Apr 06 2009

Capsule Review: Valkyria Chronicles (anime), Episode 1

vlcsnap-1692712I couldn’t wait to see Alicia blasting away at those Imperials, and Eidelweiss charging across the Naggiar plains, cannon ablaze. I’m sure the recent price drop of the Valkyria Chronicles game is no coincidence, I think all of the publicity about the anime is sure to give this well deserved franchise a big boost in the arm in terms of American game sales. Valkyria Chronicles, the new anime by A-1/Aniplex, based on the PS3 video game Battlefield Valkyria: Gallian Chronicles (戦場のヴァルキュリア -Gallian Chronicles-) by Sega, also known as Battlefield Valkyria in the US, is looking to be one of my season favorites.  The Sony-Sega alliance for this project has been a good pairing, and it looks like both will benefit from their close relationship.  (For those who are unfamiliar, Aniplex, and its studio A-1 are part of Sony).

I’m going to quote from my own review of the game to set up the universe for the anime:

“The year is EC 1935 and Europa is divided by the Altantic Federation in the West and the Imperial Alliance to the East. Between the two massive superpowers is the small neutral Principality of Gallia. Gallia, rich in the important mineral ragnarite, has managed to maintain its neutrality through a vigorous conscription system. These ragnarite deposits prove a tempting target in the brewing global conflict, and soon the Imperial Army crosses the borders of Gallia. The real reason behind the invasion goes far beyond ragnarite, as we discover much later. Over time the truth behind the history of Europa, and the conflict between the ancient Valkyria and the Darcsens tribes, is revealed.”

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Our story begins with the young baker’s apprentice, Alicia Melchiott, who has now donned the uniform of the Bruhl town guard, is aiding in the evacuation of Bruhl. Bruhl is a quaint medium sized Gallian town dominated by two large windmills in the town center, very close to the Imperial border. Amidst the chaos of the Bruhl evacuation, a college student named Welkin Gunther comes back to town in order to help his sister, Isara Gunther pack up and evacuate. His love of nature gets the best of him, however, and he pauses by the river outside of town to sketch some spawning fish that are local to Bruhl. This odd behavior prompts the town guard to label him a spy. Taking the lead, Alicia apprehends the spy and locks him up, while the town guard discuss how to defend Bruhl, since the regular army is over a day away. With the Imperial forces under the command of Crown Prince Maximillian bearing down on Bruhl, can Alicia and the others hold out until relief appears?

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I have been totally obsessed with the game, so when I heard about the anime, I was both excited, and, quite honestly more than a little worried. Anime based on video games are always a tricky proposition. Ironically, because Valkyria Chronicles the game is a 3D game that wants to look 2D, it means that any 2D adaptation will have some difficult hurdles to cross. This is doubly challenging for a game as beautiful as Valkyria Chronicles. When I saw some of the early character designs, my fears began to multiply. Some of the face shapes didn’t seen to hold true to the 3D model designs, and I was worried that perhaps because the animation studios would not have the benefit of using 3D models, that things would turn out badly.

Thankfully, my worries were misplaced. The animation is great! I was pleasantly surprised at how faithful both the character designs, the animation and even the backgrounds faithfully reproduced the same locations that I had grown not only to love, but had begun to memorize after hours and hours of gameplay. To the audience of the anime these details might not be as important, but to the hundreds of thousands of game fans (yes, the game sold amazingly well in Japan…its only poor performance was US sales, sadly), the extra care taken here is appreciated. Lots of details, including the Imperials carring ZM Kar 1 rifles, as well as the Imperial Light Tank. Alicia is armed with a later model Gallian rifle (Gallia-3 or Gallia-4),   The colors are really really saturated and the CG cel shading is blended in very very well with the 2D stuff. They also pay homage to the landmark CANVAS engine by creating a watermarking effect on the animation that is a tribute to the game effect that makes edges and shading look like they were drawn by pencil, and each frame look like it was rendered on printed paper. The effect is pretty subtle, and people who haven’t played the game might just see it as an unusual way to do pencil shading, but for me, I was quite pleased to see the animation staff take that extra step on every frame (which must have been no small feat).

