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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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 07:08 AM)
    @Kaiser: I warned you about Eva and what it would ensue. I honestly think the original series is an unfinished mess of hodgepodge ideas, but among the heap of imperfection was a true spark of genius that is worth more than a million cookie-cutter shows that are ‘perfectly adequate’. I also don’t disliked Nasu either, that’s why I used the haters of them as seemingly one group of anti-intellect Shonen fan fodder.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 07:02 AM)
    Wait … wtf? I leave for a bit to drink some absinthe with ‘re m8s and watch few F/Z episodes and they think we’re salty at eachother? And they call us petty? Gimme a break. We get into arguments all the time, but have a level of mutual respect. And then before they use to called us a den of circle-jerkers who just agree wot eachother and enforce our biases. Seriously, wtf?
  • reaLjustified
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 06:31 AM)
    @Mike Unfortunately, I’m thinking about dropping Fuuka. Not that I’m not a fan of Kouji, but this one is just…too uninteresting to me. The drama and characters are almost all uninteresting besides Fuuka, and Kouji killed her off near the start…
  • mike
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 06:05 AM)
    @Kaiser I remember Aku no Hana’s anime adaptation being very controversial, what with the rotoscoping.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:55 AM)
    I always saw aku no hana as more of a trainwreck/dark comedy, the manga at least, first and foremost.
  • reaLjustified
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:54 AM)
    @;( I had to motivate myself to read through that series at first because the protagonist was so unlikable.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:51 AM)
    Maybe things helped, but that creative person always existed in these people.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:50 AM)
    I guess what I am saying here is that Anno, Lynch, Jodorsky , Von Trier Gilliam may not have required crazy/drugs to be as creative as they are.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:47 AM)
    I bring this up because I recall my aunt saying that initially she felt if she stopped drinking the creativity would go away, but she ended up being wrong and now claims it was always in her.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Sep 5. 2015 05:46 AM)
    Off topic, but I really meant to bring it up earlier, really really is the creative process truly helped by substance abuse or madness or is it really just always there in certain people before those two things even enter the picture.

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