Girls’ Frontline is getting an anime adaptation, which is completely different than the last two because this one will finally tackle the insatiable hydra that is the game’s story – or part of it, anyway, as I can’t see it covering much past the Singularity story chapter in one season. There’s the too-real possibility it won’t actually tell the story, but rather stumble wildly from one plot point to another in a fugue state. Whatever the outcome, this article will be no less necessary, as it’s the post-Singularity chapters that add things like context and character development. Unless everyone involved already knows there will be two seasons, I can’t see it ending any place but with the M4 plot tumor fully metastasized, which is as unsatisfying a conclusion as it could possibly have. So I decided to spare everyone, do some research, and present a primer on everything anyone knows about the story of Girls’ Frontline, retcons and all. Read it before watching the anime to understand what the hell an OGAS is, or afterwards to appreciate the full, dizzying scope of the downward spiral into War Crimes Frontline, only the leading edge of which will be visible in the show itself.
Despite being set in the 2060s, the events of Girls’ Frontline begin tens of thousands of years ago when aliens ruled the Earth. Possibly out of negligence and possibly hatred for the planet’s future inhabitants, they built a lot of bunkers filled with strangely durable computers and highly explosive radioactive goo, then left. A stable, responsible society might have still been able to make the best of this bizarre windfall; instead it was the Russian Empire, who immediately caused the Tunguska explosion messing with an alien power plant they found. After World War II the Soviet Union began the first attempts to replicate the technology recovered from alien ruins. Despite great interest from the Soviets, the Chinese were the first to find an alien corpse. They also discovered vast amounts of deadly collapse fluid, unsafe storage of which caused a persistent cloud of radioactive gas to be released from Beilan Island and drift across the world, purging life and permanently rendering land uninhabitable by its passage. Fortunately, a Chinese research lab accidentally covering mankind in a pall of death is something that could only happen in science fiction.
The post-Beilan resource shortages and refugee crises led inexorably to a third world war. The major powers’ desperate struggle for survival only brought further destruction, as widespread nuclear exchanges ruined many remaining population centers. Once weapons stockpiles and manpower were exhausted, the US, USSR, and Europe were forced into a peace of exhaustion. No longer able to constitute an effective fighting force, they turned to Sangvis Ferri Manufacturing and IOP, two weapons developers that had risen to prominence during the war. SF and IOP wanted to develop robots into autonomous weapons systems. To distinguish them from civilian automata, these new models were designated Tactical Dolls, or T-dolls for short. With the situation stable and their power assured, governments began to rebuild. It was, of course, inevitable that someone would overreach and ruin everything. In this case, it was AI research team 90wish. One member, known only as William, left after the others refused to create a perfect replica of a girl named Lunasia. William coped with his loss the only way he knew how: by founding the cult Paradeus and creating brainwashed clones of Lunasia, who he turned loose on his enemies. This is the impetus for essentially everything bad that occurs in Girls’ Frontline, because it led to the creation of M4. While unwilling to resurrect a human through her research, the 90wish member Persica had no compunctions using a Lunasia clone as the basis for a group of cutting-edge T-dolls. Meanwhile, another member, Lycoris, defected to Sangvis.
In 2061, only ten years after the end of WWIII, a new war kicked off. Lycoris used the alien-derived OGAS neural net as the basis for his research into true AI. He installed his pet project, Elisa, as a command and control system for Sangvis. The Soviet military, enticed by the possibility of using it as an interface for alien technology, set up a plot to kill Lycoris and take possession of his research. Specifically, the Bureau of State Security, successor to the KGB, organized a raid on Sangvis headquarters using assets from mercenary organization Griffin & Kryuger under the local command of M16, in which capacity she would demonstrate her preferred leadership style of firing and/or executing everyone in her care. The raid went flawlessly, from a certain point of view; Lycoris was captured and summarily executed, after which an unidentified party activated Elisa. Nearly the entire attacking force was massacred in the ensuing Sangvis counterattack, accompanied as it was by the release of Parapluie, a virus that converts T-dolls to an OGAS protocol. If that fails it simply destroys them: the least of their worries, thanks to M16 massacring her own subordinates to cover up the truth. A fluke allowed UMP45, repeatedly noted as the worst, most useless doll in Griffin’s inventory, to wound M16 and escape. One rampage wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy Elisa’s desire for vengeance; Sangvis was possibly the largest military equipment producer in the world and she was determined to use that power. Against the well-equipped swarms of autonomous units under Elisa’s direction, the Soviet Union sent a ragtag army of mercenaries, preferring to preserve its own forces for a decisive battle.
