Hailing from all over the world and aged anywhere between literal children and highly experienced adults, Sakura Wars‘ main cast have always been a diverse, interesting, and argumentative bunch. They’re all created with a marketable stereotype in mind – the cute one, the sexy one, the serious one – that the stories they inhabit then make a concerted effort to shatter at the earliest opportunity, every single one of them allowed to be as silly or as sombre as the immediate situation requires. And because we’re allowed to see these characters at their worst as well as at their best, with neither side swiftly dismissed or unjustified, it’s very easy to become attached to all of them – even the ones you were sure you’d never want to spend a single second with.
Her prominence on the packaging over virtually everything related to the first two games coupled with her inherent pink-ness make it easy to assume Sakura would be polite, passive, and painfully available one but in truth the first game upends your expectations before you’ve even been given control, the opening FMV showing Sakura confidently drawing her sword and cutting down an intimidating wakiji (think of a mechanical soldier) with little effort. She’s generally cheerful and commits to her stage duties with as much enthusiasm as she does the battlefield, but also refuses to back down in an argument and isn’t quite as demure and ladylike as her name and most consistent clothing colour suggests. Sakura Wars reveals she’s scared of lightning to the point of virtually shutting down due to a childhood incident (basically a “Hah! I’m not scared of lightning!” [let’s see what lightning has to say about that] scenario). Her dad fought alongside Yoneda and Ayame years before the events of the first game, culminating in him using his bloodline’s power to protect the city at the cost of his life. This results in several weighty scenes in Sakura Wars 2 where Sakura learns she has the ability – and theoretically the duty – to do the same.
One look at pre-teen French girl Iris, frills personified and possessing a voice so high pitched it can only be heard by bats, and you’d feel certain she’d be the first character anyone would throw out to sea. Unlike the other members of the Flower Division she’s definitively a childish child, but in a way that captures that youthful energy perfectly: she’s someone who would see a butterfly and then spend the rest of the day flapping around the theatre with a bedsheet while insisting she ate flowers for dinner. And just like many other children she can turn on the tears when it suits her… and turn them off just as fast once she’s got her way. She is still just a young child though, and any “manipulations” along these lines are always presented with her age firmly in mind rather than performed out of malice. She is just as prone to real tears and insecurities: A good example of this can be seen during her 10th birthday “date” with Ogami during the first game, which includes a trip to the “picture house” as it would have been called back in this fantasy steampunk past. The movie they see happens to be a scary one, and during this Ogami notices Iris is frightened, which brings up a LIPS option to hold her hand to help calm her down. If he does so she withdraws her hand in spite of her fear, nervously insisting that she’s not a kid, and she’s not afraid. It’s not true (it’s not even close to true) but it shows a complexity to her; she’s aware of her status as “the child”, and like many children desires to be seen as an adult, as an equal. That said… she’s rarely seen without her precious teddy bear Jean-Paul, whether in battle or walking around the theatre.
At one point during Sakura Wars 2 she proudly tells Ogami she’s grown a whole 9cm, which isn’t an especially useful fact but I personally found it adorable.
Sumire shouldn’t work. She’s rude, almost comically posh, self-aggrandising, comes from an obscenely wealthy family, and refuses to believe she’s not the most important person in any room she walks in to. If anyone’s going to tell you how great they are, it’s her. If anyone’s going to start or finish a verbal fight, it’s her. If anyone’s going to point out the flaws in someone else with no regard for their feelings, it’s her. But in spite of this abrasive behaviour she is still a likeable and popular member of the team. This is partly due to how everyone else reacts to her (including – based on your choices – Ogami): they all give as good as they get, with none of them shy about popping that enormous ego of hers. But it’s mostly because both games are peppered with scenes big and small that show she’s not as above it all as she makes out, and when she does let her guard down she’s a brave, thoughtful, and diligent teammate who has the skills on stage and on the battlefield to back up her frequent boasts. She’s a nice person underneath it all, she just hasn’t quite worked out how to express that yet. She also has an ongoing friendly(ish) rivalry with Kanna, the pair of them teasing and insulting the other so often and so easily they can probably do it in their sleep.
Kohran’s a highly skilled mechanic, engineer, and inventor… so long as you can ignore the minor explosions that tend to happen whenever she’s around (luckily she usually bears the brunt of them herself). She tends to get the more comical theatre roles – things that wouldn’t suit the “star” members of the cast or the masculine roles typically given to Kanna, Maria, and Reni – and is quietly conscious of the fact that she’s not what would be considered the traditionally pretty member of the Flower Division. Sakura Wars 2 reveals she’s terrified of fire after her home village in China was attacked and burned down as a child, leaving her orphaned – and taken in under the theatre/secret demon fighting force’s wing thanks to Ayame. She considers herself to have had three dads in her life: Her biological dad, the dad who looked after her when she first came to Japan, and Chief Yoneda for helping her find her place in the world after her life was so utterly devastated.
Maria’s the daughter of a Russian diplomat and a Japanese mother – both dead. In her early teens she found herself a child soldier… who saw her captain die in front of her in a bloody conflict (Sakura Wars has a habit of getting as dark as it pleases, when it pleases). These deeply traumatic life-changing events have understandable caused this young woman to grow in to a serious and pragmatic deputy captain, and she’ll always be the first to say something like “We have to focus on the mission no matter what!” or disapprove of the Flower Division messing around. But that doesn’t mean she’s cold though, in spite of her icy battle motif – Maria enjoys being around the others even if she’s not great at saying so and will even rope Ogami into helping her cook for them if he catches her at the right time. Her past initially makes her fearful of the future, Ogami’s presence and kindness causing her to privately worry that he’s just someone else to love and lose.
