I love Sakura Wars, both the old generation and the new generation. With the recent announcement of Sakura Revolution, I thought it’d be nice to take a look at an aspect of the series that I feel was sadly absent from the new game, the relationships between characters.Now, I don’t mean the relationship between the protagonist and the girls, that’s obviously still there, there wouldn’t be multiple endings otherwise. I mean the relationships between the girls in the combat revue. In Sakura Wars 1 and 2 the girls in the Flower Division nearly all had interesting dynamics from each other that made the various scenes where different characters interact more interesting.
I felt the new game and anime was missing this, the only relationships I can think of from my multiple playthroughs were Sakura and Hatsuho being best friends, Sakura looking up to Anastasia as a mentor, and Azami and Claris being partners in spying in the new anime. Other than those the new Flower Division feels very distant from each other.This comparison is admittedly a bit unfair, since I am comparing two games, two OVAs, and an anime that all had plenty of time to develop dynamics between characters to one game and one anime. However I think my point still stands that it’s something that future installments in the new generation need to work on.To demonstrate that the old games had several interesting dynamics between characters I think it would be best to look at the relationships from those games. For this article, I have picked Iris Chateaubriand. Why Iris and not, say, Sakura? Well, Sakura’s name is in the title so it would seem a bit too unfair if I listed a bunch of relationships the mascot girl had with everyone. Iris is a more lowkey character in the franchise despite being the second character you meet, so talking about her seemed more appropriate for my point. Fair warning though, my viewpoint on Iris’ character may be a bit skewed due to my first experience with her being the anime
First let’s talk about Iris’ most important, and worst relationship. Her relationship with Ogami, the protagonist. I’ll start with this one both to give you an example of one of Iris’ relationships and to give my own interpretation of Iris’ character. Yeah I won’t side step around this, this relationship is bad. Iris is the only child character in the series whose relationship with the protagonist is out right and undeniably romantic and it feels very icky at times. However, from Iris’ perspective the relationship kind of makes sense. Iris is a child, one with extraordinary powers and very little social skills. When I think of Iris I think about the scene in the anime where we see her backstory of essentially being alone in her room most of her life or the scene in Ouka Kenran where she’s happily playing with her toys and physic powers until Ayame enters the room and she gets quiet. Her sheltered upbringing means she also doesn’t understand basic social concepts like needing to pay for food as seen in Gouka Kenran
Ogami is pretty much the first boy Iris has ever met and gotten close to and she becomes very clingy to him as a result. At least, that’s my interpretation of her character. She’s a happy little girl with a stuffed bear who dreams about growing up and marrying her captain on the outside, but on the inside is still struggling with interacting with all the older people in her life.
Speaking of one of those people, let’s talk about a character who is inseparable from Iris, Reni. Reni and Iris first met when Reni arrived at the Great Imperial Theater. Iris was sliding down the stair railing, flew off, and was caught by Reni. She then shyly thanked Reni and introduced herself. This was the start of their friendship in Sakura Wars 2. Throughout the game Reni is only a few words away from just being a completely silent character, she only talks business outside of her acting roles until around the halfway point of the game. The one gets Reni to open up is….the theater dog Hund! Okay, and Iris, but the dog is adorable and deserves at least, like, 60% of the credit.Throughout the game Iris tries to get closer to Reni as a friend and teammate and even makes her a flower reef. After Reni gets into a fight with the rest of the team while rehearsing the Bluebird of happiness play, her mind is taken over by the villain Suiko. It’s both Ogami and Iris’s feeling and friendship that breaks Reni free from her control and helps her open up to the team.This development is not one sided either. In the second episode of Gouka Kenran, after being overwhelmed by both the stress of performing the lead role in a play and not being able to do ordinary kid stuff like visit of festival Iris gets into a fight with the other members of the Flower Division, blames Reni, runs away from the theater, and performs grand theft boat. No, really, she steals boss Dandy’s boat. Maria and Reni try to chase after Iris on the boat but only Reni catches up to her.What follows is a defining scene in both understanding Iris and her relationship with Reni. Iris will frequently act like she isn’t a child, like she’s just as mature as the rest of the Flower Division, but the simple fact is:
And that’s what makes her so important, why she shines. Her childhood innocence is important and Reni tells her not to worry about growing up so fast and the two head to the festival in town, chasing after Iris’ personal bluebird of happiness. Reni cares for Iris just as Iris cared for Reni, the two characters are inseparable from each otherThose are the two Iris relationships we see the most of throughout the series and the ones that define her character. The next few aren’t nearly as complex, but rather just dynamics that exist between Iris and the cast that I shall highlight.Iris’ relationship with Sakura is very sisterly, with even the very first time we meet Iris in the games involving Sakura saying she’ll read Mother Goose to Iris later and at several points in the games Sakura is worried for Iris’ well being. Iris similarly has expressed being willing to give her life for Sakura.Iris and Sumire have a very similar relationship to Sakura and Iris’. However Sumire and Iris have more screentime together than Sakura and Iris with the two doing stuff together like going shopping as the rest of the team trains. While I described Sakura and Iris’ relationship as sister-like, I’d describe Sumire and Iris’ relationship as more cool aunt-like
Orihime and Iris have a dynamic, but I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. Iris and Orihime conflict with each other multiple times. Usually over situations where Orihime will be rude to Iris or mock her for being a kid. I don’t know if the two of them having this hostile dynamic was intentional or just a side effect of the writers often having Orihime be the source of conflict within the group in general.
And those are the dynamics and relationships Iris has with the rest of the cast even if some of them are more subtle or not fleshed out as others it still makes seeing different members of the team interacting with each other a joy to experience, and I hope the new generation of Sakura Wars can develop into having a web of character dynamics like Sakura Wars 2 and beyond.
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If you would like to read about me talking about Sakura Wars some more, I did a review of Sakura Wars (2019)