Anime is a very cultural art form. Despite this it’s spread across the world and has captures the minds of many creative people. In some instances people from other parts of the world are brought in to create their own cultural stories but done in an anime style.
One of these stories is First Squad: The Moment of Truth.
The film got its start, of all places, through a Russian Rap video. The video for rapper Ligalize’s song Our Victory was directed by Daisuke Nakayama and featured Soviet Pioneers (A former Russian Youth Organization) fighting Nazi soldiers.
The idea of the video was then flushed out into a much bigger project that lead to the collaboration between Japanese Studio 4°C and Russian Molot Entertainment Film Company.
The plot of First Squad revolves around a young orphan girl named Nadya in Russia during WWII.
Nadya is haunted by a vision of a knight killing Russian soldiers on the battlefield.
It’s soon explained that the girl has special powers that allow her to see events that are about to happen. When she’s traveling with a small group of performers to a Russian camp, she gets a vision of the soldier’s dying before the camp is hit by Nazi forces.
From their she meets a wizard (cause Wizards just hang out in Russia) who tells her she has to find a Russian General in Moscow and that she is needed to stop an ancient evil that will destroy Russia…and I guess the rest of the world to.
On the other side of Europe, the Nazi’s are trying to raise an 12 century Knight from the dead. They believe that the knight will bring victory to the Third Reich and because their evil, they don’t really care about the destruction that could happen.
Over the course of the story Nayda is thrown into the world of the dead in order to find soldiers to fight the rising Teutonic Knight and stop the Germans from occupying Russia.
First Squad has the trappings of a very interesting story; it uses some historical truths (but leaves out the whole Russians and Nazi’s working together thing) and adds in cool historical conspiracy theories about the Nazis and the occult. However, the film doesn’t really follow through with it.
This is partly due to the films running time of 75 minutes. With such a short running time, the film doesn’t really get traction. Things just kind of happen at a break neck pace and the audience doesn’t really get anytime to breath.
Another causality to the films running time is the lack of any character development. The main character Nadya has so little development that it’s hard to get interested.
Every character is painted with such broad strokes that the plot almost comes off as fan fiction. All Russians are good and all Nazi’s want to raise the dead and kill everyone. To put this into perceptive, Nadya’s ghost soldiers have as much character development as the Flying Grayson’s did in the 1940s.
However the film isn’t all bad. The movie does add some interesting elements such as the inclusion of strange live-action interviews.
Over the course of the film the plot breaks to footage of actors pretending to be historians, writers and war veterans talking about the war and weird things that they saw. These clips aren’t hokey and are played straight with the actors doing a good job of explaining what was happening in real history while laying the seeds for some believability for some of the crazier stuff.
Despite this the clips can kind of break up the action just a bit too much. During the beginning of the movie it feels a bit like Metal Gear Solid with the action constantly broken up with these clips.
The animation of the movie is decent with the hand-to-hand combat looking fluid and interesting, but these fight scenes are few and far between.
Overall First Squad is a decent anime film. While it suffers from a short running time and one-dimensional characters, it’s still entertaining enough to take up over an hour of your life.
First Squad: The Moment of Truth was produced by Studio 4°C and Molot Entertainment Film Company. Distribution was done by Anchor Bay Entertainment through Manga Entertainment.