Last week, my issues with the series mostly revolved around its pacing and structure. Without a set target audience in mind, the anime was attempting to please everyone and, as a result, felt disjointed. Too much time had been spent on character introductions if you were already a fan of the franchise, yet would be necessary if you were new to the series. This is an issue only exacerbated in Sakura Wars episode 3.
With the focus solely on the Imperial Combat Revue, it was relatively easy to follow their inter-character drama. To keep those new fans happy, you need to bring them up to speed. However, once other theatre troupes and geopolitics which require prior engagement are introduced, the pacing issues from previous episodes become more apparent.
A Crash Course in Geopolitics
With this in mind, here’s a crash course of everything you need to know to understand Sakura Wars episode 3.
As I mentioned in my episode 1 review, this anime is a sequel, not an adaptation, to the new PS4 title in the series. The game takes place 12 years after the events of Sakura Wars: So Long My Love and 10 years after the ‘Great Demon War’, during which the various Theatre Combat groups in Tokyo, New York, and Paris were destroyed. While these groups were previously undercover and secret, their actions are now publicly known, and following this war, the World Luxuriant Opera Federation (WLOF) is formed to manage multiple new Theatre Combat troupes, including a revived Imperial Combat Revue in Taisho-era Tokyo.
The WLOF has the job of not just organizing the various Theatre Combat groups but keeping rivalries between the groups in check, acting essentially as a trans-national government force with their own army in various countries in the form of these troupes. The troupes listen to this group first and foremost.
Thing is, this information shouldn’t be first introduced to people in a review. You should be able to learn about the WLOF and the world of Sakura Wars within the anime itself, especially if it’s important to the story. Do we have any understanding of the WLOF’s power or much about the power or importance of the other troupes? Not in the anime we don’t.
Sakura Wars episode 3 cuts off new fans by throwing so much new information into the mix without prior explanation. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the anime was targeted more at existing fans. I mentioned in my opening episode review of another Spring anime, Kaguya-Sama, that it was a tough introduction for anyone who hadn’t seen the first season, but with it being intended mostly for those already familiar with the series and with the hurdles being relatively minor, it wasn’t much of an issue.
Sakura Wars has never stated the type of audience it wants to attract. It wants to bring the dedicated fans on board with this new anime, but it also features moments mostly intended to ease new fans in, rather than pander to those veteran supporters. Why bother slowing the pace of the story to introduce characters if all you want to do is disregard them one week later?
Sakura Wars episode 3 is an episode focused on the New Moscow Combat Revue, a fellow troupe claiming ownership over Klara. Considering their request to take Klara contradicts orders to look after her like she was family, this creates tension that threatens to spill over between the two groups, and requires the intervention of the WLOF to resolve this dispute. Interrupting these arguments is the arrival of a strong, agile demon, and the attempts to bring it down become an extension of this spat as the two teams argue about whether the Moscow team should support the Tokyo team, who worry the need for help could harm their reputation and standing.
The thing is, to understand why this is a big deal you need to know about the other troupes, as well as the inter-troupe competitions which pit the troupes against each other for glory alongside their mission as protectors of the peace. Political intrigue is at the center of this episode, and the series has no interest in catching up the uninitiated.
Sakura Wars The Animation Episode 3: End of the Line
Episode 3 of Sakura Wars firmly cements the show as one mostly for established fans of the franchise, whether the creators intended this or not. Without establishing key tenants of the world, the show freezes out curious newcomers who may want to give the series a chance.
Which is a shame. There are strong CG animation and fun characters for those who stick around. At this point, I’m hoping the intrigue the series has established with the strange actions of the New Moscow Combat Revue is paid off, as the questions surrounding the team are the series’ most interesting point to date. I’m just sad many can’t join in that journey.