If you ever need someone who eats like a horse, kicks like a horse, and is about as tall as one too, then Kanna’s the woman for you. This enthusiastic Okinawan martial artist tends to have a straightforward and positive outlook even when things get tough, happy to leap in with her fists and let others worry about the details. Like Maria and Reni she lands the masculine theatre parts thanks to her impressive build and powerful voice, and when she’s not on stage or battling evil she will more than likely spend her time training, hiking, or performing some other physically exhausting activity. As mentioned above she loves and loathes Sumire in equal measure, perhaps best shown in Sakura Wars 2 when she (optionally) kicks down a large metal gate to reach her frenemy… and then a few minutes later starts bickering with her again, the natural order of things restored. She’s also terrified of snakes thanks to a scary encounter as a young girl.
Orihime’s introduction in Sakura Wars 2 is so snooty and self-assured she manages to make Sumire of all people look modest and reserved. She’s also vocal about her hatred of Japanese men – including Ogami, who she initially thinks so little of she unapologetically throws a glass of water in his face. As with everyone else she isn’t like this without reason and over time we learn that her Japanese dad apparently abandoned her Italian mother when she was nothing more than a baby – and not too long after that we discover it was less “abandoned” and more that the two besotted lovers were not allowed to be together due to pressure from her aristocratic mother’s side. In the theatre she’s a shining star in any performance, and when off-duty it becomes clear that Orihime’s more strong-willed and forthright than anything: During the second game’s “Flower Division on holiday” chapter she not only gives sashimi an honest go but also genuinely enjoys the fireworks display, and when she learns the truth about her parents circumstances she not only makes a conscious effort to create a positive relationship with her dad but also acknowledges how awful she’s been to those around her.
Ogami – and by extension, the player, spend the first few chapters of Sakura Wars 2 incorrectly assuming Reni’s male due to their preferred dress and reserved to the point of single word answers demeanour, and as such unlike the rest of the Flower Division everyone’s favourite ticket clipper is unable to gain any positive (or negative) “trust” points with them for a while. This is “resolved” by Ogami accidentally seeing her naked (the image, as always, remains modest and “safe for work”) as she’s about to take a relaxing dip in a hot spring and… the whole thing’s a shitshow, to be honest. There was nothing wrong with Reni being male, unflirtably female, or neither, and if she didn’t want to reveal her gender (she personally didn’t consider it important enough to mention or correct) then that should’ve been up to them. Still. Reni is initially emotionally cold and distant due to a childhood spent as a test subject in a German child soldier experiment, although Iris (with Ogami’s help) eventually find a way through and Reni transforms into a committed and engaged member of the team who’s happy to fight for her friends.
First impressions of Chief (or Manager, depending on the situation) Yoneda aren’t great: he looks like an aging drunkard who doesn’t do much but mess around and couldn’t walk in a straight line out of his imposing office if his life depended on it. The truth is… OK the truth is he really is very fond of having a drink but he’s also an extremely brave and experienced military officer who’s as sharp as a knife and happy to say or do anything if it will get the right reaction out of his team, regardless of how he “should” behave. He soon becomes a reassuring and reliable presence, quietly three steps ahead of friend and foe alike while still letting everyone get on with what they do best. He’s also fiercely protective of the young people in his care: The first game devotes an entire scene to him just before the climactic final assault, privately monologuing to a photograph of himself and the Flower Division in happier times not so long ago, lamenting sending his beloved girls into such awful danger as his voice cracks with grief and concern. Remarkably Sakura Wars 2 manages to outdo that emotional event, and when he’s sniped from afar he defiantly tries to crawl away even as his own blood visibly pools on the ground below, insisting he will return to the theatre and (this is a direct quote) “His precious children“. He ends up hospitalised for a while before making a full recovery and returning to his duties, same as ever.
Ayame is not only Yoneda’s deputy but also fought by his side years earlier during the demon-whacking events that eventually led to the brave death of Sakura’s father. While she never fights directly alongside the Flower Division she’s a skilled officer who always happens to have already pre-empted whatever problem they currently face and can be counted upon to be at least halfway to sorting it before anyone else has even realised there was anything wrong to begin with. Ogami frequently finds himself helplessly infatuated by her, much to Sakura’s obvious irritation. During the events of the first game she succumbs to Aoi Satan’s – in another life Shinnosuke Yamazaki, the man she loved – dark influence and (unwillingly) turns on the team, before eventually being defeated and reawakening as the Archangel Michael, giving the group the power to take on Satan Satan’s final form. She then ascends to heaven, her almost literal deus ex machina complete.
Objectively speaking Ayame’s younger sister exists because the previous game killed off a character the series’ structure benefits from, which is someone supportive but slightly apart from the main group with the skill and authority to convincingly pull off a surprise “Suddenly, everyone had their koubu even when things looked impossible” plot twist. She was as unaware of her sister’s God-gifted powers as Ayame herself was and doesn’t appear to possess them herself, although she did rescue Reni from their experimented-on life in German. Before her time with the Flower Division she headed the European Star Division, of which both Orihime and Reni were members.
🌸Sakura Wars 1 and 2
🌸Fan Discs and related frippery
Sakura Wars Hanagumi Tsushin (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Steam Radio Show (Saturn)
Teigeki Graph in Sakura Wars (Saturn)
Sakura Wars Denmaku Club 1 & 2 (Windows)
Ogami Ichiro Funtouki (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Online (Dreamcast)
Sakura Wars Kinematron Hanagumi Mail (Dreamcast)
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