First Squad: The Moment of Truth
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay.
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Anime studios have outsourced themselves to animate material from other places for awhile now. A majority of them are direct tie ins to either a video game or film related property, but First Squad: The Moment of Truth is neither and presents a very different approach. With the production handled by Studio 4°C and created by Molot Entertainment, First Squad: The Moment of Truth tells the story of an elite fighting squad in the Russian army set to stop the Nazi army, pre-World War II. An occult group within the Nazi party, the Ahnenerbe are trying to summon a dead warrior, Baron Von Wolff from the dead in order to turn the tide in battle and take over the world. During a critical moment in the world, The Moment of Truth, when a either a person, event or action can change the world forever, is the exact moment when Wolff is to be resurrected and give way for the Nazi power to flourish. The Russian army is keen to this and decides to send out the First Squad, a group of individuals with psychic abilities in order to stop the Nazi’s. The film is presented in two different ways, one that leaves you scratching your head and the other, wanting so much more.
There are two versions of First Squad on the Blu-Ray, the long and short version, with about 17 minute difference between the two. In the long version, there are various talking head segments like a documentary, intercut within the segments of animation. Each person is a either a scholar, a war veteran or a historian of some sort that elaborates on events and actions happening in First Squad. While it makes for an interesting angle to approach the subject of occultism in the Nazi party, the Russian experience and a historical context of World War II within First Squad, it just comes off as weird. It’s trying it’s best to validate all of these subjects within the medium of animation, when animations strengths always lie in the beauty of being fantastical or imaginative. Nadya, the squads de facto leader, is fleshed out very well and is given a solid backstory in order for us to follow her to complete her mission.
One of the major strengths of First Squad is the stunning animation from Studio 4°C and the level of quality they bring to the production. Everything from the characters movements, to the lush backgrounds have been done extremely well and retain plenty of detail. It’s these great moments of animation that keep one watching First Squad, down to its final frames. This is definitely shown in a spectacular HD transfer that appears on the Blu-Ray disc. Shown in a full 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The color scheme is a bit drab, with it being set in the war, but the colors that are there pop off the screen and give the movie a great look.
On the audio side, there’s more than enough here to keep one satisfied on the Blu-Ray. There are Russian, Japanese and English in Dolby TrueHD and every single one of them sounds amazing. The mix for all three are really great with some wonderful use of low end for the explosions, using the front and rear channels for gunfire and fantastic voice acting in all three versions. DJ Krush’s contributions round out the everything and does an impressive job for doing some original work for the film. His intro, “Valor”, gets things started well with its use of horns and percussion that set the epic tone for the film while his outro, “Blade Wind”, sticks to his traditional style of turntable skills to smooth things out .
While the film leaves you wanting more, First Squad is a pretty decent action packed anime. It’s got chicks with swords, Nazi’s, ghosts and plenty of other things that is bound to excite somebody. It’s worth checking out and I’d definitely be interested if Studio 4°C and Molot Entertainment decided to do some more.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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