What it’s about: A single lucky picture was enough to catapult Saeko to the heights of photo-journalistic fame. The image she captured of a flag being raised after a victory in the war-torn country of Uddiyana has become a symbol for peace. Now that symbol has gone missing – the flag has been stolen, and Saeko is sent back embedded with the team sent to retrieve it.
Why you should watch it: Flag is utterly unique in the world of anime in being shot completely in a “documentary” style – every single shot is through the lens of one camera or another. But this isn’t just a gimmick – it adds an immediacy and a level of realism to the story that isn’t often matched in the medium. It’s just plain interesting to watch the story unfold. Characters are explored and developed through interviews as well as in media res, and the voice acting is top-notch – it’s one of the few shows that actually bothers to really portray people as different ethnicities and nationalities, with a variety of languages and accents showing up as the series goes on.
Caveats: At times it’s a little self-indulgent when it comes to creating a sense of drama, particularly with regards to the musical score. A mecha also features in the fighting, so if you’re utterly turned off by stories with that aspect, well, ok then.
Themes: One question that’s posed to the audience throughout the work is “who put this together, and why?” Even in the first episode, we’re shown propaganda/marketing videos of the HAVWC juxtaposed with remembered images of real battles, and then the raw footage of it in action later. The whole “camera as eye” question is heavily played up. Aside from that, you also have commentary on the bureaucratic and political side of warfare in the modern world; the power of images to sway public opinion.
Similar works: Nothing in anime really tries to do what Flag has done. In terms of setting, Canaan is closest, with Zipang and Black Lagoon to a lesser degree.