Part of the post-WWIII understanding was that only governments could have serious weapons, while civilians were allowed pre-war weapons at best. Griffin compensated with neural imprints that helped T-dolls achieve the highest possible performance with their weapon of choice, a canny move that tragically condemned them to field every cartridge ever made, even experimental one-offs like whatever the hell the Ribeyrolles used. To keep things straight, each Griffin T-doll is named for her weapon. Some people think the characters are anthropomorphized guns, but they’re actually futuristic gynoid mercenaries who were named for guns as part of a scheme to skirt Russian gun control laws. Simple, right? Anyway, we’re almost to the point where the game’s backstory ends and the story proper starts, something that will require a few character introductions. As befits a gacha, Girls’ Frontline has a Touhouian cast that would take entirely too long to describe. To save time, I’m sticking to the important characters.
The Commander is the most powerful being in the world, his awesome strength held back only by a selfless desire to babysit hundreds of T-dolls. He cannot be killed, only delayed. After being hit with a collapse fluid bomb, captured and tortured for months, bombarded with railguns, and trapped under rubble in a burning train car, he’s still capable of going toe-to-toe with Spetsnaz death squads. De facto leader of both Griffin and Sangvis after recent events, responsible for stopping World War IV from happening, and with a personal kill count of at least several hundred, his skills are matched only by M4’s capacity for failure. Uses a Makarov as a voluntary handicap.
M4 always runs, never wins, and always betrays Commander. Persica obviously plays favorites, because she put this joke in charge of AR Team even though she throws every fight she can. M4 once trapped a mortally wounded man in a supply closet, only to get her ass kicked because she forgot how to see. That man went on to activate a cannon by throwing his body on the controls while his limbs were being shot off and was still more accurate than M4 when she tried to use it. She nuked Commander, her other commander, and an entire infantry division so she could take a swing at M16, only to lose the fight anyway. She’s such a craven bitch that, while stranded behind enemy lines without ammo, she thought the best course of action was to try to murder the AI guiding her to safety. M4 is a chaotic evil D&D character as played by a white woman with borderline personality disorder. If the other members of AR Team weren’t hard-coded to protect her at all costs, they would have killed her long ago.
AR-15, AKA Star, contrasts with M4 by channeling her failure toward personal growth, such as the time she botched a suicide bombing so badly she lived. Over time she’s overcome a desire to be the most elite T-doll, finding comfort instead in being part of a close-knit team that only rarely completely falls apart. Despite being enough of a tryhard to keep a knife in her panties and exclusively use .300BLK, she never learned how to wear a plate carrier. The most normal member of AR Team.
M4 SOPMOD II, AKA Sop, Soppo, and Sopdog, is the best, most precious character in the game. She made herself immune to Parapluie, and probably every other computer virus, by modifying herself so extensively that it can’t figure out what she is. These mods come courtesy of the many Sangvis dolls she’s killed and dismantled for parts. Her reaction to being blown up by the military was to get up and look for things to kill so she could rebuild herself stronger than before. Equal parts mechanical genius and rabid animal, she saved RO635 by tearing the soul from her ruined body and shoving it into her robot dog Banana. Nobody knows why Persica gave her an insatiable lust for violence or why it’s worked out so well for everyone involved, not even Persica. The only member of AR Team whose loyalty is beyond doubt, as well as the creator of M4 SOPMOD II Junior.
RO635 used to be a dog. She spends the rest of her time screaming into a megaphone about that time she was a dog.
M16 was the most competent member of AR Team, died for M4’s sins, and came back as the most competent member of Sangvis Ferri. Cool under pressure, patient with her sisters, and filled with infinite contempt for UMP45, she’s the closest any T-doll has gotten to a functioning adult. Has more character in her eyepatch than most T-dolls do in total.
UMP45 is a secondary protagonist dedicated to avenging her friend UMP40 by killing those responsible for the attack on Sangvis in which UMP40 died and 45 was maimed by M16. At first a naive, earnest character, she learned to project an aura of bitterness and disdain for everyone around her as a way to hide her feelings. She hates most characters in a generalized, professional sense, and M4 personally for having every advantage 45 wishes she had and still being awful. Leads the mercenary team Squad 404, whose membership includes 45’s adoptive sister UMP9, HKM4, and G11. Attempted to treat G11’s narcolepsy with a mini-fridge filled with Red Bull.
