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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  • Badesh
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:58 PM)
    Yeah, you could even easily do a spin of series in the berserk universe, it’s that well thought out unique and huge. I dreamt myself continously into that world – mostly because of it’s bright, shimmering side, which aren’t mentioned that often because of it’s ultra dark counterpart.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:47 PM)
    I never understood how a franchise like Berserk with huge sales and avid fan base struggles so much to get anything made. The PS2 videogame was never released outside of Japan, and it took 20 years for the anime to get a follow-up. And after all of that we get a slim-budgeted series from an unknown studio, all the while D.Grey Man gets a full-blown slick looking second series that nobody asked for. Quite baffling.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:42 PM)
    @Badesh: well the creator of the Souls series Hidetaka Miyazaki is an outspoken Berserk fan. The games are replete with Berserk references.
    Cheers to you too m8.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:38 PM)
    @Aidan: for some reason I thought you were talking about the iOS game Berserk: Raging Wave of Mercenaries. Looks like the Musou game is getting a North American release, which is good news. But the weird part is that it’s a Sony exclusive, for whatever reason.
  • Badesh
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:37 PM)
    Dear God, a DarkSouls/Berserk mashup would be too god to be true. It stikes me just now, how similar these franchises are in tone. Somehow the never ending suffering doesn’t affect me that much. Could be because of my slow paced, depressive livestyle for most of my past life – no pun intended.
    Nice to hear some well thought thoughts on that topic, cheers ;)
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 01:29 PM)
    @Bam, you know I mentioned that game in the berserk episode 2 review.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 11:45 AM)
    WHAT?! This is tremendous news. Many thanks @Badesh for sharing.
    But Koei Tecmo out of all people? I guess we’re getting the Dynasty/Hyrule Warriors treatment. Where is the FromSoftware developed Hidetaka Miyazaki directed Berserk that was rumored? I guess better than nothing- which has been the mantra of us Berserk fans for a while now. Being a Berserk fan, is being Guts -> which is suffering.
  • Badesh
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 11:34 AM)
    https://youtu.be/9TPBx5Dq-Jk
    new one. the first teaser didn’t contain any gameplay just the first bit with cascar being snuggled by tentacles. it was how they introduced the new game to me. maybe i should feel raped as well…
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 11:04 AM)
    @Badesh: which one? Cuz I played thru both the Dreamcast and the PS2 version. The Dreamcast one was a stand-alone story, but it was both a good one written by Miura, and it was set between Vol22 and Vol23, so it didn’t interfere with the manga’s story. The PS2 one was almost a chapter-by-chapter adaptation of the Holy Demon War section, and it featured the de-facto Berserk theme ‘Sign’ by Hirasawa himself:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdpqV7RPnTE
  • Badesh
    (Saturday, Jul 23. 2016 10:50 AM)
    They did the same thing to promote the video game! Srsly?
    Besides, i really enjoy the new series as a long time fan.. can’t exactly point out why. I like the action and for every shitty shot, we get an awesome one.

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