Valkyria Chronicles [2009] 26 Episodes

Valkyria Chronicles impresses with a very pleasing and unique art direction. It continues to deliver on that front throughout, however on the story, characterization and pacing fronts it is wanting.  The producers certainly knew what buttered their bread though.  They made sure that the first half dozen episodes had enough action to draw you in.

The unique and fun Edelweiss tank was an early star, but after a few episodes was sadly reduced to background status. This tank needed a better agent.

Those early action oriented episodes were intelligent and hearkened back to the Strategy RPG video game upon which the show is based.  Additionally the setting was such that small scale squad maneuvers with a single tank could be very entertaining.  At this point the producers needed to decide upon which road they would take Valkyria Chronicles.

"Thank you SEGA". Valkyria Chronicles video game for PS3 (2008). Is this some new kind of reverse movement? Animes based on video games instead of the other way around?

They could continue to go the strategy/action route; defining characters uniquely along the way.  Or they could go the standard anime stereotype route where the squads are filled with anime stereotype characters and anime stereotype issues.  Sadly they took the latter route.  It is a tribute to Valkyria Chronicles’ quality that it was still a good show despite this poor choice.

"Hello. I am the overly intellectual, socially stunted male lead who is so obtuse to human feelings that he does not see love right next to him - or even in himself! Oh by the way, I'm also a pacifist, so I want to destroy the other side faster... - to end this war!" Huh?

26 episodes in one sentence?  In a pastoral world reminiscent of World War I a misguided empire militarily moves against a weak kingdom bringing our group of unlikely civilian soldiers into battle and a mystery about the mythical power of the valkyria which the empire’s nut-job prince is using to further his own agenda but in the end that power will also be used against him and a valkyria will rise on the side of the kingdom bringing all the series stereotypical plots together with a valkyria technology versus valkyria power showdown in which our heroes will learn about life, sacrifice, and the power of love (bleh…).

"I'm the callous enemy general stereotype that cares nothing for the lives of his own men." Count the cliches in this picture: Overly royal warlike crest? Check. A uniform that would make the Kaiser proud? Check. A riding crop!? Check. Totally colorless skin tone? Check.

You will notice right away the interesting shading approach Valkyria Chronicles adopted.  It was kind of a gritty, canvas-like texture that actually worked quite well with the setting.  To match the uniforms were “real” feeling with heavy cloth and buckles (if not totally practical. …Skirts?)  The character designs while not revolutionary were visually fitting for the world.

"I am the cute, hardworking totally innocent stereotype. You know, the one who stoically ignores her own social ostracism and unselfishly cares for all around her. I am so without flaw that even I do not believe it."

The vehicles and technology were one of Valkyria Chronicles greatest strengths.  They devised a unique engine technology signified by glowing blue radiators.  Onto this they designed a variety of early 20th century civilian and war vehicles that reflected the uniqueness of the show and technological setting.

The guns were decidedly low-tech, which did work to bring a level of realism and danger to the conflicts.  That set up should have led to unique plots rather than the usual anime stereotypes.  You know, the hard bitter woman who eventually has her heart softened through the losses of war.  The reluctant but powerful warrior girl who just wants to live a normal life.  The absent minded intellectual type that takes nearly the entire series to realize he is in love.

"I am tough-guy stereotype 1: I am tough on the outside and carry a big gun, but on the inside I am a softy who understands the feelings of others and likes to laugh."

"I am tough-guy stereotype 2: The quiet grizzled type who has done ugly things in order to survive, yet comes up with the poignant introspective words of advice when they are most needed. By the way, I never do open up my other eye. You got a problem with that?"

Not ignored was a top anime stereotype gem, the suave and handsome womanizer type (who is also best friend to the lead guy).  You know, the one that all the girls like except the lead girl.  The one that seems selfish but in the end through sacrifice shows he really has an chivalrous heart-of-gold.

"Yes, that's me. Wait, the girl I like is the lead's romantic interest!? Oh crud, I'm dead..."

