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The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
Girls' Frontline

How would you rate episode 1 of
Girls' Frontline ?
Community score: 3.2

What is this?

In 2045, most of the Earth was ravaged by Collapse Fluid pollution. World War III broke out across the world over limited housing and food. When the war ended, the world was devastated and civilization is on the brink of collapse. Labor shortages have prompted advances in mechanical technology and resulted in the creation of androids that imitate human beings but have abilities that far transcend human capabilities. Similarly, androids known as Tactical Dolls (T-Dolls) are used by private military companies in the frontlines of numerous brushfire wars.

One day, the AI of the munitions company Sangvis Ferri suddenly rebelled against humankind. The "Anti-Rain" Squad, an elite T-Doll squadron belonging to the private military company Griffin & Kryuger, begins to investigate.

Girls' Frontline is based on Sunborn Network's smartphone game and streams on Funimation on Fridays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

Welp, after seeing how successful anthropomorphic ship-girls and sword-boys have been, I guess it's no surprise that anthropomorphic gun girls would be the next ones to appear. Suffice to say, I have some mixed feelings about this one.

To start with, the show begins with an info dump so full of proper nouns that I wasn't sure who the good guys were or which side our squad of gun-girls belonged to. Moreover, I wasn't even sure about the stakes of the conflict. The narration states that an AI soldier producer has gone rogue and a PMC has been hired to find out why, but that doesn't explain what we see in the episode. We follow the AI girls as they fight in a burnt-down town and the surrounding area, trying to retrieve some intel that's not related to the rebels at all. Moreover, the end of the episode reveals that the girls are lacking a commander—despite the fact that someone had to have sent them on this mission. To say I'm confused as to what's going on and why in the larger sense would be an understatement.

However, there was one thing I really liked about this episode: how the AI girls view themselves, their mission, and other AI. The narration suggests that they are both physically and mentally “indistinguishable from humans,” yet, as we see over the course of the episode, they are not treated that way by the humans in charge. A full support squad of older AI has been cut off and left to wander aimlessly, and while our AI heroines sympathize with them, they do end up using them as sacrificial pawns to make their escape. M4A1, in particular, struggles emotionally with the decision, doing everything she can to give the abandoned AI team support right up until the last moment. And, in the end, M4A1 is also forced to abandon her own squad in order to try and get reinforcements, hoping that she can find a commander who will give the order to do so. The implications of this are that the humans designed the gun-girls to be 100% loyal but also gave them the ability to feel empathy and emotional pain at the loss of their comrades. The question here is “why”? And wanting to know the answer might just be enough to pull me back next week.

Caitlin Moore

Girls' Frontline is one of those shows where either it's your thing, or it isn't. Either you're really really into guns personified as cute anime girls having lengthy tactical battles where most of the dialogue is them shouting orders at each other, or you're not. If it's your thing, you'll no doubt be into this episode; if it isn't, you'll probably dip out pretty quickly unless you have some kind of professional obligation.

Not that Girls' Frontline works very hard to convince you if you're not squarely in the intended audience. It spends under a minute on exposition at the start of the episode, and if you didn't immediately commit it to memory then you're not really going to understand why these girls are shooting at each other. Character development? An afterthought. I don't know or really care who these girls are. Costume design? Completely and utterly impractical. Most of them are varying degrees of fetishistic, and while maids who lift their long skirts to reveal their gatling garters are just over-the-top enough to work, others are just kind of battle lingerie and not particularly interesting.

A lot of the episode looks pretty slick, though the choice of having them battle through the night drains the episode of any interesting color design. Funnily, once the sun rises and the skirmish ends, the animation quality drops so hard that it practically looks like another show.

I don't really have much to say about the episode, but the opening sequence deserves special mention. The season so far is rife with shows with far, far better OPs than they deserve, but the hand-painted style set to a pop song was particularly nice. But the actual meat of the episode was just… girls with guns. It either pops your cap or it doesn't.

James Beckett

Girls' Frontline is a show that I wanted to enjoy as the goofy action junk food that it is so clearly aiming to be, but I ended up appreciating it more in concept than in execution. As a rule, I would much rather go with a gacha girl collect-a-thon that has a bunch of combat maidens blowing shit up real good over a generic idol showcase or what have you. I'm a reasonable guy, I'd like to think, and I'm not going to go into a story where the main characters are literally “M4A1" and “AR15" and expect some kind of artistic masterpiece.

Well, Girls' Frontline is certainly no masterpiece, but it isn't a great example of mindless fun, either. You'd think a world populated almost entirely by scantily clad gun-women would be a bit more exciting, but despite the show's best efforts, this premiere isn't as fun as it should be. I was expecting more energy, more high-camp ridiculousness, but the only interesting element of this premiere is the admittedly ridiculous sight of the evil murder maids that lift up their skirts to show off their nethers and shoot people with their garter-guns.

