“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.