Studio 4°C’s anime transcends the borders of Japan. From Linkin Park's "Breaking the Habit", to the Animatrix, and even to the Gotham Knight, their portfolio is varied and extensive. First Squad, their latest effort, is a collaboration between two Russian directors and 4°C, crossing the sea once again to create international anime. I had high hopes for First Squad, as the Studio's last movie, Tekkon Kinkreet, was excellent. However, the bullets of the collaboration were quick to puncture my hopes; after an hour and thirteen minutes they looked like swiss cheese.
The story of First Squad is told in a unique fashion: meshing live action documentary with more traditional animation. There is an interesting interplay, as Russian scholars and veterans ground the fantastical story into reality. First Squad could be commended on this approach if the story itself were not so weak. The plot is predictable; the Nazi's are beckoning vengeful spirits from the other realm, and the Russian's need to stop them. The characters don't do much to salvage the poor tale. The pacing is erratic and disjointed, jumping from scene to scene with little sense of cohesion. The movie's namesake, the First Squad, is a poorly developed cast, with only slivers of background ever filled in. Nadya, the main antagonist, is drawn from clichés –an amnesiac psychic who would give life and limb for country.
The voice acting didn't help prop up the narrative. The Russian voice actors sound deflated, their flat voices conveying plastic emotion. Scenes riddled with melodrama come off as comical because the voice actors just don't seem to care. The music was passable, a boisterous overture in the opening that harkens to any military film. The rest of the score is appropriate, weaving melodies from low growling organs with the rhythmic hum of violins.
Studio 4°C does deliver the goods on the art. A muted palette washes over the snowy seas of the Eastern Front. Moscow’s majesty is quiet from the war-torn world, a stark contrast to the Gloom World, a twisted realm where fallen warriors continue to tear at one another. Russia is a feast to look at to say the least. Excellent cell-shaded CGI is threaded together with top-notch animation create a stunning effect. Artists made a successful effort in modeling the characters, drawn to have a distinctive Caucasian look. It's jarring to see characters visages evoke a strong emotion, when their voices are low and uninspired.
First Squad, to say the least, disappointed me. Despite the pretty little black dress it wears, what is inside does not satisfy. The story is forgettable, the characters are paper-thin, and the voice acting isn’t exactly inspiring. I praise Studio 4°C for attempting to blend two styles –documentary and anime. Hopefully this method of storytelling won’t be thrown to the wayside, and will be used to create a much more engaging and entertaining experience.
Warning this Review may contain spoilers-
This show was terrible T-T This show brings us to the world of a world war meeting fantasy genres, two genres that probably shouldn't be combined at all. This is a perfect example why this shouldn't happen, at all.
The story was really bad, the pacing was off and it was just boring overall. Sitting through an hour of it trying to be interesting yet failing terriblely was pretty much the whole story in a nutshell, they tried to cram so much into the hour that the cross of genres just didn't work. The story overall was just meh and honestly, this wouldn't be a show I would rewatch.
Animation wise, I don't think it was too bad, the animation I admit I didn't really like but the quality of the animation was quite good...that's it.
The sound was meh, no character voices stood out to me and it was just a pain to listen to it The soundtrack was also meh so yeah this whole movie was underaverage and I don't think the music could of saved it, no matter how good it was.
*Sigh* These characters were just bad, along with the story it was all just one big mess and the development of the characters were close to none existant. The main female I just didn't like, I found her way too generic and just boring all together...the other characters aren't really worth discussing.
Overall this was a terrible movie, but if you want to watch it...I won't stop you.
PS: This is for the Daily Anime Marathon Club March 2016
Every now and again, there is an anime project done in conjunction with a country outside of Japan. With First Squad, the project was done in conjunction with Japanese animation studio Studio 4C and a Russian company Molot Entertainment. Molot Entertainment doesn’t seem to have done much else besides First Squad besides another animated film called Ivan about a post-apocalyptic world filled with magical creatures such as dragons From what I can find, the company seems to be focused on helping promote independent projects.
First Squad itself seems to have an interesting history by itself. Starting out as a music video in 2005 by both Studio 4C and Molot Entertainment, with the song for the music video done by MC Ligalize. It even won an award at the MTV Russian Music Awards for best hip-hop video in 2006. By 2007, the Russian studio behind the music video announced that they were working on a film adaptation of the music video.
