“I realize that humor isn’t for everyone. It’s only for people who want to have fun, enjoy life, and feel alive.” — Anne Wilson Schaef
It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk on Strike Witches, but allow me to reopen the topic with the first installment of Operation Victory Arrow, which follows Gertrude, Erica and Minna’s adventures in Germany between the second season and the movie. After a training exercise, Erica’s sister, Ursula, arrives for a visit, and comes bearing gifts of new hardware, including the Me 262 etherjet Striker, Bordkanone 5 auto-cannon and Germanic-style clothes. Despite Erica’s objections, Gertrude gives it a test flight and is satisfied, but Erica’s mood soon deteriorates. However, a massive Neuroi attacks; both Gertrude and Minna are overwhelmed, but find themselves saved by Erica and Ursula. Back in Fuso, Yoshika and Michiko read a letter from Minna et al., detailing their adventures in Karlsland. The first episode of Operation Victory Arrow, dealing with the Germanic characters, proved to be a remarkably entertaining episode that was well worth the wait: originally aired in Japanese cinema back in September, the home release was on December 12.
Aside from the fanservice aspects, St. Trond’s Thunder is about Erica’s mistrust with new technologies, leading to dissatisfaction with her sister’s works. There is no real prior animosity between Erica and Ursula: the former warmly welcomes the latter upon arrival, and the atmospherics only shift after Ursula reveals that she’s brought an improved, safer jet striker. Despite these improvements, Erica immediately takes a disliking to the unit as a consequence of what had happened during the second season. Her concerns fall upon deaf ears after Minna decides to go ahead with the test. Things further sour when an experimental two-witch striker unit fails when Erica pushes the unit beyond specifications, forcing Erica to save Ursula. From there on out, Erica takes on a moody, sullen demeanor, feeling that the new technology is unfeasible and dangerous. However, faced with certain calamity, Erica overcomes this mistrust, allowing her to resolve things with Ursula and save Gertrude and Minna from an unnaturally powerful Neuroi that arrives. Although Erica might be seen as selfish, her reaction to new technology is quite natural, as cutting-edge technology possesses a set of unknowns that could very well prove to be hazardous. However, this is not to say that one should reject advances in technology, and as Erica discovers, sometimes, one must take a chance on new concepts in order to protect the things that matter to them. As the technology in our society continues to advance, we must learn to understand its advantages as well as its risks, and more importantly, figure out how to best use a technology for its intended purpose.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This discussion will feature thirty screenshots: unlike Infinite Stratos²: World Purge-hen, I have a little more to say about St. Trond’s Thunder. Thus, we begin with a screenshot of Erica engaged in a mock battle with Gertrude. Mock battles are characterised by the use of weapons coloured in orange to differentiate them from live weapons, and this scene brings to mind Erica’s antics during the second season, where an originally-team effort turned into Hanna mimicking shooting Erica down, and Erica’s reaction winds up being quite similar here.
- In the short space of twelve seconds, Erica manages to strip and enjoys the coolness of a mountain spring, much to Gertrude’s irritation. While Strike Witches is better known for liberal doses of fanservice that toe the line for the number of röntgens that one can be safely exposed to (things like Yosuga no Sora and Kiss x Sis surpasses this!), the landscape artwork for the series have always been quite pleasant: in Operation Victory Arrow, things seem to have improved slightly, since the Strike Witches Movie made extensive use of CG trees for some of the forest scenes.
- I imagine that most are already familiar with the 501st, so there’s no real need to reintroduce all of the characters. Like Erica and Gertrude, Minna prefers the MG42, an LMG the Wehrmacht made extensive use of during the Second World War. With excellent durability, reliability and a high rate of fire, the MG42 was chambered for the 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser round and was a recoil-operated weapon that would inspire the MG-3, which is characterised by its high rate of fire and low damage. I personally prefer the MG-36 in Bad Company 2, which comes with an integral red-dot sight.
