Although many anime series have political overtones in their storylines, very few series present warfare in a realistic portrayal. “Flag” is one of the few anime which take viewers to the front lines of a country similar to Iraq. However, based on what I’ve seen from volume one, “Flag” also highlights the drastically different viewpoint of the Iraq War through a Japanese perspective.
According to the fictional world of “Flag,” Uddiyana is a country in Southeast Asia under political turmoil. After a violent civil war, the U.N.F. finally took over the country and formed a peace treaty between the U.N.F. and the Subashi insurgent group. Saeko Shirasu, a 25-year-old photographer, came with her professor, Dr. Akagi, to take pictures in Uddiyana. During the occupation, Shirasu had taken a photograph of two people praying, silhouetted as a shadow behind the new U.N.F. flag. Ever since she took the photograph, it has been used by the U.N.F. as a symbol of peace between the two countries.
However, a terrorist group of radical Buddhists invaded the U.N.F. embassy and stole the flag. Radical Buddhists. I cannot really fathom that radical Buddhist terrorists would really exist in Southeast Asia. Anyway, the U.N.F. plans to get back the flag as a symbol of their roadmap to peace (sound familiar?). The U.N.F. asked Shirasu if she wanted to join the regiment assigned with mission as an embedded journalist, and she gladly accepted. Dr. Akagi, worried about his student, traveled to Uddiyana to learn more about the insurgent groups of Uddiyana.
While this anime is set in a fantasy world, the world is very similar to the situation in the Middle East. Dr. Akagi visits many groups, such as the Buddhist governing sect, the Gulut, who rules Uddiyana. There are also groups in Uddiyana who believe in Shintoism, but reject Buddhism. Dr. Akagi even meets a young girl who at one point acted as Kuhura the goddess, whom some people in Uddiyana believe in. The animation studio took plenty of time to make this situation as realistic as they possibly could.
The regiment Shirasu was embedded in, however, remains distinctly Japanese. All the soldiers have Japanese mannerisms. Right from the get-go, all the male soldiers stay very generous to female photographer Shirasu, and let her take all the pictures she wants. They even let her plant cameras everywhere, in the helicopters and even in the HAVWC tank. There’s no way that an American regiment would actually permit these actions. In spite of this cultural difference, the group is part of a Bush-styled road map to peace, which according to photographer Akagi, seems highly unlikely to succeed.
However, the cinematography style for the anime is the most amazing part of this series. Animated like a documentary, much of the story takes place from the cameras of these two photographers, Dr. Akagi and Shirasu. Movies with audio are filmed through their cameras. The animators even took the effort to tilt the screen to different angles whenever the photographer dangled the camera to her/his side. A computer even handles the ordering of photos and videos into one 25-minute film.
Although some parts of the anime seem a little too unbelievable, especially the demonstrations of the regiment’s big walking HAVWC robot, “Flag” still shows a realistic portrait of war like no other anime has done before. The quick gunfire action is brutally intense. The photography is well filmed. And oddly enough, this anime was produced by Answer Studios, a new animation studio. This group already shows plenty of promise with their first DVD of “Flag.” Hopefully, they’ll produce more cutting-edge anime like this one.
The dub in English is exceptional, although the military commanders’ English dubs sound much tougher that the Japanese voices in the subtitled version. The English voices have a rougher, masculine American texture to it. Obviously there are many differences reflected between the two countries in this DVD.