We have a plan: six planes, three teams, one shot. Five weeks ago, we lost: all of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost a part of ourselves. Today, we have a chance to take it all back. You know your teams, you know your missions. Destroy this false god. One objective each: no mistakes, no do-overs. Most of us going somewhere we know, that doesn’t mean we should know what to expect. Be careful; look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives and we’re going to win, whatever it takes. Good luck.
Claudia’s life with Tateyama’s Valkyries continues: she helps the crew to defeat another Pillar and meets Yayoi Amatsuka, a veteran pilot who reveals that she’s here as a result of an upcoming offensive against the Fuji Pillar itself. It turns out that Sonoko is not particularly close with Yayoi after an earlier incident, and with Odin’s predictions about the Fuji Pillar correct, the allied forces launch an all-out assault on the pillar. Upon entering, they are engaged by aircraft belonging to deceased comrades, and as the allied forces begin to fold, leadership orders a retreat. A titanic entity dubbed “Thor” destroys most of the remaining squadrons and the base of operations; Claudia and the others manage to escape, and Yayoi offers to head a rescue operation to save whatever remaining pilots they can, but is killed in the process. In the aftermath, Tateyama’s pilots immediately set about recapturing Tateyama base, and Claudia opens a portal to Valhalla. With Sonoka unfit to fly, Claudia and Azuzu enter the portal, where they discover a tapestry explaining Odin’s war. A Pillar appears and begins attacking Tateyama base. Miyako sorties to deal with the threat. When Sonoka realises that Yayoi would’ve wanted her to keep flying, and decides to help protect a mother who’s in labour, she regains the resolve to fly and ends up destroying the Pillar. World leaders soon learn that Odin had not been entirely truthful about Ragnarök: the war had started so he could build a vast army of undead for his own ends. Humanity resolve to attack the Fuji Pillar again, and manage to punch through its defenses for a final confrontation with Odin. Claudia, Azuzu and Miyako discover that Odin’s real fear had been isolation, and in his final moments, Odin allows Azuzu to finish him off shortly after Miyaki destroys the Fuji Pillar’s core. In the aftermath, Tateyama’s Valkyries pay their respect for Shield Squadron and formally welcome new Valkyries Kurumi Suzuhara and Moe Isuruji before setting off on their next assignment. This is Warlords of Sigrdrifa, a military-moé series that was originally set to air during the summer, but was pushed back to the fall season on account of the ongoing global health crisis. With its themes of friendship out in the open after the third episode, I continued to follow Warlords of Sigrdrifa through to its end, curious to see where the series would lead.
Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a curiosity in that its premise ultimately proved to be an insufficient reason to drive the events within the story. Odin and his desire to fight a new Ragnarök was ill-motivated, seemingly for little reason more than to satisfy a personal grudge, and consequently, it was difficult to ascertain just how seriously Warlord of Sigrdrifa’s foe should be taken. Without a satisfactory reason for waging war against humanity, Odin comes across as being petty and tiny; in Odin’s absence, Warlords of Sigrdrifa would’ve still managed to convey its messages clearly enough. This is the hazard that results when a story attempts to give nameless enemies faces and reasons. Strike Witches was built off on a very similar premise, but unlike the Pillars, the Neuroi are given the minimum exposition needed to justify why there is a need for Witches. This allowed Strike Witches to focus purely on the Witches and their interactions. Conversely, Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s incomplete use of Norse Mythology creates the expectation that themes and concepts from Norse Mythology would impact the plot. Consequently, when Odin and Thor are shown to be completely different than their mythological counterparts, it becomes unclear as to why there was a need for such figures as villans. The Marvel Cinematic Universe demonstrates how to appropriately use characters from Norse Mythology in a different setting while, at once, being respectful to the originals. Marvel’s Odin is a patient and wise leader, while Thor learns humility and honour over time. Warlords of Sigrdrifa renders these mighty mythological beings as a joke, consequently detracting from the overall story; it thus becomes difficult to take the threat of Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin seriously, and this in turn weakens the series’ sense of urgency, leaving the anime’s primary charm with the colourful, energetic and spirited Tateyama Valkyries.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Warlords of Sigrdrifa presented a bit of a challenge to write for because aside from the F-15Js that Shield Squadron flies, the remainder of the hardware seen in the series are magically enhanced, and do not bear any similarities to their real-world equivalents. Claudia’s Gloster Gladiator, Miyako’s Ki-44, Azuzu’s He 100 and Sonoka’s MC 72 have all been given upgrades that allow them to survive scenarios that fourth-generation fighters cannot. As such, there is no real-world precedence for estimating each aircraft’s capabilities and performance in a situation.