- Heidemarie W. Schnaufer was introduced in the movie, and makes another appearance here: 15 years old, her character was inspired by Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer and with her night vision powers, she specialises in reconnaissance missions under the cover of darkness. Heidemarie appears in The Sky That Connects Us, being mistaken as a ghost by the others.
- The St. Trond Base is inspired by Sint-Truiden, located in Belgium. Captured by the Third Reich during the Second World War, it was home to the NJG1 Luftwaffe Night Fighter squadron; Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was a pilot for this squadron and was credited with 121 kills. British bomber referred to him as “The spook of St. Trond” , and this directly inspires Heidemarie’s nickname.
- Gertrude gazes with apprehension at the Dirndl dress Ursula gives her: the Dirndl is a traditional dress worn in Germany (especially Bavaria) and originated from designs common with Alpine peasants. They are typically worn during events such as Oktoberfest or by female tourism employees, and some older women may were this in their everyday attire.
- Erica’s expressions and reactions to Usrula’s new gear is priceless, simultaneously being dumbfounded at at the bewildering array of prototypes and unimpressed with their function. This scene stands in stark contrast with the sort of exchanges that go on when Q explains new gadgetry to 007, or when Lucius Fox is showing prototypes to Bruce Wayne, who is interested in becoming a member of the billionaire, spelunking, BASE-jumping crowd.
- I’m typically very excited and interested in what the latest and greatest technology has to offer: I’m now done my first semester of graduate studies (save a term paper I am in the midst of polishing for final submission), and I did it without a laptop of my own. For the moment, I’ve been loaning a laptop from the lab because my supervisor’s recommendation was to wait for the new Broadwell-powered MacBook Pros to be released.
- Of course, my soon-to-be-über-epic laptop will be rendered obsolete by the Skylake processors, but Macs do tend to last a while, so I’m going with one for my graduate work; the one I’m borrowing from the lab is a model from early 2009 and it still performs quite well, so I’m quite willing to trust a Mac with my work. Here, Erica protests Gertude’s decision to act as the new jet striker’s pilot, despite reassurances that the new model is totally safe, and I find myself quite impressed with the period-style schematics Ursula is presenting to the two.
- Despite being one of the top aces of the Luftwaffe, Erica is disorganised and maintains a very laid-back approach to life. However, she is a highly capable pilot as the situation demands, and also throws several hilarious tantrums during the series, although her reservations in Operation Victory Arrow are more related to the plot compared to her previous antics. Tea cups, tea and coffee are present in many of the scenes, and at present, I am a novice tea drinker who is still discovering preferences for tea and coffee.
- Like Gertrude, I share in the thrill of being able to test-drive cutting-edge stuff, and typically will install the newest software or experiment with the latest hardware after making sure it’s not likely to break whatever I’m working on. For this reason, I’m cautious about installing Mac OS X Yosemite on my main workstation, since I’m not certain if the new Objective C frameworks will break my mobile build of a physiology application (which was optimised for iOS 7). Quite similarly, my iPad 2 died after I installed iOS 8 on it, and only quick action reverted it back to an operational state, leaving me more careful about software updates.
- The zwei-link (two-link) striker unit is based on twin-fuselage aircraft, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109Z twin Bf 109 prototype, which was destroyed in an attack by the British in 1943 before it was completed, and the project subsequently abandoned. The Americans’ F-82 Twin Mustang was one twin-fuselage aircraft that entered production too late for the war and was later deployed during the Korean War.
- I’m particularly fond of these kind of scenes in anime; in the foreground, a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage and kippers can be seen. This breakfast is worthy of the ones described in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and although I am a major fan of the English Breakfast, I’ve never actually had kipper (a whole herring) before. Here, the vase’s clever placement lends itself to a bit of humour in the following segments.
