First Squad impressed me with its bold choice of storytelling. Fans of the Band of Brothers series will feel a slight sense of déjà vu while watching interviews with veterans and historians throughout the film. Unfortunately, this works against itself. At seventy-three minutes long, I felt that the interviews only served as interruptions to distract the viewer from how disjointed the story already felt. On the flip side, however, the interviews served a critical role in giving an otherwise fictional anime a purpose of truthiness. If First Squad: The Moment Of Truth was a series, this style would have made much more sense and would have been so much more entertaining.
At first glance, this OVA would appear to be a retelling of WWII through the eyes of the Soviet Union. As the minutes count down, however, the audience learns that there was much more to the Russian Front than we were led to believe. Thanks to the interviews by war veterans we learned that supernatural phenomenons weren't uncommon in the war. Zombies, ghosts, and a unique vision of the afterlife give First Squad an entertaining twist.
Many details in the plot were left unanswered, and if you are looking for a cliffhanger, then look no more. The interviews took the place of character dialogue and important story progression and left me clueless as to what I was actually watching. The climax of the film was extremely lousy and the following resolution left much to be wanted. Overall, I was extremely disappointed.
The dark visuals were an excellent depiction as to how depressing war can be. The pre-war flashbacks made this clear, as they were drawn much brighter in comparison. Don't let the screenshots of explosions and guns fool you though. The action sequences are short and boring. For an anime depicting WWII, I was expecting much more action. In fact, the only reason I picked up this movie was to see plenty of blood and gore. This isn't the case. Most of the time you will only see still soldiers in front of raging fires that are supposed to fool you into believing its a true battle.
The character designs were marvelous. Not too much, not too little. The soldiers weren't spectacularly dressed and they looked exactly like you would expect a soldier from the second World War to appear: dirty, exhausted, and frightened.
There was no real soundtrack to First Squad. This works to its advantage. The film doesn't rely on music to draw out your emotions, instead it allows its animation and sound effects to do the talking. All of the effects used were realistic sounding. Whether it be the roaring of the planes, the buzzing of the bullets, or the cheering of the soldiers, the only sounds you will hear aside from dialogue will give a sense of realism to the battles and scenery.
Honestly, I couldn't have cared any less for the characters. Even Nadya, the main character, flat lined in terms of endearment. Flashbacks tried to build up the characters' resumes, but in the end only added more unnecessary questions that would never be answered.
Although the animation and sound were the highlights of this anime, nothing disappointed me more than the pathetic story arc and character details. Its clear that there will probably never be a series/OVA made to follow up The Moment Of Truth, which leaves me wondering why the writers left so many questions left unanswered. The story technically does end, but I couldn't help feeling back in the movie theatres watching the first Lord of the Rings. I know I wasn't the only one insulted by LOTR's ending, as I know I won't be the only person insulted by First Squad's conclusion.