Having read the beautiful and seductive manga, I can't believe that I liked the movie just as much. It truly gave justice to the striking artwork of the extremely talented Mangaka, Moyoko Anno. The way that the movie was presented, how the costumes looked and the way the scenes were shot were apt, if not spot on, for the bittersweet story of a strong, trapped woman. I had read the manga just a few months before I watched the movie so the memory of it was still fresh, and I could tell that the manga was closely followed. There were only minor details that were changed for the consistency of the film, save for the ending, which was changed completely.
At a glance, Sakuran could be thought of similar to Memoirs of a Geisha, because of their setting, because they both catered to the affections and patronage of men. But there is a difference though, because Geishas were entertainers, sought for their companionship, and Oirans were plain prostitutes.
Now that I’ve thought about it, Kiyoha, the lead in Sakuran, strongly reminds me of Hatsumomo in Memoirs of a Geisha. They were both left by their lovers and became bitter, angry women. In Kiyoha’s case, she’s the lead character so she eventually overcame her cynicism and had her happily ever after with a man that was implied she loved and was in love with her. Hatsumomo was one of the antagonists in MoaG so she didn’t have such a lucky ending.
Anyway, until now, I can’t really tell whether I like or hate the ending. The film went farther than the manga. I think this lessened the impact of the most poignant part of the movie and the ending of the manga, which was when Kiyoha saw Soujiro smile nonchalantly at her after she escaped from the brothel. This is the only time her heart breaks, but it is what ultimately kills her inside. After this, she is finally resigned to her fate as an Oiran. If the movie had ended here, the audience would have been left with their breath caught in their chests, frowns and maybe even tears on their faces. However, the adaptation goes beyond the ‘what if’ of those that have read the manga, and gives Kiyoha a definite and happy path. Although in this version, she becomes pregnant and loses the child because she is to wed a wealthy man, this doesn’t feel as heavy as when she last saw Soujiro because from then on, things had been going horribly for her. So it is nice that she runs away with Seiji. Happy or Sad ending, I can’t really say that one is better than the other, but sometimes, we love a movie more because it doesn’t have a happy ending, right?