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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  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 2. 2015 12:35 AM)
    Its a bit long and gets kind of fillerly/draggy in the middle
    But I enjoy it enough to see myself putting it on my favourites list, its unpredictable, evolving and addicting. I’d recommended it strongly.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 2. 2015 12:33 AM)
    The artwork still looks good today and hasn’t aged badly.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 2. 2015 12:32 AM)
    There are also alot of stories going on at once. Theres stuff about politics, rascism, epidemics, rogue AI in there too.
    Hopefully the author can tie it all together.
    My issues with it so far I guess would be that I suppose it gets a bit overwhelming at times, it can be a little disjointed in parts, I would like a greater expansion of all it brings up/has on its plate. But as it is its a cool action flick manga that has at least some heart and brains to it.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 2. 2015 12:27 AM)
    It delivers well enough on the character backstories, has a solid emotional core, finds room for cyberpunk, war, espionage, I don’t even mind the gangster stuff, the world is interesting and theres always plenty going on and theres never a shortage of gorehound action/violence far away. Ontop of that it can call itself good enough to stand among appleseed, ghost in the shell and blame/biomega.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Jul 2. 2015 12:20 AM)
    Currently up to volume 11 of Eden its an endless world. And, given that I’ve been so long at this anime/manga thing its not often enough that I find something that can still blow me away. But this manga is like a narcotic I can’t get off and I’m genuinely impressed with it. I even started BUYing the volumes.
  • ratsgnoF
    (Wednesday, Jul 1. 2015 04:54 PM)
    Speculating is very hard with the current state of things
  • ratsgnoF
    (Wednesday, Jul 1. 2015 04:53 PM)
    I’m looking forward to how it’ll unravel.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Jul 1. 2015 03:21 PM)
    @Bam, I was thinking of 8/10 too. The extra 0.5 is out of bias.
  • Raggers
    (Wednesday, Jul 1. 2015 11:52 AM)
    @ratsgnoF: just look at Yukinon. She has major problems to get over before she can consider a relationship with anyone. In the end Haruno was right: she relies on Hachiman too heavily and it isn’t good. If anything they need space to let her disentangle her emotions and find solid ground to her life.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Jul 1. 2015 10:42 AM)
    Now time to watch Fate/Zero and see what the fuss was all about.

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