Thursday 9 February 2012

Anime REVIEW: Strike Witches

Moe girls, magic and fighter planes collide in a battle for the planet against alien lifeforms in Strike Witches! After starting out as a short preview OVA in early 2007, Strike Witches went on to have a 12-episode series in 2008 and then a sequel series in 2010, also comprised of 12-episodes. This review will look at both seasons of the anime.

Strike Witches is set on an alternate Earth during the midst of World War 2. Only here the enemies aren't Nazis, instead it is the Neuroi - an alien lifeform which began their widespread invasion of Earth in the year 1939. Unable to battle the threat of the Neuroi alone, the army employs witches (or magical girls if you'd prefer) to fight for the planet. When using their magic powers, each girl grows and pair of animal ears and a tail (why exactly is never explained) and fights in aerial combat via the use of a striker unit - plane-like machines which attach to the legs and amplify strength, speed and magic power.

After noticing her magical ability, Major Mio Sakamoto offers Yoshika Miyafuji the chance to join the aerial infantry dedicated to battling the Neuroi. Despite initially refusing her offer, Yoshika receives a letter from her presumed dead father, in which he is seen with a striker unit and a young Mio. Wishing to protect people, Yoshika accepts her offer and joins the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, or the Strike Witches. Along with the Major and Yoshika taking up the rank of Sargent, the rest of the Strike Witches are;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke - commanding officer
  • Captain Gertrud (Trude) Barkhorn - quiet, but efficient
  • First Lieutenant Erica Hatmann - Lazy, but Karlsland's 200 victory 'ultra ace'
  • Captain Charlotte (Shirley) E. Yeager - Speed demon and thrill seeker
  • Ensign Francesca Lucchini - The hyperactive youngest member of the group
  • First Lieutenant Sanya V. Litvyak - The quiet, nocturnal radar
  • First Lietenant Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen - A girl with the power to see the future
  • First Lieutenant Perrine Closterman - Initial rival to Yoshika with an unhealthy attachment to the Major
  • Master Sergeant Lynette Bishop - The Witches' sniper and closest to Yoshika

    Our protagonists.

    Together the unit battle the Neuroi and eventually liberate Britannia, leading to their disbandment. But six months later, Venesia is attacked by an even stronger Neuroi threat and the Witches are called into action once again.
      The nations from which the main characters hail are also based on major world powers of the time, but with different names and altered territories. Japan is known as Fuso Empire, the United States of America is the United States of Liberion, Germany is Imperial Karlsland, France is Gallia, Great Britain is the Commonwealth of Britannia, Austria is Ostmark, the Soviet Union is the Orussia Empire, modern Italy is split between the Duchies of Romagna and Venezia, Finland is Suomus, Norway and Sweden are Baltland, New Germany (Argentina) is Neue Karlsland in South Liberion, and Spain Hispania. The show also makes several references to tactics and machinery used in WW2.

      Yoshika Miyafuji - alien ass kicker.

      The first season offers a lot of promise, but doesn't quite answer a lot of the series' more interesting questions. Who or what the Neuroi are is never properly explored, and instead the audience is just expected to accept that they're here and they're dangerous. However the human characters receive excellent characterisation, if a little unbalanced (this is fixed in the second season however). Each character have their own distinctive personalities and tend to pair off in the show, but they all play off each other nicely and are more like a family than a fighter unit. There are a few duds when it comes to the one-shot stories, but all help to build up the relationship between the extensive main cast. The aerial battles are superb, fast-paced and give an excellent feel of hot-shot pilots on the battlefield. It certainly saves the best for last, with the final aerial battle blowing the rest out of the sky!

      The second season saw production of the show move from Gonzo to AIC Spirits, but this doesn't really affect the art quality of the show other than a more gratuitous use of CGI for the ships (and sometimes the witches mid-flight). After what seemed like a good closing note in the first season, the reformation of the Strike Witches does come across as a little abrupt. On the whole the plot is weaker than its predecessor, with more focus going on one-shot character-centric episodes rather than the overarching story, which only really has a dominant presence in the first and last few episodes. However the other plot line, concerning Mio and how she is gradually losing her powers, is much better and adds a lot more to her character, only cementing her as my firm favourite in the show.

      The fanservice in its tamest form.

      Saving one of the key factors until last, its time to talk about the fanservice. As you've probably guessed from images, Strike Witches is a show with incredible levels of fanservice. Right from the get-go its apparent that trousers are alien to the witches, essentially making the show one giant panty shot. Although one could assume this allows the characters easier access to their striker units (and I'm sure there is an official explanation somewhere), this issue is never addressed in the show and so characters go about their day to day business in their underwear without batting an eyelid. There are also obligatory beach episodes in each season, and both also have an episode dedicated to the characters wearing their underwear as little as possible. Bath scenes are aplenty (with breasts galore in the uncut versions), with some of the characters showing off a perverted streak (Yoshika and Lucchini) resulting in plenty of groping. Strike Witches has a plot without it, but it's fair to share the show was made with presenting as much opportunity for fanservice as it humanly possible.


      Your enjoyment of Strike Witches will mostly depend on the levels of tolerance you have for fanservice. If fanservice is what you look for in a show, you will LOVE this. If you can tolerate it, then there's some great character building in the show behind a decent plot which, while could have done with a little more fleshing out, is an interesting spin on the events of WW2. If you hate fanservice, you'll hate this show. Strike Witches isn't a flawless series by any means, but it's much better than most people will give it credit for. With a feature film due for release later this year, I personally am looking forward to more aerial adventures from the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, trousers or no trousers.

      1 comment:

      Tom Badguy said...

      Those guns are to big for those chicks, lol