The pacing of Valkyria Chronicles was a problem.  After the initial action episodes it really bogs down in heavy-handed, action-less sentimentality filled episodes.  It is not until almost the end that the producers seemed to suddenly realize they were running out of episodes.  The last three episodes feel like a desperate attempt to make up for all the cliched melodrama.

"Hey, do not forget me, the tough, hard-hearted girl with serious attitude. I act selfish because I was hurt in the past, but I am hiding kindness and a sweet feminine skill on the inside."

Valkyria Chronicles is a reasonably entertaining show worth watching.  However most of its originality takes place on the art direction side and not in the story, characterizations, or writing.

"I only need one eye to watch you."

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9 thoughts on “Valkyria Chronicles [2009] 26 Episodes

  1. Interesting write-up. I have only watched the first two episodes (kinda waiting for the US dubbed release), but it seemed like a good start to the series. I am concerned at how much the plot differs from the game though… Valkyria Chronicles is easily my favorite game this generation and probably favorite game for a long time. I’ll probably buy the DVD boxset for this when it eventually comes out in the US.

    • The game does sound interesting. We think for those in your position it could go either way regarding the anime. You may like it because you are so fond of the intellectual property. Or you may not care for it like someone who is a fan of a book and does not care for the movie rendition.

      Let us know when you do finish watching it, and thanks for checking out our take.

  2. wow, sorry for the really late response. After having experienced both the game and the anime, I really have to agree with pretty much everything in this article.

    I did really come to love the first third of the anime but then it just quickly took a turn for the worse, in terms of substance. I understand it would have been a bad decision to exactly mimic and recreate the scenes in the video game, but to change everything to be melodramatic and be like every other stereotypical Japanese anime I think was much more bothersome. There was so much potential for this anime and a lot of it was realized from the beginning but the way they ended the anime, it just left a sour taste in my mouth.

    I did really like a lot of things with the anime, especially the art style and the deeper insights into the characters not shown that much in the game, but it definitely could have been presented a lot better.

    To me, it’s just ironic that the game’s storytelling with its brief cutscenes was so much powerful than the 26-episode anime.

    • We have indeed got that impression from people. Ones who have loved the game’s storytelling seem somewhat disappointed regarding that aspect in the anime.

      It is gratifying to hear that you felt the same way as we did regarding the first 6 or so episodes. They really hit an enjoyable rhythm during them; a rhythm they should have maintained. The later melodrama did not do the interesting characters, technology, and setting justice.

      Good comment.

  3. I should preface this and say that I have not played the video game and do not watch much anime. But I love cartoons and regardless of which country makes one I always look for a good story and good characters. I think overall I was pleased by Valkyria Chronicles.

    Most important: I loved the shaded art direction. You are so right Mr. Fortress, the art style is one of the boons of the entire series. The texturing was …well, neat! Also, the animated movement of the machines was “beautiful”, if I may use that as a description. The simple aiming of a canon on the tanks seemed to be smooth and very much realistic. But then maybe many animes are up-to-date on this kind of animation. Well, I liked it either way.

    The first half of the series was a good mix of character development and action. Two things I like to see in a good story. I am also unsure about the second half of the series. Like you said, it seems the producers weren’t really too sure how to get the story to its finally ending place. Which road to take, which character they should focus on, how much death was appropriate, how much happiness, how much sadness, etc. The character-oriented parts got a little too shuffled around. Or stereotyped for ease. I do not mind some stereotypes, but some anime types are a bit too cliche for my tastes. Thankfully I didn’t really let it get to me as I wanted to see how the characters came out in the end. The plot carried it for me.

    One of my favorite episodes was where Welkin and Alicia were stranded in a cabin during a blizzard. The actions between the characters there seemed more genuine and less stereotypical. Of course that was in the first half of the series. It wasn’t rushed and the events went at a natural pace. Even though there was less action I rather liked the moment of reflection during the war story. And the episode was still pretty intense, if I remember it correctly.

    You have some entertaining picture captions here too. Lol, poor Isara fell prey to one such picture. I liked her character a lot, even though she was “perfect”. But then I like the nice, underdog characters. Doesn’t mean your caption wasn’t accurate though, heh. Faldio’s stereotype. Oh brother. *face palms like Rosie in screen cap farther down* I liked her as well, even if they made her rather extreme. At least she had a real event behind the reason for her passion.

