In the (alternate reality) year of 1935, Europa is embroiled in war between two superpowers: The Federation and The Empire. Gallia is a small country which remains neutral, however it is rich in a mineral called Ragnite which is used to power nearly all modern machines. The Empire decides to invade Gallia in order to seize the mineral for themselves. Civilians are enlisted to help with Gallia's defense. One of them, Welken Gunther; is the son of a famous general and made a tank commander. Alicia Melchiott is a girl enlisted in the local militia, assigned as sergeant under his command. Welkin doesn't seek fame, he's more concerned with getting as many of his squad through the war alive as possible. As he grows closer to Alica, the time may come when he has to choose between her and his duty.
I'll start by warning you that Valkyria Chronicles is possibly my favorite game ever; worth me buying a PS3 just to play. I've played a lot of games, on a lot of systems so I don't say that lightly. Just be aware that there's a high level of bias involved with me and this title. I don't want to turn this into a strict comparison with the game, but I think many of the weaknesses of this anime are highlighted by strength of the same content in the game.
I found The conversion of good characters into anime tropes disheartening. Welkin goes from quirky nature lover, to a total weirdo. Alicia devolves into a stock tsundere. Hell the whole show is raining tsunderes. The other characters follow this pattern which is unfortunate because it isn't necessary. In 26 episodes they could be developed as strong characters, but instead Valkyria Chronicles falls back on common tropes as a crutch.
This would be fine for many titles, but it goes completely against a military drama. Everyone is a soldier with a level of military professionalism, but each person has oddball characteristics that highlight them as human beings. You're probably thinking I'm off my rocker talking about professionalism in anime characters, but that's a big part in making a military drama to succeed. The ridiculous (anime) characteristics becomes a barrier to drama. Valkyria Chronicles is hindered by characters too too weak to push a character driven show forward. This becomes clear in the love triangle between Alicia, Welkin, and Welkin's friend Faldio. This is invented by the anime, and not a bad idea. The problem is that Welkin is such a frustrating dope that it's hard to sympathize with him. Alicia and Faldio lack the depth to make it work either.
The anime does a good job on a military type story not focused on battles, yet not making the war feel irrelevant either. However, it falters at the beginning with various fluff episodes spent basically doing nothing. At 12 episodes in, there's the assault on Mulberry Shore. This part highlights everything Valkyria Chronicles should have been. It's dramatic, there's climatic action, and tragedy afterwards. Welkin then has to struggle with a death in his squad. While it's not perfect drama, it's done well enough. Once this is resolved, the anime starts to follow the game plot. Many events and key points are left out of the anime, making the end plot seem pretty asinine. Which leads to the last issue: So much of this anime is dumb.
Parts of the premise are dumb, the story goes in dumb directions, and many characters continuously do dumb things. The most annoying of them are characters who are assholes doing stupid things counter to all logic, just so you will hate them. The anime patches up a few glaring game story plot holes, but invents twice as many new problems. Stuff like two generals attending a dinner party of the enemy "undercover". Really? If you had a woman as hot as Selvaria with white hair, red eyes and boobs big enough to be seen on the horizion, I'm pretty sure she'd be the last person to blend in. If you watch for technical accuracy, you'll be very frustrated by illogical tactics, ballistics, and strategy.
The Valkyria Chronicles game art looks like textured sketches painted with water color; an anime style more attractive than most anime! The anime makes a half assed attempt to reproduce this, and basically fails. You'll notice some weird shading, but that's about it. The anime uses the game soundtrack, and grafted in spots that doesn't quite fit sometimes. Otherwise it's pretty good and well used.
Valkyria Chronicles doesn't really succeed, nor does it fully fail. If the animation studio had trusted in the story and characters presented in the game (obviously strong enough to make an anime in the first place), it would have done better than what the anime became. I don't regret watching Valkyria Chronicles, and I did enjoy parts of it. I'm disappointed that it became generic anime stuff, but as an anime fan I can kind of handle that. Too weak to recommend outright, but I can't say I disliked it either.
Irene: About your squad leader...
Jann: If you're asking my preference, he's above average. Hardness is the most important thing. Also the elasticity and suppleness.
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