Last week’s episode was a rather sudden turnaround of the show’s fortunes, for better and for worse. While the episode ended up being one of the best of the series so far thanks to the attempts made to address the show’s rather static plot development, it also confirmed many of my fears for the series as a whole. Those fears are only reinforced here with Sakura Wars episode 9, despite another decent showing for the series.
The plot is too rushed. Even though I’m happy to see the show finally willing to explore the mysteries set up in the anime’s opening episode, the issue this anime now faces is that, in an attempt to resolve all these issues in the few remaining episodes the series has, plot points are being rushed through at such a pace its difficult for viewers to follow and understand. Even as this episode attempts to justify its overly-long introductions, the series’ long-running pacing issues only serve to harm the story as a whole.
Klara’s Past is Revealed
Episode 9 of Sakura Wars: The Animation is split into parallel stories. The first story is set in the current moment and follows directly on from the events of last week’s episode following the New Moscow Combat Revue’s attempts to capture Klara. The second story, centered on the team’s mostly absent captain Seijuro Kamiyama, takes place as a flashback, following his search to learn the truth about Klara and the old Moscow Combat Revue.
Realistically, these two storylines needed far more time to breathe and develop than what they were given here.
Let’s take Seijuro’s Moscow flashback as an example here. The events shown here cover just under half of the episode’s runtime yet reveal a lot of crucial information that helps to contextualize the events of the entire series up until this point. Through this flashback, we learn that the original Moscow Combat Revue died in their attempts to find Klara, who was trying to take custody of her for her protection following the betrayal of New Moscow Combat Revue leader Valery Kaminski. They’d been working in the laboratory that birthed Klara and Layla as half-human, half-demon hybrids, and sought to use their power for his own gain.
All of this information is thrown at the audience in quick succession, and even this brief summary leaves out various key pieces of plot-relevant information the anime chooses to exposit during this scene. Not only is this a lot to take in, but the sheer existence of facts stating Kaminski’s prior involvement with Klara and the destruction of the old Moscow Combat Revue massively alter our perception of the key moments leading up to this point. While Kaminski had always been a rather obvious antagonist, learning about his involvement in these previous incidents reveals just how much he’s been pulling the strings in this fight and gives the audience a glimpse into his true intentions.
This is then complemented by the second half of the episode, focused on Klara in an attempt to justify the anime’s slow approach to the last few episodes. Following her escape from the arena, Klara is rescued by Hakushu, Sakura’s mentor, and taken to the orphanage where it’s revealed that all of the inhabitants are a similar mix of human and demon. The events from the previous episode are the inciting incident that clears the block on Klara’s memories, with Klara confirming the truth to Layla’s claims of sisterhood while stating with certainty her rejection of this and acceptance of her found family within the Imperial Combat Revue.
This then comes to a head as Sakura and the others attempt to rescue Klara from Layla as she attempts to take her to Kaminski.
This half of the episode falls apart somewhat under the strain of its scale and ambition to unload so much information on the audience at once. This finale consists of a high-intensity action sequence that serves to highlight Kaminski’s cruelty and desire for Klara, but changing the landscape of the story once again through her successful capture only serves to make the episode as a whole feel rushed.
Sakura Wars: The Animation Episode 9: Too Little, Too Late
Sakura Wars episode 9 has confirmed my worst fears for this series. It won’t be possible for the anime to reach its potential in these remaining episodes because there’s too much story left to tell in the few remaining episodes this show has left. While there has been an attempt made to justify the many episodes of scene-setting and character introduction through Klara’s realization of found family this week, it doesn’t succeed.
These last two episodes have ironically been some of the best episodes of the series so far. They have a purpose and answer the questions we’ve been asking about Klara and the New Moscow Combat Revue since the beginning. Unfortunately, I feel like this is too little, too late.