Books Are Pretty

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sakura Taisen, Volume 1

So, this is Manga. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never read it before, or even seen it, and didn’t know you read it back to front and right to left. But ignorance has never stopped me from doing anything before, so on with the review!

Sakura Taisen, or “Cherry Blossom War,” is a cute enough story, and seems aimed at the young teenage set. The scene is set in Tokyo, in 1921. Ensign Ogami, a young Navy man, is given what at first blush appears to be a demeaning, insulting assignment: he is relegated to a theatre, and forced to work as a ticket taker. Surrounded by spoiled young actresses all day, he grows increasingly grumpy, feeling like his talent as a soldier is being wasted. During his stay at the Grand Imperial Theatre, he notices that the young ladies, acting skills aside, not only seem to be proficient at weaponry, but occasionally show the ability for telekinesis as well. And there’s also the obligatory village getting attacked by monsters and giant robots, too.

So, it’s cute enough, and quite readable, but since I was reading it primarily for review purposes and not as a Manga fan, I felt like it was a waste of time. While researching the book, I found that it was created by Sega, and the Sakura Taisen line is not only a Manga series, but started off as a video game, and became a live action stage show, produced dozens of top-selling CDs, a tv show, and a line of snack food products. Although the Disney corporation attempts the same sort of product marketing with their young stars such as Hilary Duff, they can only dream of this sort of mass-media saturation that the Tokyo-based companies have done.

As with almost all popular culture, I mostly don’t get it, and with Manga – at least, this particular Manga, I found it kind of depressing. Sega doesn’t care if I like this Manga book or not. They’re not calibrating their level of success by any sort of artistic merit. They’re gauging their success by their profit margin, and their gross sales indicate they’re very, very successful indeed.

The Manga parade is going to march on without me; in fact, I’m about the equivalent of a bacterium perched on their ear – they won’t even know I’m there.

Good story, bad story, read it, don’t read it, it doesn’t matter. Sega won’t care.
Originally posted at the Journal for the Lincoln Heights Literary Society

Sakura Taisen
Story by Ohji Hiroi
2005 by TokyoPop
Paperback, 184 pp.
ISBN: 1-59816-484-4

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