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First Squad: The Moment of Truth

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The alt-history animation centers on Division Six, a do-gooder group of mentally linked youths who use the gifts of astrology, clairvoyance and hypnosis against legendary sorcerer/black-arts practitioner Baron von Wolff and his wizard warriors.

After having bloodily slaughtered a Russian village to smithereens, the Baron — aka the Angel of Death — is pursued by Nadya, a girl sent into the  Netherworld — aka the world of the dead — to fight demons and spirits, although she risks being stuck there forever.

The first half is of "First Squad" is all set-up; the second half is all battle. It's grisly, pulp-powered and, like the recent "Redline," an anime that can bears the potential to transcend the medium's mere fan crowd of obsessives and into the mainstream. Its story feels like a merger of "X-Men: First Class" and "Sucker Punch." Being only an hour (although the box promises 75 minutes) sure doesn't hurt, either. —Rod Lott

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