Introduction: My anime reviews are simply for fun and my opinion of a series. Therefore, they should be taken light-heartedly. :`) I do my best not to throw in huge show spoilers either. I may elaborate, but I won't directly give anything away. Also, many things about me and this journal have been discussed in the Introduction entry here, if you're interested. The bolded words in the middle of my reviews have been fully defined in the Introduction or in the Anime Terms entry here . Lastly, for a full list of anime shows that I am reviewing, visit my Ultimate Anime List entry
"Strike Witches" Review
★ ☆ ★ ☆ ★
Setting: In 1939, a great war began in the skies against a technology-advanced space ship known as the Neuroi. The Neuroi began destroying conventional military forces on earth. Therefore, young magical girls have been called and assembled to defend against the invaders. In 1944, Yoshika Miyafuji is approached to join the 501st Joint Fighter Wing by, ace witch, Mio Sakamoto. (No... I'm not kidding, but it's a lot better than you'd think it would be.)
Plot: The plot is briefly intergrated into the "Setting" column but will also be elaborated on further down. For simplicity's sake this is a Mecha anime mixed with a Magical Girl genre. I know that I said it would be a cold day in... before I watched a Mecha. However, I figured I'd expand my comfort-zone, broaden my anime horizons, and all that jazz. I blindly went into "Strike Witches". I only knew that it was about some magical cat girls using an alternative history storyline that drew information from World War II. In fact, in the show's premise, the witches are based on real life ace pilots from WWII. The only one who I was really familar with was Charlotte E. Yeager. Her personality, back-story, and events in the show are actually based off her real life counterpart, Charles E. Yeager. Now who says that history can't be fun?
The first concept about the show that I'm going to fully address is the thing that MOST people have a problem. The fan-service issue. It's there... it's everywhere. It's mostly in the form of their underwear. (Haha, sorry.) No, really though. These characters have a serious case of lack of pants, (as you can see). In fact, many fans and non-fans jokingly claim that the war was started because the enemy stole the world's supply of pants. I'm assuming that they don't wear pants because of the fact that they have to LEAP into their Striker Units in order to quickly take off into the sky after their enemy. I imagine having pants on would get them tangled inside of the unit. Although, that doesn't explain why they don't at least wear short skirts or stockings... Not wearing pants wouldn't pose such a big deal if the camera didn't randomly do extreme close-ups on their hindquarters (and even frontquarters) when they're in the air, aka fan-service shots. That and doubled with the fact that the majority of characters are in their mid-teens disturbs people, even making them feel like Lolicons. I certainly don't blame them. When I first started watching the episodes, I had a hard time stomaching some of the in-your-face fan-service until I got used to it, or rather put on my denial goggles and began not noticing it.
It's a shame too because this show has WONDERFUL storylines, character development, historical references, and action galore. Let me just say this. I greatly dislike Mecha anime and huge doses of fan-service, but I enjoyed this show. That says something about the writing. When I read a few other reviews, the majority of them said they could NOT get passed the loli-fan-service to a point where they could sit down and actually watch the show. That's perfectly understandable, but I'm one of those people who did (or at least tolerated it). Therefore, my review on this show is going to be more positive than negative. There's also splashes of yuri thrown into the anime. The small amount of yuri seems like it's done for comedic purposes rather than actual romantic aspects. There's not a lot of it, but it's a general undertone considering all of the main characters are female. If that bothers you, then you probably won't find this anime as funny as those who don't mind it. Also, if you're extremely sensitive to character relationships, argueably you could say there's a lot of "in the closet" relationships among the characters. However, that's also a very opinional observation.
Side-note about Yuri: There's definitely two main types of yuri animes. One is romantic yuri that focuses on characters, storyline, and love. That type is that is targeted towards the shoujo audience. The other is blatant fan-service yuri that's targeted towards shounen. This show seems targeted towards the latter, male audience or towards females who like ecchi. That's why there's skimpily dressed girls but fully-clothed guys. Although, the character development is a lot better than most fan-service yuris would be. It's a good thing I liked the characters and storylines too. Otherwise, this show would have annoyed my feminist side. Now... onto discussing the actual show.
As I mentioned earlier, this show is about fighting magical cat girls based on WWII ace pilots. (No, seriously. It actually works.) Elements of WWII planes are incorporated to create the "Striker Units". The Striker Units are the main defense system used against the aliens Neuroi because they fight in the sky. Also, only witches have the power to use these Striker Units. While this may be the plot, the show is surprisingly more about character development than other aspects. Although, there's some amazing action sequences when they fight. There are quite a few main characters, but the one that we follow is Yoshika Miyafuji. Her magical power is the ability to heal. Therefore, her personality is very caring and sensitive. Yoshika does not believe in war because of what happened to someone she greatly cared for in the past. She's approached by basically the leader of the ace witches, Mio Sakamoto. Mio encourages Yoshika to join the navy and use her powers to save the world along with the other witches. We follow Yoshika as she grows from shy, unsure, and having unstable powers to a hero.
I'm going to briefly list the main characters. (Those who don't want to know any spoilers about what nationality the characters are or who they tend to fight with, just click the picture link listed below and skip this review until you get to the "So there you have it." paragraph). I'm not sure how talking about their nationalities and fighting partners would be construed as spoilers to the show's plot, but here's a warning nonetheless.
Here are the main characters from the 501st Strike Witches unit (clicky here for a pic.). It might help to look at the picture as I spout off about their nationalities and fighting partners. I can't remember all of their ranks but I believe Mio is in charge. They tend to pair off when they're fighting on occasion. Mio's close with German commander, Minna. Barkhorn competively fights/competes with Erica, also German . Perrine (French nationality?) is definitely Mio's Fangirl, so she's around her...a lot. Charlotte, American racer turned pilot, works closely with the Italian Genki Girl Lucchini. (Lucchini tends to sleep more than your average Genki Girl, but when she's awake... you'll see.) Eila, Finnish nationality, and, little Russian, Sanya are probably my favorite fighting team. (Also, YAY for the inclusion of a Finnish character. Finland happens to my the country of my grandmother, but no one's apparently heard of it around here. Moving along... ) Our protagonist, Yoshika, is usually paired with the shy British sniper, Lynette Bishop. If I didn't list some of their nationalities, it's because I'm not worldly enough to figure out what language their first and last names are in. Many apologies. Not that their nationalities are important to understanding this series, I just find it interesting to learn about back stories before going into a show. Especially since the characters are based off of actual people. It's also interesting to note that although, they are multi-national, everyone speaks perfect Japanese in this anime. Who knew? ;-)
Although they sometimes pair together while fighting because they're friends (or more than friends? Who knows with this show?), another reason is that their powers can compliment the other's. You don't want to get near Sanya and Eila when they're fighting together or Charlotte and Lucchini for that matter. I won't go into a great amount of detail about who has what power because I don't want to ruin any surprises for you. I'd just like to say that although Perrine comes across as uptight and unthreatening, she doesn't NEED to pair with anyone to unleash an insane magical attack. She also complains that she hates that it messes up her hair (Lol). The characters not only fight with their magical powers, but most of them also have HUGE guns. (What's with men's fantasies about girls with big guns?) Although, the character who fights the Neuroi's lazer beams with an amazingly sharp sword is by far the most impressive...
So there you have it. This show has action, good character development/ friendships, plots, and very humorous moments. There was obviously a lot of time and effort put into it in terms of its historical references. I think it would also have had a massively huge fanbase, if it hadn't included so much underaged fan-service and blatantly annoying sexual innuendos. Honestly, I'd probably be embarassed to WATCH this show with anyone around me because of some of the overt inferences. However, if you aren't bothered by Yoshika's habit of getting into unexplainable yuri moments, such as accidentally groping others and having questionable dreams. Of course, she's a very definable Covert Pervert due to these traits. That coupled with the show's obvious fetish for loli-fan-service, then you really should give at least two or three episodes a shot just for the sake of the good character development and action sequences.
Although, it took me about four episodes before I became completely absorbed into the storyline and could NOT stop watching. I know that I haven't discussed the second season or OVA yet. Honestly, right now I'm only on episode three in the second season. I might come back and do an update on this review when I finish it (if I feel like I need to add any information). Initially, I have noticed that the artwork on the show got incredibly better in the second season. I haven't noticed as much fan-service either, but that could just be me in a state of goggly denial in that I'm watching half-naked magical teen girls. Some of the characters are older though. In fact, Mio turning twenty has a huge impact on her character and the show. Lastly, as always, I hope that my review was helpful. :D
Favorite Characters: Sanya... her magical power and personality is simply awesome to me. Of course, Charlotte is also an extremely likeable character. To be honest, there really wasn't any character that I disliked. Some of them were a tad under developed by the end of the first season, but that's to be expected in a 12-episode season with elevenish main characters. (Heck... "Sailor Moon" had five seasons and over 200 episodes to fully develop all of those characters.)
Erica Hartmann: *looks all over her room* "I.... can't find my pants."
Update: Still watching season two, but I wanted to add that the characters are getting more development. Plus, there are some really good episodes that I've watched so far such as Lucchini visiting her homeland in Rome. There's obvious Italian historical landmarks present in that episode which is really cool. Also, my favorite fighting team, Sanya and Eila get an entire episode dedicated to them. Eila has a power that I never even noticed in the first season but is elaborated on in a touching episode in the middle of the season two. All in all, I think I'm liking season two more than the first. There's also talk of a possible third season or OVA. So If I catch any wind of it, I'll come back and update.
★ ☆ ★ ☆ ★