“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” —Frank Crane
The final installment to Operation Victory Arrow is out at last now; this closing act to the series follows events surrounding Lynette and Perrine as they work towards rebuilding Gallia following the events of the second season. Another Gallian Witch, Amelie Planchard, is also present to assist Lynette and Perrine. They encounter a young boy named Julius, who is getting treatment for his little sister Rose. After hearing of their circumstances, arrangements are made for the children to remain at Perrine’s residence while Rose recovers. However, Julius proves difficult for Perrine to handle, and also expresses a hatred towards witches for not coming to his father’s aid when he went to battle at Arnhem Bridge four years previously. After learning that Perrine and the others are witches, Julius stows away on a truck bound for Arnhem Bridge to retrieve some personal effects, but finds himself face-to-face with a Neuroi. He is saved by Perrine; despite her Striker unit undergoing repairs, she manages to fend off the Neuroi long enough for Lynette to provide covering fire. During the course of the battle, Perrine injures her leg, but Julius steps in to recover her weapon, and with Lynette in the air, they successfully destroy the Neuroi. Afterwards, Perrine takes in both Julius and Rose to give them an education while Lynette receives a letter from Yoshika.
In keeping with trends in Strike Witches, Arnhem Bridge possesses a well-defined theme, albeit a simpler one: one’s prejudices towards a concept, group or individual can be very quickly changed in the face of extraordinary conditions that allow them to understand the shortcomings of their beliefs. In this case, Julius’ perspective of the Witches immediately hints at a mistrust for them: he refers to them as liars, and this is motivated by a traumatic event in his past. However, when he himself comes under attack, Perrine’s timely intervention and unwavering determination to save him, even in spite of the misdeeds he’s committed against her, lead him to finally realise that Perrine, and Witches in general, are benevolent and kind individuals who strive to serve the people to the best of their ability, ending his animosity towards them. This message is astute and moving, quite befitting of the Gallian Witches and Lynette. However, it is also a familiar one, evoking memories of Sora no Woto’s Seiya, whose mistrust of the military likewise comes from a similar event in his past, and his interactions with Kanata eventually lead him to become less hostile towards soldiers. As such, the OVA’s plot was rather more foreseeable compared to the previous OVAs, but nonetheless, Arnhem Bridge is an excellent addition to Operation Victory Arrow.
Screenshots and Commentary
- As with every Operation Victory Arrow volume that preceded this one, I’ve got thirty screenshots of the OVA. Owing to time zone differences, my copy arrived a little earlier than anticipated, and as such, I shelved the evening’s plans in favour of watching the OVA. While there’s been disappointment that the final Operation Victory Arrow volume was not about the Sumous Witches, I personally prefer things this way: Lynette’s one of my favourite characters in Strike Witches, and this OVA demonstrates the reason why.
- The level of damage sustained by the Clostermann residence hints at the intensity and scope of the war between humanity and the Neuroi. Though nowhere near as extreme as the Forerunner-Flood War, there is no denying that the Neuroi have had a significant impact on the planet. Their lack of background probably serves to abstract out the conflict into a black-and-white context (i.e. there is a clearly defined aggressor whose lack of moral character permits them to be used as an enemy without limitations).
- The choice of images for this post means that there are measurably fewer images depicting the blue sky in Strike Witches: even compared to other anime, the skies simply look phenomenal. I seem to recall my promise that I’d be the first to provide a full talk and screenshots for this OVA, and I’ve delivered.
- On a routine cargo delivery, Lynette runs into Julius, who is escaping from a clerk with medicine for his sister in hand. Once the situation is ascertained, Lynette decides to bring Julius and his sister to the Clostermann residence. Such actions exemplify Lynette’s character: as the middle of eight siblings, she’s highly skilled with household tasks and was also quite shy until Yoshika befriended her.
- Perrine quickly regrets inviting Julius for some tea after a single head louse leaves his hair and lands on her. Infestations are impacted by socioeconomic factors, and treatments for head lice are varied, ranging from blow-driers to pediculicides. While no method can eliminate all the lice and their eggs immediately, combinations of methods and adherence to the treatments will generally be effective at containing and stopping infestations.
- Filth brings out Perrine’s maniacal side, opening hostilities between herself and Julius and setting the stage for their interactions throughout most of the episode. After a brief (but hilarious) tussle, Perrine corners Julius with what appears to be a powdered cleaning agent ill-suited for human use, and since the lice aren’t mentioned again later, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the chemicals have eliminated Julius’ lice.
- While Perrine’s methods are over the top and lend themselves to much humour, Lynette’s response is to help bathe Julius in a more conventional manner.
- Despite being rough around the edges, Julius is a responsible, caring older sibling who’s willing to do what it takes to ensure that Rose is happy.
- Perinne and the others bring in a physician to have Rose checked out; she’s cleared and allowed to rest, with Lynette and Amelie dropping by to help her out during meals and to keep her company.
