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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/25/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Sakura Taisen, Vol. 1"

Sakura Taisen Vol. 1
by Ikku Masa, Kosuke Fujishima, Ohji Hiroi
Published by TOKYOPOP

Review by Tom Good

In Sakura Taisen, mecha and monsters roam the streets of Tokyo. But the year is 1923, so these mecha are steam-powered. (Oddly, the back of the book says it is 1921, but content within the story indicates it is 1923.) The manga is based on an anime franchise known in the U.S. as Sakura Wars. (Taisen means great war in Japanese; sakura means cherry blossom, and is also the name of one of the characters in the story). As volume one begins, the brave and handsome Ensign Ichiro Ogami gets a new assignment. He is sent on a special mission at the Imperial Theater, where an all-female opera troupe is performing.

Happy to be surrounded by beautiful women, Ogami expects some kind of top secret intelligence work. Instead, he finds himself assigned to be a mere ticket taker. His frustrations are described in the humorously named "Chapter Two - The Meaningless Busywork." But Ogami discovers that all of the actresses seem to be experts in martial arts, and so there may be more to his boring assignment than meets the eye.

The steampunk sensibility of this manga immediately sets it apart from most others. The costumes are beautiful, and the steam-powered tanks and robots have a cool, high-tech-that-never-was look to them. The story mixes action and comedy, and though it contains some violence, it is not gory or upsetting. Fans of Sakura Wars should definitely read this book, and those new to the series will find this a fun place to start.

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