Company: Ansa Studios/Team Flag
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 16 Jun 2006 – 2 Mar 2007
Synopsis: Uddiyana, a country torn by religious civil war has found hope for peace through an uplifting photograph taken by Japanese journalist Saeko Shirasu. The subject was of a United Nations flag, which will now serve as the symbol for negotiations. However, things get complicated when an insurgent group steals the flag to be used as a means to cause mass panic. As the taker of the photo, Shirasu has been embedded into the UNF’s SDC group to account the story of this real life game of Capture the Flag.
Framing device: Well executed for something so unique.
Animation: Fits the atmosphere perfectly.
HAVWCS: Serve their purpose without consuming the story.
Stories: Mostly solid; a few, spectacular.
If any series has rekindled my faith in modern anime, it would have to be Flag. Aside from simply good storytelling, it is one of very few anime that shows what can be done with modern techniques aside from dodgy CG. Takahashi Ryouske has already staked his claim as one of the masters of politically driven stories, and this one is easily his best to date.
Through the scope of a camera, the world can be shown untouched, unaltered, uncensored. Yet as a framing device, it is little more than a gimmick. Well at least it would be a ratings magnet, if it weren’t for how integral it is in setting the tone. The animators didn’t just stop at putting in a focus and the occasional “rec” symbol. The picture shakes realistically whenever Shirasu or Akagi make any movements, though is held with the sort of grace and control that a professional would have. And thanks to the grainy animation and lighting effects, the image even looks as if it were coming through an actual lens. Generally, quirks in animation spell out desperation. In this case, it defines the series.
It’s also nice to know that such a captivating atmosphere has a compelling story to go along with it. Quick disclaimer: this is not a mecha show. While the HAVWCS play a crucial role in plot development, especially with regards to characterization, they are incidental and can easily be replaced with any sort of next generation weaponry. Above all, Flag is a social drama. Through Shirasu’s camera, this anime closely analyzes the lives and relationships of the peoples she meets. The team dynamic of SDC is everything The 08th MS Team should have been and more, with time taken for each member, from the commanders all the way down to the base chef. And still this was minuscule when compared to a single episode all about a nomadic tribe, which is enough to touch the hearts of even the most jaded of viewers.
Deep down, there is something uncharacteristically fair about Flag. It has none of that heavy-handed evil of VOTOMS or excessive nationalism of Gasaraki. With so many viewpoints this anime takes, it is not hard to imagine Uddiyana truly coming to life. Outside of what Shirasu witnesses, there is Akagi to witness the lives of the people, the ambitions of journalists, and eventually Shirasu herself. The only side that receives no reasonable analysis would be the insurgent groups. Though considering that there was no realistic way of getting their story given the framing device, it is only a minor setback for something so unique yet down to earth. Hope is a precious thing, and every once and a while all it takes is one photograph to inspire it.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx