Set during the Second Europan War between The Autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance and Atlantic Federation, the plot focuses on the Gallian Front fought between the Empire and The Principality of Gallia. Welkin Gunther, a college student and son of the First Europan War hero General Belgen Gunther, Isara Gunther, a brilliant Darcsen mechanic and Welkin’s foster sister, and Alicia Melchiott, a baker and member of the Bruhl Townwatch, get involved in the war when the Imperials invade Gallia to secure it’s rich Ragnite deposits. After managing to escape their hometown Bruhl after the Imperials captured it, the three of them join Squad 7 of the Gallian Militia to help free their country from the Empire.
Valkyria Chronicles was inspired by a game and caught my eye for its unique setting, which gives the anime a similar feel to Broken Blade, as well as some elements from Sora no Woto, and even Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing. Reviews on this series seem to fly all over the map; released back in April 2009, this anime also fell under my radar, as my mind was on Gundam 00 and post-secondary at that time period. However, curiosity has led me to check this series out, and at the time of writing, I am four episodes in to the series. I’ll have yet to see if this anime will be disappointing or fun, but given that I do not make any effort to take anime as seriously as more prolific reviewers, I imagine that I will get a kick out of Valkyria Chronicles to the same extent as I did for Broken Blade and Sora no Woto (I still have yet to finish Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing at the time of writing).
Under threat of an approaching Imperial invasion, the inhabitants of Bruhl are forced to evacuate under the protection and assistance of the Bruhl Townwatch. Alicia, a member of the Townwatch, arrests Welkin Gunther at gunpoint on suspicion of espionage, despite his protestations of innocence. Welkin manages to escape and Alicia gives chase, still convinced that he is an Imperial spy. During the chase, both of them are spotted by Imperial scouts and fired upon. The two retreat to the safety of the Gunther estate in the Bruhl countryside, where they meet up with Welkin’s Darcsen foster-sister Isara. Imperial troops and tanks arrive and surround the estate.
- We begin by introducing Alicia Melchiott, a 19-year-old a non-commissioned officer who aspires to become a successful baker. Alicia became a soldier after the Imperial invasion of Gallia and is righteous and reliable.
- Susie Evans is a 19-year-old scout. The daughter of a frontier tycoon, she is a pacifist, but was forced to join the militia for the sake of her family’s honor. Fundamentally opposed to war, she finds killing loathsome but she will set aside her pacifism to protect her friends and comrades. In the anime version, she is a friend of Alicia within the Bruhl Town Watch and later joins the Gallian Militia along with her.
- Alicia works with Bruhl’s towns watch, and encounters Welkin Gunther after assuming he is a spy of some sort.
- Welkin Gunther is the 22-year-old son of the country’s hero General Belgen Gunther. A university student before the Imperial invasion, Welkin’s intelligence and determination earned him command of the Gallian Militia’s Squad 7 and the rank of lieutenant. His university major, Animal Sociology, gives him an extensive knowledge of Gallia’s native flora and fauna and serves as a basis for his military strategies.
- Despite appearing unassuming and carefree, Welkin is surprisingly capable as a strategist, bringing to mind Zhuge Liang’s strategies, which are renowned in Chinese fiction for their ingenuity. He is able to use the fauna to predict the presence of a fog, allowing him to carry out a daring mission to procure a hundred thousand arrows for the assault against Cao Cao during the Battle of the Red Cliffs in the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kindgoms. While this endeavour is fictional, the real Zhuge Liang was an intelligent scholar. We see none of this in the first episode, of course.
- Alicia exhibits similar tendencies to Lucky Star‘s Kagami Hiiragi (most notably, exasperation) in response to Welkin’s seeming lack of awareness for his situations.
- I’ll take advantage of this time to introduce the setting in Valkyria Chronicles: set in 1935 on Europa (a continent analogous to Europe), the political landscape is dominated by two superpowers: the autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance in the east and a commonwealth of loosely allied democracies known as the Atlantic Federation in the west. The economies of both powers depend on a precious multipurpose mineral called Ragnite. Its growing scarcity results in the Empire declaring war on the Federation, sparking the Second Europan War. The Empire uses its military superiority to quickly put the Federation on the defensive. Emboldened by their progress and momentum, the Empire decides to invade the neutral Principality of Gallia to seize its rich Ragnite deposits.
- The story kicks off with the Imperial forces launching an attack on the Gallian border town of Bruhl. Welkin Gunther, is forced to fight for his life alongside the town watch captain, Alicia Melchiott. Alicia holds Welkin and his adopted sister, Isara, at gun-point here; 16 years old, Isara is a prodigy when it comes to mechanics and wears a shawl to signifythat she is a member of the Darcsens, a race of people persecuted for their ancestral role in the near destruction of the continent. Despite being the subject of racism, she is proud of her heritage and hopes to make a world where Darcsens are no longer persecuted and are treated as people.
- Close inspection will find that the animation has a criss-cross effect, similar to the artistic effects that can be applied to images in Office 2010 and later. Overall, the animation is of a reasonably high quality, and the episode itself feels distinctly like a Gundam episode where the eponymous Gundam mobile suits are fielded: not seen until the end of the episode, its presence sets the stage for the subsequent episodes. I mention this because of how the Edelweiss is presented.
- The Edelweiss is a prototype tank produced by Belgen for the First European War and is only shown in the final moments of the first episode. The anime Sora no Woto will draw inspiration for the Takemikazuchi, a highly advanced tank from a previous age, with similar origins, except that the Edelweiss is produced in the same age. Both tanks possess superior performance compared to the other armour in their time.
As is expected of anime of this class, after one episode, we have a rough introduction to the characters and world that Valkyria Chronicles is set in. The anime itself was inspired by the JRPG of the same name, although I have not tried the game for myself. My impressions after the first episode were generally favourable; the world it is set in seems reasonably colourful and has a curious set of characters (especially Alicia, whose excitable personality adds to her character rather than detracting from it). Despite the series being four years old, I look forward to watching this anime to its completion (alongside more modern anime, such as RDG: Red Data Girl and Yuyushiki).