    One thing I would have liked to know more about was the history of the Darcen and the Valkyries. Just something, if time permitted, I wouldn’t mind understanding more.

    I’m sure there are some other problems they could have smoothed over while making this series, and you hit on quite a few of them. The producers did a fair job creating entertainment-worthy, “page-turner” excitement. I know I had a good time watching and waiting to find out how the characters turned out in the end. I was pleased over all, and saddened for others.

    I also enjoyed reading this take which reasserted some of my own ideas and added a few others I did not pick up on. Keep up the good work at the Fortress.

    P.S. Valkyries are pretty cool. ;)

    • While animes have been merging traditional animation for the characters and CGI for mecha for a while now, VC did it as well as any. Additionally the artsy shading filter they applied helped it all blend well.

      Stereotypes are just that because they are character type distillations that people like. Of course, as with any entertainment item we like, too much of it can become less appreciated. VC had so much going for it. It is hard to cut them too much slack, perhaps because of that, for falling to baseline anime stereotypes. It is a waste. There was too much story & character ideas available to them from the game we surmise.

      We and it seems many who we have communicated with are in agreement with you that the first half was a better mix of character and action. The cabin episode was good. We will not knock it for its stereotypical anime anti-war message because it was well done. However we will say that 99.2% of all anime plots involve war or some environmental message. The clever ones do both at the same time. The current Japanese culture seems to obsess over war more than countries who have regular armies and not “Self Defense Forces”.

      You make a good point: For all that they based on the history of the Darcens and the Valkyria, they should have made that history perhaps a little more real, or more understandable and filled out. We wonder if the game did so?

      Thanks for your usual thought out comments. They were interesting.

      PS – As for Valkyries being cool… hmmm. We think that Alicia was more the exception. Most Valkyria were likely more like Selvaria. A tough woman to befriend, and tougher for men to date. So if you think Selvaria was cool than perhaps you are right. But would a world with Selvaria as Eve survive? That is deep. :)

      • SPOILER ALERT: I’ve included some key elements of the plot in this comment, don’t read if you don’t want to find out ahead of time.

        Fortress Guy,

        Yes, the game absolutely does delve a lot deeper into the war conflict than this anime ever tried to. There are numerous parallelisms in the video game which make it clear that this is a retelling of World War II. For instance, “Marbury Shore” represents the invasion of Normandy, where the Empire (Axis) awaits with an impenetrable wall of ammunition. Did anyone get that from this anime? Another example would be Hiroshima, or as the video game recreated it, Selvaria’s death. Darcsens = Jews, which you probably could’ve gotten from the anime if you were trying to make the WWII connection. Whoever was writing the script for these episodes had obviously not played the game before and didn’t get point of the events.

        I agree with you on the Valkyrur not necessarily being “cool”. According to Norse mythology (my understanding, I’m not an expert here), the Valkyrie were responsible for deciding who lived and who died in battle, and maybe escorting the dead to the afterlife after such battle. Sounds a lot more like Selvaria and not at all like Alicia.

        As Dohrnaira said, I cannot comprehend how the storyline was so much deeper in the video game than in the 26 episode anime. Apart from some minor details in the beginning which expanded on the VC universe, all that was done for this adaptation of the story was to convert some intriguing characters into mindless ones (Faldio, even Alicia come to mind) and completely miss the point of a fictional wartime Europe.

        -Luzce

      • Well said Luzce. We did not think this series did justice to what we knew of the game storyline. Especially considering some of the comments we read regarding people’s appreciation for the interactive game narrative.

        We did see some of the WW II and even WW I allusions. Some animes are more original than others. We do not fault them for this as they did it well, although heavy handed with the Darcsens. Then again, it was harsh and heavy handed in real life back then as well.

        Good point about Alicia’s rather … un-filled out personality. Yeah, there could have been more there than a girl worried about some of the trivialities she focused upon.

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