“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.