First Squad: The Moment of Truth [Первый отряд ファースト・スクワッド] (2009)
Starring Elena Chebaturkina, Aleksandr Gruzdev, Damir Eldarov, Irina Savina, Ludmila Shuvalova, Michael Tikhonov, Sergei Aisman, Olga Golovanova, Rudolf Pankov
Directed by Yoshiharu Ashino
Well, that’s an interesting list of actors, isn’t it? As you might have guessed, this is a Russian film, although it was made in cooperation with a Japanese animation studio. It’s like Blade of the Phantom Master in that regard, but thankfully this time the DVD release came with the original Russian audio track, as well as the Japanese and English dubs. Too bad the video quality wasn’t quite up to snuff. Camera panning was often jerky, and at times I got a feeling that the animation was higher quality than what I was actually seeing on the screen. Clearly something about the frame rate was a bit off.
Clumsy video transfer aside, the film is very intriguing. This is probably the first Russian film I’ve ever seen, although with Japanese directing and animation it’s not going to give me much insight into Russian film technique. It’s also the only fictional tale I’ve seen about the Eastern European front in World War II. I suspect it’s a much more common theme in Russian cinema. Since I know very little about that aspect of WWII, I can’t speak to historical accuracy at all, but First Squad portrays the Russian front as a snow-covered network of trenches that looked straight out of the first World War. If nothing else, it made WWII feel fresh and new.