- Gertrude asks Erica for her opinion of the Dirndl dress, but this subsequently backfires when Erica (rudely) remarks that it is weird. From the looks of things, fans have been itching to see Gertrude wearing a Dirndl and flying a striker unit for quite some time, and this episode delivers that in spades. The reason why Gertrude takes to the skies still dressed like this might’ve been a mystery from the trailers alone, but the OVA clarifies how things got to be.
- Embarrassment in anime is always both adorable and hilarious at the same time: sensing that Gertrude’s not taking well to Erica’s comment, Minna tries to convince her that the dress looks good on Gertrude, but before anything else happens, the air-raid siren goes off, indicating that Neuroi have been detected in their AO. While I have no screenshots here, the St. Trond airbase is reminiscent of the Flak Towers built in Germany and Austria after 1940 to dissuade Allied bombers from directly attacking German cities.
- Boasting reinforced concrete walls up to 3.5 metres in thickness, the Flak towers were nigh-indestructible and were generally avoided by Allied forces. When the Soviets entered Berlin in 1945, they found the towers to withstand even their 203 mm howitzers, acting as anti-raid shelters for citizens during the Fall of Berlin. The prohibitive cost of demolition meant that most of the Flak towers still survive at present. Here, while the others have sortied to intercept the Neuroi, Erica goes fishing for freshwater lobsters using a similar tactic that Les Stroud used to catch them in Australia.
- The new Neuroi conceal themselves within a mushroom-shaped cloud, and this one turns out to be a swarm with tougher armour that render the 7.92 x 57 mm rounds useless, forcing Minna and Gertrude to retrieve the 50 mm cannon. However, beyond the small fighter-types, larger Neuroi appear and begin to give both a hard time.
- While I could feature an inordinate number of posterior shots for posterity’s sake, the sheer number of them that appear would mean that I’ll hit the image quota quite quickly, and as entertaining as it is to have such screenshots, I don’t have anything particularly productive to say about pantsu. In practise, they actually happen quite quickly, and it takes quick reflexes to capture those moments.
- This image captures the sense of scale that characterises the fight scenes in Strike Witches. These fights are high-paced and do not let up for breaks at any point: because the Neuroi are incapable of vocal communication, all dialogue during fight scenes just involve the witches’ communications, and a scream from Minna is what it takes to convince Erica to join the battle.
- Erica makes use of the 50 mm cannon to decimate the smaller fighter-types maligning the others. I’m a fan of slower-firing, high damage weapons for their precision and destructive potential: my favourite experiences with these types of weapons include the 40 mm HEAT cannon in Titanfall, and the 20 mm machine gun found in Crysis Warhead: I made extensive use of the latter in Crysis Warhead to decimate vehicles and even Ceph scouts: each round deals explosive damage, allowing it to wreck all light vehicles and infantry.
- Of the characters in Strike Witches, Gertrude, Lynette and Yoshika are my favourites for their personalities. Gertrude’s strict, disciplined mannerisms and penchant for cute things are mirrored by GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza.
- If someone were to make an Ace Combat-style Strike Witches game and put that on Steam, I’d consider purchasing it: on one hand, I love Ace Combat games, but on the other, considering how the cameras work, and how human anatomy works, the tough part about playing the game would be explaining to observers what exactly is happening.
- With a new-found vigour from Erica’s appearance, Gertude begins taking on the Neuroi in earnest. Moments such as these were prominently featured in the preview videos, but for one reason or another, I never caught wind of them and only found them quite recently. Generally speaking, trailers do sometimes give sufficient information to the viewer such that they can deduce what happens in an anime, and in particular, Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer was particularly bad, as the trailers focused mostly on the final battle.
- Erica’s mistrust of the jet striker aren’t misguided: despite taking a chance with it, she soon finds that there are some mechanical defects with the jets, leader her to lose airspeed and altitude. Ursula steps in here to save Erica, after using a Fliegerhammer prototype to blow away Neuroi about to fire on her.
