Judge Adam Arseneau was amazed by the similarities between this anime and the 1965 Ricky Nelson movie Love and Kisses, except for the plot, characters, storyline, and the whole animated thing.
Touma's life is a mess!
The final volume in the ADV Films re-release of a classic romantic comedy anime, Sakura Diaries, Vol. 2: Love & Kisses still remains one of the finer examples of the genre available, despite being released to DVD three times already.
Facts of the Case
When we last left Touma, his life was a mess. Having completely ruined his chances of getting into college, he ends up lying to the girl of his dreams and fakes attendance in order to impress her…a deception he finds harder to keep up every day. His grades in cram school are getting consistently worse, directly proportional to the amount of clothing his attractive cousin roommate Uraha forgets to wear while at home. But Touma is beginning to see Uraha in a new light, as possibly the solution to his problems rather than the cause…
Volume Two of Sakura Diaries trades some of the fan service in for more laughs and more meaningful, heartwarming moments. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the, ah, titillating aspects of the previous volume, but the benefits in Sakura Diaries, Vol. 2: Love & Kisses far outweigh the slight drop in nakedness. These last episodes on an individual basis are superior to their counterparts on the first volume in virtually all subjective elements: plot, character development, romance, and comedy.
Here is when Touma finally starts realizing a few things about his life; that as much as he likes Meiko, the deception is beginning to take its toll on his spirit, for one. He also begins seeing Uraha not as a simple distraction and object of his aggression, but as a woman…and a good-looking one at that. But it gets complicated, you see, because he grows to care about her as a person, not just as a good-looking piece of…well, you know. Once he starts to care about her, those dormant feelings of honor and good behavior start to kick in. Sakura Diaries is as complex as it is funny, but most of all, it has an element of realism to it in the way the characters react to one another. Sure, the premise itself is absolutely absurd—it is a comedy after all—but the romantic interactions have a depth and complexity to them that resonates in the heart.
The series is short, which is an unfortunate thing, but all good things do come to an end. Since the series only spans two DVD volumes, it has the advantage of being an affordable dalliance into romantic comedy anime, which is a plus. But, as with the previous volume, be warned: Sakura Diaries, Vol. 2: Love & Kisses is rated TV-14, which is a pretty loose rating for a show so infused with nakedness and sexual tension. Fretful parents might want to keep their eye on this one. At the end of the day, I'm not quite convinced that the series warranted a third re-release by ADV Films, as the last release was good enough for me, but here we are.
As with the previous volume, the visual presentation comes across decently. The animation style is a bit out of fashion, but the colors are strong and vibrant, with solid black levels. The print is fairly damaged at times, showing spotting, but overall, it is a passable presentation.
Both an English 5.1 Surround and a Japanese 2.0 Stereo presentation are included and are virtually identical to the previous volume in terms of quality. The surround is firm and solid, with good volume, but fails to take advantage of the rear channels effectively. The Japanese track is clear, but fairly high in the treble range and lacking any solid bass response. The English dub has a good amount of enthusiasm and feeling on the part of the dub cast, making for a pleasing presentation if you enjoy English dubs.
This could be a first for an anime series on DVD…the second volume actually has more extras than the first. The first volume was a fairly bare-bones affair, but Volume Two comes with a voice actor commentary track from the principal English language cast laughing, joking, and having themselves a riotous time. It is an entertaining little deviation if you are a fan of the voice actors and it's kind of nifty to hear everyone having such a fun time and letting their hair down. Of course, they don't actually give any real information about the production itself, but it's all for fun.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only real downside to Volume Two is the ending, which lives up to its name in the most pejorative sense of the word, e.g. it ends. After 12 episodes, the ending seems almost anti-climactic, as if the show simply stopped being, vanishing into the naked ether from whence it came. An argument could be made that the show ends exactly how it should end considering the nature of the relationship between Touma and Uraha, but an argument could be made for a lot of things. Like communism.
Sakura Diaries, Vol. 2: Love & Kisses has more heart and more laughs than its predecessor, making it a perfect way to close up the series. A perfect balance between skin and genuine emotion, it comes highly recommended.
You know, by me.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Voice Actor Commentary
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