A second Poplar post in the same month? NANI?!
Yeah, I guess I’m as surprised as you are. I finally seem to be getting a break from IRL work; though, knowing my record, I shouldn’t say that. I’ll probably end up busier than ever now. The holidays are on their way, after all. And this year I work in a supermarket. Uh oh. Can’t be any busier than New-Year’s Eve line-cooking, right?
Anyhoo, this is a review of the very first episode of Sigururi: One of those anime that takes inspiration from Norse mythology and ends up with slightly-daunting kana that you have to repeat to yourself 3 times slowly before you’re confident you’ve got it correct: シグルドリーヴァ. As of my writing this, I have only watched the first episode, so naturally this review will be different from the ones I’ve done in the past, where I go over how the entire series made me feel from start to finish. The story may get significantly better or worse after the first episode, and I’d have no clue; so do keep that in mind!
You may be wondering about this post’s title. There are two reasons this show took me by surprise: Number one is that it’s a show about planes– the zoomy-through-the-airy sort with wings and engines, which I don’t have much interest in, in anime or IRL. Reason two being that I don’t have the best track record with CGDMT (Cute Girls Doing Military Things) anime. I thought Haifuri was okay; I never really understood the appeal of KanColle or its Chinese knockoff; and Girls und Panzer annoyed me into dropping it with its excessive use of German in the supposedly-English subtitles. Maybe I’ll try Panzer again someday, without the subtitles, now that I have achieved Weeaboo Godhood and can understand (most) anime without translations. But until then? Well, you get the point.
One of the first things that lifted my hopes about this anime was the run time of its first episode: about twice as long as your typical 24-minute episode. This tells me straight away that the creators are really going all-out in getting the audience hooked. And I’d say they did a terrific job, overall, with charming characters, exciting battle sequences, and a competent (if somewhat generic) plot.
One of the trademarks of CGDMT, I’ve noticed, is the foes they fight are often giant, generic kaiju, not humans– and when they are humans, the stakes usually are not deadly ones– which is also something I’m not a huge fan of. It’s understandable; I suppose the blood and death aspect would take away from the cuteness to some extent (See Cross Ange), which is usually a Cute Girls™ series’s main objective. I have some thoughts on whether or not that’s a good main objective, but hey, I don’t make the rules.
Sigururi differs from this trope only in that the main character, one Claudia Bruford, is colloquially-known as a Shinigami, or God of Death. Virtually every ally who goes up into the air to fight by her side gets killed in action, leaving her as the sole survivor. It is with this bit of knowledge about her that the story begins. So, when the show inevitably starts introducing you to the colourful array of side characters… well, their odds of survival don’t seem very good. The best thing about this is that the side characters are colourful, each with their own unique charm, increasing your chances of actually feeling something if one of them were to die.
That’s not to say I expect any of the main cast of supporting Cute Girls™ to get killed– and it’s not like I’d necessarily want them to; but that would certainly take guts. And I respect anime with guts enough to kill off any of its main characters. But I wouldn’t put it past this series if, say, one or all of these three guys featured below were to die making some valiant and emotional sacrifice to save the day later on, and maybe make Claudia start doubting herself again. Unlike other CGDMT anime, this one seems willing to include at least a few real stakes.
Also worth noting is how elegantly this episode transitions between slice of life and action. This is in part due to the generous 50-minute run time of the episode, but it’s also just well-handled in general. The characters at a glance are your typical tropey, larger-than-life anime fare, albeit with more soul to their design than what you might come to expect from simpler works in this genre. The Cute Girls™ in particular seem lovingly crafted, with personalities and interactions that I felt were elevated by their respective tropes, rather than confined. But your mileage may vary.
Tateyama Base serves as relaxing, peaceful setting, replete with vibrant scenery, playful children, and Japanese curry. It’s great for letting the characters interact naturally and form bonds that are further solidified during epic dogfights above the ocean. There is a fine balance maintained between character development, plot development, and action, and I think if any one of those things were lacking, absent, or done to excess, I would have been significantly less attracted to this series.
It’s always encouraging when you can tell that at least some of the staff were having a good time developing it, especially in an industry as demanding as that of anime. Again, you see this with the character design and quality of the battle sequences, but also in some other… stranger ways. I don’t know what to call what I’m about to show you. An Easter Egg? A random little joke? For just a brief moment, at a certain point when Azuzu is yelling (she does that frequently), we are given these two frames:
It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” sort of thing as it happens in the episode, which was why I wasn’t able to get screenshots of it without the streaming bar getting in the way. Why they chose to literally put the words she’s saying (in Japanese!) in her mouth (in English!) is beyond me. It seemed like a completely spontaneous decision and it gave me a chuckle.
As you can no doubt tell, I had a surprisingly good time watching this, and I’ll definitely continue watching. My only fear is that the quality may drop after the first episode, as they clearly sunk so much time and effort into it. As important as it is to hook the viewer early and make a good first impression, I’d hate to see the following episodes suffer for all this extra effort. Overall? I’m quite impressed. However, having angel wings sprout out of your biplane will never not be hilarious.
I think that’s all I wanted to say about this episode. Very rare for me to have this many opinions about a single episode of an anime; but then I suppose it was the length of two episodes. Whilst I might not do this for every single episode of this anime, I might write a follow-up article after I’ve finished watching the whole series. I kinda like this format for reviews– a “First Impressions,” followed by a more complete “Final Impressions” afterward, discussing what I got right, what I got wrong, and everything that happens after. Are you watching Senyoku no Sigrdrifa this season? What do you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts– just try not to spoil anything for me!