In 1943, NAZI Germany started focusing its research in URDA, a secret project that would change the outcome of the war if successful. The Allies, in an effort to stop URDA, send special operative Elena, a woman with exceptional combat skills and no memory of her past, to obtain information and end the threat once and for all. After infiltrating, it becomes obvious that Elena was strongly bound to the project and the people involved. Now that her past, present and future are about to collide, what will she discover about herself?
summary by Griveton
Highs: Direction; Elena/Clis relation
Lows: Soulless animation; empty secondary characters; awkward action scenes
Romanov Hige, much like Shinkai Makoto, is building his career as an independent anime producer, obtaining a DVD release for URDA after participating in the DoGA CGA contest, which not long ago gave Shinkai a jumpstart with the short film She and Her Cat.
URDA has the foundations of a mind blowing series; an interesting (even if rather unoriginal) setting conjoined with an appropriate atmosphere, well-thought-out characters and the concept for superb action scenes… but it lacks a certain spark to light everything up. The story is underdeveloped, and the atmosphere, good as it is, fails to cover for this. The characters are a mixed bag; while Elena and Clis are very well developed, the rest of the characters feel two-dimensional, being there just to fill a role.
The lifelessness of URDA stems mainly from the animation, which looks fake; character movements are unnatural and mechanical, which never allow the viewer to fully get immersed and make the action scenes look awkward. Sadly, this hides the great direction and camera work used. The voice acting oscillates between very good and terrible, leaning toward the latter more than the former. The music, on the other hand, does its work very well, even if it isn’t anything special.
As much as I’d like to praise and encourage independent anime makers, URDA just feels… amateurish. While independent anime can rival professional creations in quality, URDA simply lacks the polish to do so. Although it surely has an above average technical quality, it lacks a soul… that certain something that makes a series go beyond moving drawings and becomes an entertainment experience. As it stands, it’s just a decent way to pass half an hour.
Highs: Action-packed ride; good choreography
Lows: Serious art and animation problems; unnecessary historical setting; insipid secondary characters
Reality check: producers, whether professional or independent, are people, and thus, cannot hit a home run every time despite all best intentions. It is quite obvious that Romanov Hige put a lot of effort into URDA, but obviously not with the best results.
Talk about surprising! When I think of independent producers for animated or live-action shows, I imagine that all of them aim to create something intensely dramatic; URDA definitely shattered that stereotype for me. From start to finish, there is barely any time left to catch your breath as bullets fly and people die, which is quite the opposite of what I was expecting. Even though 4 of the 5 episodes are only 5 minutes long, action from 1 episode seems to spill over into the next without hesitation or delay. A lot of the action scenes are well choreographed, as all of the right angles are made to get the perfect shot at a character’s actions. Some of the choreography is reminiscent of the beginning from The Animatrix‘s The Final Flight of the Osiris, and that is not a bad thing at all.
From the beginning, there are quite a lot of art and animation problems that are very apparent. Character animation is incredibly wooden and jerky, almost like the characters themselves are not human at all. Art problems include, but are not limited to, lack of details and shadowing; for example, objects seem to lack any distinguishing features other than black lines to divide parts and faces may be too shiny despite their positioning in relation to a light source. If there was ever a “paper doll” example, URDA would be it; the World War II setting makes everything tick, but then again, any other historical setting would still make the series work just as well. If the setting were the Cold War or even World War I, it would not matter at all since there is no interaction with the setting itself. With exception to Elena and Clis, there are three others who actually play a part in the series but are merely shells meant to fill a pair of shoes. Knives from Trigun or Vicious from Cowboy Bebop could have made a cameo and it would have at least made the antagonist that much more solid.
URDA sure did not strike out, but there are quite a few areas where it needs more work. However, being an independent anime that is so short, I must still compliment Romanov Hige on his creation and imagination and await to see more of his work in the future.