Title: Senyoku no Sigrdrifa / Warlords of Sigrdrifa
Length: 1 x 48 minute episode & 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Action, comedy
Year of release: 2020
There’s a malignant problem in anime. I understand why it’s the way it is, but the fact remains that it’s there – anime rarely, truly, conclude. Whether they’re manga adaptions of a section of the source material, or leaving the finale open for sequels, it’s common place to get to the final episode and not have everything wrapped up.
Senyoku no Sigrdrifa is not an anime like that. It finishes.
And… I kinda wish it didn’t. It’d be a lot better if it didn’t.
Let’s start at the top. Sigrdrifa feels like a mobile game adaption. Those in the know will click on what I mean, but I’ll explain anyway: it’s got a monumentally designed cast. Background characters have thought put into them, such that when they show up, it feels like a cameo. It feels like, somewhere, there’s a story written about that character, and those that have experienced that story will go ‘oh, hey, that was cool!’ Sigdrifa does it right so that it’s not forced or ‘decidedly uncool’ for everybody that doesn’t know them, but the fact is that Sigrdrifa is an original anime – there’s only one way to find out what those characters do, and that’s seeing them in action. And they don’t get a chance.
And then Sigrdrifa ends.
The European commander of Valkyries talks to the main character, Claudia, in the double-length first episode. She is haughty, in a way, but there seems like there’s some kind of a depth or strained relation between her and Claudia making her act that way, and the two other Valkyries at that base – they had names but barely showed up again – suggested a difference in their rapport with her, too. She and those two European valkyries are even in the OP in a chorus cut, so I was sitting all series waiting to see them debut, see their moment. It never came.
Sigrdrifa had other priorities.
Not that its other priorities were bad… the fourth episode shot the comedy up to max which ultimately ended up jarring with the rest of the series from then-on. But, hey, when it’s this whacky, I also don’t want it to go. It’s a balancing act fitting this everything in, and it’s hard to point to any one thing to say that should have been on the chopping block to give other things more time.
Now, that would be fine. I feel I should be able to accept that, compartmentalising that Sigrdrifa is not that. It has an oddly colourful background cast who will never have their stories told, and a five year timeline or war that it will never have key events depicted. That means that what we’re left with is what we’ve got – and it’s mildly amusing, if a little dry.
Up until episode five, the series comprises episodic shenanigans of Claudia and the folks at Tateyama Base – the boonies, far away from tense combat – having small low-stake missions to run against the alien pillars. One particular episode, where the gang are in swimsuits for #Jokes is slapstick gold. At episode five, however, it shifts from that into a plot heavy scenario, with urgency and meaning and tension and stakes as the world is on the line. Neither side of this dichotomy is given enough development to hold the series’ raison d’etre down.
Of course, I feel I should it works well enough in that it never becomes a disaster, but that’s the best praise I’ve got for Sigrdrifa’s overall pitch. Claudia gets to know the girls a little bit, forms a decent rapport, and then they go off to war with the power of friendship at their sides. It’s awfully competent, with some occasionally stunning looking aerial battles (if, perhaps, a little low on awing aerial choreography), and a script that is great at bringing the character’s funny sides out without relying on too many info-dumps. But by the end, even if I did enjoy their back-and-forths, hijinks and exciting fights, I didn’t really know who the characters were beyond their character sheets, and the series’ low-use of actual exposition and rush into combat meant that I never felt I had enough context to really care beyond the credits.
And, for reference, the pillars that the group fight, and the aerial aliens summoned? Even by the end of the series, I’d only seen the climactic boss actually harm anything – the others were apparently a threat, but I was never told of their exploits and never shown the damage they did. I knew something of how the enemy worked, but it was the final episode before I saw them seeming to actually antagonise. It’s not a good look, handwave it away if you’re into it, but looking back… yikes.
Much of the actual exposition ties into the plot, where we learn a bit about Norse mythology. An abridged version, mind you – credit where credit is due, Senyoku no Sigrdrifa doesn’t like idiot-dumping us much. Eventually, the crew learn bits about Ragnarok, and the female pilots, Valkyries, have reasons behind their (often antique) planes being slightly (but not often demonstratedly-so) magical. Even that didn’t get the time to become much, with Claudia, Azu, Miyako and Sonoka shouting their love of humanity at the All Father being the major climax an episode or two after the reveal, and that’s all the purpose of that really was.
I liked Azu, the confident, smartass member of the crew. She was a prodigal genius, and I don’t know why she was like that, but she was funny and cute and said some amusing things. Miyako was the energetic one of the cast, who had some fun things to say as well, and her unending sweetness always came across in just the right way to feel genuine. Sonoko had the closest thing to an arc out of the Tateyama-pilots, who dealt with her past with another pilot but… it felt a little rushed. And Claudia went from aloof and friendless to a member of the gang, even picking up the other’s habits – it felt well done, but it just didn’t have the oomph to carry the whole series alone.
That’s where Sigrdrifa fails, you see. It’s got its fingers in several pies and none of them are given the dedication to be the ‘oomph’ factor to make the series worth watching. Some of the serious bits didn’t add enough for their length, some of the comic bits didn’t justify taking time away from elsewhere, some bits were too short. No individual factor was particularly a problem, or wouldn’t be if it had the breathing room to get away with its pacing. Double the episode number, keeping the same quality of episodics, comedy but showing a bit more of the world and a more interesting conflict, and you’d have a pretty great series, I reckon. The final stand (or, flight) that the crew make might mean a bit more if I got to grip with the cast or felt for them more, and the laugh-out-loud comedy might feel less of a time-waste.
I was a little sad to see this mildly amusing series end because it had so much more to tell, and could have been quite good if it got around to all of that – not because of the story it actually told. That was mediocre. Still, I hear it’s got a couple of prequel light novels, padding out the stories of some of those background faces. Not that I care all that much.