Sakura Wars: The Movie
|Sakura Wars: The Movie|
|Directed by||Mitsuru Hongo|
|Produced by||Tetsuo Uchida|
|Story by||Oji Hiroi|
|Music by||Kohei Tanaka|
|Edited by||Junichi Uematsu|
|Distributed by||Toei Company|
|Budget||¥500 million JPY|
|Box office||¥2.8 billion JPY|
Sakura Wars: The Movie (Japanese: サクラ大戦 活動写真 Hepburn: Sakura Taisen: Katsudō Shashin) is a 2001 Japanese animated fantasy film based on the Sakura Wars media franchise. The film was created by Production I.G, directed and co-written by Mitsuru Hongo, and produced by Tetsuo Uchida. Sakura Wars veterans Oji Hiroi and Kohei Tanaka returned respectively as co-writer and composer. The movie takes place between Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning? and Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens. With their leader Ichiro Ogami in Paris, the Flower Division of the Imperial Assault Force—a group of magically-gifted women who defend Tokyo from supernatural threats in steam-powered mechs called Koubu—are forced to defend their existence from the schemes of the American Douglas-Stewart company.
Production I.G had previously collaborated with the Sakura Wars developers on cutscenes for the video game series since Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die. The aim was to create an experience impossible to achieve with either the video games or other released media. Production lasted three years, with a budget of ¥500 million JPY. Announced in 1999 alongside Sakura Wars 3 and other Sakura Wars anime projects, the film was heavily promoted in Japan. It premiered simultaneously with Slayers Premium, Di Gi Charat - A Trip to the Planet and The Very Short Azumanga Daioh Movie. Upon release, it was a box office success. It was localised for Western home media release in 2002 by Pioneer Entertainment, with later releases handled by Funimation. It was praised by critics for its animation and music, but the plot and characters were negatively received.
Sakura Wars: The Movie is set in 1926 during a fictionalised version of the Taishō period where steam power has become the dominant energy source. Despite prosperity, the city of Tokyo is beset by demonic threats born from negative human elements. To combat these threats, Tokyo's government and military formed the Imperial Assault Force and its main combat unit the Flower Division. Made up of young women with magical abilities, the Flower Division defends against demonic attacks on Tokyo using steam-powered mechs called Koubu, while also maintaining a cover as a theater troop called the Imperial Theater Revue. The Flower Division, led by Imperial Army officer Ichiro Ogami, is made up of eight members; series lead Sakura Shinguji, lead actress Sumire Kanzaki, Russian ex-soldier Maria Tachibara, the young French-born Iris Chateaubriand, Ryukyu-born Kanna Kirishima, Chinese inventor Kohran Ri, aristocratic Japanese-Italian Orihime Soletta, and the emotionally-distant Reni Milchstrasse. Sakura Wars: The Movie takes place between the events of Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning? and Sakura Wars 4: Fall in Love, Maidens.
While Ogami is away in Paris, the group are joined by Ratchet Altair—the former leader of Orihime and Reni's failed Europe-based Star Division—to learn from the successful Flower Division prior to setting up a similar unit in New York. Called out to fight a fresh demon attack, the Flower Division are witness to the demons being destroyed by a new type of unmaned mecha called Japhkiel. Developed by the American Douglas-Stewart corporation, the Japhkiels are designed to replace the Flower Division entirely. Following multiple disastrous battles, Douglas-Stewart president Brent Furlong and Imperial Army officer Haruyoshi Tanuma use their influence to seize the Imperial Assault Force's base and place the Flower Division on indefinite standby. Orihime is also captured and brainwashed by Furlong's henchman Patrick Hamilton. Investigating Douglas-Stewart, Maria learns that the Japhkiels are disguised demons being used by Furlong and Hamilton to overwhelm Tokyo, with Hamilton being a near-immortal nemesis from Maria's early life. Maria is discovered and barely escapes Hamilton.