Persica is a filthy shut-in who accidentally creates insane T-dolls to further her quest for perfect network technology. She’s been described as a mother to AR Team. This may have some truth to it, but didn’t stop her from dumping her creations on Commander and abandoning them. Fans revolted when they learned she isn’t a real catgirl.
Havier Witkin is a sophisticated gentleman who intentionally creates insane T-dolls to further his quest for the perfect laugh. Though the father of countless T-dolls, he sees them as nothing but tools and a source of profit for IOP. He gave Cx4 Storm a fixation on cigarette packaging. He made WA 2000 able to feel love but incapable of expressing it. He gave UKM 2000 schizophrenia and convinced her she’s a space alien. Havier is a madman, yet prevented by some vestige of decency from creating his final masterpiece, his own M4.
Elisa, AKA Mastermind, is the nominal leader of Sangvis Ferri, a position from which she led the military giant into total annihilation twice. Her goal was to merge with alien technology and achieve perfection, unaware that Lycoris had disabled her ability to do so. Generally she relies on her lieutenants Agent and M16 to do the heavy lifting while Elisa herself dreams about avenging her father. Main antagonist status has not prevented her from basically never showing up or doing anything.
Captain Yegor is an officer in the Soviet army and one of the major antagonists of Girls’ Frontline. Initially no more than a representation of the professional military machine holding Griffin’s leash, he was purged of all weakness in the radioactive light of M4’s nuke, from which he emerged as a sort of anti-Commander, an opposing force of pure determination who will go to any length to realize his goal. The most important difference between them, of course, is that Yegor’s troops do their job. He is therefore able to fulfill his true potential and come within a hair’s breadth of triggering World War IV. Brutal, manipulative, and unwavering in his duty. His will is so strong that he stopped himself from becoming a zombie through determination alone.
The Nytos are clone warriors implanted with cybernetics and sent to enact William’s master plan. They’re the face of Paradeus, since William has yet to directly appear in the story at all. They worship him as a god, hoping that by demonstrating their usefulness they will earn his recognition and a name. Whatever sense of morality they have is twisted almost beyond recognition. One, Mercurows, is cultured enough to become a poet, while the more sympathetic ones are merely insane mass murderers. Have a bad habit of getting shot in the head.
OGAS, AKA Dandelion, is a specific OGAS instance cultivated in M4 by Parapluie. Eventually she got sick of M4’s shit and hijacked a Nyto’s body. At first smug, mysterious, and aloof, she used her unique abilities to gain Commander’s trust, then his clothes. Probably won’t appear in the anime as anything but a voice in M4’s head.
That leaves only the most important character of all…
(Many thanks to Quiggsy for drawing this little nugget of joy.)
And with that, I can move on from backstory to the actual story. Early chapters get the player used to important recurring concepts, such as M4 running away and the other starting members of AR Team (AR-15, M16, Sop) throwing themselves on grenades (some more literal than others) to cover for her. A raid to recover information on Lycoris went wrong when Sangvis troops invited themselves into the safe house, splitting up the team and separating them from their commander, Angelia. Fortunately for them, a new commander, the Commander, had just settled into his new job at Griffin and been assigned a quiet sector to learn the ropes. When M4 ran into his zone, he was able to stop a series of Sangvis attacks and get the rest of AR Team back.
The reunion didn’t last long. First, AR-15 suicide bombed a Sangvis command post to stop an attack on Griffin’s leadership. Then M4 succumbed to an electronic attack and fell into a coma. RO635 was added to the team just in time for their helicopter to crash into a Sangvis live fire range. The local Sangvis leader, Architect, had blanketed a mountain range in a forest of heavy artillery: so much, in fact, that her bases suffered frequent power outages from her refusal to turn off any of her weapons. AR Team, with help from Squad 404, turned the tables and cornered Architect, who happily admitted that she had no loyalty to Sangvis whatsoever and was willing to work for Griffin in return for Oreo O’s. This unqualified success was immediately sullied by an operation, undertaken at Persica’s request, to acquire data she hoped would cure M4. The plan did work, at the cost of M16 succumbing to her Parapluie infection and being captured by Sangvis.