- I remember that after the fourth episode aired, I received requests to watch Warlords of Sigrdrifa more closely: this had been the obligatory swimsuit episode, and an unconventional one, at that. I will only remark that I enjoyed this close-up of Miyako, who, after the whole of the events in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, draws with Claudia as my favourite character of the 909th: on top of the thousand reasons this screenshot provides for why I’m fond of Miyako, her happy-go-lucky personality brightens up the lives of those around her, and singlehandedly prevents Warlords of Sigrdrifa from ever venturing into grim-dark territory.
- Unsurprisingly, Tateyama Base is modelled faithfully after its real-world counterpart, with the one exception that the primary runway has been extended into the sea similarly to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport. Today, Hong Kong’s flights are handled by the Chek Lap Kok Airport in Western Hong Kong, and I still remember my first ever flight to Hong Kong had been at Kai Tak, whose runway made it one of the most difficult airports to land at. Tateyama Base has no such constraints, and I’m guessing that in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, the extended runway is more about providing space for more aircraft to take off. The F-15J requires 250 metres to take off, and inspection of the existing runway at the base shows that the length is 500 metres, more than enough to accommodate F-15Js. Propeller powered aircraft of World War Two had similar lengths required to take off, and there is no reason to suppose that modifications to the Valkyries’ aircraft might decrease their take off lengths somewhat.
- The swimsuit piece of the fourth episode was justified because of a need to stealthily get the 909th to their aircraft after the Pillars have severed surface access, and the men of Tateyama base decide to sneak everyone through a subterranean passage. The fanservice piece of this episode was a bit much, but once the 909th get to their aircraft, acclimatise to flying in swimsuits (especially Miyako) and begin combat operations, it’s business as usual.
- The Pillar seen in the fourth episode was able to regenerate at will by making use of ultrasound, requiring that the 909th hit the main Pillars simultaneously to prevent it from communicating. They are successful, receiving help from another pilot in the process. Upon landing, Miyako greets one Yayoi Amatsuka, a veteran Valkyrie who travels about to support the efforts against the Pillars. Miyako is particularly thrilled to see her – the two embrace the moment they meet.
- Once episode four is in the books, the remainder of Warlords of Sigrdrifa is focused on the path towards defeating the Pillars, all the while having Sonoka and Azuzu sort out their own personal doubts. By this point in time, while Claudia is less reserved and closed than she had been at the series’ beginning, she still faces her own challenges, Claudia herself appears to hold a special connection with Odin, and this weighs heavily on her. but try as I might, I was unable to appreciate his character. Before we delve into the aspects of Warlords of Sigrdrifa that impacted my experience, I’ll leave readers with one more reason to appreciate Claudia: while the series itself may be inconsistent, what is consistent is the artwork and animation.
- Warlords of Sigrdrifa swings constantly between the grim desolation of warfare, and light-hearted slice-of-life moments, such as when Yayoi takes Miyako, Azuzu, Claudia and Sonoka to her favourite restaurant around, during which she succeeds in convincing Claudia to take on a food challenge worthy of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. The dramatic contrast in such moments is reflected in the dialogue, where base commander Ichiro Satomi and other officers wonder what sort of world would force the use of children in warfare.
- While Claudia demolishes her food challenge, impressing those who witness her feat, Sonoka decides to take a walk, finding it difficult to be in the same room as Yayoi. While Sonoka is reluctant to give up her secrets, it turns out that two years earlier, fearing that Sonoka might be hurt in combat, Yayoi had deliberately disabled Sonoka’s aircraft. However, in the operation, Yayoi lost her entire squadron, and since then, Sonoka has resented her. A part of Sonoka’s growth in Warlords of Sigrdrifa is overcoming this and learning anew to fly for her own reasons.
- One wonders why I’ve chosen not to show any of the combat sequences inside the Fuji Pillar, when for most military-moé series, I usually have a handful of sceenshots dedicated for these moments alone. There is a simple enough answer for this question: the interior of the Fuji Pillar is dark, dank, and camera angles were not conducive for good screenshots. This is one of the challenges about blogging for me – picking and choosing screenshots that offer something to talk about is never easy, and it is often the case that I struggle to find enough screenshots for a post, or else have too many.
- With the first attempt to destroy the Fuji Pillar a failure, I turn my attention towards the bread-and-butter of this post: the justification for why, despite having a clear theme and the makings of an enjoyable series, I did not particularly feel as enthusiastic as Warlords of Sigrdrifa as I normally would about other military-moé series. The reason for this was because of the series’ portrayal of Norse Gods and their role in the events unfolding on Earth. Traditionally, military-moé series like Strike Witches and Sky Girls placed less emphasis on the enemies, using their appearance as the motivation to bring people together and, as they fight a common enemy, learn more about one another, as well as themselves.
- Strike Witches only needed to establish that young women with magical abilities were needed to fight the Neuroi, and the WORMS in Sky Girls were nano-machines of unknown origin, but whose grey-goo-like traits render them a threat, giving Otoha Sakurano, Eika Ichijo and Karen Sonomiya reasons to fight. When the foe becomes established as having a motive (e.g. the Sirens of Azur Lane, Abyssals of Kantai Collection, Vertex in Yūki Yūna Is A Hero and Madoka Magica‘s Witches), there is a need to properly build out reasons why the foe opposes the protagonists, from taking advantage of emotional energy to overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics or take revenge on an unjust cycle. Most of the series I’ve seen have done an adequate job of this, so the antagonists’ existence and goals justify the protagonists’ reasons for fighting.
- By comparison, in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, it turns out that Odin was unable to accept that the world-ending event, Ragnarök, happened long in his past, and in an attempt to bring back the days of old, Odin summoned the Pillars to attack humanity, while at once granting certain young women the power of a Valkyrie so that they could fight and be struck down in combat. Reduced to its components, Odin’s reason for troubling humanity is akin to someone who was displeased about missing an event and is throwing a tantrum in frustration. I get this feeling: missing an event is a disappointment, but in the absence of powers beyond our comprehension, there is no going back and getting that second chance.
- Because Odin’s motivations for this war are so crude, it speaks poorly to his character. In general, Warlord of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin is an affront to the original: the Norse God Odin was a wise and benevolent ruler of Asgard, preferring to take the appearance of an aged wizard when traveling the other Realms (inspiring Gandalf’s appearance). The Marvel Cinematic Universe is faithful to this portrayal, and Anthony Hopkins did a particularly excellent job of conveying Odin’s traits. However, Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin is more of a spoiled brat than a god: I was therefore quite surprised to learn that Yumiri Hanamori voices Odin. I know her best as Anne Happy‘s Hanako, and Yuru Camp△‘s very own Nadeshiko Kagamihama.
- I personally found that Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s portrayal of Norse mythology was a particularly poor one: it was a little disappointing to see Norse Gods as foes of humanity, especially when their original texts presented them as beings with their own agency and challenges. Since a resurgence of interest in Scandinavian mythology during the 19th century, Norse Mythology has become more widespread, and many famous works today are inspired by Norse Mythology, most notably, Marvel’s Thor, and J.R.R Tolkein’s own works. Both Thor and Tolkein offer their own unique spin on the original tales while at once, remaining respectful, but in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, presenting Thor as a dæmonic machine, and Odin as an impertinent child, diminished the credibility of the threat they were intended to present towards Claudia and the others.
