I haven’t come across many series that are as under appreciated as this one. Most shows that i watch, however detestable will have some niche crowd somewhere that can’t get enough of them and is as passionate about them as those that completely detest the show. The most obvious example here would be fairy tail. Sure, i have come across otaku that hold an abnormal hate for the series, but equally, i have come across fans with a scary obsession for fairy tail. No, that is too popular, and i am biased in its favor. A better example would be school days, which i dislike vehemently, but which has considerable fans out there.
This show doesn’t fall into this category in that very few people actually know about it, at least as far as i have seen. So maybe underappreciated isn’t the word.
This was the series that first pulled me out of my little box of action crazy insanely graphical animation, into a much simpler, deeper world of anime. There was a time when i didn’t watch anime that didn’t have any mind blowing action scenes, insane characters, or magical weapons. Overall, my anime watch list was all about battle shonen series. Then i watched this show and realized that beyond the martial arts, maybe there was more that i could enjoy from an anime, like good story and interesting and deep characters.
And i will not deny that this is one of the very best shows that i have ever watched, ranking in my top five.
The story takes place in Europa, a place loosely based on Europe in the 1930s, during world war 2. This continent is divided into two main powers, the imperial Empire, a monarchy in the east, and an alliance of democratic countries called the Federation. In this world, the most important mineral is called ragnite, usable in a variety of fields, from fueling weapons of war to medicine; and because of its importance these two forces are constantly in battle over it.
Gallia is a small neutral independent state that happens to be rich with ragnite, which eventually attracts the attention of the Empire, which decides to invade. Alicia Melchiot is a member of the Bruhl town watch. While somewhat capable of combat and hopeful of joining the battle front to defend her nation, she is assigned with the evacuation, protection and management of the civilian members of her small town. And it is during one of her patrols that she meets Welkin, a lazy good for nothing idler, that she later realizes is the son of the legendary General, Gunther, a leader of great strategic ability.
It isn’t long before war finds Alicia, and Welkin, having ran away from school abroad, finds it necessary to take charge, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that he is indeed just as intelligent and cunning as his father. With her sister Isara in tow, the only one capable of piloting the mysterious blue tank Edelweis and its fascinating array of abilities, and Alicia, the group are thrust to the front line as part of squad 7. Welkin finds that not only must he prove his worth to the power hungry and conniving generals of Gallia, but he must prove his worth to the very men and women that he leads, whilst also endeavoring to see them safely return from each carelessly assigned mission, designed by those above to see Welkin’s rising star fall.
But Welkin soon learns that there enemy is more than meets the eye. Maximillian, the younger prince of the Empire isn’t only in possession of powerful technology and a handful of hand picked battle tested generals to lead his men, but by his side is the mysterious silver haired Sevelia Bles, rumored to be one of ancient and lost Valkyria, powerful god like creatures from the old days, and a bigger threat than the empire could pose.
The hope of the people lies in their silver haired princess and ruler, Cordelia gi Randgriz, said to be of the blood of the valkyria as well; except that she holds a dark secret that might be the end of her nation.
This is a war that will shape the future.
This show’s strength lies in its characters and the stories that surround them. Welkin is as lovable as he is a formidable leader. His bright smiles, incessant jokes and lazy attitude hide a brilliant mind. But this isn’t Lelouch hiding within a weak seemingly unworthy body. Welkin is a very simple character, with little to no ambition and seemingly no interest in the world besides protecting his friends. Even when assigned to the position of captain of squad 7, there is no doubt that Welkin is more bookworm than soldier. And in meeting the challenges of ending a bloody war as bloodlessly as possible, protecting his friends proves to be much harder that taking on assignments meant for greater better armed numbers with his little squad of less than 20.
Welkin is no soldier and it is his goal to shape the soldier like objectives and attitudes of his men into something less grim. They hold little to no prospects for the future due to their roles as men and men and women of war. They would gladly give their lives in battle serving their nation or even the weak leader that they dislike, Welkin. They have no qualms with making the ultimate sacrifice anytime it is needed to get the job done, and it is this attitude that Welkin fights to oppose in them. His goal in each mission is to see to it that they never need to be put in unnecessary harm-which is easier said than done with them being soldiers that are sent to fight in wars- and he will be the first to oppose any attempts to risk one’s life to complete a mission; Welkin isn’t beyond tackling life threatening situations himself with nothing but his wit if only to prevent his battle crazy comrades from taking the risky chances they always have to complete missions. IN this he makes both enemies and friends, as his actions can interpreted as either a strength or weakness.
