Let’s face it: First impressions are always important, and with a new anime season upon us, now is a great time to start this column. When it comes to anime, first impressions can dictate which shows are must watch, which ones we follow leisurely and which ones we discard by the wayside. With that, I welcome you to the inception of my First Glance column. The honor of first reviewee goes to Senjou no Valkyria. It just so happens that I just picked up the Playstation 3 game that inspired the show last weekend and got my first taste just yesterday. I’m really enjoying it thus far; so, keep an eye out for my review of the game in the near future. Today’s review is about the anime, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give some comparisons to the game on which it’s based.

The game’s art is a sketch-like cel-shaded style which lends for an easy transition of character designs into anime, and Aniplex’s A-1 Pictures did a pretty good job in holding true to the character designs. The texturing that was done to the characters’ clothes and hair gives it a similar feel to the game. The backgrounds are nice, and the quality of the animation is solid, nothing awe-inspiring, but certainly not something that detracts from the show.

Alicia Melchiott (PS3 version left / Anime right)
Alicia Melchiott (PS3 version left / Anime right). As you see, the character designs made for an easy transition.

The plot of the opening is changed a little bit from the game, but still leads to the same conclusion. I think I like the way the anime handled it better as it allows for more action.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

The setting is an alternate version of 1930’s Europe, around the start of World War II. The continent is even called Europa. The first episode gives a quick legend about a greedy Darcsen and a courageous hero before moving to the current setting where a young baker’s apprentice named Alicia is on duty helping citizens evacuate in preparation for an impending attack by the Imperial army when a patrol informs her that they’ve found a spy at the river. She rushes over to the river to find a young man sitting on the bank sketching pictures of the trout in his notebook. Incredulous of  his explanation and introduction (Welkin Gunther, son of the great general) and convinced that his notebook is some code to the Imperials, she and her assistants (a pair of supposedly 15 year old boys who look about 12 at best) take the Troutmaster General into custody. This is where the plots diverge a little. In the game, Welkin (the man at the river)’s sister Isara comes up, identifies him and he’s released, but that would have left 10 minutes to fill in the show. So, instead, Alicia locks Welkin up in an old warehouse while she attends her patrol meeting. Welkin manages to escape just as the meeting finishes and Alicia chases Welkin into the nearby woods where they catch sight of the real Imperial army. As they attempt to flee, the army finds them and opens fire, complete with the Storm Trooper effect. Welkin and Alicia manage to make it to Welkin’s house where Isara almost greets Alicia with a meat cleaver to the face. The three flee to the storage shed where leftover munitions from the first war are kept along with one more addition to their arsenal…(Hint: it has treads and a cannon).

Sorry, but no way those two boys are 15, but I might believe the one on the right is part cat, though.
Sorry, but no way those two boys are 15. I might believe the one on the right is part cat, though.

The opening theme “Ashita e no Kizuna” is sung by Animax Anison Grand Prix winner HIMEKA. As far as I know, this is her first major exposure since winning the contest. I was surprised to learn that she’s French Canadian and Japanese is at least her 3rd language. Her speaking skills are certainly not fluent (not that mine are that great anymore, either), but she has a pretty good voice and her pronunciation while singing is great. I look forward to hearing more from her. The ending song “Ano Kaze ni Notte” by pe’zmoku uses a voice that’s run through a synthesizer that made me think I was listening to an Eiffel 65 song in Japanese. It’s catchy and I’m sure it’ll grow on me as I hear it, but I definitely preferred the opening theme more. The chibi animation in the ending is very cute though.

It’s hard to describe character development from just one episode, but you can already see that there are going to be some basic archetypical roles filled out. Alicia is going to be the tsundere, and, as, Alicia herself points out, Welkin is the kind but a little strange protagonist and Isara is the reliable little sister. We’ll see how the rest of the characters are handled. I admit, I’m looking forward to the occasional Jann sighting. I want to see if  they give him the Major Armstrong treatment.

This show has some definite potential, and I look forward to seeing how both the game and anime play out. I consider this a must watch for me this season.

Review at a glance:

Art: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Music: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Characters: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Story: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Final glance: A-, not perfect, but a great pick to watch this season.

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