- As it was in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, Odin and Thor are only named after the originals, being so radically different that it was not particularly useful to read up on Norse Mythology to see what was being said. The dramatic departure is not a problem in and of itself, but rather, lies in the characterisation and portrayal of these mythological figures as antagonists. Had Warlords of Sigrdrifa eliminated Odin’s child form and purely presented him as a calm, composed God declaring war on humanity to create an army of undead, Warlords of Sigrdrifa would have been all the stronger for it. This single, simple switch would’ve created an antagonist whose presence would’ve given Claudia and the others a more credible foe to fight.
- The real Ragnarök entails the twilight of the Gods, when calamity will erase their world and take out the most powerful gods, including Odin, Thor, Loki and Heimdallr. A handful of Gods will survive, along with two humans who will inherit a renewed world. The point of Ragnarök, then, is that no era or dynasty lasts forever, and change is inevitable. Thor: Ragnarok cleverly built upon this, wherein Thor realised that saving Asgard meant allowing Surtur to destroy Asgard, which defeats Hela; in the chaos, he helps the Asguardians to escape. In Thor: Ragnarok, Odin also accepts his own death, stating that Ragnarök is inevitable.
- The existence of other works, has, admittedly influenced my own expectations for what an antagonist should be like, and so, in this department, Warlords of Sigrdrifa falls short completely. I found Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin more of a nuisance than a threat, existing and fighting for what came across as petty, shallow reasons. This was an impression I initially had from watching Iron Man 3, but upon rewatching this film, I realised that the point of Iron Man 3 was to show that Tony Stark’s attitude meant he had an unfortunate habit of creating his own enemies. Time may yet change my perception of Warlords of Sigrdrifa, but for now, I am not particularly convinced that Odin posed a credible threat to the world, despite the Pillars’ power.
- The final challenge the 909th face before their next shot at the Fuji Pillar was reconciling with one another: Azuzu had been particularly worried about the knowledge she found while in Valhalla, and worries that the plan she’s crafted will be insufficient against the likes of Odin. When Miyako organises a summer festival to lift everyone’s spirits, Azuzu initially rejects Miyako, wondering why Miyako is focused on this when the fate of humanity is riding on a razor’s edge. Once they reconcile, good times are had by all as traditional summer activities, such as goldfish scooping and target-shooting, are on the evening’s iteniary.
- Warlords of Sigrdrifa was at its best when it showed how fellowship and teamwork allows each of the 909th to overcome their challenges: the intensity of the combat sequences and themes of loss, in conjunction with healing and acceptance are what this anime presents well. I found Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka particularly likeable, and their struggles were presented in a satisfactory manner. Even though the rest of Warlords of Sigrdrifa was very shaky, the main characters were consistently strong.
- Miyako manages to pull Azuzu aside for a plane ride together towards the tenth episode’s end: as the finale for the summer festival, she’s mounted fireworks launchers on her aircraft and puts on an airshow for Tateyama’s residence. It’s a quiet moment for the attendees and the 909th: Claudia begins singing a song, tears filling her eyes. This song is of significance in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, signifying that Claudia’s different than the other Valkyries: memory of this song suggests that she is a descendent of the Gods. Beyond this, I’m not sure if there’s an important reference to Norse Mythology that I’m missing out on here.
- I will note that my own knowledge of Norse Mythology is very superficial, being limited to basic background: it would be interesting to hear from someone who’d taken a few courses on Germanic and Scandinavian folk beliefs and mythology to see how well (or poorly) Warlords of Sigrdrifa does things. I’ve long stressed that having extensive supplementary knowledge should not be requisite for enjoying a given work; while folks with the knowledge may be pleased to learn a work has done their research, viewers unfamiliar with the details should still be able to come out with a good idea of what the work had been trying to accomplish.
- Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka ended up being the primary reason why I sat through the whole of Warlords of Sigrdrifa, demonstrating how compelling characters can indeed impact a show. In this case, it was a case of wanting to see how the four overcome their final challenge against Odin, and what awaited everyone on the other side: everyone has, at this point, overcome most of their own inner dæmons and were fighting to protect what had been important to them. This is what motivates the page quote, which I adapted from Captain America’s speech in Avengers: Endgame – it demonstrates the sort of resolve that Sonoka, Claudia, Miyako and Azuzu have entering their final battle.
- While the Pillars are capable of impressive constructs rivalling those of the Neuroi in terms of numbers and scale, I’ve not featured them prominently during the second attempt at the Fuji Pillar for the simple reason that such screenshots were always very dark. Warlords of Sigrdrifa (and The Division 2) showcases the limitations of this blog’s format – in a video format, darkness is less apparent since sound and motion keep the viewer’s attention. However, with static screenshots, important elements become trickier to pick out, and Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s combat sequences are better seen, rather than read about.
- While Claudia engages Odin in a dogfight, Sonoka engages the fallen Valkyries in combat. Miyako focuses on the entity dubbed Thor, leaving Azuzu free to reach the Fuji Pillar’s core. Shield Squadron’s flight ends here: to keep Miyako alive, they sacrifice themselves, and Miyako is ultimately able to destroy Thor with her Ki-44’s custom Hero Cannon, surprised that the mechanics had secretly installed a third cannon to provide her with additional firepower. After fighting Claudia to a draw, Odin retreats to the Pillar’s Core when his aircraft is destroyed, where Azuzu confronts him.
- Azuzu had planned ahead and accounted for Miyako’s stunts, so her initial confrontation with Odin was really just to stall for time. Once Miyako destroys the Fuji Pillar’s core, they conclude that Odin’s greatest enemy was loneliness. With no more cards on the table Odin concedes defeat, and Azuzu finishes him off before all four of the 909th escape the Fuji Pillar, which finally disappears. A part of Ragnarök is acceptance, and Odin’s final decision in Warlords of Sigrdrifa did seem to be at odds with his initial mannerisms. Before I return discussion to the victorious 909th, I have one final remark on Odin: the name Odin was also used in the fall season’s Kamisama ni Natta Hi, a series from P.A. Works: Hina constantly demands to be referred to as Odin. Unfortunately, I did not find myself engaged with Kamisama no Natta Hi after a few episodes. With the introduction of Hiroto Suzuki, an insufferable and impertinent individual, I became sufficiently irritated as to stop watching the series outright.
- Since 2018’s The World in Colours, P.A. Works has not been producing series that caught my eye. This will change soon: Shirobako: The Movie will become available tomorrow, and I do intend on writing about it in the future. On the topic of future posting, I’ve settled on a schedule that I believe will act as a balance between creating new content to keep readers engaged, while at the same time, giving me time to unwind. For the winter anime season, I intend to write about Yuru Camp △ 2 in an episodic fashion, and Non Non Biyori Nonstop will receive a quarterly review format (one for the first episode, and then every three episodes). I am watching The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ second season, as well: I’m planning to take a look after three episodes and then return once the season is done to write about this one at present, although this is not set in stone. Ore dake Haireru Kakushi Dungeon and Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun also look interesting enough to merit a look, as well.
- So, there we have it, the game plan for the upcoming three months. I’ll return the discussion to Warlords of Sigrdrifa, where in the aftermath of their victory, Miyako and Claudia embrace, while Azuzu finally breaks down into a blubbering mess, grateful everyone made it out okay. The combination of facial features used in comedy meant that altogether, it was hard to see Warlords of Sigrdrifa as an all-serious series, although I will note that Yūki Yūna is a Hero employed a similar approach and took viewers for quite a ride. In the end, cheering for the Valkryies is what allowed me to finish Warlords of Sigrdrifa: I had no plans to watch this series originally, since I’d already been waist-deep in shows (to say nothing of the fact I had been writing episodic reviews for GochiUsa BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin at the time), and the premise had always been a little weaker to me.