Alicia first comes off as an unimportant character with no more purpose that being a love interest, maybe to cause conflict between Welkin and his best friend Faldio. But she later comes into her own, matching Welkin’s importance in the series and proving to be a great crutch for him when things go bad. The way her character played out at the end was much better than the beginning, and her life, past and future had some truly unexpected surprises.
Faldio was one of my favorite characters in the whole show. I didn’t really think much of him in the beginning. He acted as a shield between squad 7 and his own squad, who held hostility towards squad 7, not only for personal reasons but because of how Welkin’s star was threatening their captain’s own. it was impressive to see how well Faldio took it all; being friends with Welkin since their university days and understanding that he was mostly a book worm, not once does he feel threatened by Welkin and in most cases it isn’t out of the ordinary to see some in his squad vying for the kind of attention and camaraderie their captain shares with Welkin, and when they don’t receive it, to turn that into hostility towards squad 7.
Interestingly, especially during scenes of violence between these two squads, it isn’t hard to see that what looks like hate between them is actually dedication, to their captains and their personal wishes to see him succeed.
Admittedly Faldio was always just an okay character, until the last couple of episodes. I don’t want to spoil it but to what happens to Faldio in the last episodes, i can only say WOW. So much shock and disbelief.
At the end of the day, this story is about war and the consequences of it. We see what can come from war in the racial hatred aimed towards the darcsenns, who are generally the villains of the last war of the land. It isn’t difficult to understand the reason and logic for the hate, until you begin to understand what really happened so long ago, at which point you come to understand the saying that it is the victor of war that tells the story and that in most wars, there is no right side and all parties will commit evils for the sake of victory.
No one understands this more than Welkin. One reason he struggles to control his team is Isara, who turns out to be his adopted sister,and more importantly a Darcseen. Welkin clearly doesn’t understand the animosity probably because he grew up with Isara (and that’s just him being clueless), but it takes all his cunning and restraint to both command missions and protect his sister from the waves of hate from all those around her. He understands where everybody, especially his squad, is coming from, but he will do all he can to defend her. But in tackling this issue of discrimination, this show also speaks of the message of transformation, and the ability of shared experiences to morph hate into love; it is in this regard that Stark Brigitte stood out as one of the very best characters to watch in this show.
There is so much to see and think about in this show, both on the hero and villain side. Even Sevelia who doesn’t get as much screen time is a character worth pondering, in the way she, as a powerful being, worships and crawls after maximillian, who can be said to be a little more than cruel but in subtle ways. Her story speaks more to the issue of slavery than anything.
Then their are the members of Faldio and Welkin’s squads, most of whom are well developed and properly utilized throughout each episode; but of course it is a few like Isara, Ramal, Stark and Ealonor that stand out. While this show occurs in a futuristic setting, there isn’t any of the elements i would normally expect, like giant mechs, powerful ships and the like.
Most of the advanced technology is rather low key, like super tanks with mostly practical and realistic capabilities, laser lances and the like. There are a few tanks that are so large they might as well be mechs, but even that doesn’t affect your overall understanding of the setting of the series. We still have horse and carts and lousy rifles and the lot.
This show will surprise you. Being based off of a tactical role playing game for PS3, you might expect crazy wars with a whole lot of fighting, explosions and Michael bay style set ups. But that is far from the case. Valkyria chronicles is a story about characters in a war. Yes, there are two or three supernatural beings but those don’t take up much of the plot. In fact this series’ actions scenes with regards to the valkyria are very bad, to the point that i would have rather they hadn’t taken place.
There is technically little to look at as the animation mostly average, and even the music is barely memorable except for some specific moments. But none of that matters because this is a beautiful story that everyone should watch. This is how anime should be done, with depth and focus and a plot that, at the end, leave you sitting back and sighing in satisfaction, that you have just seen something good, something that you will be thinking about tomorrow, next week and next month. This is Valkyria chronicles is.
There are some set backs of course. The show has an unfortunately lousy start; unfortunate in that many people might not bother to pick it up again after two or three episodes. You see a blue tank rolling around, talk of war, a few battles and you start making assumptions about what’s coming up ahead. And i did the same thing. I dumped this show and only picked it up six months later when i was bored and there was no other anime in sight so i decided to revisit all the crap anime i discarded.
I was disturbed that i had almost missed this gem.
though after a thought i would be more like 8/5, it exceeded my expectations and delivered an amazing story of war, rebuilding and transformation. I would recommend this show to each and everyone that loves anime.