2 years later, First Squad: Moment of Truth was released to the public. Apparently, is was well received enough in it’s home country of Russia that it even went on to win an award by the Kommersant newspaper’s prize. There was even a graphic novel adaptation the year after First Squad’s release. So with the surprisingly interesting history of First Squad out of the way, let’s have a closer look at it.
Set during World War II on the Eastern Front, a group of Nazi mystics plan to resurrect Baron von Wolff and his Teutonic Knights during the “Moment of Truth”, a moment that has appeared throughout various points in time that will determine the outcome of any significant conflict. To prevent this, Division Six of the Soviet Military intelligence has enlisted a group of young people with special abilities to fight the invading German armies and prevent the Nazi’s from reaching their goal.
The story follows a young clairvoyant girl named Nadya, who survived a deadly air raid attack only to be left shell-shocked. While recovering from her concussion, she soon discovers that she has a new ability, the ability to foresee said “Moments of Truth”. Soon, she is taken into Division Six, and is trained along with the rest of the rest of the squad to prevent the Moment of Truth from being used by the Nazis to win the war.
Unfortunately the whole movie is a bit of a mixed bad. While the premise is great, the rest of the movie is a bit underwhelming. The fact that this movie is only an hour long is the thing that unfortunately drags this whole thing down. I’m going to assume that the team behind First Squad not having a bigger budget, not having enough time, or not having both is the reason that the length of this movie is so short. I don’t know how much better it would have been having an extra 15 minutes, but I feel like the whole thing would have definitely felt a lot smoother.
As a side effect of the length of this movie, the characters don’t always get the character development they need. Nadya pretty much gets most of it because she’s the main character, but the rest of the characters only get the most minor of character development, something that could have been solved with a longer length. The few action scenes that this movie gets are just OK, nothing to write home about.
There is actually two versions of First Squad. A “Theatrical” cut and a “Director’s” cut.The only difference between both versions is every now an again in the “Director’s” cut there are a brief interviews done with veterans, historians, and other live actors in between the rest of the movie. These are basically just here to not only try and lengthen the movie with the meager budget they had, but these are more of a mixed bag than anything. Some of them don’t really add anything, such as the one interview that simply explains what sedatives are.
Maybe it’s to give it some authenticity, but considering that the whole thing flows much better without them, I can’t really recommend the “Director’s” cut unless you found something about the original interesting enough to warrant something more.
First Squad: Moment of Truth might be a rocky in terms of quality, but I don’t really hate it. It’s not something you should immediately go out and see, but it’s worth checking out if you some free time and it looks interesting to you.
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.
This particular movie is actually one of the worst anime I've ever seen when it comes to connecting dots. It's one of the few anime that makes literally no sense at all. What's even more interesting is that this anime actually starts out as a super awesome movie... for about 15 minutes.
This is one of the best drawn anime I've ever seen in my life. The Storyline that they start out with was awesome in my opinion. This anime takes place in world war 2 and you're viewing it from the Russian perspective. That's actually quite refreshing since it's typically from the viewpoint of other countries that participated in that war.
This anime was colored beautifully. If you were deaf and couldn't read. This might actually be one of the best anime you'll ever see.
Unfortunately for this anime, it takes a deep turn for the worse shortly after it begins. I understand that one may have to employ deductive reasoning or fill in the blanks, but this was ridiculous. Here is just a few questions that was left with after the anime was done..
"Why the hell do they have to return to the Farris wheel to go back to the world of the living?"
"Why did time stop?"
"Why does the dead first squad not look like zombies, unlike EVERYONE else down there?"
"If that guy was a fake, then the moment of truth didn't actually happen and he didn't actually get summoned. So if the moment of truth didn't happen, how did you bring back your friends since the link between the world of the living and the dead wasn't actually weakened to begin with?"
"What the hell is that machine?"
"Why do they pump more fluid into her?"
"Who are the two hot German assassins that appear SEVERAL times throughout the story?"
"Who's the guy with the cane that saves that girls life?"
"Why is he a hermit and how does he know about her?"
"Falling out of the sky, onto a frozen lake doesn't break the ice? but the enemy side comes up from the bottom of the lake and does break the ice? So if shooting them with one bullet kills them, but falling from the sky in a magical Farris wheal stall, for no apparent reason mind you, doesn't?"
"Do they get to stay in the world of the living even though the moment of truth is over?"
"So if you didn't kill the guy you were after, then you achieved absolutely nothing this movie?"
The sad part is, I could literally go on forever but I'm not going to. Character development in this story was abysmal and the storyline was something like diarrhea.