Posted on December 16, 2012 AT 07:12am
The world of Strike Witches is an alternate Earth and is set during the mid 1940s. Both World Wars pitted countries not against each other, but against an alien threat known as the Neuroi. The story of the first season seemed to primarily follow the story of Sergeant Yoshika Miyafuji, but season two didn’t really have a ‘main character’, per se. Each of the Strike Witches gets their moment in the sun throughout the unfolding of the twelve episode season.
In case you’re like me, and missed the first season, here’s a bit of info about the Strike Witches! A Strike Witch is a young girl who is capable of using magic and is also trained to use a special ‘Striker Unit’ and anti-aircraft firearms. The Striker Unit is, basically, a pair of metal leggings that use the witch’s magic to fly. Basically, it’s magic-powered leg propellers. This oddity was one of the things that initially attracted me to the series. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that the use of said Striker Units meant that wearing any form of pants was just not on the menu. I’ve heard that the no pants thing may extend to all females–be they witch or otherwise–but I can’t confirm that, so let’s just say ‘pants impede the use of Striker Units’ and leave it at that for the moment. I almost forgot to mention one of the most amusing parts! When they use their magical powers, they sprout little animal ears and a tail. Each witch has a different animal familiar, so you’ll never see the same set twice. My favorite part of that feature is the little ‘magical sprouting’ sound they use when they pop up.
The other attractor for me was the ‘alternate World War’ with the Neuroi. There isn’t a lot of backstory about them, so here’s all I learned: They convert landmasses into more Neuroi and are out to destroy the human race. They also have lasers that can cut through nearly any ship or building like hot butter, and when a Neuroi’s core is destroyed, they explode into pretty white twinkles that fall to the ground/water like so many cherry blossoms. Even though they are a looming threat, the Neuroi are little more than a third act threat in most episodes. For the fact that the series is technically about a strike team formed to defeat an alien menace, the Neuroi are mostly in the background of the overarching story.
This brings me to what is the most utterly confusing aspect of this anime: I have no idea who it’s actually supposed to be catering to. Strike Witches is one of the most mixed-up amalgams of animation I’ve ever seen when it comes to pegging a genre. You’ve got the ever-pantless witches, countless panty shots, booby jiggling fanservice, and awkward semi-sexual implications between nearly all of the main characters. You’ve got a war against aliens set as World War II era magic-fueled dogfighting and clever references to well known war heroes and key battle locations [all renamed, but you'll likely recognize them for what they really are if war history is your thing]. You’ve got a team of eleven girls, all under the age of 21 [and most under the age of 16], having ‘slice-of-life’ moments and showing cute little morals through their actions. You’ve got something for the pervs, the sci-fi fans, the war buffs, and the sentimental types, at all once! One might technically say there’s something for everyone, but the way it does it is honestly baffling, at times.
If you want a feel for how the series plays out, allow me to summarize one of the more bizarre episodes: One of the characters is out bug hunting and catches a small, bug shapped Neuroi. When she returns back to base, the Neuroi escapes and starts sapping electricity and causing power outages. During this, the witches are excited to try out their new hot bath. The Neuroi bug, aside from having a taste for wires, seems to have a thing for butts. The latter portion of the episode involves the witches chasing down the bug. By chasing, I actually mean ‘pulling down the panties of the witch whose butt is being attacked by the bug so they can attempt to squish said bug’. In a hilarious/horrible/anti-climatic turn, the last witch who is attacked pulls up her panties defensively so the others won’t pull them down and ends up crushing the Neuroi in her crotch. This also happens to be her 200th Neuroi kill, so she is awarded a medal. Yes, she earns kudos for destroying an alien creature with her lady parts. I’ve glossed over a ton of booby shots and amusingly censored crotches [apparently, Strike Witches have magical moonbeams that glow from their nonos.], but this is, in a nutshell, what sort of craziness to expect. No, you don’t get to see much air combat, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, that is not the primary purpose of this series.
All said and done, the series was fun to watch and has both great cel animation and style. The Neuroi are interesting, though slightly generic looking, and the navy warships tended to look a bit on the choppy side as CGI goes. I might find myself following the rest of the series in its various formats, just to round out the story and see what more there is to the world that Strike Witches has laid out. The concepts and tech are great, but the direction the anime itself goes leaves what could have been a deep plot in the dust and puts slice-of-life fluff and panties in its place. Judging by the description of the series versus the actual series, I feel a touch misled. If I’d actually seen the trailers beforehand, I would’ve known what I was actually signing up for!
SUMMARY: A unique anime, no doubt. The mish-mash genre mix made the experience a bit confusing. If not for the nudity and war, it would be great for the kids. If not for the morals and slice-of-life moments, it would be great for sci-fi and war fans. It puts it firmly in the middle of the road for all parties involved with a dash of underage-ish voyeurism. Great animation with so-so CGI. I can’t recommend it as a purchase unless you really enjoy this sort of anime. Before you buy, give it a try over on FUNimation’s website.
- THE GOOD: Great character designs and interesting technology and magic. Even through its fanservice, has some genuinely touching and funny moments. And darned if I don’t love the magical sound of witches ears and tails sprouting.
- THE BAD: Tends to suffer from an overabundance of fanservice. CGI rendering is often rough. Neuroi, though the reason for the war, are designated to a minor ‘Monster of the Week’ role throughout most of the season.
- THE UGLY: The headache caused by trying to figure out who this anime had in mind for viewers.
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