What’s it about? In the year 2020, the Pillars appeared on Earth, becoming an existential crisis for human civilization. When the might of the world’s military did nothing to stop them, Odin appeared before the world leaders offering them one last gambit: the Valkyries. Fast-forward to 2025: the Valkyries prove effective in giving humanity a means to fight back, but they are far from a decisive victory. Among them, Claudia Braford is an unparalleled ace from Europe, but her atrocious casualty-rate for wingmen has earned her the nickname, “The Grim Reaper.” Aware she is a potential jinx, Claudia uneasily joins a new unit in Japan to replace their fallen ace.
Content warning: Non-graphic deaths.
I approached Sigrdrifa as just another show that plays to military and airplane otaku sensibilities—that is to say, I figured this was gonna be one of those vaguely nationalistic Call of Duty recruitment ads for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, like other shows about cute girls fighting in the military. However, I was somewhat surprised.
Though rooted in Japanese girls kicking ass through military might, the show presents its premise in a fantastical way. With an emphasis on mid-20th century European fighter planes, it captures the drama and action of a dog-fight for the acrobatic skill of its pilots rather than reeking of jingoistic “
America Japan Fuck Yeah.”
The show, however, seemingly does not entirely lack political messaging either. The series takes place at the Tateyama Air Base in Chiba Prefecture. Those stationed at Tateyama are presented as overly affable and easy going.
You’re first introduced to the base commander when he’s clipping his toe-nails, the mechanics are led by a stogie but reliable grandpa, and the local civilians come to hang out and play soccer on the base grounds, even amidst a military lockdown. Sigrdrifa is here to tell you the military is really nice and approachable, which definitely has been Japan’s new aim at reaching new recruits amidst falling enrollment numbers.
As a story about four ace pilots fighting to save the earth, however, I was pleasantly entertained. Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka greet Claudia with open arms and the group is quick to bond. No one, even the quiet and innocent 14-year-old Sonoka, appear out of place, despite the fact that they’re fighting with their lives on the line.
It’s also worth noting there’s nary a panty-shot in sight. While the show does resort to an occasional cockpit shot of the girls gripping their centre sticks (which means a censored crotch shot for the girls wearing skirts), the show doesn’t unnecessarily sexualize girls inside and outside their planes.
The girls, Miyako especially, are animated, excitable and easy to follow. Claudia, even while dragging the cloud of dread over her fears of leading her new squadmates to their doom, doesn’t let her personal drama stagnate the overall energy of the story. While maintaining the hint of danger that Odin himself dubbed her the “Grim Reaper,” Claudia finished off her first day on the job in Japan with a spark of hope that maybe, this time, things will finally be different.
The show had honestly sold me by the mid-point of the first episode, but the double-length premiere drove it all home with a flashy, exciting and well-composed epic battle that made me want to reinstall Ace Combat once I was through.
In starting the episode, I will note that I was overtaken by a short bout of mania as I was reminded just how much of a wild fantasy Sigrdrifa portrays. As much as Japan Sinks 2020 and Gibiate are a product of the hellscape that is inexplicably this year, it’s not lost to me that Sigrdrifa also happens to start in July of 2020.
I couldn’t help but cackle at the thought that world leaders would unite against the pillars and, absurdly enough, the U.S. would display competent leadership. Truly, this world is a fantasy.
And so I’ll keep watching this fantasy, lulled with the beautiful idea that, while we live in the hellscape of 2020, we’re somehow able to survive with competent and affable leadership.