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The opening song is skillfully sung by HIMEKA, the winner of the Animax Anime-song Grand Prix competition. She has a great voice, and really nice range, you wouldn’t think this was her debut song. I almost spat my soda out when I heard her sing the English line with a slight Japanese accent (she’s French-Canadian). The BGM comes straight from the game, I’d have to do a comparison to see if its the exact tracks or redone for timing, but that’s such a small thing, its not really worth the effort. In fact, as the opening of the show started, I reflexively felt like I was playing the game. I guess almost one hundred hours of gameplay creates a kind of conditioned response.

I love Inoue Marina, the voice of Alicia, who also seems to play a lot of my other favorite characters at the moment, including Kanna from Minamike, and Iku from Library Wars. Somehow animators love making her characters extra expressive, and there are moments when her twintails make her seem like she is channeling Kanna. Or maybe its just me. The rest of the voices from the game are also present, so, if you played the game like I did, in Japanese, then the voices will all be familiar.

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One last thing, I didn’t really go too in-dept into it when I reviewed the game, but since the anime will reach a wider audience, I have to say that I appreciate the Darksen story in Valkyria. While the show is undoubtedly set in World War II, the names were changed to fit with the alternative ragnarite timeline. Some tech is very backwards (particularly aircraft technology, but I don’t wanna give away any spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that), and other very advanced. The renaming of the different countries allowed them to pursue a rather difficult subject, the Darksen. Japanese anime tend to have a rather sanitized view of World War II, not only glossing over their own wartime atrocities, but also that of the Hitler Regime against the Jews. The analogy between the Darksen and the Jews of Europe is a significant one. The mistreatment of Darksen in the Valkyria universe was I think, a very good move forward in the representation of one of the darkest parts of World War II, which is often omitted by Japanese writers (just think about Hetalia……its funny, but it also makes light of some rather horrific things). The OP hints that we will see all of the darker parts of the Valkyria storyline, and I’m grateful for that. I think it is a welcome thing.

As for the ED, oh I was laughing. I am curious what the heck Selvaria was cooking. Probably something with lots of love, made just for Maximillian.

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Other Articles:
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=5499 (Translation of Interview with Anime Cast)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=5355 (Translation of Interview with Edy and Homer)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=5341 (Translation of Valkyria website Interview, Part 2)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=5605 (Translation of Valkyria website Interview, Part 3)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=4532 (Information about Himeka)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=3079 (Game Review)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=3093 (Tactical Guide)
http://www.akiba-station.com/blog/?p=3160 (Unlockables and Weapons Guide)

Other Sites:
http://www.valkyria-anime.com/ (Anime website)
http://valkyria.jp/ (Game website)
http://himeka.wordpress.com/ (Himeka’s blog)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Capsule Review: Valkyria Chronicles (anime), Episode 1”

  1. stationmasteron 06 Apr 2009 at 8:36 pm

    OK, one small correction, looks like Alicia does not have the Gallian 1R. Guess we’ll know if they took license with the designs, or that is just what Bruhl town watch was issued. Somehow in the anime, the rifle Alicia is carrying has a receiver that extends to the end of the wood handguard, and it has an integral cleaning rod, which the 1R does not have. CORRECTION: Looks like she’s using one of the later Gallian rifles. I should have entered the tech tree, I used the weapon guide in the main book.

  2. […] EDITOR’S NOTE: We have a full review here. […]

  3. Sousiopsyon 22 May 2009 at 10:37 pm

    hmm. love it.

  4. missaelon 15 Jun 2009 at 8:17 pm

    wow man hehe estoy empezandoa ver la serie me parece muy buena gracias

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