The 2nd Dimension

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Viewing Journal: Flag (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= C+
Story = C+
Video = C+
Audio = B


In 20xx, a civil war broke out in a small country in Asia in spite of the dispatch of UN forces. But a picture taken by accident in the battle field accelerates the peace process. It is a picture of a flag which became the symbol of peace. However, just before the peace agreement is achieved, the flag is robbed by an armed extremist group in order to obstruct the truce. The UN decides to send SDC (Special Development Command) and a cameraman to record their activities. That cameraman is Shirasu Saeko - the cameraman who took the picture of the flag. Armed with the HAVWC (High Agility Versatile Weapon Carrier), Saeko documents their journey. (Source: ANN)

There's no doubt that Flag used an original concept -- at least for an anime. It tells its entire story through cameras, photographs, security videos, and news clips. But mostly it's told through the camera lens of the main character Sirasu Saeko and occasionally that of her "senior" Keiichi Akagi.

And this gimmick is pulled off with surprising believability. The camera might just be sitting on a cafeteria table or hanging around Sirasu's neck, so you might just see a hand or leg or even just the ground while a conversation goes on. This adds a good deal of realism to the story. That sense of realism is supported by the complexity of the storyline and the culture of the fictional country in which the story is taking place.

Unfortunately, a number of elements disrupt that sense of realism. First of all, the whole concept of a single flag being critical to a country's peace negotiations was hard for me to accept. But even given that, the worst flaw of the show is the fact that it throws mecha into the mix. That totally disrupted any sense of realism that that it might have been otherwise shooting for. Not that I expect total plausibility in my anime, but it just seems a waste for a show like this that is so successful at using realistic camera angles, to essentially negate that by bringing in a concept like humanoid mecha.

Although, even if it didn't have the mecha, I think the whole gimmick of using the camera to tell the story started wearing on me after three or four episodes. After that point I had gotten over the novelty of the concept and it started to get downright annoying because it seemed like it was getting in the way of the storytelling instead of enhancing it. It was frustrating because it seemed like I wasn't getting the whole story. Although I guess that was kind of the whole point, but it still doesn't do much for the series' entertainment value.

As far as the art and animation, it was pretty average. The only thing that really stands out is -- again -- the realism of the camera angels and movement and video quality. So the camera might be out of focus, or jittery while the cameraman is running, or other things like that.

The music also really sticks out in this show as enhancing that sense of realism. There isn't a lot of music here, but when there is -- from the opening to the closing credits and everything in between -- it's subtle but often packs an emotional punch and enhances that realism.

So as you can tell, the theme of this review is "realism". If the show would have taken that theme and carried it throughout the story and maybe cut down the episode count (even thirteen episodes seemed to be too much), then it could have been a phenomenal show. But despite the flaws, the extent to which the show takes "camera" concept really is impressive.

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