- Julius’ background means that he is not particularly familiar with dining etiquette. Curiously enough, there are actually two ways of using forks: American-style usage is for situations where a knife is not strictly necessary (for things like Shepard’s Pie or mashed potatoes), and Continental-style seems more appropriate when a knife is necessary.
- The first third of the OVA is given to Perrine and Julius’ war on one another, with Perrine frequently winding up on the losing side. While initially a source of great humour, it also sets the stage for the final third of the OVA, when Julius encounters a Neuroi group: Perrine’s actions reinforce the notion that, though she might be very strict about hygiene and etiquette, she places her duty to people first.
- The fanservice aspect in Arnhem Bridge, like the preceding OVAs, has been very disciplined. While it was very much a part of the first and second season, by the time of the movie and Operation Victory Arrow, gratuitous pantsu shots have largely disappeared. Instead, the later installments opt to use that time to build additional moments between the characters, thus illustrating that it is possible for Strike Witches to do world-building and present a more substantial story than critics initially assumed to be possible.
- Perrine reacts to some vandalism Julius leaves on the property’s walls, and The French (“merde lunettes”) directly translates to “glasses shit”, and the Japanese subtitles give it as “クソメガネ” (“kuso megane”, or fucking glasses as the closest English approximation). It’s quite a shock for Perrine, outlining the extent of Julius’ animosity towards her: he only refers to her as “glasses” for much of the episode, which makes the impact of subsequent scenes all the more noticeable.
- Lynette and Amelie spend a moment in the gardens surrounding the Clostermann residence under skies of deep blue. I note that under ordinary circumstances, I do not use expletives in my own writing and only include them if it’s necessary from a quote or translation. The English language has numerous ways of expressing something, and I find that there are more cultured ways of doing so under most circumstances.
- It turns out that Julius’ dislike of Witches originates from an incident in the past where Witches failed to save his father from a Neuroi attack. Subtle signs of this are noted when Julius reacts to a Witch squadron flying over the Clostermann residence, and immediately, Arnhem Bridge‘s plot immediately became clear. From this moment out, storytelling elements dictate that Julius will experience something that causes him to change his mind about Witches, which means that a Neuroi attack (and his subsequent being saved by Perrine) is certainly going to occur.
- Despite Perrine’s initial lack of worry about Julius’ disappearance, she eventually turns around and agrees to help look for him. The presence of sausage and potatoes leads me to recall yesterday evening, where I shared an evening with friends at the pub. Wings were the daily special, and I also paired my wings with Irish Potato Nachos. Given that it’s something I eat rarely enough, Irish Nachos never seem to grow old, and their potato-ey goodness complements the wings rather nicely.
- Über-micro is less of a factor than a modest degree of familiarity with narrative techniques: as was predicted, while trying to recover some personal effects from his old home in Arnhem, Julius encounters a Neuroi. Troubled by his disappearance, Lynette and Perrine set out to look for him.
- Admitedly, Perrine was my least favourite character when I first began watching Strike Witches: initially hostile to Yoshika’s mannerisms and perceived closeness to Mio, numerous developments throughout Strike Witches confer in Perrine a degree of maturation, to the point where she is able to share a cordial relationship with Yoshika. Additional developments paint her as being very concerned for her homeland; she donates her income towards her nation’s reconstruction.
- One of the more interesting aspects in Strike Witches is the fact that the Witches have access to a limitless supply of ammunition during combat; they’re never seen reloading (and if they have, I certainly missed it). The Bren LMG that Perrine wields is equipped with a twenty-round L1A1 SLR magazine, and with a firing rate of 500-520 RMP, holding down the trigger for around three seconds will empty the magazine out. During her fight with the Neuroi, what causes her to dispense with it is the barrel overheating, rather than a depletion of ammunition.
- The showdown against an uncommonly strong Neuroi brings out Perrine’s true nature: she is able to demonstrate to Julius that the Witches are committed to people’s safety, and in spite of her own dislike for his mannerisms, is nonetheless willing to do her best in order to get him to safety. She fields a PIAT Mk I (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) here, a mortar-like anti-tank weapon designed to overcome limitations with period British anti-armour weapons. The weapon’s hollow-charge rounds were quite effective, accounting for nearly seven percent of all tank kills during the Normandy operations, and Canadian forces cited the weapon as being quite effective despite its relative difficult operation.
- Arnhem Bridge was based off the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, with British forces attempting to push into the Netherlands. The battle resulted in a defeat for the British Army, as the Wehrmacht was able to retain control of the bridge itself, but this loss was somewhat tempered by Allied successes elsewhere. Injury to Perrine’s left leg can be seen here: for those wondering how Perrine had sustained injury in one of the posters, the answer can be found during this battle.