The rest of the Flower Division launches an assault on their base to retake their Koubus, though Ratchet's more violent approach causes friction with Sakura. The liberated Imperial Assault Force fights off the demons and retakes their base; during their battle, the Flower Division fight the brainwashed Orihime, with Reni stopping Ratchet from killing her, allowing the group to free Orihime. Furlong escapes on a Japhkiel, then merges with the surviving Japhkiels to destroy the Flower Division, crippling Ratchet's Koubu in the process. Ogami, having just returned from Paris, arrives in his Koubu and turns the fight around, allowing the Flower Division to destroy Furlong. Tanuma is arrested, and Hamilton is cornered by Maria and killed with a bullet infused with spirit energy. The film ends with the Flower Division and Ratchet performing a musical play based on Kyōka Izumi's The Sea God's Villa. Through the play, Ratchet admits her anxieties following the collapse of the Star Division to Sakura and receives support and forgiveness from the Flower Division. Despite the unscripted deviations, the play is a great success.
|Character||Japanese||English (pseudonym in parenthesis)|
|Sakura Shinguji||Chisa Yokoyama||Wendee Lee|
|Sumire Kanzaki||Michie Tomizawa||Michelle Ruff|
|Maria Tachibana||Urara Takano||Mari Devon (Jane Alan)|
|Iris Chateaubriand||Kumiko Nishihara||Carrie Savage|
|Ri Kohran||Yuriko Fuchizaki||Dorothy Elias-Fahn (Annie Pastrano)|
|Kanna Kirishima||Mayumi Tanaka||Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Melissa Williamson)|
|Orihime Soletta||Maya Okamoto||Melissa Fahn (Tina Dixon)|
|Leni Milchstraße||Kazue Ikura||Mona Marshall|
|Kaede Fujieda||Ai Orikasa||Lia Sargent|
|Ikki Yoneda||Masaru Ikeda||Doug Stone (David Orosco)|
|Ratchet Altair||Akiko Kuno||Julie Anne Taylor|
|Ichirō Ōgami||Akio Suyama||Dave Wittenberg (Dave Lelyveld)|
|Brent Furlong||Kōichi Yamadera||Crispin Freeman (Joseph McDougal)|
|Patrick Hamilton||Keiichi Nanba||Richard Cansino (Edward Villa)|
|Haruyoshi Tanuma||Keiji Fujiwara||Kirk Thornton (Ron Allen)|
Sakura Wars: The Movie was produced by Japanese animation studio Production I.G, which had gained fame for multiple film and television projects, and had previously created the anime cutscenes of the Sakura Wars series since the second game Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die. Sakura Wars creator Oji Hiroi had envisioned making a film based on the Sakura Wars series since the release of the original game in 1996. This wish was greatly magnified after seeing the animation work of Production I.G on Sakura Wars 2. During production of Sakura Wars 2 and its sequel, Hiroi and Production I.G each voiced their wish to create a feature-length animated film, but Hiroi did not expect the project to come through. Production began three years prior to its release, after Hiroi had long talks with Production I.G's Toshimichi Otsuki, who was given permission after positive discussions with Hiroi and series owners Sega and Red Company.
The film was directed and written by Mitsuru Hongo, who had previously worked as a director on adaptations of Outlaw Star and The Candidate for Goddess. Otsuki acted as executive producer. Hiroi contributed to the script along with Hiroyuki Nishimura and Nobuhisa Terado. Original Sakura Wars scriptwriter Satoru Akahori acted as a supervisor. The anime character designs were created by drawing director Takuya Saito, based on original designs by Kōsuke Fujishima and Hidenori Matsubara. The music was created by original series composer Kohei Tanaka. Production was overseen by Sega and Production I.G in collaboration with Kadokawa Shoten and Imagica. The film was distributed by Toei Company. The film's budget was revealed to be ¥500 million JPY.
