Hey folks, Valkor here. And I'm back again with another choice selection from the folks at Anchor Bay and Manga Entertainment. Last round we took on Redline, which left a blazing trail of cool throughout the Val-Cave, earning it a much deserved 4 stars. This round we're slowing things down a bit and bringing it all to the past, with supernatural thriller "First Squad: The Moment of Truth", which is the fusion of Japanese art with a Russian setting. Should be interesting, let's check it out.
The story of First Squad takes place during World War II when the Germans have started to make their push towards the Eastern front. At the center of it all is Nadya, a clairvoyant with the power to see into the future. She joins an elite group known as Division 6, made of exceptionally gifted teens much like herself. However they're hunted and killed by the Nazis, leaving Nadya as the last one standing. She later joins up with a soviet group, lead by General Below. He commands a group in a secret lab who look to tap into the spiritual world. Nadya is asked to enter this world and find Division 6 to help them fight the Germans who look to revive an ancient warlord hell bent on revenge. While Division 6 can assist in the fight, Nadya must do her best tolocate and rescue the soldier whom she predicted would command the charge and be the first killed by the sword of Goth Baron Von Wolff.
On the BD there are two versions of the film – the long and short. The long version is interspersed with mockumentary clips of real actors who portray historians, soldiers, psychologist and such speaking of the events that took place during the time of the film. Then there's the short version, which is simply the film itself. Though the animation is anime style, the voice acting is presented in both Russian and English.
So after sifting through both versions of the film, plus both languages, I'm ready to dish if First Squad makes rank in the TOV Breakdown.
I'll admit I didn't get into First Squad fully when I sat through on my first viewing because of the live action bits. I wasn't sure why they were there, but listening to these guys tell their side of the tale, well... was quite intriguing. The overall story of Nadya and her adventures against the Germans, leading up to her ultimate battle with the Baron was quite compelling and if you watch the short version, you'll get sucked in almost immediately. Plus it's a short ride of one hour (75 minuts if you add the live action cuts). The animation is amazingly rich with detail and very fluid with a seamless mix of 2D animation and CGI. Great job! Performance wise, I'm feeling more towards the Russian language as opposed to the English this round, because it's more "fitting" in this case. That's not to say the English side should be ignored, but I was drawn into the story more on the Russian side. Finally kudos goes out to DJ Krush for putting out an amazing score, which definitely complements the film.
Some may find the documentary bits a waste; personally I enjoyed the stories they had to tell. However it does draw you out of the main story. Thankfully the BD/DVD has both versions so you can sit through the long version should you be in the mood.
First Squad: The Moment of Truth gets a release the same day as Redline, January 17th on Blu-Ray and DVD. So if you're into the supernatural, historical fare mixed with gorgeous animation and a bad ass score, then Make your next choice First Squad, which gets out of TOV 5 stars, a 4. And it's been Valkor Viewed, TOV Approved!