Posted by psgels on 5 October 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



I remember how I watched the original First Squad Music Video, and thought to myself “this is awesome, they should make more about this”. Well, someone at Studio 4C must have heard this, because here it is: a full one-hour-length movie about Russia during the second World War. And really, they’ve done it again. First Squad yet again stands out with its absolutely gorgeous graphics and new ideas that the producers could try out in this movie.

Out of all the anime studios out there, Studio 4C see anime the most as an international medium, rather than just something for Japanese audiences. First Squad is probably the first Japanese-Russian co-production, as it shows a bit of WWII from the Russian perspective, combined with a fictional story of the occult, the realm of the dead, and packaging everyting as a semi-documentary with live-action bits of people from all sorts of backgrounds, who tell about their experiences during the war, and their comments on the story of this movie.

And I know that I talked down on live action during the past days, but here’s one who actually gets it right, and I think that this has been the best combination of animation and live-action I’ve seen: the live-action serves to add that bit of extra depth to the setting, while it never gets in the way of the animation. It’s a very neat idea, and really works.

And yeah, I just have to mention the graphics for this movie, which turn it into a visual feast. The character-designs are typical of Studio 4C, and they really make use of the advances in CG of today in order to mesh the two seamlessly. The animation itself isn’t as good as your average movie, but the sheer beauty of all of the different shots definitely makes up for it.

You can see that the story and characters take a bit of a back-seat in favour of the setting and animation, but they’re in no way bad. The story revolves around a typical plot to summon an evil demon to help the Nazis, but it’s well built up, and it slowly unfolds as the movie goes on. Despite its simplicity, the story is well told and will keep your attention. The lead character is a teenaged girl who somehow weilds a katana in Russia, but again: her background is nicely explored, and she serves her function. My only complaint here is that the story ended with a rather pointless cliff-hanger, even though the creators could have easily just ended it.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

10 Responses

  1. karry says:

    “First Squad is probably the first Japanese-Russian co-production”

    Duuh, there were numerous Japanese-Russian collaboration animation projects starting from the 80s.

  2. psgels psgels says:

    Crap, there were? Which ones?

  3. Mukizu says:

    “the story ended with a rather pointless cliff-hanger”

    They’re working on the second part – that’s why ;)

  4. some russian guy says:

    >Crap, there were? Which ones?

    This one, for example.
    http://myanimelist.net/anime/4138/Chiisana_Pengin:_Lolo_no_Boken

  5. Reltair says:

    I just saw this today. Personally, I think it would better for a first watch-through to not have included the live action bits. It felt like it was interrupting the flow of the movie. I know it added the factual aspect to it, but what I wanted was the movie’s story.

  6. windy says:

    Yeah, I was also annoyed by the live-action parts, and the ending was quite unaccomplished, like they got ” back to the first square”but well, if there’s going to be a sequel , then that would be more like it, but if so, when? The rest of the movie was quite good!

  7. windy says:

    By the way, karry what are the “numerous Japanese-Russian collaboration animation projects” you speak about? I also didn’t hear about them at all.

  8. Sandor Arbitrary Intelligence says:

    We have awaited this film for a long time, since the appearance of the trailer. After massive PR that followed we couldn’t help but expect something epic, so, I guess, our expectations were a bit too high. But at least it caters to our nostalgic memory of the old times of the Empire by providing some detailed setting – quite precise, too if you don’t take occultists and zombies into account, and abundant nostalgic imagery.
    While there’s certainly a question of russian youths acting like your stock japanese schoolkids all the time, and the anti-climactig ending has disappointed many, this film still stands on its own as a very interesting project. Maybe even more so for non-russian audience, who get a simplistic, but not entirely incorrect picture from our side at the time.

  9. Troyen says:

    At the end on the cast list they had a bunch of people under the “live action” section that looked like actors were “playing” the historians and war veterans that were interspersed in the story. That was a neat trick, and certainly something different to help blur the line between reality and fantasy.

    At times I felt the live action interrupted the story, but usually when some action was going on. Most of the time they simply fit in as a way to transition between very different scenes.

    They also listed a huge number of animation companies under (I think) the between-key animation section. Is that normal?

  10. Hime says:

    When we watched this anime here in Russia we couldn`t stop laughing at the numerous and grave mistakes… It was ridiculously funny D:

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  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:05 PM)
    @Bam: Actually let me rephrase
    I meant that you will like: http://letterboxd.com/film/the-company-of-wolves/
    Because it is fairyrale inspired
    Because you liked brotherhood of the wolf and tale of tales.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:02 PM)
    @Bam: I meant tale of tales =)
    @Mario: My usual ratings are ***/***1/2 rating and ****
    Generally that indicates a film is kind good/good or great.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 04:17 PM)
    The one liner Dialogue is getting on my nerves, the lack of a great villain characterisation(Zemo is a step in the right direction but still not enough) and most of all that each movie is setup to a another movie.
    Deadpool was a step in the right direction(Yep I knew it was fox and not disney) and was as good as it was because it shook things up. At the moment marvel movies are just too…safe.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 04:13 PM)
    @Bam, I am very much in agreement. I like what the marvel cinematic universe has done but things are getting out of hand. They have prefected the superhero formula too well and it’s causing the flims to be popcorn fodder. I am walking out of their movies admiting that I enjoyed them but I don’t really think I will remember them highly. Plus the thrends of the movies are really starting to bug me.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:27 PM)
    Deadpool belongs to Fox, not Disney, but there are rumors circling of the two studios opening up to negotiation. The success of Spiderman Homecoming will greatly precipitate another such lucrative cooperation.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:23 PM)
    I have yet to see Civil War, but by every new entry their colorful feel-good flicks are starting to become too derivative and cliche. It feels like as if they’re doing the same story arc over and over again. It’s almost lazy at this point, if you ask me, and they really need to Shae things up.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:18 PM)
    @Aidan: such high praise. So Marvel did in a cameo what Sony failed to do in 5 movies. I hate the massive bandwagon that Marvel is steering, but I’m not the kind of hipster contrarian that hates on things just for their mainstream appeal, so I give them credit for doing things right; despite the fact that they really go out their way to please the masses. Their love and respect for the material far outshines their prerogative of their by the book fan-pleasing.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:21 PM)
    Also like how they differed him from the other fast talkers of the universe. Deadpool is pure insane comedy, Ant man has this sarcastic awkward thing going on and Spiderman is like the nerdy fanboy. I would love to see a movie with all three together as it would be pure comic gold.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:18 PM)
    @bam, I was taken back by him at first. I wasn’t used to seeing Spiderman and especially aunt May look so young. I thought he was too bumbling in the beginning but as I watched on he just clicked. He has the nerdy nature of Tobies Peter Parker and the spitfire commentary of Garfield’s Spiderman. He’s spot on perfect.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 10:05 AM)
    I was staying clean for a drug test, and during this hiatus I completely fell out of anime. Surely enough, as soon as I resumed burning again I also started getting into some of this season’s shows. I wonder if there’s a direct correlation, or just a byproduct of having some free time again. I’m interested in comparing my experience to others, but (un)fortunately nobody here seems to share my vices.

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