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Ghost Canyon

'First Squad'
(Elena Chebaturkina, Cassandra Lee Morris, et al / DVD / NR / (2009) 2012 / Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Overview: 'First Squad' is set during the opening days of World War II on the Eastern Front. Its main cast is a group of Soviet teenagers with extraordinary abilities; the teenagers have been drafted to form a special unit to fight the invading German army.

DVD Verdict: In truth, if you don't know what "live action" anime is, well, you might be put off by this wonderful film. Coming complete with English, Japanese and Russian language tracks, watching it with the Russian subtitles is fun becuase we assume that's how the Russian producers envisioned us to!

Anyway, moving on, 'First Squad' in "live action" is a great start to what, hopefully, could be a series someday soon. As others in my group have mentioned, it feels like a pilot for a new series. Hopefully we'll see more of Nadya, Colonel Below and Nadya's dead comrades in the future.

The animation is interspersed with mockumentary "present day" sequences, where Soviet and German war veterans, historians and psychologists comment on real historical events and the events of the plot as if they were historical.

That said, all in all it did seem like an unfinished experience, but now I'd like to see the original cut with the live action "interviews" included! Simply for reference, of course.

A great start to something, but fans will long for more. The ending does leave you feeling cheated, but the 50 minutes or so before that is really fun and quite visually stunning. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.