Title: Valkyria Chronicles aka Senjou no Valkyria -Gallian Chronicles-
Company: A-1 Pictures Inc.
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2009 – 27 Sep 2009
Synopsis: The Principality of Gallia has been invaded by the neighbouring Empire. As the Imperial Army moves into the town of Bruhl, only the Bruhl Patrol, a small militia of armed locals, stands in their way. However, the Bruhl Patrol is a rabble, and can’t decide whether they should evacuate the town or prepare their forces to defend. Alicia Melchiott, a volunteer in the Patrol, catches wind of an Imperial spy in the city, but in a case of mistaken identity, this “spy” turns out to be Welkin Gunther, the son of a heroic Gallian general from a previous war.
OP sequences: The second OP is filled with spoilers.
Characters: Main three become horribly bland later in the story, killing the romance.
Drama: Expect one truly dramatic episode in the last ten… don’t expect much from the rest.
Action: Tense and tactical towards the beginning; inspired by Dragonball Z towards the end.
Art and animation: Has a distinctive style of textured shading; animation deteriorates as the show goes on.
Believability: Keeps asking for more and more suspension of disbelief as the show goes on.
My expectations at the outset of Valkyria Chronicles weren’t high. Being based on a tactical RPG for the Playstation 3 is one thing, given the track record of video game to anime conversions, but good direction can make this an irrelevancy. However, the premise, setting and relatively light atmosphere (for a war story) at the outset suggested that this anime wasn’t going to be hard-hitting or intensely dramatic, so I thought I was well within right to expect a generally fun and entertaining series mixing action and romance and an occasional tinge of appropriate reverence towards the darker aspects of war. That’s what I got for about the first half, but the second half is a mess, going about a strange business of subtly ramping up the levels of stupidity until you’re unexpectedly overwhelmed by it. There’s one good episode in the last ten, and, granted, it is a really good episode, with a dollop of momentous drama and romance, but it simply doesn’t justify the mixture of tedium and inanity that comes with the other nine.
The crappiness of this show literally sneaked up on me in the final few episodes as each new event continually forced me to lower my expectations little by little, but the signs were there much earlier and in hindsight, none were bigger than the massive spoilers in the second OP sequence. I don’t know what the creative staff was thinking when this was approved, but I’m not sure there can be a bigger sign that the writers and director didn’t particularly care about the surprise that the spoiled plot-twists were supposed to generate. When these plot-twists actually came up in the story itself, forget surprise, my reaction was somewhere between derisive amusement and disinterest, especially when one of these twists was stretched over a cliffhanger.
But even before this point there are pieces of stupidity scattered throughout, small enough to either ignore or accept in the earlier episodes. There are certain things I can accept to a point, like the fact that racism is rife in this world, but no one in the militia gives a second glance at the flamboyantly homosexual soldier. Or that the militia contains several moe girls (and young children) and no one questions what they’re doing on the front line of a brutal war. Or the fact that no one in Squad 7 dies until well into the second half of the series, even though they fight in violent skirmishes every second episode. The series has an interesting take on tactics and strategy at first, but as it goes on, the set pieces become increasingly obvious to the point that they may as well have painted a big target sign on the enemy’s weak points. It makes it hard to forget the video game origins, but the slide continues, and by the later episodes, the fights are basically just Dragonball Z-esque exchanges of beam attacks. This is the cusp of what I can’t accept, but the worst thing about this show by far is the development of the main three characters.
These characters start out with quirks and idiosyncrasies that add colour to their archetypes. Welkin is easily distracted by his interest in nature, Alicia is headstrong, but slightly neurotic and Faldio is a natural leader, but passionate about archeology (which unfortunately becomes a plot device later on). However, all of these things dissolve as the series goes on and, rather than become more interesting or multifaceted, the characters decay into their archetypes, and then even blander versions of their archetypes. Only two major characters actually become more interesting after character development, Rosie and Isara, neither of whom play a large role in the final arc.
Such dull characters can’t carry a love triangle in a setting where there should be tension and electricity everywhere. Everything in this show deteriorates as it goes on: the writing deteriorates, the battles deteriorate, the characters deteriorate and even the animation, which was polished and distinguishing to begin with, deteriorates. Needless to say, my interest in the whole thing deteriorated. Maybe the game is good, but the only thing the second half of this story provides is a love triangle in a wartime setting so bland it rivals Pearl Harbor.
The Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun