochiku Kagekidan wich was one of Takarazuka's first competors, the TKD's theatre is on the same spot and has the same design of the (now demolished) Shochiku Theatre, Ouji Hiroi's aunt was a founding member of Shochiku and while the flower for Takarazuka is the Sumire (the established Top Star in the games), the Shochiku theatre's flower was the Sakura, so their rivalray is representitive of the rivalry of the two theatres.
Team Shot: Deconstructed. After every battle, the heroines (and Ogami) pose for a photo with the tagline "Shouri no POSE, kime!" (Roughly, "Victory Pose, Go!"). Ogami finds this somewhat awkward the first couple of times it happens. Every time new characters are introduced, they also find it incredibly dumb - but a couple of battles later, they're happily joining in. The high-water mark is in the third game, where Ogami is assigned to command a new team of girls - and is left as the only one posing, whilst his new comrades-in-arms recoil in confusion.
Glycine: Huh? What's that supposed to be?
Erica: Mr. Ogami, what are you doing?
Theme Naming: Flowers for the Hanagumi; stars, constellations and the like for the Hoshigumi
The Unwanted Harem: Ohgami's relationship with the girls — a leftover from the "dating sim" part of the original games.
Virgin Power: Hinted at, though never explicitly stated. The main theme does state that the girls are maidens, and even a member of the PariGumi who gives off an "experienced" vibe — Lobelia — is, in her OAV focus story, explicitly stated to have not done the sorts of things that men and women normally do together when she took men up to her room, and is compared to the Virgin Mary.
Visual Pun: Lobelia does this to Préfecture de police de Paris officers (In anti-heat suits) sent to arrest her to fulfill the plans of Countess Isabella "Grand-Mère" Lilac in recruting her to the Paris Assault Force during the events of the École de Paris OVA by using her pyrokinesis to burn their suits and get them to retreat.
Lobelia: "Sorry boys. Guess I'm just too hot for you."
Video Game Cruelty Potential: Some of the dialogue choices you can make range from jerkish, to outright cruel. Though, in the long-run, making those choices can severely weaken your allies in combat and make the games nigh impossible to complete.