Everything else feels very muted and vague, though. The plot and setting are little more than thinly explained excuses for over-long fight scenes, and none of the girls have enough personality to carry an individual scene on their own, much less a whole episode. The visuals are also too muddy and muted, and half of the episode is covered in an awful blue filter for the nighttime scenes, and there's no reason for any anime to have ugly day-for-night-effects.

I didn't hate Girls' Frontline, and it might feature just enough spectacle to serve as adequate background noise for folding laundry, but I just can't get excited about it. If the works as any kind of junk food, then it's the anime equivalent of a gas station hamburger: It will technically serve its purpose as food to put in your mouth, and it probably won't hurt you, but it remains a greasy option of last resort for desperate travelers who simply need something, anything, to hold them over until their next proper meal.

Nicholas Dupree

Making an adaptation of this kind of gacha-based mobile game is always a difficult balancing act. As the narrative aims of mobile games have grown in scale, so have their roster of characters/units, until these days even the simplest of phone games have sprawling storylines and enormous casts, usually set in complicated and high-concept worlds that take a lot of time to fully explain. That's certainly the case with Girls' Frontline. But instead of trying to portion out exposition and ease newcomers in, this premiere sees fit to throw the anime audience into the deep end with no more than a few sentences of explanation for why we're following android girls named after real-life firearms as they fight a combat maid robot in an abandoned church.

Granted, once we get into the actual plot of this episode, it's fairly easy to get a grasp of what's going on. You've got a squad of uniquely designed robo-girls trying to get some valuable data out of enemy territory, they fight some generic robot girls, then fight some less generic robot maids who have big old guns hidden under their skirts. Everything else involving rogue AIs and booty-short-wearing robo-soldiers is just post-apocalyptic set dressing. The rest of this premiere is just pure action, as M4 and her companions try to fight their way through waves of enemies to escape.

Unfortunately the production isn't quite up to snuff to handle that many gunfights. While the OP features lavish and stylized visuals with some fantastic compositing, the rest of the show's visuals hover around average and occasionally dip into a rushed first draft. Isolated moments, like M4 commanding the support units while her squad runs through the snow at daybreak, look really cool. The climactic fight against the robo-maids is well-paced and has a strong back and forth, even if it's nothing to write home about as an animation showcase. But everything else just looks dark, muddy, and a bit too stiff to really sell the danger of gun-toting androids duking it out. This could maybe be alright if the characters were interesting, but outside of very broad personality types none of our quartet of ladyguns leaves much of an impression.

Overall this premiere is just kind of a disappointment. There's definitely room here for a fun action show, and so far they've done an admirable job making this whole story feel accessible even if you haven't played the mobile game. But unless the animation is able to deliver I can't imagine this will turn out as anything but a gunmetal gray slog. Other than that, the biggest impression this left on me was that I really want to see what the Arknights anime does with its unholy mess of a story.

Rebecca Silverman

Hmm, which do I dislike more about Girls' Frontline, the fact that someone decided that humanized weapons should look like cute girls in maid costumes, bathing suits, or outfits with flowing scarves or that all of said girls are named after assault rifles and similar weaponry? It's a real toss-up. But what I can say is that this episode was emphatically not for me, not just because of the aforementioned issues, but also because its action and plot didn't come across particularly well – it's rarely a good sign when there's a jargon-filled recap before the episode actually starts.

It's also painfully obvious that this is a show based on a mobile game with gatcha elements and that this episode was desperately trying to cram as many of the recognizable characters in as possible. Even with that, our main heroines appear to be the team lead by M4A1, which includes M4SOPIII and AR15. The girl-guns are all Tactical Dolls (or T-Dolls) created to fight in WWIII, but now years later they're still fighting, and damned if I could catch the reason why. Possibly this is because I was goggling at the maid T-Dolls, who fight by lifting up their long skirts to nearly-panty-baring level and using their underskirt machine guns, which is precisely as ridiculous looking as it sounds.

But it may also be because the reason why they're still more or less at war isn't actually all that important; it feels like the fighting is much more of the show's raison d'être than any plot. There are token efforts at it – M4 needs to download crucial information from an old computer and keep it out of the hands of the enemy, so there is at least a token effort. It definitely seems like the T-Dolls are still under the control of the few remaining humans as well, so there could be more going on here than I'm giving the episode credit for. But right now it's simply leaving me cold and a bit disgusted. If gun violence isn't a button for you, or if you've played the game this may have more appeal.

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