- It wouldn’t be a Strike Witches post without at least (and at most) one overt pantsu screenshot, even if said screenshot does not contribute substantially to the discussion. This time, the moment is provided by Lynette: I do not feel that Perrine is the appropriate character for this sort of thing. While I highly praise Operation Victory Arrow for its overall restraint on blatant fanservice, such moments involving Lynette, Charlotte and Gertrude are most certainly welcome in my books.
- After Lynette arrives to provide fire support, the Neuroi climbs into a tower for cover and immediately begins mounting a counterattack. Perrine’s injury prevents her from retrieving a shoulder-fired grenade launcher, but inspired by Perrine’s determination, Julius helps her recover the weapon. With his help, Perrine is able to blow open a water main in the tower in a moment reminiscent of the Javelin scene from War of the Worlds and uses her Tonnerre ability to crack the Neuroi’s hull open.
- Lynette then supplies the final shot that destroys its core, ending the battle. The last time a battle culminated with a rainbow was Gundam 00‘s second season, during the mission to liberate Allelujah Haptism from a Federation facility. I remarked that the rainbow was a bit over-the-top after the Gundams escaped, although here in Strike Witches, the effect is rather more subtle.
- Perrine’s hesitancy to use Tonnerre stems from the fact that the resulting discharge messes up her hair. While a visually amusing effect, it’s not an entirely accurate phenomenon: exposure to static electricity causes hair to stand on its end because of the accumulation of charge causes the hair to try and maximise the distances between the charges, which is accomplished when the hair stands on its end. The use of an electricity-based attack should therefore neutralise charge in one’s body: charge separation is how the attack commences, and after a discharge (i.e. the movement of electrons from negative to positive), the charges should be even. As such, Perrine’s hair should not be standing on its end after an attack.
- I’ll end the battle with another screenshot of Lynette, who’d fired the killing shot. She intrinsically uses magic to guide her shots, but simultaneously flying proved too much for her. Yoshika’s encouragement helps her become a better marksman, and by the events of Operation Victory Arrow, Lynette proves to be a valuable asset against the Neuroi.
- Julius and Rose no longer look scruffy: two weeks after the events at Arnhem Bridge, Perrine’s taken both of them in and helps them gain a rudimentary education. She’s been helping educate displaced children since the events of The Sky that Connects Us, and taken together, Operation Victory Arrow has done a fantastic job of showing the Witches in their element outside of the 501st.
- While I resolved to conclude all of the Operation Victory Arrow posts with a picture of Yoshika reading a letter detailing the respective volume’s events, Arnhem Bridge ends things differently. While it was already clear in the TV series and movie, Yoshika and Lynette grow to become best friends, and as such, it’s probably not too surprising that Lynette is constantly on Yoshika’s mind.
- I’m actually quite curious to know why viewers are so keen on the dynamics between Elia and Sanya. Some noticed that their names were present in the credits for the third OVA, feeling it conflicted with the promotional material and previews stating that Perrine and Lynette would be the third volume’s stars. This answers their query: Elia and Sanya make a very brief appearance post-credits, and while disappointing it may be to said viewers, who’d been hoping for a full-on OVA for them, at least they do make an appearance.
- Mio also makes an appearance: with her magic reserves depleted, she no longer wears an eyepatch and is conversing with Minna, wondering about how Yoshika’s doing. With this final figure caption, I can finally close the books on Operation Victory Arrow. It’s been a thrilling ride, and each episode was worth the wait. The next Strike Witches is said to deal with the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, and while I’ll be happy to write about it, first, we’d actually need something a little more tangible on its existence. In the meantime, there’s going to be a Blue Moon tomorrow evening, and regular programming resumes once August begins.
While rumours endure that there is to be a fourth volume of Operation Victory Arrow, the third volume’s ending suggests that this mini-series has indeed come to a close: to keep the viewers from open revolt, a glimpse of the Suomus witches and Sanya is present, but beyond a short conversation about Eila’s divination concerning Perrine’s activities, they do not play a more substantial role in the latest volume. Of course, some may view this as hinting at a fourth volume, although the near-total absence of news, and lack of a preview for future volumes is a sure sign that this is indeed the end. Overall, Operation Victory Arrow was a fantastic addition to the Strike Witches franchise: each volume is able to tell a self-contained, meaningful story about the Witches that were depicted, and while not everyone had a chance to shine, the emphasis on character growth and world-building means that Strike Witches is indeed capable of standing on its own merits even in the near-absence of pantsu. This is something I can easily recommend to Strike Witches fans, and even those new to the series may find the OVAs to be worth watching. It’s a promising sign for Strike Witches as a whole, and if there is indeed to be a third season, rumoured to be focused on the 502st Joint Fighter Wing, then there is definitely an opportunity for Strike Witches to prove itself as more than just a flimsy justification for showing off their well-drawn characters’ assets, being a living, breathing world in its own right.