The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Hibike! Euphonium 2: Reflection and Review After Three

“That’s your new target, unless it’s not big enough.” —John Clark, Clear and Present Danger

Having earned a gold and securing a position in the qualifying tournaments, Kitauji High School’s concert band prepares for the national level competition. In the aftermath of their victory, and the intermittent breaks afforded by the summer season, Kumiko learns more about the rifts that developed in Kitauji’s previous year among the second year students. Between practises, she spends more time with Reina and accompanies her to a summer festival; Reina grows more friendly towards Hazuki and Sapphire. Taki later announces that Kitauji’s band will be attending a training camp to further hone their performance. It is here that Kumiko learns that Taki once had a wife, and her passing resulted in his leaving his musical career behind. Similarly, Reina attempts to deal with her own feelings for Taki, and with Kumiko’s encouragement, asks Taki as to whether or not he is involved in a relationship with her. The myriad of interpersonal conflicts and challenges, so audaciously swept aside so Kitauji could perform their best last season, return: this particular aspect shows that although their band might be a contender, its members are still human and as such, are characterised by distinctly human elements, from regret and longing to jealousy and doubt. Coupled with Kyoto Animation’s magic touch (the animation and audio effects are of a top calibre), Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season is off to a tremendous start.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 continues on in the path its predecessor laid down: the interpersonal dynamics are a part of the anime (and its original light novel) as much as their shared goal of accomplishing something substantial and leave with no regrets through their music. Some elements, set aside as the first season ended, make a return to show that the impacts of some decisions and actions are more far-reaching than initially apparent. Nozomi’s leaving the band is revealed to be one of the several factors that resulted in the oft-mentioned rift amongst the second years, and a part of Asuka’s reluctance to accept her re-admittance is in part owing to the possible fallout it may have on the band’s members (in turn, potentially costing them the Nationals). It speaks partially to the strength of the original novels and Kyoto Animation’s adaptation, that the complexities of human interactions are captured so solidly in Hibike! Euphonium. Furthermore, it appears that Kumiko is finding herself entangled in a larger amount of this drama owing to her personality, and this aspect could result in some unforeseen consequences within the band resulting from her decisions (or indecision): in upcoming episodes, the challenge for the narrative will lie within the extent that each of these elements are depicted as having an impact on one another. If this is improperly handled (say, some characters’ actions are conveniently negated or dismissed), the overall story could feel implausible or forced. So far, Hibike! Euphonium has performed satisfactorily, and as such, it is more likely that Hibike! Euphonium 2 will convincingly explore the sort of drama within the band to paint the characters in a relatable manner, while at once continuing on with its theme that music can transcend some human limitations.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Season two of Hibike! Euphonium picks up right where the first season ended, marking a far cry from how things had been during the first season’s opening episode. A double feature spanning some forty minutes, the opening of Hibike! Euphonium 2 was a fantastic watch that set the stage for what’s to come — its extended length contributes to why this post has thirty images as opposed to the usual twenty. Further to this, I’ve added an extra category on the blog’s sidebar, since I’ve got a non-trivial number of Hibike! Euphonium posts now.

  • All told, I can only identify a small number of characters from Hibike! Euphonium by name: beyond Kumiko, Hazuki, Sapphire, Reina and Asuka, everyone else’s names are not bits of information I’ve given the effort towards memorising. This is one of the hazards of anime with a large number of characters, but in Hibike! Euphonium, I can recognise roughly who a character is based on their appearance, so it’s not as though everyone’s identities are a mystery to me.

  • Reina and Kumiko speak with Taki to obtain the keys for the music room, and here, the amount of visual clutter in the staff room is impressive. Papers are piled this way and that, with sticky notes, textbooks and desk organisers littering the tables. Wires can be seen on the floor, along with other details, showing the visual fidelity available in Hibike! Euphonium. Quite truthfully, the folks who vocally stated that Kyoto Animation’s contributions are “harming the industry” during K-On!‘s run had limited foresight: in 2016, things like K-On! and Lucky Star are not commonplace, and anime remains quite diverse.

  • The unknown individual following Kitauji’s band around turns out to be Nozomi Kasaki, a second year student who was once a member. Following the incident in the second year, she quit, and now, seeks re-admittance into Kitauji’s concert band following their performance in the qualifiers, expressly looking for Asuka’s approval. Asuka does not immediately reveal her reasons for declining Nozumi’s request, and in the first season, the largest questions surrounding Asuka was which aspect of her personality was a façade.

  • It’s high time I actually consolidated present intel on the frequently-alluded to incident under one roof — my roof. Following the defeat of Minami Junior High’s musical program, Nozomi, Natsuki, Yuko, and Mizore joined Kitauji’s band with the intent of winning the Nationals. However, with Kitauji’s concert band lacking the motivation to practise and better themselves, the Minami students began standing against the goals of their seniors, splitting the band into two factions (one side favouring improvement, and the other favouring the status quo). Ultimately, Nozomi lead nearly half of the members, among them the top players, to quit.

  • Arriving early in the mornings, Taki listens to and watches videos of top-tier schools at competitions to better gain an idea of what Kitauji’s own concert band requires in order to stand against the best of the best. His laptop is plainly a MacBook Air, with its distinct keyboard and aluminium finish, but lacks the product name on the screen’s bottom. if such a device existed, its manufacturers would almost certainly face a lawsuit of gargantuan proportions from Apple: their product designs are patented, and a few years ago, Samsung was sued by Apple for utilising patented GUI elements and device design concepts.

  • Wide-angle shots of the concert band during practise are commonplace in Hibike! Euphonium: whereas other anime often utilise LoD tricks to simplify scenes when there are a great number of actors present, Kyoto Animation does their best to ensure that the details are not lost. From an optimisation perspective, this can be grossly inefficient, but the end effect in Hibike! Euphonium is one that is impressive.

  • The aftermath of the Kitauji Schism was that former friends were distanced. Guilt amongst some of the members also manifested, who felt that they were unable to prevent the events from unfolding. Nozomi is said to be at the crux of everything: a capable leader who is driven by goals, she is an excellent flautist and despite being in her first year at the time of the schism, managed to rally a sufficient number of band members to pack their bags.

  • The friendship between Kumiko and Reina has always been a point of interest among some of the audience members; Reina admires the darker side of Kumiko that is detached with the surrounding world. Seeing a side of herself in Kumiko, Reina and Kumiko became fast friends during the first season, speaking in ways that led much of the community to assume the worst. With this in mind, I believe that these elements are shown to emphasise that the two are more similar than one might initially believe.

  • The last time I watched an anime with a liberal helping of fireworks, it was Glasslip in summer 2014. At the time, I was just setting out on my journey into graduate studies. I could not make heads or tails of what message Glasslip was trying to convey, and now, two years later, I’ve finished that programme. Even with two years’ worth of additional experiences, knowledge and background, I still have no clue what Glasslip was about. However, in that time, I’ve fallen in love with Risa Taneda’s Kimi eto no Refrain, a song that brings to mind some of Stereopony’s compositions.

  • If Reina and Kumiko engage in yuri behaviours, I said right before Hibike! Euphonium 2 aired, I will eat an entire raw ghost chili (a cross between C. chinense and C. frutescensand stream the results live. One of the hottest peppers in the world, with a Scoville rating of around 1041427  (by comparison, a habañero chili ranks between 100000 and 300000 Scoville units), the ghost chili is so potent that a small piece can immediately water the eyes and cause immense pain. Consuming an entire pepper at once will result in sweating, vomiting and in severe cases, can even induce seizures. I’m glad that I won’t be taken up on this challenge: by Hibike! Euphonium 2, it’s clear that Reina and Kumiko are friends, albeit close ones.

  • Although I’ve not played a musical instrument in a band for upwards of ten years now, I was in a concert band many years back and played the clarinet. The full story is provided back during my first impressions post for Hibike! Euphonium (itself written a year-and-a-half ago), and in the decade or so that’s elapsed, I’m now completely illiterate as far as reading sheet music goes. With that being said, being in a concert and jazz band was still a fantastic experience.

  • The page quote is taken from an exchange between John Clark and Domingo Chavez in Clear and Present Danger: they are laser-designating a target where drug lords are meeting for a bombing run, and a large yellow monster truck appears. Seeing that is a suitable target, he orders Chavez to paint it. Curiously enough, the quote can also be interpreted to describe Taki’s perspective on Kitauji’s collective goal of winning the national level competition, and that their sights should be set high in order to motivate their performance. In addition, since I included mention of Tom Clancy in a Hibike! Euphonium post, I figured it would be appropriate to add a quote from a Tom Clancy novel.

  • Precisely a sixth of this post’s images deal with Kumiko and company’s day out to the community pool, relaxing before everyone embarks on a musical training camp, for the sole reason that, like Sargent Avery Johnson of Halo, I know what the readers like. Here, Kumiko and Sapphire react to Reina’s assets; Reina had earlier remarked that her swimsuit was growing somewhat tight, and I’m certain that veteran anime viewers would know what would follow.

  • According to some sources, Asuka and I would not be able to stare one another down, making her one of the taller of the female students in Hibike! Euphonium. Here’s a random bit of trivia about myself: I’m precisely the average height for a person of Cantonese background. I’m not particularly sensitive about my height: between folks who are of the mind that being “vertically challenged” has advantages, such as being able to disperse heat faster and not requiring so much leg room while on an airplane, and the folks who find that being taller means projecting more confidence and being able to reach things higher up, I can thus remark that  I’ve got best of both worlds: I’m short enough to sit comfortably on a commercial flight, and are still tall enough to reach most things.

  • Kumiko and Nozomi share yet another conversation: after hearing more background about the band’s schism from the previous year, Kumiko finds herself drawn in and wonders whether or not she’d be able to talk to Asuka herself to see what the outcomes are. I cannot recall whether or not Kumiko has been shown to be listening to Nozomi’s flute performances in recording form during the previous season, but she’s said to immediately recognise Nozomi’s style of performing.

  • I’ll break character for a mere moment and remark that Nozomi is rather pleasing on the eye, before resuming and stating that Kyoto Animation’s attention to detail is impressive. Even in this image, scaled down to fit on the blog, it is possible to discern that there is a slight depth of field effect: Nozomi’s body is a little out of focus as the camera changes its attention to focus on Kumiko in the background. I do not imagine that many anime utilise this effect frequently, otherwise, I would have likely noticed.

  • An individual whose name will not be mentioned here has stated that “In a certain way…Kyo Ani is dialing up the Kumiko x Reina vibes, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, they seem to be backpedalling…”. Such an outlook could only arise if said individual genuinely believes that Kumiko and Reina’s friendship extend well beyond what might be considered ordinary. I personally did not find this to be the case: their dialogues and exchanges are par the course for how friends interact, and assert that the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango are making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Taki introduces Satomi Niiyama, an expert in woodwind instruments, to help guide and improve the woodwind section’s performance. Upon remarking that he never flatters needlessly, some of the female members in the band somehow reach the conclusion that Taki and Satomi are in a relationship of some sort. Even armed with my incredibly vast powers of deduction and reasoning, I cannot figure out how this follows.

  • This is actually the greatest moment across all three of the opening episodes, to watch Reina react to the mere prospect that Taki might not be single #GG #GoodGame #LOLOLOLOLOL. All jokes aside, I’ve experienced thus and consequently, note that again, Kyoto Animation has done a marvelous job of capturing what these thoughts and feelings might look like. From some studies, heartbreak causes the brain to release the same neuroreceptor compounds that are released when one is physically harmed, resulting in an unpleasant sensation equivalent to actual pain.

  • Kumiko converses with Mizore Yoroizuka, a talented oboe player who was once friends with Nozomi. Detesting competitions, she’s generally quiet and enjoys practising alone, arriving even earlier than Reina. In the aftermath of the previous year’s events, she dislikes Nozomi and it is for this reason that Asuka refuses to readmit Nozomi into the concert band, expressing concern that Mizore’s performance will be negatively impacted owing to her strained relationship with Nozomi.

  • One aspect in Hibike! Euphonium 2 that seemed much more noticeable relative to the first season is Kumiko’s voice: she’s voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa (of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Itsuki Inubozaki). It somehow slipped my notice, but Tomoyo’s deliver of Kumiko’s voice in this second season feels more hesitant, giving it a life-like quality that mirrors Kumiko’s traits quite well. In fact, I feel that she sounds a bit like Five Centimeters per Second‘s Akari Shinohara (Yoshimi Kondō).

  • Quite truthfully, I’ve never been the sort of person to get caught up in interpersonal drama, and as such, during my days as a high school student, largely ignored it for each club or activity I participated in. It turns out, for instance, that there had been a bit of a mess in the yearbook club during my senior year. It seems that there was some sort of conflict behind-the-scenes, which accounted for why the numbers in the club dwindled, and the club advisor had assigned me the additional tasks, which I summarily finished. The yearbook thus came out on schedule to the students, who were none the wiser.

  • In general, I believe that drama should never be allowed to impact performance at any point in life, and decisions should not be made on the sole basis of minimising or causing drama. This “get it done” outlook means that I tend to clash with folks who place a great deal of emphasis on social hierarchies. Back in Hibike! Euphonium 2, Masahiro Hashimoto jovially addresses the students, saying that their music should be performed with a style representative of what Kitauji is, rather than mechanically. When Taki notes that Masahiro has his moments, the latter replies in kind, stating that all of his lines are quotable. Taki and Masahiro have known one another for quite some time and is an expert on percussion, being asked to help out with improving the band’s performance.

  • At the end of another day’s practise, which involves ten back-to-back performances with two minute intermissions, the entire band is exhausted and gather around a bonfire to light fireworks. As someone who is a morning person, I cannot get much work done by evenings and prefer to relax: yesterday, after a day’s effort in vacuuming the house and clearing out the bathrooms, I stepped out for dinner at the 桃園 Cafe HK, enjoying the katsu curry with spaghetti and a fried pumpkin slice.

  • Kumiko and Reina share a moment together with the sparklers. With Kumiko’s encouragement, Reina steps forth to confront her fears and ask about Taki’s marital status, learning that he’s not seeing Satomi, who is married. In the meantime, Kumiko learns something rather more surprising from Masahiro, who shares with her that Taki was once married. Following his wife’s death, Taki never remarried and, became more grim and silent than before.

  • This would appear to be the element that led Taki to leave the world of professional music, but when he applies to the music instructor position at Kitauji, Masahiro found himself relieved that Taki had slowly begun to gather himself and return to music. This element could make Reina’s endeavours a little more challenging: despite having known Taki for quite some time, it does not appear that she’s fully aware of his past.

  • Kumiko’s direct interactions with Yuko Yoshikawa (Hibike! Euphonium‘s equivalent of Lieutenant Angelo) in Hibike! Euphonium‘s first season were minimal, and being the straight-shooter that she is, when asked as to how she feels about Yuko, Kumiko responds that she’s not particularly fond of her. She learns of Yuko’s own perspectives on competitions: Yuko finds them to be an unfair assessment of a group’s performance, standing in contrast with Reina, who enjoys competitions because of the thrill of being able to gain a better idea of where her skills lie.

  • It actually took me the better half of a day to come up with things to say for the different moments in this Hibike! Euphonium talk, and it suddenly strikes me that even with more images, I’ve not covered all of the possible aspects that are meritorious of discussion. This attests to the amount of activity in Hibike! Euphonium, although for my own discussions, I will attempt to focus on the more basic elements in the theme, leaving topics dealing with the minutiae to the folks with more leisure time than myself.

  • This post comes to an end, and so, I’ll be returning once Hibike! Euphonium 2 wraps up in December to give a talk on the entire series. I’ll be keeping an eye on both how well the themes from the first season are retained, as well as what journey the band takes en route to their target. In the meantime, I’ll be resuming my weekly Brave Witches talks once the episodes begin airing again, and enjoy the fact that I’ll have the upcoming Saturday to relax.

With this in mind, I am greatly looking forwards to how Hibike! Euphonium 2 turns out; this is the prevailing opinion amongst the English-speaking viewers, who are likewise anticipating seeing more elements pertaining to the characters, their backgrounds and motivations. Aside from the life-like characters (who are portrayed as being multi-layered and complex as any characters from a Tom Clancy novel), Hibike! Euphonium 2 possesses top-tier artwork rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai and Studio Ghibli movies; this is impressive for the fact that a high standard is consistently seen in every episode. From the papers and clutter around Taki’s desk, to the reflections off the river during the fireworks show, and the detail in the brass instruments, Kyoto Animation has done much to ensure that each aspect is visceral, popping off the screen to capture that sense of realism. During my review of the full first season back in the summer of 2015, I remarked that a continuation would have been icing on the cake, but presently, with the second season under way, expectations are high for the narrative to deliver a compelling story about the next leg of Kitauji’s journey to capture the title of national champions in concert band.

The 502nd Joint Fighter Wing: Brave Witches Third Episode Impressions and Review

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” —Henry Ford

After meeting the other members of the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, Hikari is evaluated by Edytha Roßmann and Gundula Rall, who learn that her magical output is insufficient to operate Chidori. However, when she mentions that she spotted a Neuori core in the previous battle, the two become intrigued and send her into combat along with the others. Despite her best efforts, Hikari is unable to utilise this power, leading Gundula to consider sending Hikari back to Fuso. Nikka crashes during the course of the battle, and while retrieving her with Kanno, another Neuroi appears. Encountering difficulty in engaging the lone Neuroi in single combat, Hikari aids Nikka in closing the distance to Kanno, allowing Kanno to eliminate the Neuroi. Her team spirit is begrudgingly noted by Kanno in a report, leading Gundula to reconsider; Hikari is permitted a week’s time to demonstrate her worth to the 502nd. As Yoshika had helped Lynette improve her ranged combat in Strike Witches, Brave Witches‘ third episode deals primarily with teamwork amongst a subset of the 502nd with Hikari. This time, Hikari capitalises on her uncommon stamina to help Kanno and Nikka take down a Neuroi when the former had depleted her ammunition stores, demonstrating that despite her weaker magic, she nonetheless wants to help out however she can.

Brave Witches shows that team spirit is a soft skill of substantial value in its third episode. During my experience with job searches, a part of the criteria companies include being a team player, and career specialists mention that the ability to fit well with a team is essential; a technically impressive developer who gets into frequent disagreements with the others may prove more to be a hindrance rather than an asset, for instance. Conversely, individuals with slightly weaker qualifications but a friendly disposition, willingness to learn and readiness to cooperate with others may be much more suitable for a particular role. Positive attitudes and an open mind serves to keep an entire team’s motivations up, and consequently, it is unsurprising that Hikari is given another chance in spite of her limited combat experience. She has the determination to assist her team in the manner appropriate for her, and also appears open to learning to be more effective as a Witch. From a practical perspective, her low experience is a liability (roughly equivalent to hiring someone new in the middle of a project), but Gundula’s open-minded approach means that, once Hikari learn and adapts, the 502nd will gain another asset.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hikari is formally introduced to the other members of the 502nd, and even this early on, the characters’ traits become apparent. Waltrud, Nikka and Alexsandra appear to take to Hikari warmly, with Waltrude remarking that she’s known as the “Countess”, while Georgette is rather more shy. Similarly, Kanno outright rejects her and refuses to introduce herself. Known as a squadron whose routine antics result in the damage of their Striker units, the 502nd is apparently named “Breaker Witches” amongst the other Joint Fighter Wings.

  • The 502nd are stationed in Orussia; their base is a near-perfect reproduction of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. Built between 1706 and 1740, this fortress was intended to defend against a Swedish attack during the Northern War but never fulfilled its original purpose, and so, became a prison. By the events of the February Revolution in 1917, the prisoners were freed by Pavlovsky Regiment forces, and the facility was captured by the Bolsheviks, being converted into a museum by 1924. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, the site has since been restored.

  • Kanno outright refuses to believe that Hikari could have any worth considering the latter’s low combat ability, and finds herself frustrated when, during a morning run, finds herself outpaced. Venting her frustrations against Hikari, Nikka intervenes and remarks that allies shouldn’t be fighting one another in light of a common enemy. It is here that Hikari begins befriending Nikka, a Suomus (Finland) Witch whose magic lies in regeneration and restoration. She’s known for having uncommonly poor luck and wrecks her Striker unit as a result of misfortune rather than in the line of fire.

  • During mealtime, Hikari and Sadako strike up a friendship when Hikari complements on the excellent food. It turns out that Sadako is a skilled cook in Japanese cuisine, and is ever-willing to help out around the facility. With a strong interest in literature, Sadako fulfils the role of an observer with her vision, spotting distant targets, as well as targets under darkness. I note that Sadako’s name is romanised in the same manner as the primary antagonist from Koji Suzuki’s Ring. Hopefully, Google will not get smart and somehow lump my blog in with those pertaining to Ring, for readers might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

  • In a mission briefing, Edytha explains the presence of a Neuroi hive being the source of their frequent encounters. These cloud-like constructs birth Neuroi and serve as a central base of sorts, and Edytha notes that the 501st’s actions had resulted in the destruction (corresponding to the events of Strike Witches‘ first season). Her choice of words, that how it was achieved remains classified, has sparked a nontrivial amount of discussion well surpassing what is necessary. Granted, the circumstances of how Yoshika and the 501st contributed to the neutralisation of one hive were exceptional, but saying that it’s “impossible to replicate” is an error of semantics.

  • The 501st engaging a Neuroi nest resulting in its destruction is not impossible, so it would be more appropriate to say that it would be highly improbable that other Witches would encounter or be able to emulate the specific circumstances that allowed the 501st to destroy the Neuroi nest in Gallia: that a rogue artificial construct would fuse with the hive, eliminate it and assimilate an aircraft carrier, resulting in Yoshika striking the core to destroy it. Back in the present, Nikka takes Hikari on a tour of the 502nd’s facilities. An M1938 76mm anti-aircraft gun is visible here; used earlier in World War II, the weapons were replaced by the more powerful 52K, which has a muzzle brake that is absent on the M1938.

  • The base provides a fantastic cityscape of Petersburg, although owing to the conflict’s spread, much of the city has been evacuated: Petersburg is the front lines and is threatened by Neuroi hives. Despite its location, the area seems quite peaceful; such a trend is presumably broken as Brave Witches‘ finale draws near, with multiple hives potentially converging on the site to result in an epic showdown rivalling those experienced by the 501st.

  • During her assessment, Hikari is asked to engage Chidori and execute a simple flight pattern around the base. During the course of the exercise, Edytha and Alexsandra notice irregularities in Hikari’s flight patterns and decide to bring in additional equipment to verify their hypothesis. As a point of curiosity, entering “502” into Google first returns the 502 bad gateway (resulting from a server and the gateway or proxy do not have a consistent protocol for communicating; in practical terms, this prevents a computer from connecting to other computers) and the 502 area code (belonging to Kentucky).

  • It turns out that Hikari has the opposite problem that Yoshika had: she is unable to output enough magic to fully make use of the Shiden IV’s capabilities, resulting in decreased performance. An analogy here would be a computer’s PSU not outputting enough power to supply the components, resulting in components powering down or running below expected parameters. This is why GPUs have a minimum recommended PSU rating, to prevent them from losing power in the midst of a task.

  • With the strides made with the Pascal architecture, GPUs can now deliver higher performance with lower power requirements, leading one to wonder if Strikers operate on a similar principle. In the midst of things, a Neuroi is detected in friendly airspace, and Gundula, hearing that Hikari might have magical vision, decides to field her and see whether or not such her powers may contribute in any way to her operational value.

  • Despite her best efforts, Hikari is unable to yield her powers fully, suggesting that they’re still immature at this stage, similar to how young Wizards and Witches in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe can summon magic involuntarily under special circumstances and require training to master the extent of their magic. The Brave Witches soundtrack is set for release on December 21 and will retail for 3000 yen (38.55 CAD). So far, there’s no tracklist, although I imagine that it’ll be similarly structured to the soundtracks of Strike Witches.

  • Here, Edytha utilises a multiple rocket launcher similar to Sanya’s Flieghammer, itself a fictional counterpart of the American M202 Flash. Unlike their real-world counterpart, which hold four rockets for delivering incendiary ammunition, the fictional rocket launchers have nine launch tubes and fire explosive warheads.

  • Hikari is very nearly incinerated by the Neuroi’s beams, being saved again by Kanno. I note that the Neuroi beams in the third episode have returned to their customary red colouration, from the bright pink beams seen in the second episode. These inconsistencies are rather noticeable, and I’ve heard that the fourth episode has been delayed owing to challenges encountered during production. This will be the first time where I’ve seen an anime delayed while doing episodic reviews, but I welcome the delay owing to my current circumstances.

  • The Neuroi is defeated in short order with minimal contributions from Hikari. Nikka and Kanno are instructed to search the area and determine whether or not there are any more threats, with the others returning to base. Edytha wonders if Hikari might have imagined seeing the core earlier, leaving Hikari to doubt her role in the 502nd.

  • Upon arrival, Hikari learns that Nikka has crashed and is inaccessible. She’s sent out to assist in the recovery, but Gundula remarks that in light of Hikari’s imminent dismissal, it’s also to give her a chance at enjoying flight before returning home. The search extend into the evening, and Kanno finds it difficult to continue on account of the glare, noting that Hikari still seems to be in fine spirits while looking around for Nikka.

  • Glint from the forest below soon reveals Nikka’s position: she’s crashed in a tree and fell asleep while waiting for the recovery teams to arrive. it turns out that locusts somehow managed to enter the intakes for her Striker, causing it to malfunction. Modern jet engines are designed to survive an occasional bird ingestion, although the entry of foreign matter into an engine will necessitate maintenance in order to restore performance. Nikka’s encounter brings to mind an incident in 1988 involving B-52 Stratofortresses that entered a cloud of locusts. Visbility plummeted and the pilots navigated by their instruments alone, making a safe landing, and pilots are presently instructed to avoid locust swarms.

  • In light of Nikka’s extraordinarily poor luck, I’m going to keep count of the number of Striker units that Nikka totals over the course of Brave Witches. Thus far, she’s wrecked one unit as of episode three, and is carried back to base by both Hikari and Kanno. The unexpected appearance of another Neuroi leads Kanno to engage it. She spirals higher into the atmosphere to gain  an elevation advantage, but becomes hampered by the lack of oxygen at those altitudes.

  • When her primary weapon is depleted, Kanno is forced to evade. Seeing an ally in trouble, Hikari flies Nikka closer and allows the latter to give Kanno a new weapon. This also creates an opening that allows Kanno to destroy the Neuroi. Similar to Yoshika, despite not firing the shot that takes out the Neuroi, her actions and support for her teammates indirectly contributes to another tally. This motivates the page quote: an effective team is one where everyone knows how to work together in spite of differences in their background and skillset.

  • Despite her reluctance to outright say so, Kanno implies that the second kill was a consequence of Hikari’s actions. Hearing this, Gundula shelves a document that formally transfers Hikari back to Fuso (albeit, a document with enough Engrish to make me recoil in horror). Her combat ability notwithstanding, Gundula understands that contributions to victory lie in having a multi-disciplinary team, and so, even if Hikari may not be able to kill Neuroi, her actions suggest that she might be useful elsewhere. She thus allows Hikari another week’s time before making her final decision.

  • It might appear that Nikka will play a similar role as did Lynette, being the first person to really befriend Hikari, in Brave Witches, and together with Kanno, will form a similar dynamic as the one that existed between Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. With the third episode in the books, and the fourth episode presumably delayed, this post comes to an end. So far, Brave Witches is doing a fine job of illustrating the challenges that Hikari faces and emphasising that she’s quite different than Yoshika: supposing this extends to the overarching narrative, it would be quite interesting to see what elements Brave Witches will utilise to distinguish itself from Strike Witches and show that this alternate world can indeed host a cohesive story without resorting to excessive pantsu shots to draw in viewers.

The reason why I remark that Hikari is going to become an asset for the 502nd is owing to the intrinsic nature of Brave Witches — Hikari is plainly the protagonist and consequently, cutting her from the 502nd would bring her story to a quick end. With this in consideration, the intrigue in Brave Witches arises from seeing what path Hikari takes towards her journey of fulfilling her wish of making a meaningful contribution to the war against the Neuroi in her sister’s footsteps, as well as how she comes to play a role in bettering the 502nd. After three episodes, Hikari has already taken the first steps, befriending Nikka and demonstrating to Kanno her resolve in playing a larger role for the 502nd in Takami’s stead. As the episodes progress, it is expected that Hikari will get to know the others better: Sadako and Waltrud appear receive her cordially, and as Hikari continues to better herself as a Witch, she’ll further grow closer with the others. This is the journey that I expect of Brave Witches, and as such, having passed the three episode mark, Brave Witches will certainly present a familiar, yet different journey on another perspective in the Human-Neuroi war.

A Milestone at the Five Year Anniversary

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” —John Quincy Adams

I’ve been sitting here, staring at WordPress’ “edit post” screen for the past thirty minutes, trying to think of something to say for this blog’s five year anniversary. It makes sense to begin by thanking all of my readers; without your support and feedback, it is unlikely that I would have continued to find the motivation to continue writing for this period: five years is quite a bit of time, and looking through some of the older posts in this blog, it’s quite astonishing as to how much has happened in the past five years: I’ve finished two degrees, flown around the world to present my research and have begun working now as a member of society. I’ve stared down and defeated the MCAT, had my heart broken twice, went from a probationary to fully qualified driver, and wrote more journal and conference papers than I’ve cared to count. I’ve also become bit of a poutine connoisseur and have driven out to the towns over just to try a small restaurant’s poutine. Concurrently, this blog has grown from its humble origin as a backup website for me to write short articles: I’ve now retired my old website (itself approaching its ninth birthday) in favour of the infrastructure that WordPress provides. In reading some of my previous articles, I wondered whether or not I would be able to continue blogging, and it seems that, for better or worse, I’m sticking around in the foreseeable future — even the increased workload of being a graduate student (and time spent in pubs) appears to have done little to alter this blog’s pacing. With this in mind, if I do decide to lower posting frequency, I’ll simply let the readers know.

  • Five years is a lot of time, although it’s also blazed by in the blink of an eye. While I sometimes do find myself wondering what things will be like five, or even ten years down the line, one of the bigger things I’ve learned is to enjoy the present, as well. This lesson is something that I’m ever-mindful of, and it is in part a consequence of watching so many Iyashikei that I’ve begun slowing myself down to take in a moment more completely.


  • If and when I’m asked, as to how I manage to find time to blog in conjunction with everything else I do (work, cook, clean, lift, read and game), I do not think I can offer a concrete answer in that I’m not too sure, myself. However, I imagine that good time management comes from having a seemingly contradictory combination of both being able to plan well in advance for something and adapt to roll with a moment whenever things change. In this manner, one can make the most of every moment, whether it’s writing code, doing a kata or kicking back and breathing in the autumn air at the top of a hill, without overwhelming themselves.

So, five years after I kicked off the Infinite Mirai with the obligatory Hello World! post and followed up with my first post (a five-minute discussion of the K-On! Movie trailer), this blog now rocks some seven hundred and thirty posts. There’s more than a thousand comments (something I never thought would happen), and the built-in anti-spam system has defeated over 33000 spam comments. The average post takes around two hours to write from start to finish, and the largest post to date is my Girls und Panzer: Der Film discussion, with ninety-five images and some eleven thousand words. The most popular post, based on view count, is a location hunt talk on The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. Said post was made after a request from a reader who wanted a comparison of real-world locations against those seen in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and but lacked the means to view sites in the Shift JIS format, so I rebuilt the page in a more user-friendly manner and soon, got more requests to do location posts. These are just some of the numbers surrounding this blog, and moving forwards, this time, I’m not too sure what the future’s going to look like. I am certain that I will continue writing for the near future: I’ve to finish Brave Witches and Kimi no Na Wa, as well as Gundam Origin‘s finale episode. Again, I’d like to thank everyone for their support and feedback — you readers and fellow bloggers mean the world to me, and with that being said, let’s get it!

Shuumatsu no Izetta: Review and Reflections After Three

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy…I believe that the Axis powers are not going to win this war. I base that belief on the latest and best of information.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt

In an alternate history where the Empire of Germania begins a war of conquest for the European continent. Seeking to capture the small country of Eylstadt, Germanian forces capture princess Ortfiné “Finé” Fredericka von Eylstadt with the aim of using her as a bargaining chip, but inadvertently awaken a Witch, Izetta. Her promise and friendship to Finé unforgotten, she promises to help protect Princess Finé and defend Eylstadt, demonstrating the nature of her powers against advancing Germanian forces at Coenenberg and Single-handedly turning the tide of battle. This is a reasonable and succinct account for what’s occurred in Shuumatsu no Izetta (English, Izetta: The Last Witch) thus far, another one of this season’s historical-fantasy anime. Three episodes in, Shuumatsu no Izetta has proven to be quite entertaining, but is also strikingly familiar: the previous historical-fantasy I beheld was Valkyria Chronicles, which similarly involved a large empire invading a small nation amidst a continent-wide war, as well as supernatural beings with the ability to influence the outcome of a battle on their own. However, Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s world is more similar to our own, as opposed to the greater number of fictional elements seen in Valkyria Chronicles — Junkers dive bombers and Panzer IIIs can be seen, along with real-world anti-tank rifles. The question then becomes: how does the quasi-realistic setting contribute to Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s enjoyment factor?

The answer is a simple one: so far, the opening shots of a war and the inclusion of a magical girl equivalent of John-117 or the Doom Slayer have come together to create an intriguing universe. Finé herself strives to play a greater role in maintaining her country’s security as it becomes entangled in conflict, hesitating to ask her friend to fight on her behalf, while Izetta, longing to aid Finé as gratitude for accepting her when no one else would, wishes to play a greater role in defending Eylstadt even if it means using her magic with lethal consequences. Three episodes in, the main theme in Shuumatsu no Izetta has yet to be presented, but all of the aspects shown thus far together suggest that audiences are likely to be in for an interesting showing this season as all of the different aspects in both Finé and Izetta’s character come into play, in conjunction with the larger war at hand. Without the might of Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy and a Witch in its place, the journey to see Elystadt liberated will definitely be one I follow keenly for this season.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I never thought I’d be watching, much less writing about Shuumatsu no Izetta. This additional series comes courtesy of Jusuchin of Right Wing Otaku, who’s concurrently writing about Shuumatsu no Izetta with Brave Witches. Curiosity soon took hold, and I decided to check out the first episode. What I saw was something that impressed me sufficiently for me to pick it up, so I’ll now be watching this one alongside Brave Witches and Hibike! Euphonium.

  • Ortfiné “Finé” Fredericka von Eylstadt (center) is the princess and last heir to the throne in the nation of Eylstadt. Honourable and determined are two adjectives that capture her spirit: despite being of nobility, Finé is not hesitant to risk death for her country’s sake, standing in contrast with the sort of courage deficiency seen in other cases. At the start of Shuumatsu no Izetta, she and her guards are on a train trying to evade Germanian forces.

  • There’s actually no point in me having this screenshot here beyond the purposes perhaps amusing those who read this post, and in fact, I probably could have included another screenshot with military hardware such that it could be discussed in greater detail. With respect to military hardware, Battlefield 1‘s launch is this Friday, and having seen the footage for the campaign, as well as the multiplayer maps, I’m rather excited to see where the game goes.

  • While I’m very curious to try out Battlefield 1, I’m not sure if it’ll be in my pocketbook’s best interest to purchase the game; poor exchange ranges mean that I’ll need to shell out eighty dollars for a standard edition, rather than sixty. Of course, if an opportune sale occurs, I’m almost certain to buy Battlefield 1, and in the meantime, may purchase one month of EA Access to play the trial. Returning to Shuumatsu no Izetta, I introduce the antagonists. Belkman (left) and Rickert (right) are two Germanian characters, who are, according to documentation, cites the former as the primary antagonist holding the rank of major, and Rickert is is assistant.

  • Blitzkrieg is utilised by Germanian forces to great effect in Shuumatsu no Izetta: Junkers Ju 87 (Stuka) dive bombers are used here to soften targets before ground forces arrive. The German techniques in blitzkrieg made use of a combination of close air support in conjunction with armour and infantry. These high-speed tactics allowed German forces to avoid stalemate and overwhelm an enemy prepared to fight static warfare as seen in World War I, and while effective, historians debate whether or not blitzkrieg can formally be considered a tactic.

  • Against the Eylstadt ground forces, the Germanian forces roll through the countryside unopposed and regard the resistance as a mere nuisance. The start of their campaign is quite similar to Russia’s ground invasion of Estonia in Tom Clancy’s Command Authority, where T90s begin a campaign to smash alleged terrorist positions. After American Apaches and their Hellfire missiles intervene, the Russians withdraw their forces on short order. No such support exists for Eylstadt at this point, and as such, they rapidly begin losing ground.

  • After her capture at an opera while discussing with Britannian Lord Redford to gain their support in the war to repel the Germanian forces, Finé is captured. She had considered marriage with Prince Henry  to consolidate her position, illustrating her commitment to Eylstadt. Here, she clashes with her Germanian captors in an aircraft noted to be carrying materials of great importance, along with a capsule with a certain individual inside.

  • After awakening, the Witch Izetta commanders one of the anti-tank rifles (identified to be a PTRS-41, a Russian model firing an 14.5 x 114mm AP round with a five-round magazine), bewitches it to fly and realises that Finé has fallen. Making haste to save Finé, she is overjoyed to be reunited once more with her. Although anti-tank rifles were widely used following the introduction of the first tanks in World War One, improving armour meant these weapons became obsolete by the Korean War.

  • The function of anti-tank rifles have diverged into two families of weapons, anti-materiel rifles, and man-portable anti-armour weapons. Although incapable of outright destroying a tank, they can be used to immobilise or damage tank components sufficiently to render them mission-incapable. After she’s saved Finé from falling to her death, a squadron of Germanian aircraft soon arrive, forcing Izetta to engage them. She utilises this boomstick as a broomstick, and the story behind why witches are commonly associated with brooms are discussed in an earlier post about Flying Witch.

  • Izetta’s magic is decidedly more visceral than those of Makoto’s, matching the spells of Harry Potter in terms of effectiveness. It appears that she can transmute blood into different elemental effects and here, uses it to drive ice shards through one of the pursuing aircraft. In games, such as Ragnarok OnlineWorld of Warcraft and even Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, I’ve never been too fond of ice elemental attacks, preferring fire and lightning builds for my mages.

  • After returning to the ground, Izetta discards the anti-tank rifle and resolves to save Finé. They soon run into a battalion of dejected Eylstadt soldiers, and Finé is taken in to recover. I remark that, although this post may have its usual twenty images, it was a considerable challenge to pick and choose. Ultimately, I went with a combination of combat and character moments: this is an anime where the fight sequences are worthy of mention, so the combat is better watched than read about on a blog such as this.

  • Another element I’ve come to enjoy deeply in Shuumatsu no Izetta is the depiction of landscapes and cityscapes in Eylstadt. These stills brilliantly capture the colours and atmospherics of a mountainous nation, and similarly, the fortress that Eylstadt forces defend in the third episode is set on a cliffside reminiscent of Sora no Woto‘s Clocktower Fortress. The artwork in Shuumatsu no Izetta is amazing, even if there are other scenes where lower level of detail can be plainly seen (such as faceless characters).

  • The French FT-17 light tank was a beast of a weapon that will be balanced for Battlefield 1‘s release (I believe the changes are that it will have weaker armour and a longer self-repair time, which should give infantry a chance to set up their AT rocket guns and other anti-armour weapons to defeat them), and historically, could deal some damage to early German Panzer models, being used right up until the end of World War II. However, in Shuumatsu no Izetta, the FT-17 is shown to be outclassed by the Germanian Panzer IIIs that constitute their ground forces — the Eylstadt forces completely lose their armour on short order on the ground.

  • Izetta and Finé’s friendship is a particularly strong one because during their childhood, Finé immediately accepted and found astounding Izetta’s Witch powers, whereas Izetta had grown accustomed to being ostrisised for possessing them. Her grandmother asks that Izetta avoid using her powers in front of others, but Izetta decides that their use is necessary for Finé’s sake.

  • Finé’s wounds are tended to as Izetta looks on with concern. Realising that Finé’s kindness is exceptional, she later negotiates with Finé to help her defend Eylstadt, although Finé initially declines, stating that Izetta’s safety is of a greater priority. One wonders whether or not Izetta’s devotion to Finé might resemble a Wookie’s Life Debt: in Star Wars, Chewbacca pledges his life to Han Solo after Solo saved him from slavery and accompanies him on his adventures.

  • The Germanians are presented as being quite confident, almost to the point of arrogance, in their own military might, although they mention as answering to an emperor rather than a Führer. Save for a short moment in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, I do not think I’ve ever seen Hitler in an anime before. In Germany, law strictly prohibits the use of any Nazi symbolism except for historical purposes, although in the United States and Canada, these symbols are allowed under free speech (although in Canada, such symbols are not permitted to convey messages of hate).

  • The battle at Coenenberg is a rather thrilling one to watch after Izetta joins the fray: earlier, it is particularly one-sided, with the Eylstadt forces sustaining heavy casualties. She makes use of medieval lances as makeshift funnels and quickly shoots down most of the aircraft, stops to borrow an LMG and returns to the fortress to obtain some swords. It took considerable effort to ensure that for this talk, I spelt the location as “Coenenberg” rather than “Cronenberg”: the latter refers to David Cronenberg’s signature style of body horror, adopted for use in Rick and Morty.

  • In many forms of media, armour is shown to be decimated to emphasise how powerful a character is. Tanks, powerful vehicles in the real world with exceptional durability, are usually destroyed with ease  to make clear this point: Izetta flips several tanks with her magic and even stops a Panzer III’s main cannon with a magical shield, as Selvaria had done in Valkyria Chronicles. However, these feats are assisted by magic, and I note that in Halo, the Spartans could right flipped Scorpion tanks, which weight three times as much as Panzer IIIs. Originally implemented as a gameplay mechanic, since vehicles in Halo have an unfortunate propensity to flip on uneven surfaces, Frank O’Connor (development director at 343 Industries) has stated that Spartans can indeed do so.

  • Realising that Izetta is single-handedly changing the course of the battle as the Master Chief and Doom Slayer are wont to doing in their respective universes, Finé asks the soldiers around her to provide support. Earlier, she directly orders her soldiers to stand down, asking them whether or not it would be worthwhile to meaninglessly sacrifice their lives now for a fight whose course has already been decided.

  • With the battle concluded, and the passing of the Eylstadt Emperor, the third episode draws to a close, as does the weekend. This weekend’s been unremarkable but relaxing: I’ve begun playing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and it’s been a smooth experience so far, save the minor drops in frame rates in some areas of the game. I’m still playing through the Prague missions right now, and will probably do a talk on my experiences after I take off for the Golem district. With respect to upcoming posts, I’ll be targeting Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season: owing to the special setup of the opening episode, that post will be a bit longer than usual.

In fact, owing to the multi-faceted features in Shuumatsu no Izetta, I cannot help but wonder whether or not this anime will span two cours rather than one. Given how the narrative has opened up, Shuumatsu no Izetta appears to be utilising its earlier episodes to showcase combat sequences and slowly flesh out Izetta and Finé’s characters, while leaving the Germanian forces as a hirtherto unexplored antagonist. This approach is less appropriate for the time constraints in a one-cour anime, and given that Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s world seems to be a reasonably complex one, having double the runtime would easily allow for a fully fleshed-out story to be adequately explored. With this in consideration, I’ve got no plans to do episodic reviews for Shuumatsu no Izetta at present, but I do look forwards to watching the events of Shuumatsu no Izetta unfold, as well as seeing what writer Hiroyuki Yoshino (who’d previously done the composition and screenplay for Sora no Woto) has in mind for this anime. If this ends up being a two-cour anime, I’ll return at the halfway point to provide remarks on how Shuumatsu no Izetta is faring, as well as a talk on the entire series, otherwise, there will be a single post on whether or not one cour was satisfactory for providing a solid narrative for what is looking to be an intriguing show for this season.

Take Flight, Chidori: Brave Witches Second Episode Impressions and Review

“It was in this moment, when all hope had faded that Hikari, sister of the Flight Lieutenant, took up her sibling’s Striker.” —Voice of Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring

En route to Petersburg, Orussia, the carrier battle group that Takami and Hikari are on is assaulted by a Neuroi force. Takami sustains injuries over the course of the engagement and lapses into a coma after utilising her Absolute Eye — although this enables her to defeat the Neuroi, she drains a large amount of her magic in doing so. With Takami down, and the CVBG sustaining heavy losses, Hikari decides to buy the fleet enough time for the 502nd to arrive. She later requests to fight alongside the 502nd in Takami’s place, and despite Pilot Officer Kanno Naoe’s protests, Hikari is allowed to join by Squadron Leader Gundula Rall, on the condition that she improves her combat performance. With the 502nd making a formal appearance in the second episode of Brave Witches, Hikari will be set to learn her place among the 502nd, where her reception appears to be less than warm.

The events of the second episode will not likely come as a surprise to viewers familiar with Strike Witches: as Strike Witches had done, the Brave Witches‘ second episode follows an unexpected encounter with the Neuroi at sea, where circumstances lead the protagonist to enter combat for the first time. Despite the protagonist’s lack of experience, they are able to buy allied forces enough time until the main forces arrive to destroy the Neuroi. While it may prima facie appear that Brave Witches is following a derivative plot progression, Brave Witches seems to be deliberately introducing new elements that suggest more focus on the Human-Neuroi war: that Takami becomes injured in battle and falls into a coma from expending her energy to defend her allies, and Hikari’s inexperience resulting in her immediately being viewed as a liability by the 502nd both illustrate that warfare is not glamourous. These differences are subtle but noticeable, implying that Brave Witches intends to be a more narrative-intensive presentation compared to its predecessor. Thus, it’s possible that, while the overall episodic structures draw numerous parallels with Strike Witches, each episode will present its story in a slightly more serious manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Continuing on from where the first episode left off, Brave Witches‘ second episode opens with Hikari managing to use her shields to clear a small estuary en route to her home, showing that her character is one who is able to achieve feats from a willingness to learn and a ceaseless determination.

  • An element I particularly enjoyed was watching Mia wave goodbye to Hikari as the aircraft carrier leaves port; in spite of her previous outlooks about Hikari, she is genuinely moved that Hikari saved her in the previous episode. This suggests that Hikari could have a similar impact on the 502nd. Yoshika definitely had a profound impact on the 501st for better or worse, and by the events of Strike Witches: The Movie, the characters find themselves thinking about how she’s doing.

  • Hailing from Karlsland, Gundula Rall fulfills the role of Squadron Leader, similar to the 501st’s Mio Sakamoto. The third great ace of Karlsland, Gundula is headstrong and confident. Injured during a sortie, she is nonetheless a capable Witch who enjoys flying alongside her subordinates and was inspired by Germany’s Günther Rall.

  • In Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, I spent none of my skill points in stamina, instead, investing heavily in magicka and health owing to my preference for magical combat. Here, Hikari demonstrates the results of her tireless training and easily completes laps on the deck of the carrier, leaving the male sailors in the dust.

  • After watching Takami test a Shinden Model 11, Hikari tries her hand at flying it and is unable to control her movements, falling back into the flight deck and remarking that the handling is completely unlike that of the training Striker units she’s accustomed with. I imagine that this difference is similar to enabling auto-aim in a shooter for training, and then suddenly trying out a control schema with no auto-aim. I prefer manual aim on any platform because it gives finer-grain control over shot placement; auto-aim typically locks onto an opponent’s torso.

