I’ve been rather harsh with my views on the Sakura Wars anime since the series premiere, but I don’t think I’ve been unfair. Particularly when it comes to pacing, an issue which once again rears its head in Sakura Wars episode 6 this week, I feel like I’m justified in these complaints. What perhaps makes things more frustrating, however, is that there are a lot of things I appreciate about this story, and I see the potential for a stronger show than the one we’ve received here.
Episode 6 of Sakura Wars feels like a culmination of all the positive and negative points I’ve made about this series so far, as great character moments and mecha fights are countered by frustrating story pacing and the growing sense of dread that a story which finally feels like it’s kicking into gear will end up rushed and underdeveloped due to the show’s approach to this tale.
Lifting the Curtain
Being oblivious can only be justified so far, and I feel Sakura’s inability to realize her former trainer is the mysterious white-caped girl who saved Klara in episode 2 is a lack of awareness that’s frustrating to the audience. The character’s return this week to a still-unaware Sakura’s side only comes off as annoying more than charming.
This week’s episode sees the character return as she takes Klara and Sakura to an orphanage on the outskirts of town, initially to help out clear out a storeroom. Not much is thought of it until the Black Cape, which initially tried to capture Klara before, arrives, and the whole team swoops in to help.
There’s a strong central story to this episode which does help to advance the larger narrative forward, which is a good thing since it has at times felt that the narrative hasn’t got going yet despite being halfway through the series following the airing of this episode. There are parts of the end of the episode which open up the narrative and keep me intrigued about what’s to come. The issue comes in everything before it.
For example, very little happens for a while once they arrive at the orphanage. While the time is dedicated to character interactions which have usually been the series’ strong point thanks to its diverse and interesting cast of characters, this feels like wasted time when the interactions either fail to offer anything new or interesting or, in the case of Klara, are all involving secondary characters with little involvement in the episode as a whole.
Klara spends most of her time hanging out with the kids at the orphanage during this time, yet instead of this time hanging around with kids her age who also lack family being used to develop Klara’s past or character, which still mostly remains a blank slate and viewer-insert character, these scenes are entirely wasted airtime. The point of this is to have her time at the orphanage help her realize she has her own found family in the Combat Revue, but this has already been established implicitly, so it reduces the purpose of these moments in the episode.
When I note the pacing issues I have with this series, I feel like Sakura Wars episode 6 is a perfect representation of this. The journey to the orphanage, the fight, and this reveal which does little more than reaffirm what has already been established take up 3/4 of the runtime of this week’s episode. In the final few minutes, the tone shifts as several new revelations occur one after another.
Klara remembers more about the events of Moscow which caused her to lose her memories, which changes our understanding of the events, Klara and the New Moscow Combat Revue which have tried to recapture her since episode 3. The Black Cape is revealed to be involved with the new team, and it seems that they were somehow involved in the destruction of the original Combat Revue. Multiple ideas are thrown out there in the final few minutes without much time to process them.
The issue is that these look set to be the core ideas from which the rest of the anime builds upon, and we’re only learning about it in a rather rushed manner now. Not only that, the next episode preview makes me question whether any of the ideas or the questions it raises about this new Moscow team, will be answered, as the preview makes the episode look rather uneventful.
Sakura Wars: The Animation Episode 6: The Start of a Shift, But Concern Remains
Sakura Wars is a series I enjoy despite these issues. I can’t say I disliked this episode or any episode which came before it, and I love the characters, too. It’s a little frustrating that it’s taken 6 episodes for the story of Sakura Wars: The Animation to get going, and I worry for events going forward if the next episode is, as I fear, another week where the central narrative is left undeveloped. I worry that the story, once all is said and done, will simply feel rushed as a result.
However, for now, I’m happy to keep going with things. The new reveals do just about justify the slow start to this week’s episode, and I’m really curious where things are going from here based on the new questions raised.