- With this being said, it was ultimately the characters that led me to continue following Warlords of Sigrdrifa. If memory serves, I was recommended this anime on the virtue that it was similar enough to what I write about, as well as having references to series that I am fond of. However, I note that trivia about voice actresses, the hardware being used or similarities to other series do not impact my enjoyment (or lack thereof) in any way – for the shows I watch, they must stand the test of telling a serviceable story before I look at anything else. Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a curiosity in this department: the characters are likeable, and their development is plausible, but the world-building and rationale was weak.
- Altogether, Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a C (2.0 of 4.0, or 6 of 10 points): I found that the Norse Mythology was unsatisfactorily presented in the series, and Odin’s motivations for waging war against humanity were weak. Moreover, Odin’s personality was particularly grating, unbefitting of a king. However, the magic that is Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka encouraged me to watch this one through to see how’d they fared in the grand scheme of things, and the ending was about as good as could be hoped for. By normal grading conventions, a “C” grade is still passable – Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka ended up being what saved Warlords of Sigrdrifa from being something I failed to complete: even if I was displeased with the world-building and antagonists, the main Valkyries were a compelling bunch that led me to return each week.
- Warlords of Sigrdrifa not something I’d be too willing to recommend to general viewers, and I found that it was overshadowed by Strike Witches: Road to Berlin. Most viewers wouldn’t be missing out on too much should they skip this one, but open-minded folks looking for military-moé could find some enjoyment out of Warlords of Sigrdrifa. With this post now in the books, I’m finished writing about all of the shows I’d followed last season, meaning that I’ve got a clean slate for the latest series. Readers can look forwards to posts on Yuru Camp △ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop in the days upcoming, which fills the void that GochiUsa: BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin leaves behind.
While the first three episodes established Claudia’s understanding of fellowship, the remainder of Warlords of Sigrdrifa is devoted to showing the other characters. In particular, Sonoka learns what it means to continue fighting for the future: after losing her old squadron in combat, she became more distant from others, and harbours resentment towards Yayoi for not fulfilling her promise of looking after wing-mates. It ultimately takes a kick to the rear to motivate Sonoka; having come to understand there is still much to protect and fight for, she is able to find the confidence to fly again: the memories from the fallen continue to live on in her alongside her current friends. Similarly, Azuzu had long felt that she was cursed with knowledge and regards most people with distance, feeling that any failures on her part will only cause suffering. It is only with Claudia encouraging her that Azuzu becomes more confident in her abilities, to the point where she shares her findings with the Tateyama staff and help them in the titanic final battle against the Pillar. In this journey of understanding what companionship means to them, Claudia, Azuzu and Sonoka grow as a team, mustering the resolve and strength to ultimately defeat Odin for the sake of their futures. While Miyako is the most colourful and energetic of everyone amongst the Tateyama Valkyries, she winds up being a static character, eternally optimistic and lively as she strives to maintain the morale of those around her. With her boundless energy and enthusiasm, she manages to pull Claudia and Azuzu out of their slumps, as well as support Sonoka well enough for the latter to find her own path. Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s themes are nothing new, and while the setting is a curious one, the messages are generic enough to be applicable in a wide variety of scenarios. Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka alone carry Warlords of Sigrdrifa, although ultimately, Warlords of Sigrdrifa does not particularly surpass existing military-moé series to an extent as to make it easy to recommend. Folks who enjoy all things military-moé will likely still find Warlords of Sigrdrifa a passable experience, although for most viewers, inconsistencies in the story, a flimsy justification for the villain’s actions and questionable jokes in a few places may be enough of a rationale to give other series a go: while successful in presenting its themes, Warlords of Sigrdrifa feels incomplete in the world-building and story department. With this being said, each of Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka were highly engaging characters, speaking to how there are instances where good characters can still help an anime along.