FIRST SQUAD: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH...
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Yoshiharu Ashino, Aljosha Klimov, Misha Shprits
What's it about
At the onset of WWII, behind the scenes of the physical battles between Russian and German soldiers lies a metaphysical battle between each government’s occult divisions.
Is it good movie?
Nadaya is young, amnesiac, and clairvoyant. She has vague memories of her circus parents, and her group of friends who were killed when German forces first invaded Russia. After a chance meeting with a mysterious monk, she discovers that she is actually the agent of a secret Russian military division tasked with combatting Germany’s own occult division, who are set on resurrecting an ancient warrior called Baron Von Wolff. Nadaya must then cross over to the land of the dead to enlist the help of her fallen friends, who were also agents, to bring down Wolff before he can tip the scales of the war in Germany’s favor.
I’ll admit I was not looking forward to watching this film. I just can’t get into anime. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out it is actually very good. Maybe because it’s Russian and not Japanese, I don’t know. Either way, it has none of the hammy, rapid-fire dialogue or big eyes, small mouth/big mouth, small eyes thing that irritates me to no end. The animation is anime in style but classical in execution, and looked to me to either have some manipulated live-action elements or maybe paper cutout animations. It gives the eye something to catch on other than the slick animation.
Unfortunately, the film is just a bit too short. The case claims 75-minutes, but this is false. The long version is 73-minutes, which is just the even hour-long short version intercut with interviews with supposedly real war vets and journalists and psychologists, but who are all listed as actors in the credits. I stuck with the short version, which flows better, and while I was engaged by it, it is just what the version name implies: short. A lot of time was spent on Nadaya getting to her destination, but then the climax was abrupt. I wanted more, and I never thought I’d say that about an anime.
And I should point out, for the horror fans, there are lots of zombie corpses on horseback. It is all very Tombs of the Blind Dead.
Video / Audio
Video: 1080p, 1,78:1. This hi-def transfer looks great. The film has many different landscapes, city, and snowy, and goes from battle scenes to the land of the dead to the land of memory, and every frame pops.
Audio: Both the long version and the short version each have two Russian tracks, 2.0 and 5.1, as well as an English 5.1 track, but for some reason the short version alone has 2.0 and 5.1 Japanese tracks. The sound is just as excellent here as the animation, so if you have a surround sound system you’ll get the maximum benefit from your viewing. There are also two optional English subtitle tracks.
Unfortunately there are no special features on this disc. There are two trailers, one for a Japanese anime called Redline, and a really shitty transfer of a Battle Royale trailer.
First Squad: Moment of Truth, really changed my mind about anime, and showed me that it is possible for them to be compelling, entertaining watches. This one centers around the secret battle between occult forces that laid under the physical battles between Russia and Germany at the onset of WWII, which already makes is more interesting than the typical straight fantasy themes of regular anime. This one also has more straight horror elements than the usual animated fare. If only it wasn’t so short, and the disc so bare.