Tell me if you’ve heard this story before. A franchise becomes super popular in its home country and is beloved by fans there for years. However despite this popularity there the rest of the world only gets a few scraps translated here and there. Despite this though the franchise gains a small worldwide fanbase who are determined to enjoy it even if it’s never translated.
It’s a tale as old as time. From manga like Doraemon to most Shojou anime. It isn’t uncommon for the west to just not get a lot of popular Japanese franchises. The Sakura Wars series was no different. While it was initially huge in Japan with games, OVAs, and even stage shows the west saw absolutely nothing from it other than dubbed OVAs, anime, and only a single game translated for years.
Everything began to change though in the late 2010s. Not only had NoahSteam and Iwakura Productions announced that they were making great progress on a fan translation of Sakura Wars 1, but Sega themselves had announced a new Sakura Wars game that would be localized in 2020.
In the months before the release of Shin Sakura Wars and the Sakura Wars fan translation the English speaking Sakura Wars community saw sparks of life for the first time in decades. As someone who was always looking for Sakura Wars fans, the only method of finding them was looking up the term on Twitter and hoping you saw some discussion within the past few years. Once the series sparked alive again though it became much easier to communicate with fans as not only had discussion ramped up on social media but several Discord servers for discussing the series were created.
And of course once you bring a bunch of passionate people together and have already lit a flame of passion in a community things begin to happen. Following in the footsteps of NoahSteam’s SW1 fantranslation a new translation project of the Dreamcast spinoff game Sakura Wars Columns 2 began, led by Derek Pascarella.
The Sakura Wars franchise has always had a wide variety of strange spinoffs and even after getting the first game fan translated next to no fans expected to see these games released in English. Which is why it was shocking when we not only got Columns 2 but another spinoff translated in 2021 when a team led by Burntends2 released a translation of the Game Boy spinoff: Sakura Wars GB.
In the span of only three years the Sakura Wars community went from having only one game on the Wii/PS2 translated to being able to play five entire games in English, experiencing the game’s cast in ways we could only dream of before. The number of Sakura Wars fans active in English speaking circles has risen from a small handful to hundreds of people, and the fun isn’t over yet. Yes, even though Sega has gone silent on the franchise since the release of Shin Sakura Wars the fanbase has several things to look forward to in the future!
It is the dream of almost every Sakura Wars fan to play every single mainline game in English. We currently live in a world where Sakura Wars 2, 3, and 4 are untranslated but that may change in the next few years. In the summer of 2022 a team led by Small Nerd announced that they would be translating the Dreamcast classic Sakura Wars 3! Full disclosure, I am actually an editor on that project and while progress on the translation has been slow the past few months, with the talented work of our programmers TheOpponent and Zenryoku I fully believe this project can bear fruit.
We aren’t the only team working on a Sakura Wars fan translation right now of course, as NoahSteam has returned with another team that is making fantastic progress on a fan translation of Sakura Wars 2. They’ve even released a translation of the demo already! The very thought of my favorite game of all time being translated makes me skip with joy.
Sakura Wars has always been more than the game’s of course. The franchise is full of anime, stage performances, and of course manga. After the release of Shin Sakura Wars, Sega began to release a weekly manga adaptation by Suzuki Takaaki. This manga was never translated officially and as such a small group of fans decided to take upon the duty themselves and scanlate it.
Once again I need to provide full disclosure as I am an editor on the Shin manga scanlation along with lead translator Meanjojo and typesetter Small Nerd. We’re only two chapters in so far but throughout the year we’re going to try our best to get this whole thing translated for you all. So even if you’re impatient for the upcoming game translations you’ll at least have some Sakura Wars content to hold you over.
The work the Sakura Wars community has been doing to make as much of the series available in English is commendable. I’ve only been a Sakura Wars fan for about eight years and this sudden change in the community’s landscape still brings tears of joy to my eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine how fans who have been around for over two decades are feeling about this.
While not the focus of this article I also feel the need to mention the Spanish and French speaking Sakura Wars communities, who have also been blessed recently. In January of 2022 France began to get an official release of the original Sakura Wars manga adaptation from 2006. Meanwhile a Spanish fantranslation led by a fan called NoName141203 has begun to make great progress translating the English Sakura Wars 1 fan translation into Spanish. With these, Sakura Wars has finally begun to become a worldwide phenomenon like we were promised by the Sakura Wars World Project way back in 2002.
The English Sakura Wars community has only begun to bloom. I can say with confidence that in a few years we’re going to see a world where every mainline game has been translated into English and maybe some more spinoffs if we’re lucky. The number of passionate Sakura Wars fans is only growing and with that growth the community will blossom into something great. I can’t wait to see where the future brings us.