First Squad is an anime set on the Eastern Front as Russia fought the Nazis. We watched it with English sub-titles and most of the dialogue was in Russian.
The plot is straight forward with the twist at the start rather than the end. We follow a young woman, with a red blindfold and a sword. She’s some sort of psychic, able to see the future but tormented by the death she sees there.
At the same time, we have visions of a ghostly knight riding out on the battlefield and slaying soldiers. My first guess was Templar but that’s not quite right.
As it turns out the Nazi occult division has a plan to ensure a prophecy is fulfilled and the ghost of a German warrior summoned to attack the Russians. The Russians also have a plan; to use Nadia (our blindfolded girl) and the “First Squad” to do battle against the knights and their leader.
First Squad doesn’t feel like a long film. That’s in part because it’s 75 minutes (not bad for an anime) but also because it gets the pacing precisely right. There’s no padding. Even when it’s not the middle of an action scene the plot presses forwards as relentlessly as the Russian steamroller.
The constant progress is good. It makes First Squad much easier to watch than it might have otherwise been. At times there’s the suggestion the film might slow down, become far grittier and far more measured but thankfully that doesn’t happen. However, the pace means the First Squad themselves are something of a side note. The spotlight is firmly on Nadia.
I quite enjoyed First Squad. It managed to feel different and yet be familiar at the same time. Perhaps this is due to Russian involvement in the project. I think it would be an excellent anime to watch before starting a roleplaying game set in the era – especially something like Achtung! Cthulhu
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