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What if World War II ended in 1941 because we had to fight legions of nigh-invincible werewolves instead of each other? Then we’d live in the world of Luger Code 1951.

Luger Code 1951 is a single-episode anime special that follows Rossa, a loyal soldier, and his friend Testa, a genius cartographer. Together, the two head to a remote forest in the hopes of gaining custody of a captured werewolf girl, Yonaga, and thus learn the secrets of the werewolves’ indecipherable language: the “Luger Code.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. To the common soldiers who have captured the werewolf girl, she is a hated monster and is better off “killed while trying to escape.” While Rossa and Testa have a greater goal, the soldiers in charge of Yonaga show how the rank and file feel after a decade of war against the beasts. They feel so strongly, in fact, that Rossa is forced to shoot one in the arm before the group stands down. Even when the group takes shelter and rests, the soldiers continue to try and kill Yonaga–and they are more than willing to attack Rossa and Testa to get at her.

Even in a war of survival with the werewolves, humans still fight each other–a point not lost on Yonaga. Her only real reason for not helping Rossa and Testa is her belief that humanity is unable to quit fighting. The humans will only stop fighting the werewolves when they are completely extinct. Testa is forced to reluctantly admit that even then, humans will likely move on to fighting each other after that.

The werewolves of Luger Code 1951 seem very much like a real threat, despite the fact they seem to have no ranged weaponry. Bullets are unable to penetrate their skins, and they have the strength to stop a speeding truck in its tracks. Yonaga is even able to call local wolves to her aid with a single howl. It makes you wonder how humanity has been able to stand up to the werewolves for a decade. While humanity at large may have technology capable of taking a werewolf out in its transformed state, Rossa and Testa have nothing even close. Though that’s not to say that every living creature doesn’t have weak points to exploit.

The interesting thing about Yonaga, however, is that she may be a werewolf in humanity’s eyes, but she is an abomination in the view of werewolf society. She is considered cursed–a werewolf with blood that is literally toxic to others of her kind. Unlike other werewolves, she doesn’t transform at night and revert during the day. Rather, she is stuck in a half-transformed state. Yonaga is symbolically trapped between worlds, and an outcast of both. So while the war has two sides from the outside, in reality, there are three: Humanity, werewolves, and cursed-bloods like Yonaga.

The code itself is likewise intriguing. There is a reason that a decade of research hasn’t been able to crack it–and one that lives up to the hype. It likewise makes it clear why peace between humans and werewolves is such a long shot. Without a common language giving real understanding, true communication is impossible.

There is a lot to unpack in Luger Code 1951’s short run-time–so much so that it feels like a two hour movie crammed into 25 minutes. It’s a small story in a big war, giving an introduction to a world that is far wider than the simple forest setting of this story. Standing alone, it is a bit rushed. But as a tantalizing glimpse into an alternate history, it does its job quite well.

Luger Code 1951 aired on Animax in Japan on October 22, 2016. There is currently no word on a Western release.

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