As the credits for this series finale rolled and the big evil was defeated, I’m unsure what to think of episode 12 of Sakura Wars: The Animation and, indeed, the series as a whole. This final episode continues the trend of the last few weeks with another improvement in quality as the show ended strong, but when considered collectively, pacing and consistency issues mar the production throughout.
Especially considering how the series chose to end its self-contained story following on from the ending of the original PS4 video game, the debate on whether the series is a worthwhile investment of your time feels almost meaningless. Despite attempts to entice new fans during the opening episodes, the refusal to introduce wider concepts cut such fans out of enjoying the series to its fullest extent. Instead, the question is this: was an anime the best method of telling this story?
Bringing Things to an End
For all intents and purposes, episode 12 of Sakura Wars: The Animation is a strong conclusion to the series. Like I mentioned last week, it’s almost refreshing to see a villain follow the stereotypical villain manual so diligently, without any attempts being made to subvert expectations. The fact it doesn’t attempt to subvert your expectations is almost a subversion of expectations in and of itself, as Kaminski’s evil plan for world domination ticks every box on the evil greatest hits selection.
The evil laugh is there, the ‘well actually’ twist when it turns out the Tokyo Imperial Combat Revue hadn’t ruined his plans exists. Even the transformation into a giant creature as a result of the power he gained from his work is there, all ready to be taken down through the power of friendship and comradery they share. It’s refreshingly stereotypical, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s cheesy, and I can’t pretend it’s some modern masterpiece, but it’s fun and I like it.
Animation retains the high level of quality of recent weeks that’s almost unrecognizable to some of the more awkward moments earlier on in the series. Action sequences, which make up the majority of the episode, are great to look at. So nice, in fact, that the betrayal of the visual consistency of the series up until this point stands out more on such a backdrop. While the series has used traditional 2D animation for flashbacks and children and CG animation for the rest of the series, the use of traditional animation for other combat revues joining the battle is distracting and immersion-breaking.
As a whole, episode 12 of Sakura Wars is a fun episode I don’t have many complaints about. It’s cheesy and unoriginal, but in a way that’s fitting for the tone of the series and franchise, delivering on the plot points established with an enjoyable finale. Despite this, I’m left wondering whether this would have worked better as a game.
Considering many of the circumstances surrounding the series, I’d say yes, and this would likely fix many of the flaws I had with the anime as a whole.
Early on in the series, I discussed the positives and negatives surrounding the decision to focus on character introductions that, for veterans, would act as filler content that padded the series runtime. If the point of the anime was to bring in new fans, it allowed them to get to know the characters. Rather quickly, the series added in concepts without explanation that required knowledge of the games to understand, cutting such fans out.
As a game, or perhaps as DLC, this isn’t an issue. You would have already completed the main story, so you would already be familiar with the characters involved. This can be cut so a greater focus can be placed on the central asset of the series, Klara.
Where the series is strongest is when the story takes center stage around episode 8. These are far heavier on the action, and could easily play out just like the action does in the original releases. With a shift in structure, these can be spread out to a chapter-based story. Many of the battles play out like the many combat sequences of the original game, so it would work, while the transformation Kaminski undergoes in this episode is befitting of a final boss battle.
Perhaps the moment that lends itself most to DLC is the ending. Following the credits when all seems resolved, a teaser for a sequel, more likely to be a new video game than a new anime, closes the episode. If you’re going to tease more content for the series, surely more closely tying it to the main project would make sense, right?
Sakura Wars: The Animation Episode 12 (Finale): Medium Matters
Sakura Wars: The Animation episode 12, on its own merits, is a good episode and good ending for a flawed but overall enjoyable series. The last few weeks and their renewed focus on story rescued a series that was wallowing in mediocrity and felt pointless on more than one occasion.
As a vehicle for storytelling, I feel the repurposing of this series as a piece of DLC for the PS4 game would have been far more successful. As it stands, even for series fans, I could only recommend a revamped viewing order for the series that cut half of the episodes out entirely. Only then could the story feel focused and shine through. Otherwise, it’s lost to mediocrity and fluff, and that’s a real shame.