- Distant, less “in-your-face” pantsu shots are the upper bound for what I’ll settle for showing; it’s the perfect compromise, allowing some fanservice to be highlighted without going overboard and illustrating it in every conceivable image.
- Before Minna is roasted to well-done by Neuroi laser fire, Erica and Ursula open fire with the 50 mm cannon to eliminate the threat. Having read The Sky That Connects Us, it appears that Operation Victory Arrow might very well be quite similar to the manga in depicting a segment of what all of the witches are doing while they’re not flying together as the 501st Joint Fighter Wing.
- Together, Ursula and Erica destroy the Neuroi, with the former providing the flight capabilities and the latter providing the firepower. After this, Ursula and Erica return to sharing good terms with one another, acting as a satisfying closing to the first episode in Operation Victory Arrow.
- Back at St. Trond, the Karlsland witches take some down time, having successfully fended off the Neuroi. Heidemarie also dons a Dirndl dress and is mildly embarrassed at having to wear it, but thanks Ursula nonetheless. Thanks to some introductory familiarity with Photoshop, I can now pull off some rudimentary image stitches. Therefore, in addition to the stitched image of Erica enjoying the mountain waters earlier, I also present to readers a glorious full-length image of Heidemarie wearing a Dirndl dress. This won’t be something I pull off frequently, as making them requires a fair bit of time.
- I’ve also begun learning Autodesk Maya now, and have gotten familiar with creating basic meshes, materials, textures and extrusions. That is to say, my project is progressing at a fair pace. Returning to the OVA discussion, it just wouldn’t be Strike Witches without at least one moment with Yoshika, who’s reading a letter that details what the Karlsland witches have experienced. In the aftermath of the second season, Yoshika loses all of her magic and takes up a career as a conventional medical doctor. She seems to be at peace with the loss of her magic, contrasting Mio, who took it hard.
- That’s pretty much it for this post: remember to like this post, comment on the post and subscribe to the blog if you’d like to see posts similar to this one. We’ve reached the end of yet another OVA post, which means all that’s left is the talk for the seven-minute Tari Tari OVA. Contrasting all expectation, I was able to find time to get the figure captions for this post out: this was mainly because I made more progress than expected in building the cell in Maya yesterday, and my term paper for another course is complete (it just requires editing now). The next priority will be on Tari Tari, and then a short preview of the Winter 2015 season. There will be a few special posts here and there, but I’m going to take a break for the present to enjoy the winter holidays. Final impressions posts for Sword Art Online II, Amagi Brilliant Park and Sora no Method will be drafted during the new year.
It may come as surprising to some that the themes of new technology can be explored even in something as facetious as Strike Witches, but as a universe where supernatural magic interface with fantastical technology, the topic does lead to the question of how technology is perceived in the Strike Witches universe. St. Trond’s Thunder starts off Operation Victory Arrow with Erica’s gradual acceptance for newer equipment. Aside from this aspect, I thoroughly enjoyed Operation Victory Arrow, as I am a fan of the unique world that Strike Witches is set in (to the extent where I can say that I would have enjoyed this series to the same level even in the total absence of the pantsu that this anime is infamous for). Throughout this first instalment, the artwork, animation and sound retains the quality and stylistic elements seen in both the second season and the movie. The battle sequences (both the mock training and the fight against the Neuroi) are thrilling to watch, being choreographed with the same intensity as viewers have become accustomed to. However, as a member of the Strike Witches series, this is something that is designed for fans to enjoy, and individuals whose interests lie outside of Strike Witches probably will see this as 30 minutes poorly spent. With the first of the episodes now complete, attention turns towards Goddess of the Aegan Sea, the second Operation Victory Arrow episode that will premier in Japanese theatres on January 10, 2015. Assuming another three-month wait, the home release for the second episode will probably be in March 2015. The final episode is set for premier in Japanese theatres on May 2, 2015, so a conservative estimate for the home release in somewhere in August 2015, and readers can bet their bottom dollar I’ll be doing talks for the other two episodes, as well.