Thursday, 26 November 2009

Anime REVIEW: Valkyria Chronicles

"Based on the video game of the same name, the show centers on a Gallian Army militia squad led by Lieutenant Welkin Gunther, the son of the well-known Europan War I hero and Gallian army officer Belgen Gunther. After seeing his hometown, Bruhl, under attack, ransacked and eventually placed under military occupation by the Imperial army, Welkin manages to escape the siege using his late father's tank known as the Edelweiss. With the help of Welkin's foster sister, Isara, and a Bruhl town watch soldier named Alicia Melchiott, Welkin leads Squad 7 of the Gallian militia forces to rout out the Imperial forces from further invading Gallian soil." 

I've never really watched a war anime before (before this I can't honestly say I'd even heard of any war animes before) but after being recommended this by a friend and watching the first 5 episodes at one of my local anime society screenings I decided to give the whole 26 episode series a go. After watched the wonder that is Eureka Seven I wasn't expecting this series to top it or even come close to it really, just be enjoyable on its own merits.

And it was...to a degree. However it was also littered with faults. My first issue being that given that its set in the middle (well, almost the entirety really) of war, Squad 7, who seem to have this almost legendary status AFTER JUST ONE BATTLE, seem to do anything BUT fight. Episodes on end cover topics like love, rejection, tolerating others ethnicity, getting lost in a snow storm etc. but very few actually include any fighting, and when they do the fight usually only lasts the last 5/10 minutes of the episodes and can quite easily be summed up as - "supposedly big threat, Squad 7 takes them down with ease, everyone goes home happy". Maybe I'm expecting a little too much from it, maybe I'm missing the point a bit, but I think if that's the setting you're going to put the characters in atleast make more use of it. There's actually more fighting going on in the title sequences than the actual episodes, but that's a separate rant that I'll come onto later.

It isn't until the death of a major character (who I thought was the one lead who actually didn't deserve to die) 17 episodes in that things start to become particuarly interesting, and the downside to that is by then they only have 9 episodes do anything with it. Futhermore it isn't for another 4 episodes that the big plot point is revealed (and by then we only have 5 episodes left). Yes, Alicia Melchiott (interestingly voiced by Marina Inoue, also the voice of Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) is descended from the Valkyrians, and basically has superpowers. Yes you read that right, here we have a seemingly realistic war anime set in an alternate time and then the main character has superpowers. Of course the series doesn't take any time to have Alicia adjust to the fact she has these powers. No, instead she almost dies (the reasons for which are actually pretty good, but I won't spoil them here), gets these superpowers and uses them in an almost sleepwalking type state, and then can just use them naturally from then on. I'd have much preferred it if they'd cut back on some of the side stories from earlier episodes and have even only one episode with her learning how to use these powers. Of course Alicia isn't the only one with these powers, naturally there's a villain also blessed with them. They have very few fights, the last of which can basically be described as Dragonball Z with females - alot of powering up and shouting, then a few punches (although in this case its with lances that can fire lasers). On the subject of villains, the ones the series presents us with are very 2 dimension. We have the ruthless power hungry Maximillian, who won't let anyone stand in his epic conquest for power, and then the blindly loyal Selvaria (the female mentioned earlier). Cliche, bland, and uninteresting.

And on to my BIGGEST complaint of the series, which to some may seem like an odd one, but it's completely justified. The second opening credits (which is from about ep13 onwards). My god, this thing should have a spoiler warning attached to it. Straight away it shows that Alicia is a valkyria, despite it not happening about 1/4 of the series later, and even shows a replica of the very last scene in the entire series. What the hell? About the only thing it doesn't spoil is who is and isn't going to die. The only credit I have to give to them is that the first opening song is really good and that both of them have more action in them then the entire series...

Oh yes, and also theres a pig with wings named Hans in the series for no apparent reason. Completely unnecessary.

I'm beginning to wonder if my standards have become too high, because this series pretty much missed every mark for me. I now have even less intention to try out the game then I did before. However I can't bring myself to give it 1 out of 5. Why do you ask? The answer is simple, despite its failings, I continued to watch. Its the first anime that I havent particuarly liked that I chose to watch all the way through. Despite not liking the characters, I continued to watch it because I wanted to know what happened to them. Maybe I was hoping it was going to get better, but nevertheless I still finished it. I can't say I'd ever watch the series again, but I don't outright regret watching it, which I suppose must count for something.

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