It's the Takarazuka Revue....IN SPACE!!!
Well, not quite in space...more like steampunk. In any case, I don't think I've come across a situation in which a theme song has been so beloved for a franchise that has gotten rather ho-hum reviews (at least outside of Japan) since "Star Trek: The Motion(less) Picture". I was actually quite surprised on reading about this just last night online for a title that sounds like a reality TV program between two intensely competitive cherry blossom farms. You would think for a theme song that epic, there would have been a lot more love for this one.
"Sakura Taisen" (サクラ大戦...Sakura Wars) has been a title that I've heard for a couple of decades and I remember my anime buddy playing it for me way back when he and his family were still actually living in downtown Toronto. There are two things I remember distinctly about the franchise. One is the protracted launch sequence of the koubu armour. It's marvelous to look at for the first few times but I've sometimes wondered if there is a YouTube parody video somewhere in which the lady warriors were just too late to the party: "Where the heck were you?! Tokyo was laid to waste but the demons got bored and headed to an izakaya for drinks!"
The other thing I remember is the theme song, "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan" (Strike! Imperial Assault Force) which was created by the fellow who had constructed the original video game, Oji Hiroi（広井王子）, and Kohei Tanaka（田中公平）in 1996. There is that super-punchy fanfare at the intro leading into a song that seems to be equal parts military anthem, epic anison along the lines of the theme for "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"（宇宙戦艦ヤマト）, and a Takarazuka Revue opener. With seiyuu Chisa Yokoyama（横山智佐）leading the Teikoku Gekidan into battle, this would be the equivalent of a really stiff belt of coffee in the morning. After listening to "Gekitei!", it wouldn't be "I'm ready to go to work now....", it would be "I'M READY TO GO TO WORK NOW, SAKURA, GOSH DARN IT!!!!!" Mind you, my fellow commuters would be getting the cops on me if I kept staring up at the sky in awed inspiration with my right fist trying to reach orbit. Supposedly, the folks working on the "Sakura Taisen" project were so enamoured with the title song that they often hummed, whistled or sang it during their daily chores.
My good friend told me that there have been a number of versions of "Gekitei!" but apparently the favourite for him is the one for the 2nd "Sakura Taisen" game. The single CD came out in December 1996 and reached No. 15 on Oricon.
It's a heck of a thing for me to actually insert Canada's own Martin Short as the decrepit songwriter Irving Cohen. However for the next "Sakura Taisen" tune, I couldn't help remembering the Short character when he gave his trademark line "Give me a C, a bouncy C!"
My friend played this yesterday at his place, and considering that my only musical connection with "Sakura Taisen" was through "Gekitei!", hearing "Yume no Tsuzuki" (The Dream Continues) with the entire cast of the show going the full and fun Takarazuka/Broadway was quite the revelation. Apparently, this was the ending song for the final episode of the 6-episode OVA in 1999 "Sakura Taisen: Gōka Kenran"（サクラ大戦 轟華絢爛...Sakura Wars: The Radiant Gorgeous Blooming Cherry Blossoms）. I could imagine Sakura, Ogami and the rest of the bunch in golden ties and tails bopping around on their canes. Heck, I can imagine all of the koubu doing a softshoe behind the pilots to this song: "Thanks for coming tonight! Come again for the dinner show....try the stroganoff!".
By the way, I know another, far different but just as nice "Yume no Tsuzuki".
Strangely enough, after hearing "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan" and "Yume no Tsuzuki", we went off to grab a coffee at a Second Cup only to discover that all of the seats were filled. So we just returned and we ended up watching "Sakura Taisen: The Movie". It was my first time to watch anything from the franchise in its entirety and considering that fact, I actually had a pretty good time watching it. And you couldn't get more Takarazuka than the opening performance.
As a PS, for those who have never seen the Takarazuka Revue in performance: