In 1945, Yoshika Miyafuji, who lost her witch powers during the Strike Witches‘ last assignment, has been studying to become a doctor. Shizuka Hattori, one of her cadets in the Imperial Fuso Navy, then arrives to deliver a message: Yoshika is to be transferred for study abroad in Europe.
Like the K-On! review, there is a review written at my main website, providing an alternate set of screenshots and discussions. The post here is more plot-oriented, while the review at the website is more similar to a discussion of various elements in the movie.
The Strike Witches Movie is an extension of the TV series set in the movie format, as per its title, and as such, inherits all of the characteristics of the TV series. These traits include the casual plot progression and impressive visuals, as well as the formulaic development of the story: in fact, the movie can be said to draw inspiration directly from the TV series, featuring a similar exposition, rising action, climax and falling action. That said, the joys of watching Strike Witches lies not in the story itself, but the presentation and delivery of the material. Given that the movie is essentially a subclass of the TV series, everything seen in the latter can be seen in the former, but, like all subclasses, the movie introduces several new elements that takes the form of other witches, giving insight as to the sheer number of characters in the universe and their interactions with the witches in the 501st. While these stories are being told, Yoshika’s own travels with Shizuka Hattori form the backbone for the other side of the story. Upon reaching Europe, Yoshika finds herself unable to participate in combat operations and medical missions to the same extent she was once capable of in the TV series, but nonetheless attempts to help in any way she can. In a sense, the Strike Witches Movie draws some curious parallels with the Gundam 00 Movie: firstly, fans of Strike Witches will enjoy the movie, much like how Gundam 00 fans will have found their movie enjoyable. However, the assumption that viewers have a general familiarity with the story means that, like the Gundam 00 Movie, the Strike Witches Movie will leave new viewers behind in some of the terminology and expository elements. It is certainly possible to enjoy the movie as it is, although the experience is improved with a bit of knowledge concerning the aforementioned expository elements. The second set of similarities have to do with depiction of the Neuroi, which exhibit ELS-like attributes with respect to appearance and swarming behaviours, and finally, there is an uncanny parallel between Setsuna’s activation of the 00 Qan[T] and Yoshika’s recovery of her magical abilities in the final moments of their respective films. The last element is a textbook example of deus ex machina, and conveniently clears up the conflict that the rising action built on. While some view this as laziness, alternative interpretations would suggest that unique circumstances may arise in the midst of a crisis and act to produce miracles of sorts. These events are not impossible even in reality, so an open-minded viewer may be willing to suspend their disbelief and merely enjoy the story as it progresses. This claim neatly summarises my own opinions of the Strike Witches Movie: for current fans, it is most enjoyable, although newcomers will probably find that their time would be better directed at other shows, if only for the fact that such series require a bit of background that not everyone may commit time to familiarise themselves with. The movie is strong where the TV series is strong (character interactions, graphical and audio details), and weak where the TV series is weak (story progression rate, derivation in plot-advancing elements): overall, it serves as a worthy extension to the TV series and is sure to be an enjoyable watch for fans of the franchise.
- Armed with my rudimentary and decidedly inferior Japanese skills, I’ll attempt to translate the gist of some of the moments. The movie opens with Hattori arriving to recommission Yoshika and send her to Europe: apparently, Mio was the one pulling the strings.
- Charlotte and Lucchini are on vacation in Venizia: during their stay, the new model Neuroi appear, forcing the two into combat. They are given orders to meet with Commander Minna following their victory.
- Yoshika has been commissioned following the events of season two and now holds the rank of shoui, which approximates to the rank of ensign in the Navy. Hattoriis a gunsou: until I get further clarification, the army equivalent of that rank is sergeant. Hattori’s lack of combat experience, coupled with stories about Yoshika’s exploits, led her to question the latter’s capacity as on officer.
- Hattori meets Lynette and Perrine during the course of their ground journey and expresses surprise at the differences in their cultures. They travel to Perrine’s estate, which is being rebuilt and appears to be a winery.
- While Commander Minna is designing a plan of sorts concerning the Witches, Erica and Gertrude are preparing for another patrol. Erica’s tantrum here was immensely amusing.
- Gertrude and Erica encounter one of the new-type Neuroi while on ground patrol. These Neuroi appeared in Karlsland and is capable of movement on the ground, as well as in the air. This form has an appearance similar to that of a stick grenade. Another new type of Neuroi is presented: appearing like the ELS probes, they fight in swarms.
- The new generation Neuroi have evolved to use radio-jamming: unable to call for reinforcements, Hattori is forced to take to the skies and engage them. Despite initial successes against the ELS-like Neuroi, she is shot down.
- This has to be the best damn moment in the movie: despite lacking any powers, Yoshika grabs one of the auto-cannons, hauls it into the jeep and pursues the Neuroi. After a chaotic chase, she is able to shoot it down, but is severely injured in the process.
- Mio makes a return in a biplane. Despite lacking any magic, her boisterous personality remains. The 501st have converged at this point and begin engaging the ELS probes, even as a massive battleship-like Neuroi begins to appear.
- Movies are well-known for having excellent visuals surpassing those of their original TV series, and Strike Witches is no exception. From the blues of the skies to the textures in the trees, muzzle flashes and spent cartridges, the details bring the movie to life.
- The sight of the 501st in combat gives Yoshika resolve, much as how Setsuna gains the resolve to exit his coma in the Gundam 00 Movie. From this resolve, Yoshika’s magic returns in full force, healing her and projecting a massive shield. This power is eerily similar to the 00 Qan[T]’s first appearance on the battlefield, where it precisely snipes an ELS probe from beyond visual range.
- The 501st only really fight as a team in the film’s final moments. I have not heard much assessments of the movie from other sources, and in fact, news and interest in the movie have been more or less minimal since it was released today.
- It turns out the “bomb” carried by Mio is actually the Shinden. Yoshika touches it tenderly as if greeting an old friend and immediately soars into the skies. One of the largest grievances I foresee with this turn of events is that some will find Yoshika regaining her magic to be plot-breaking, although consulting the source materials finds that Witches only weaken in magical output past the age of 20 such that they cannot fly a Striker unit but otherwise can retain some use of their magic.
- So ,while Yoshika may have exhausted her magic two months earlier, it’s more than possible that she’s regenerated by this point. It’s rather similar to how a rechargeable battery works: the battery has a limited voltage and will deplete with use, but can be recharged (although this reduces the voltage the battery can output with consecutive recharges). In addition, Yoshika has consistently been shown to have quite a bit of innate magical power, so this outcome is not too surprising. After sharing a brief moment with Lynette, Gertrude passes Yoshika one of her own guns. Together with the 501st, they annihilate the Neuroi in a spectacular battle.
- The movie ends with “to be continued”, something that isn’t expected from most movies. This implies that a third season will follow. The movie concludes with Yoko Ishida’s Yakusoku no sora e- watashi no ita basho.
Contrasting my usual posts, this review was made from the RAW material rather than a subbed version. With what appeared to be very little interest from the community in general, I figured I would create a reasonably detailed post about the movie such that interested parties would be able to decide if the movie was worthwhile or not. My opinion stands as thus: fans of the series will enjoy the movie, while newcomers could probably do something more constructive with 94 minutes of time.