If I had to describe Sakura Wars: The Animation episode 8 in one word, it would be ‘sudden’. The light, lackluster tone of last week’s filler episode is nowhere to be seen here, and at times it felt as though an episode of the series had been skipped in the interim to construct the state of affairs that occur this week.
It may have taken 8 episodes, but the story of the series has finally begun in earnest. This changes the dynamic of the entire series as a result and raises the bar of quality for this episode compared to those that came before it. That being said, I can’t say this shift doesn’t come with its own share of problems.
Preparing For Battle
When I say it feels as though an entire episode of events had occurred between Sakura Wars episode 7 and episode 8 it’s because, all of a sudden, the New Moscow Combat Revue and Tokyo Imperial Combat Revue were now at odds with one another.
To bring the PS4 game this series acts as a sequel into proceedings for a moment, the initial premise of that title sees you, as Captain Seijuro Kamiyama, attempt to revive the reputation and fortunes of the Tokyo Combat Revue through participation in the WLOF Combat Revue World Games while fighting off a new demon invasion in the process. The idea of mock battles and competitive events that take place between the various Combat Revues around the world is baked into the concept and explained as a result.
While reviewing episode 3 of the series, my major gripe was the uncertainty the series had in picking a target audience. The series wanted to entice new fans into the series with long character introductions, yet the insistence on withholding explanations to major elements of the world of the series, including major elements like the purpose of the WLOF, held things back for this audience. Being able to follow the series without this knowledge was difficult.
This issue only manifests itself further here. The Combat Revue World Games has never been mentioned, while the existence of troupes aside from the New Moscow Combat Revue was noted yet not factored in. The whole story of the series has focused on Klara, her lost memories and the insistence of the New Moscow Combat Revue that she returns to them at once.
Here, the mock battles and structure of such competitions is the entire premise for the episode. The episode features the two troupes battling it out against one another in a series of competitive events in order to win the custody of Klara. The games were being broadcast all around the world, including to the other troupes, and with the announcement being made before the invitation, the Tokyo troupe felt like they had no choice but to accept or face humiliation.
There’s a lot to unpack there. See, the invitation, preparation and set-up for the games occurred entirely off-screen between the events of last week and this week. So much had occurred in the meantime that I had to check I hadn’t missed an episode by mistake. The events skipped leave the audience short of breath as they try and wrap their heads around everything that’s going on without time to prepare or understand the reasoning. We’ve gone from Klara joining Sakura and Seijuro on a date around town to her being locked in a cage with her custody now a prize to be won by the competing forces.
Once you have caught up with events things don’t slow down, either, as the first two events are rattled off in quick succession before the final mock battle. By this point, though, your mind is fully absorbed in the proceedings, and for a few minutes, episode 8 offers some of the best content that Sakura Wars: The Animation has been able to offer up until this point. The intense action animation is a joy to watch, while the tension of the mock battle, and the stakes in play, are high throughout.
The issue is that the end of the episode once again leaves the viewer with a lot of information to process in a short amount of time. The episode opened with the revelation that Layla of the New Moscow Combat Revue is a harpie, of sorts, so it comes as little surprise when it turns out their sister, Klara, is the same. The scale of their power, however, and the intents Kaminsky has by activating this power through the stress of this competition, remain unclear. However, the escalation from mock battle to the showcase of her destructive abilities is remarkably sudden.
Sakura Wars: The Animation Episode 8: A Tonal Shift Marks a Change in Proceedings, With Mixed Results
After many episodes taking things slow, episode 8’s sudden shift in pace to this action-heavy, plot-dense happenings of this week’s entry make Sakura Wars: The Animation feel disjointed. Almost echoing sentiments I made just last week, now the plot of the series has begun in earnest after a few too many episodes of scene-setting and exposition, things feel rushed.
While I can’t say this episode was bad (far from it, this was perhaps the best episode to date), it feels held back by the lack of build-up to the competition which dominates the episode, the lack of exposition and the pacing of the series on the whole. It does at least leave me wanting to know what happens next, which I guess is more than I can say for previous weeks.