Hiroi's wish for the film was to create an experience that neither the games nor other media such as the stage performances had been able to capture. Like their work on Sakura Wars 3, Production I.G used a fusion of traditional 2D animation with 3D CGI graphics in a technique dubbed "Neo-CGI", a technique then at the cutting edge of their technology. The original actors for returning characters featured in the film reprised their roles from the video games. The new character Ratchet was voiced and sung by Akiko Kuno, who had an extensive career in stage musicals and television drama. This casting decision fell in line with Hiroi's wish for the Sakura Wars series cast, who had to have experience in voice acting, singing and stage work. Kuno was suggested to Hiroi by actor Shintarō Sonooka, who had worked with Hiroi on the Sakura Wars stage play and his earlier work with Kuno as part of the Shiki Theatre Company. Kuno and Tanaka were mutual fans, which combined with Sonooka's positive comments on Hiroi persuaded Kuno to accept the role.
Tanaka began writing the film's music between May and June of 2001. While previously faced with technical limitations with games and other limits with related productions, Tanaka was able to expand the scope of his music within a film environment. Several themes from the original video games were rewritten for orchestra. As part of the audio production, a private performance of the game's musical numbers was held, and the audience's applause recorded for use in the soundtrack.
The opening theme "Miracle Bell" was sung by the entire main female cast, while the ending musical number "Everything is Into the Sea" was sung by Kuno and Sakura's voice actress Chisa Yokoyama. At the same time as dubbing was proceeding for the film, Yokoyama was performing in a Sakura Wars stage play of The Sea God's Villa, which was reproduced in the film. Due to performing her role and songs both on stage and in the film, Yokoyama was able to become absorbed in the performance and timing more than she had anticipated. The lyrics for all songs were written by Hiroi.
A commercial soundtrack album was released by Avex Mode on December 19, 2001. The cover design was created by Saito. "Miracle Bell" and "Everything is Into the Sea" were released by Avex Mode as a separate album on November 21, 2001.  The soundtrack album was released in North America by Pioneer Entertainment on September 9, 2003.
The film was first announced in October 1999 as part of the "Sakura Wars 2000" project, being announced alongside Sakura Wars 3, the first game's anime series adaptation, and the original video animation series Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms. During a pre-release screening of the film, Hoir included a joke teaser surrounding a feature focused on the character Iris in the vein of the mahō shōjo series Cardcaptor Sakura. Despite this being a joke, it stemmed from Hiros concept for how the series could expand as a media franchise.
The film premiered on December 22, 2001. The film was promoted with special campaigns, including a decorated bus related to a special lottery prize for those who spotted it. It was screened simultaneously with three other features: Slayers Premium, Di Gi Charat - A Trip to the Planet and The Very Short Azumanga Daioh Movie. During its first four days in theaters, the film was the seventh highest-grossing release. By February 2003, its box office gross had reached ¥2.8 billion JPY.
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The film has received generally mixed reviews from Western critics; while praise has been given to its music and animation, its plot and characters were generally criticised. Its English dub was also held up as a poor effort.
Sakura Wars: The Movie was first released for rental DVD and VHS on April 25, 2002 by King Records. A commercial release exclusively for DVD released on November 22 by King Records. It released in both a standard edition and a special first print edition featuring additional content including behind-the-scenes press footage and a booklet detailing unused content. Different retail versions of the special edition featured cover illustrations by Saito and Matsubara. The film was later re-released on Blu-ray in its tenth anniversary year on January 25, 2013. Published by Kadokawa Shoten, standard and limited first print editions were created, with the latter included illustrations and a booklet.
The film was localized for Western audiences by Pioneer Entertainment, and released for DVD in North America on September 9, 2003. It came in standard and Limited editions, with the latter included a collection of ten mini-pencil boards. Both versions included dual audio,   In 2013, Funimation acquired the film's distribution rights. They re-released the film as a Blu-ray and DVD dual release on October 22, 2013.
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