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First Squad: The Moment of Truth (2009)

An Animated movie directed by Yoshiharu Ashino

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A new spin on WWII, complete with slight acid trip

  • May 27, 2012
Rating:
+3
Summary: Set during the opening days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Its main cast is a group of Soviet teenagers with extraordinary abilities; the teenagers have been drafted to form a special unit to fight the invading German army. They are opposed by a Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who is attempting to raise from the dead a supernatural army of crusaders from the 12th-century Order of the Sacred Cross and enlist them in the Nazi cause. - Amazon.com

More specifically this movie centers around a young girl named Nadya, who can see the future.  After facing some trials, tribulations, and revelations, Nadya must ultimately venture into the Netherworld to retrieve her fallen comrades and bring them back to the mortal world with the hopes that they will be able to successfully thwart the Nazi's plans.

The concept of this OVA is simply amazing.  It puts a very interesting, tangible spin on the events of World War II, mainly in that it focuses on Hitler's obsession with the occult.  While the character designs make for an aesthetically pleasing experience, the notion that the Nazis were able to summon a ruthless swordsman with hordes of zombies at his command, successfully adds an even more ominous dimension to what is undoubtedly one of the darkest periods in human history.  In no way does First Squad make light of these events, but rather tries to answer the question of 'what if'; that being, what if the Nazis really had been able to channel the deepest levels Hell.

However, this movie has two major flaws - the first is rather negligible in that the subtitles read in a very awkward fashion.  Simply put, it's all very stiff and unnatural.  I suspect though, that this is due to the fact of the original script being written in Russian, which was likely translated to Japanese before being translated to English.  There were some very noticeable times when the translations sounded very rough, and at one point there was text, but no voice.  I can say this without question: the English dub is fantastic. If I'm not mistaken, the voice actress for Nadya also voiced Feldt Grace in Gundam 00.  As for the rest, they all sound very familiar, but I couldn't pin them down just by listening.  Still, the dub is what I would consider flawless, and delivers much more depth than just watching the subbed version.

The second flaw is quite fatal, unfortunately, and that is because this movie literally has no ending.  It is a cliffhanger in the truest sense of the word, and as far as I can tell it seems unlikely a continuation is in the cards.  Personally, I have a hard time imagining why this film was released seemingly unfinished. Additionally, and equally as strange, there are no special features worth mention on this DVD, save for a few trailers for other titles.  With a historic collaboration such as this, I would expect a little insight into the process of making it - commentary, concept art, something.

Despite the abrupt cut-off in what is essentially the middle of the story, I liked this movie.  This one, very distinct detractor will undoubtedly be off putting to many, which is extremely unfortunate because First Squad: Moment of Truth could have easily been one of those rare gems that is increasingly hard to find in recent years.

Recommendation: rental  3 1/2 stars


 
A new spin on WWII, complete with slight acid trip A new spin on WWII, complete with slight acid trip A new spin on WWII, complete with slight acid trip A new spin on WWII, complete with slight acid trip

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June 08, 2012
Thank you!  I don't have a problem with cliffhangers in general.  Being an anime fan for so many years I've gotten used to open endings.  I'm just still puzzled with this one though.  I want to recommend it, but on the other hand I don't because of the abrupt cut off. ^^
 
June 07, 2012
Rarely, movies can end well with cliffhangers. John Sayles' "Limbo" works for me even though it all builds to a resolution that is left to our imagination. But it takes skilled filmmakers to pull that off and it doesn't sound like this team did. Thank you for an interesting recommendation that nicely balances such a big flaw. Well done.
 
June 07, 2012
I hate when movies have those cliffhanger endings.
June 07, 2012
Well, like I said it would have been a fantastic movie if not for that. It's not even like a real cliffhanger, but just falls off the cliff entirely.
 
May 28, 2012
yep. I wanted to like this one, and it did have originality and freshness about it. Great observations on the subtitles and we agree that it felt a little incomplete. It was good, but just a little lacking at several areas. Nice one, Steph, how have you been?
May 28, 2012
Ugh, it's been so long since I've made any contributions here.  I mean, time has just really gotten away from me.  The last time I planned on posting a review I was really sick, and even though I wanted to I eventually lost interest in the movie altogether.  Then again, I didn't really like it either, so I just chalked it up to finally having watched as supposed classic.   And then I went through a several week long depression where the only thing that cheered me up was two or three GW marathons.  (I know, weird.)  Anyway, I remembered you had reviewed this (which is why I didn't give many details) and finally got around to watching it. 
May 28, 2012
uh. sorry to hear that, it must've been rough. Depression is pretty hard, but I am glad GW got you through it. Well, I am glad you are back now. Btw, I reviewed theX-Men anime series yesterday, thought you may be interested since it is pretty good.
May 28, 2012
I saw that. Definitely interested in your review. I'm pretty swamped with some tedious tasks today though, so I'll probably look at it later tonight.
May 28, 2012
Cool. Take your time. Take care of yourself. I may have another anime lined up but I think I'll see about reviewing something for Memorial Day....
 
May 28, 2012
Great to see a new review from you, Stephanie. I've always been on the fence on this one since I'm deeply interested in the Nazis' fixation on the occult and with World War 2 and the Soviet Union in general, but I'm probably going to skip on this one because one of my chief complaints with anything like this is an unfinished movie.
May 28, 2012
Thanks :) I'm pretty sure you'd really like this, and then really hate it. And I wasn't really mad so much as confused. I mean, it feels like watching the season finale of a TV show only to find out it's been canceled, no closure just...nothing.
May 29, 2012
Is this like the end of The Sopranos?
May 29, 2012
From what I understand, I'm going to say yes. Once Nadya figures out SOMETHING (I don't want to give out spoilers just incase), it just...ends. And then the very long credits roll.
May 29, 2012
Thanks. I'll see if I can see this online first since I don't really want to sink any bucks into this one just yet.
 
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More First Squad: The Moment of Tru... reviews
review by . March 05, 2012
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Zombies, Demons and The Occult in World War II in This Japanese-Russian Collaboration!
I’ve often said that Japanese anime have always had the guts to do what other animated works are often reluctant to do. Yes, sometimes, anime may go over the top; but if you are a fan of the medium, you would know exactly what I am talking about. A joint production between Japan’s Studio C and Russia’s Molot Entertainment, I believe that this may be the first time that the Japanese had collaborated with Russian writers and voice actors. It may also be the first production that …
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I'm one of those people that prefers status quo to randomness and chaos. I have two dogs, a Chihuahua and a German Short-haired Pointer, named Chiqua and Pepper. Chiqua is my constant companion.   … more
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Set during the opening days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Its main cast is a group of Soviet teenagers with extraordinary abilities; the teenagers have been drafted to form a special unit to fight the invading German army. They are opposed by a Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who is attempting to raise from the dead a supernatural army of crusaders from the 12th-century Order of the Sacred Cross and enlist them in the Nazi cause.
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Details

Director: Yoshiharu Ashino
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: January 17, 2012
Runtime: 75 minutes
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
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