Welcome to Tateyama Base!
What’s the Story?
When mysterious pillars suddenly appear all around the world, humanity finds itself on the brink of extinction. Conventional weapons are useless and it’s only through an act of god, namely the Norse god Odin, that the human race stands any chance. Odin has given power to a select few young female pilots, known as the Valkyries, giving them the ability to fight back against the pillars. For Claudia, the favourite ‘daughter’ of Odin, that power is as much a curse as it is salvation, seeing as everyone she flies with ends up dead. Now she’s being transferred to Japan, and while Tateyama Base is unlike any other she’s ever been stationed at before, she wonders how long it will be before her curse catches up with her. It might be sooner than she thinks, Ragnarok is coming and the last stand of humanity starts here!
Part of me wants to say that this show is better than it had any right to be, but that’s really only based on my own preconceptions. I mean I saw the thumbnail on Funimation’s site and thought it was just a Cute Girls Doing Military Things type of show, it’ll be a bit of fluff with the occasional plane zooming by, I told myself. How wrong I was. The girls are certainly cute and they do do military things, but there’s a surprising amount of depth and seriousness to proceedings. For one I was surprised by how little fanservice there is in this series, there are spots of it certainly, a couple of instances of impractical attire for piloting a plane, but not as much as I was expecting. There’s also the beach episode which honestly gets points for how absurd it gets, but it also loses points for dragging out the joke with the support pilots way too long (then again I got bored with their shtick a couple of episodes in and they’re the only real complaint I have about this series).
I first realised this show was doing something more than I’d originally expected when one of the backup pilots actually died, and the whole scene was handled with a surprising amount of gravitas. I mean, for starters, you don’t normally see a lot of death in cute and fluffy shows and maybe I’m just jaded but aren’t background characters usually cannon fodder in these types of shows? Yet this show somehow made me care about this character I’d never met before, everything from the music to the mood and the interactions were just perfect. You felt the impact on all the characters and it was a stark reminder that when this shows says it’s about fighting the end of humanity, it means it. This wasn’t the only death either, this series has a startlingly high body count and all of them are really well done and feel earned, to me at least.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that this series is all grim and gritty. It has its moments where the characters struggle and deal with the events of the series, but there are also plenty of moments where they just relax and have fun. The air base has a really carefree, fun atmosphere to it. Part of that comes from a couple of the character’s personalities as they’re just these really infectiously cheerful or oddball people and I enjoy the way they all interact. The main four girls all have great chemistry together and it’s a joy to watch their distinct personalities bounce off of one another. You feel the friendship that grows between them and they end up as this really tight knit group, supporting one another in their weaker moments and poking fun at one another when they need to. It makes some of the moments towards the end of the series really impactful.
That brings me to the show’s most interesting character, Odin. I’ve seen plenty of interpretations of the god from Norse mythology and, honestly, this is a really intriguing one, especially in anime. I mean I thought all those references to Norse myths was just window-dressing, as it often is in anime, but no, this show goes has something interesting to say. Don’t get me wrong, it’s in no way accurate to the mythology, but taken on its own it’s a really fun twist on the character. Odin is the all-knowing manipulator, rigging the dice and playing his games until he gets the result he wants. When you find out what he’s really been doing this whole time, and what’s motivating him, it makes so much sense for this version of him! I’m impressed the show used the mythology in that way, but I won’t say any more because you should really check it out for yourselves.
All that leaves to talk about is the action and on that front the show finally does as was I was expecting it to. There are some crazy designs for the enemies the girls fight, but nothing too far outside of the geometric shapes and bizarre creatures I’ve seen before in these types of shows. The actual fights are really good though, lots of fact-paced zooming around and aerial acrobatics. Obviously if you’re looking for realistic plane movement I’d suggest looking elsewhere, I’m no expert, but I don’t think any real plane is as fast or as manoeuvrable as these, which is kind of the point. They are magically enhanced planes after all. Still, the air battles are a lot of fun to watch, especially when more and more pilots join in the action and they’re going up against swarms of enemies.
All in all, Warlords of Sigrdrifa, is a lot of fun and a prime example of what can happen when you take your characters and story somewhat seriously. It has its goofier moments, but it also knows when to play things straight and to make sure that characters show the weight of what’s just happened. The characters are all delightful and you feel the bond between them, and the Norse mythology elements get used in a much more interesting way than I was expecting. That’s this show in a nutshell, surpassing my expectations and zooming off to new heights. If you missed this show for whatever reason then you’ve done yourself a disservice. Go back and watch it now!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.