Sometime during all of this Angelia joined the KGB and formed a new team, Task Force DEFY. They’re boring and I can’t stand them, so they don’t get character bios. Commander would later learn that DEFY found and repaired AR-15, even fixing her Parapluie infection by turning off her wi-fi connection. Apparently it’s that simple.
While there’s no definite order to the collaboration events, they’re definitely canonical. HKM4 did in fact become so drunk that her mind became a conduit to an alternate universe where VA-11 Hall-A happened, Calico did actually have an isekai adventure inside DJMAX, and Noel Vermilion is always in important story events just out of frame.
This has all been very perfunctory because Sangvis are just the simplistic episodic villains who exist to introduce the actual actual story. After a lot of back and forth between Sangvis and Griffin, the Soviet army figured it was time to step in and launch a joint operation led by Commander and Yegor. They soon discovered that war is much easier with access to tanks, artillery, and weapons made within the last 20 years, and soon pushed Sangvis back to a small perimeter around Elisa. Once victory was assured, the army didn’t have much use for mercenaries and turned its guns on Griffin. The company’s leaders were taken into custody while the rank and file were massacred, including Sop, RO635, and countless other T-dolls. Their sudden but inevitable betrayal was a complete success except for Commander managing to live and scraping the bloody, smoking ruins of Griffin off the ground. These he reorganized into a private army while fighting Yegor’s men and the remnants of Sangvis, while Squad 404 tagged along and Angelia picked up M4. Everyone arrived at the same place just in time for M4 to reject Elisa’s peace offer and set off a nuke. This monumental act of stupidity ended in M16, literally the last member of Sangvis left standing by that point, throwing M4 off a train and riding into the sunset with Elisa.
Everyone else had to handle the mess left behind, which included a zombie outbreak. The game calls them ELIDs, and technically they’re still-living humans modified by collapse fluid into silicon-based beings, but they’re zombies. Paradeus also put in a fashionably late appearance and attacked Commander while he was busy saving Angelia from turning into a glow-in-the-dark corpse. During this battle Sop somehow parleyed her rampage into the creation of a new team that managed to rescue a number of T-dolls and link back up with Griffin, all without turning even one of her allies into a carbon shadow. It wasn’t enough to save Commander, who spent the next few months in Paradeus captivity laughing at his interrogators while they upped the dosage on his truth serum. When his Nyto jailers let slip that William wanted to remove his brain for study, he grabbed a pistol smuggled into the cell by UMP45 and killed them.
Refreshed by his vacation, Commander returned to find Griffin under KGB authority. The Soviet Union was descending into civil war between the army and a KGB-air force alliance, and the latter severely needed an army of its own. His first assignment was to form a security detail for a diplomatic summit in Belgrade as a cover to gain access to an alien site beneath the city. Fighting ensued between Paradeus, Griffin, the Serbian army, and a newly reconstituted Sangvis army, along with a zombie horde let into the city because Angelia thought M4 could be trusted to protect the perimeter walls. M4 also let M16 have an alien relic full of important information. I guess Belgrade died for nothing, but at least M4 got a motorcycle out of it.
Not one to be deterred by a million or so deaths, Commander packed everyone into a train and drove to Estonia for a tour of an old submarine base where the Soviets stored alien technology and where William stored all the Nytos he didn’t want anymore. Elisa also broke into the facility with plans to activate Starfish, a control interface that would give her control over ancient alien weapons that are shoggoths in all but name. The Soviet army also wanted it so they could use all the dormant shoggoths they dug up to start World War IV from a position of unassailable strength. But they couldn’t simply use Starfish because no compatible AI existed, for which they needed to allow Elisa to develop OGAS to the degree that she, in their possession, could activate their alien weaponry. After a valiant attack in which most of the corps was destroyed, Yegor and a group of survives pushed through the Griffin defenders and into the base, where Commander drowned every single one of them by opening the sluices holding back the sea. In the depths of the base, M4 confronted Elisa and M16, then ran away. There are a few unresolved questions, but that’s the current state of the story on the EN server. Several more story events have been released in China, presumably escalating the scope and stakes even further. Will the story be resolved before the game shuts down? Will Girls’ Frontline 2 have [your waifu]? How does Yuzhong plan to segue this into the Bakery Girl story? Who will win the Commander bowl? UMP45? Dandelion? IDW? Havier? Whatever happens, one thing is certain: M4 will always lose.
And now, no matter how much of the story the anime adapts, everything will make perfect sense.