Valentine Visits and Duel Dates.
I keep debating if “dual dates” would be the better alliteration gag above the fold. So as a gift, I am keeping it here, so you get two for one.
The “Message” chapter of the original mobile game for Girls’ Frontline has two stories running in parallel. It covers different times in the same combat area. The player Commander and their own units are creating diversions, trying to provide space for another team to do their own work. Squad 404, the black ops group teased at the end of the previous episode of the anime adaptation, has something they are aiming to get to the bottom of without being noticed. Shenanigans involving the final missing Anti-Rain Team member (M16A1) and another Sangvis Ferri boss unit (Intruder) complicate matters further.
For an adaptation which has in certain episodes pushed itself to the guardrails trying to cram a whole lot into a little bit of space, a multiparter is yet again a welcome choice.
There are folks who may be watching the Girls’ Frontline anime independent of the outside game or manga material. You may also still be reading these posts looking for little tidbits and insights from an experienced player. So, out of an abundance of caution as we head into the back half of the show: I just want to point out I will aim to avoid explicit spoiling of upcoming larger plot points until they happen on screen.
Heck, the anime may even decide to throw its own unique curveballs in the back half of the season. We will see.
As for what did happen in this episode, the first half bulks up some set dressing and character moments the game plot was not spending much time on at this stage.
During the Squad 404 parts of the game story, UMP45 makes a crack about this being the same location from where Agent attacked the AR Team. Which, as the Commander is giving Squad 404 the diversions they need to do their work, means Griffin forces are also operating in the same general area as those scenes. How M4A1 and her team would feel about going back to this area was not something the game touched on at the time.
But it creates a clear opportunity to work on this angle in future retellings, and the television version of this is well paced. M4A1 is uncomfortable during the mission briefing. Kalina tries to tell a joke to smooth things over, which only makes it worse. M4A1 and ST AR-15 have a conversation in an indoor training room firing range. All the while, Commander Gentiane tries to keep an eye on things from afar.
There is a degree of trust for how things can work out between her units without her direct intervention, yes.
At the same time, Gentiane is also having an internal debate with herself. How little she knows, and by extension how little there is to act on.
Which is indeed the case for both the player or anime viewer at this stage. We have been rather zoomed in to one small corner of the conflict.
It is a fitting line of thought. We move this week to intercepted communications, larger plans being afoot, and some additional characters with longer implied but for now unspoken histories.
The world is wider than playing childhood tag in the woods, as it were.
For the time being this week, little attention was paid to Gentiane’s units fighting trash mobs.
Their deployment scenes revolved more around locating a corpse of G43 from the opening episode. Intruder, while mentioned by name, does not have an appearance this week. Unlike Executioner or Hunter did before their more significant showings.
Which leaves more time for the thing important enough for the show to break format and provide a next episode teaser for: the anime debut of Squad 404.
To make an aside to mechanics and features from the mobile game: this feels like a time to talk about the Oath system.
As I mention time and again throughout these posts, Girls’ Frontline took a lot of initial notes from Kantai Collection. Among these, KanColle features a Marriage system. This bestows various benefits upon a particular character a player may fancy. Extra lines if they are the character on your home screen, for instance. Oath is the Girls’ Frontline system equivalent. Each character has a personal trust meter, and this needs to be maxed out before you have the option to gift them a ring. Rings, as you may imagine for a mobile game, are a premium currency Gem purchase.
As anyone with experience in Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, or similar games could tell you: there are ways to bestow piles of gifts for an affection meter to go up. Just keep throwing ice cream, or whatever else, at the target of your affection. But, deploying characters in successful battles is the traditional route. After all, you should like to use the characters you like the most. Winning and coming home safe and sound time and again will gain points. If characters are destroyed in battle or see their friends blown apart however, it hurts their feelings. Even if they are androids who can be repaired or restored.
Think of classic action movie scenes, such as a character not quite making it to a closing door in time and needing to be left behind. Even if their comrades knew they could be restored from a prior backup, it would be.. Odd to see them milling about the lounge the next day. There would be no memory on their side of any of it. Meanwhile the others remember all the heartbreaking details of how sideways the mission went.
Gentiane has made a few remarks touching on this direction over the course of the series, and how she does not view her units as expendable.
All of which is to say, I have played enough of the mobile game over the years to have three characters with Oath rings.
One is quite new: Ouroboros, a Sangvis Ferri boss unit who may not appear in this show.
Her ring came as part of a prize package, of all things. I was a recent finalist in the 2022 Girls’ Frontline creative letter writing contest for the global English server. As a community Valentine’s event, folks writing letters to characters is a unique spin outside of more traditional art or cosplay contests.
My other two rings are held by Squad 404 members UMP45 and UMP9.
I put all of this into this post for a few reasons.
For one, it fills out the post more without me regurgitating things blow by blow or making an accidental spoiler spill for the anime-only crowd. Either during the HK416 versus M16A1 fight, or the latter having a long standoff conversation with UMP45 after the battle.
As the anime makes it quite clear: all three characters have some vicious background history which needs to work itself out.
HK416’s grudges against M16A1 are enough for their fight to warrant a deployment drop of the anime title theme song. While shorter than the M4A1 duel and talk against Executioner, on a shot to shot basis this one was much stronger. I hope the big fans of either enjoyed the moment.
For another, this is the UMP45 debut episode. It is appropriate, if not necessary, to mention the Oath status of my own version of her in the mobile game. I would like to think I have written enough posts over the years and turned my brain inside out in my own self critical ways to account for this sort of thing. I am confident enough to allow myself to think I am beyond mere “UMP45 was in this episode, therefore it was Good” type write-ups. But, a little extra disclosure never hurt anybody. Her story and arcs are among my favorite in the game.
Besides: the flip-side here also means I would be one of the first in line to be disappointed if she had a poor showing. It would set her up so bad for any future appearances. She is an important major event character, and I want to see some of those realized and animated.
On this front, UMP45 had a great day.
UMP45, voiced by Tomomi Mineuchi, has a particular vocal style to her performance. Her usual lines carry various equal measures of taunting, friendliness, the feeling she could kill folks with a napkin let alone an entire gun, mockery, singsonginess, and so on. Within the short bursts of main menu assistant lines or battle quips, the voice gives her a lot of presence within the phone game.
As a point of comparison, consider Aoi Yuki’s well known voice for Shuten Douji in Fate Grand/Order. There is a lot of range within how she performs the role. All the mixing and weaving of what type of fun or dangerous conversation a character is having with her, as they try in desperation to keep up. She should feel something like an apex predator going about their casual business.
Needing to hold full vocal conversations while maintaining UMP45’s expected demeanor is a big ask. There is a fine line where she could sound ridiculous or far over the top. She needs to feel as, if not even more, dangerous than HK416, despite never firing a shot herself.
So for me, the hope of a Girls’ Frontline anime providing at least a few minutes of swell UMP45 time has materialized. If you have been reading these week to week, you well know how up and down I have been at points. But if trying to watch a show week to week is worth anything, it is in trying to catch and ride those swings.
By a complete fluke of television schedules, this episode happened to air over Valentine’s Day weekend.
For gacha game anime adaptations when pre-existing players want to see their favorites, I can accept this accidental media gift.
It has been snowing here as I type all this. In the show, it was raining.
“The rain fell. On the plains.”