  • “Chidori” (千鳥) literally translates to “a thousand birds” but can be used to refer to the subfamily of birds, Charadriinae. The writers have done their literature search: these birds are indeed distributed around the world as Takami mentions, and her motivation for joining the human campaign against the Neuroi is to contribute to a lasting peace such that everyone may someday fly in the free skies without fear.

  • Takami sorties with the Solothrun S-18/100 20mm anti-tank rifle, whose real-world counterpart had low portability and high recoil. With a ten-round magazine, the weapon is cited as being able to punch through 20 mm of armour at 100 meters, but the weapon was obsolete by 1941. Its semi-automatic firing suggests that Takami engages her targets at medium range and so, uses her weapon as a scaled-up designated marksman rifle of sorts, preferring to fire fewer, higher-powered rounds to take out the Neuroi.

  • Unlike Lynette, whose magic is used to guide her rounds for extreme long-range precision, Takami’s innate magical ability to locate the core in a Neuroi. In conjunction with her choice of weapon, she’s thus able to down Neuroi in a single shot. While her abilities have largely been remarked upon on-screen, the episode demonstrates that she’s highly competent as a Witch. The bright pink beams seen here differ from the red accents seen in earlier Strike Witches, and in fact, are reminiscent of the GN particle beams from Gundam 00, leading to the question of how well the Neuroi might fare against something like the Exia.

  • It wouldn’t be a Brave Witches post without at least one pantsu shot, so for this post, I will include one of Takami. Continuing on with the trends from Operation Victory Arrow, the amount of crotch-shots in Brave Witches is lessened. When her magic is activated, she takes on the features of a Grus japonensis (red-crowed crane). The Chinese and Japanese regard this crane a symbol of nobility and immortality, a suitable choice for Takami considering her gentle yet determined personality.

  • Leaving her wingmen to take on the smaller, core-less Neuroi, Takami succeeds in engaging and destroying multiple Neuroi. One of the challenges that I will continue to face throughout Brave Witches will be the acquisition of screenshots during the higher-speed sequences, where motion blur is rendered to emphasise notions of speed. This typically is less of an issue in anime relative to live-action, but with episode two, I’ve noticed that it was trickier to get reasonably sharp images on account of this motion blur.

  • Back on the ground, Hikari and the others watch as Takami single-handedly destroys the Neuroi carrying cores. The first season of Strike Witches depicted conventional Neuroi as a moderate threat that could be overcome with the efforts of the 501st, but as the franchise matured, even individual Neuroi became a more serious challenge; on top of tougher armour, they gain the ability to regenerate their surfaces and move their cores at will, making them much more difficult to destroy.

  • As the battle progresses, some of the aircraft accompanying Takami are shot down. The large number of Neuroi begin presenting a challenge to Takami: she’s unable to prevent several surface vessels from sustaining damage. In a bid to help her sister, Hikari attempts to take to the skies in a training Striker, but the hanger is hit, shredding her unit.

  • Despite her best efforts, Takami finds herself outnumbered and out-gunned by the remaining Neuroi,  forcing her to utilise a powerful ability known as “Absolute Eye”. So far, I’ve not seen any documentation explaining how it precisely functions, but going from what is seen in Brave Witches, it elevates her reflexes and appears functionally similar to Adam Jensen’s “Focus Enhancement” from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (boosts reaction rates, giving the impression that time is slowed down) or focus from Enter The Matrix. She uses it to target and take out five Neuroi simultaneously but utterly depletes her magical reserves in the process.

  • It appears that the “Absolute Eye” is such a power-consuming move that Takami must divert all of her available magic into executing it, leaving none for bringing up a shield. Thus, she takes a hit from one of the Neuroi’s beams in the process and becomes wounded. Despite trying to reassure Hikari that things will be alright, her would appears quite serious.

  • The post for the second episode comes out ahead of time because of unusual scheduling arrangements this week: I had enough time yesterday and today to complete this post, and because I am not certain that I will have enough time on Saturday to do so, I capitalised on the opening to get this discussion out. While I would love to have this level of efficiency for each upcoming episode, I imagine that this week will be the exception, rather than the rule.

  • The page quote is a modified variant on Lady Galadriel’s opening monologue for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Isildur, son of Anárion, picked up the shattered remains of Narsil and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand after Anárion had fallen in battle, ending Sauron’s power. The circumstances in Brave Witches are quite different; for one, Takami does not fall to a dark lord, although it’s not difficult to imagine Chidori as being Hikari’s machine for the remainder of this season.

  • Launching with the aim of at least buying the allied forces enough time to escape, Hikari manages to land several hits in with the anti-tank rifle, but because she does not hit the core, the Neuroi remain intact.Hikari’s powers begin manifesting as the battle progresses; she’s able to spot the core and takes aim, but nonetheless fails to hit it on account of her limited experience. After colliding with the Neuroi, Hikari finds herself facing certain death, only to be saved at the last moment by the arrival of the 502nd.

  • From left to right, the visible members of the 502nd are as follows: Nikka Edvardine Katajainen, Waltrud Krupinski, Aleksandra I. Pokryshkin, Shimohara Sadako, Kanno Nao and Georgette Lemare. Despite my own ineptitude with names, I learnt the names of the 501st on reasonably short order, so I imagine that I’ll eventually get everyone’s names from memory before Brave Witches concludes. Already, I’m familiar with Nikka and Kanno.

  • According to documentation, Kanno fights with a high-risk-high-reward style, preferring to engage the Neuroi in close quarters and as a result, has crashed several Striker units as a result. Highly aggressive despite her stature, she’s said to resemble Napoleon and immediately takes a disliking to Hikari, not unlike how Perrine and Yoshika were initially on unfriendly terms when Yoshika joined the 501st (Perinne went as far to sabotage Yoshika on one occasion).

  • When asked, Hikari states that she’ll fight alongside the 502nd in her sister’s stead until her life is extinguished, shocking even Kanno with her determination.

Because the 502nd was only just introduced in this second episode, a large majority of Brave Witches (up until the final two or three episodes) will be dedicated towards character development. Hikari’s cold reception means that there is ample opportunity to build upon her dynamics with the other Witches, making her gradual integration and acceptance into the 502nd a more rewarding journey to see. Further to this, a different set of interactions resulting from new personalities would allow Brave Witches to stand out from Strike Witches and visibly illustrate that the 502nd is quite distinct from the 501st. With next week’s episode set to detail Hikari’s life in the 502nd, the preview shows Kanno’s hostilities coming out into the open; Brave Witches‘ presentation suggests that it will be quite predictable in its overall outcomes, but so far, the route the characters have taken to reach a particular outcome remains unique. As such, I am quite interested to see how Hikari acclimatises and adapts to her new surroundings and fulfil her desire to be an effective Witch.