The first episode of the Valkyria Chronicles anime just aired, and already the fansubbers are hard at work, for drama, internet fame, and the benefit of anime-lovers everywhere.
Well then, what's it like? Has my beloved source material been butchered?
Watch and see, and read below for my impressions! Don't worry, there's really nothing in this ep that's worth leaving unspoiled. Keep in mind, this is not an official release, just fansubbing. There has been no announcement yet of local licensing.
There are already two subber groups at work, with Doremi providing the ones shown below. Personally I recommend the subs by Ayako, as they seem to have better editing. Due to the differences in terminology and naming conventions neither shows much experience with the game itself, though. I won't point to any torrents, but if you don't know where to find them yourself, it's likely that you aren't interested anyway. (Protip: Tokyotosho)
Right off the bat game-players can tell that the changes were minor, but meaningful. Read on!
Alicia > Welkin
Unlike the original, the plot initially follows Alicia rather than Welkin, and proceeds along to Welkin's arrest. That move was good, because in the game I was initially off-put by the arrest in the first place. My first thoughts at that scene in the game were "What's with this obnoxious junior fascist? He was just nerding out over fish!" With the change in focus, Alicia's concern is more understandable, which makes her easier to relate to, and thus like.
Welkin = Dolt
On the other hand, that obnoxiousness seems to have been grafted onto Welkin, who's portrayed as even more of a thickheaded lump than he already was in-game, barely noticing that he was under arrest for espionage, or that there was even a war on. He does show his leadership potential and talent later in the episode, and makes jokes about misplaced priorities (trout > war), but I sure hope they cut down on his being a prat as the story goes on.
Idealistic Youngsters > Cynical Old People
Already we've seen that the generic town guards have been replaced by named characters, such as faint-prone Susie and the bickering Jean and Miguro. Furthermore, Alicia is no longer the Watch Captain, which was quite difficult to fathom in the game. When she attempts to report in to her superiors (who are complaining about the lack of militia support), she's quickly dismissed as a child. That's far easier to believe and is certainly more appropriate, but it also sets up another cliche adults-versus-youth conflict later on. Hopefully the diverse cast of Squad 7 will mediate that cliche.
Raven-Haired Lolis = Jews?
Unlike the game, the episode shows off the anti-Darcsen prejudice early, using a standoff between Isara and Alicia. Combined with the series' replacing the game's preamble (which was about the war) with a summary of the Valkyria legend, that seems to imply a greater concentration of the game's more fantastic elements. That might a disappointment fans who favored the hard-edged war story, but it also seems appropriate to the changed medium. More on that below.
Sketch Lines = Meh
Visually, the show has maintained the game's "sketch lines", and are some other minor design changes are interesting, such as in Imperial soldiers no longer having faceplates, which humanizes them to a satisfying degree.
Conclusion: Game > Anime
In conclusion, the show is quite competently made and is also very faithful so far, but has been robbed of novelty and impact by the transition from game to anime. The videogame environment, especially in the west and on the PS3, is quite lacking in games that trade in the anime aesthetic and its tropes, and Valkyria Chronicles made a big splash. However, the anime environment by nature is made of anime aesthetics and tropes. For example, where the game's sketch lines and pastel colors gave a sharp contrast to its serious story, we see that all the time in various anime shows. Furthermore, the sketch line effect specifically has been done before, and to a much more expressive degree, such as in Gankutosou/The Count of Monte Cristo.
What does this bode for the future of the series? Nothing much, really. It's a good story so far and looks nice, if a little lacking in comparison to more high-budget productions (I just finished Macross Frontier, so everything looks kinda crappy right now), but it's simply more generic in its new medium. The big fish has been thrown into a bigger pond.
What interests me more is if folks will be inspired to buy the game, and how they'll be prioritizing their releases, especially if the show goes overseas. Will Valkyria Chronicles be more popular as an anime? Will people think of it as anime/manga first, game second, as they currently do with Sakura Taisen (whose situation is more acute since the games were never released in English)?
Of course, this hardly changes my personal opinion of the game. In my opinion greater distribution of its content can only be a good thing, even if the console warrior in me rages at rumors of a 360 port.
WATCH THIS, THEN BUY THE DAMN GAME. SELVARIA IS SEXIER IN IT, IF THAT'S ANY CONSOLATION.