The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

If You Want to Fight, Get Stronger!: Brave Witches Fourth Episode Impressions and Review

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” —Albert Einstein

After returning from a meeting with officials about the Neuroi nest, Edytha notices Hikari practising her magic by skipping across the water surface to some rocks. She decides to probe the extent of Hikari’s powers, but soon learns that her innate magical abilities fall far below the minimum requirements needed for combat: Hikari cannot direct energy towards maintaining the Shiden Kai’s output and is unable to compensate for recoil using magic. Thus, Edytha decides to assign Hikari with a seemingly impossible task: retrieve a hat stuck to the top of a statue within a week. Despite failing repeatedly even when new tricks are applied, Hikari endures and persists. However, on the last day, a Neuroi is detected in the area, forcing the 502nd to sortie. Recalling that Hikari is close, Kanno returns to base and insults Hikari, firing her up sufficiently to make it to the top. Edytha allows Hikari to participate in combat, and with her training, is better able to control her Shiden Kai, dodging enemy fire and closing the distance enough to land a few shots. She bumps into the Neuroi, and her magical eye reawakens: she locates the core and the 502nd take it down together. In this fourth episode, Brave Witches succeeds in differentiating itself from Strike Witches considerably: whereas Yoshika’s weakness in the first season was her pacifist beliefs, Hikari is limited by her base output. A combination of proper guidance from Edytha, “encouragement” from Kanno and Hikari’s own willpower allow her to succeed, showing the others that in a team, Hikari could stand to play some role yet.

Besides placing Hikari’s determination at the forefront of the fourth episode, this episode also gives more insight into one member of the 502nd. While Hikari may have played a more direct role in this episode’s kill, Edytha Roßmann is this episode’s focus. She’s a capable instructor who once mentored Erica Hartmann, a formerly poor pilot who improved under Edytha’s tutelage; Edytha’s talent lies in figuring out what drives her students and determining the most effective manner to draw out their potential. A good instructor is able to see where the student’s strengths and weaknesses are, and tune their teachings that encourage students to pursue their strengths. In Brave Witches, by watching Hikari persevere, she notices that Hikari’s stamina can be utilised to partially offset her weaker magic. By providing the appropriate feedback, Hikari can learn to use what she’s got more effectively, later allowing her to contribute in combat. I’m no stranger to what constitutes good instruction: having been on both sides of the fence, I contend that a good instructor is someone who is patient, willing to walk their students through something from the beginning and appreciating that new perspectives can be tough. They are the sort of individual who can inspire someone who despises a particular discipline to take a newfound interest in it: I carried this outlook into my duties as a TA during my graduate degree, and I’ve had students skip an earlier tutorial section to attend my later one because of my approaches. Similarly, it was the encouragement of several of my middle and secondary school instructors who motivated me to take up a health science programme, and my graduate supervisor who helped me find the starting point for my career. These individuals’ contributions and influences are not to be understated, and in Brave Witches, it speaks to Edytha’s skills that she’s been able to instruct many top-tier pilots, even bringing someone like Hikari up to speed within the space of a week.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a discussion with the higher ups about their latest addition, Edytha and Gundula decide it might be wise to keep Takami’s situation under wraps to ensure they continue to receive critical supplies in light of their situation. After watching Hikari cross a small body of water, Edytha reveals that a Witch should be able to master their magic sufficiently such that they might stroll across water at a leisurely pace. Astounded, Hikari asks Edytha to instruct her. The ability to walk on water was tested in Mythbusters, and it was found that videos showing thus could fake it using some tricks.

  • While Hikari is spinning up the Shiden Kai, Edytha throws a wrench at her. Bringing her shields up, the Shiden Kai’s output drops, showing that Hikari is unable to deliver enough magical power to multi-task. However, innate magical ability appears to be fixed, so there’s no real way for Hikari to improve her output for the present, and so, she must seek another means of using what she’s got in order to contribute.

  • It’s good to be back, and last week, I spent Saturday vacuuming the house before receiving a flight from the airport. Arriving early, I sat down for a donut and cocoa: the new international departures section is open now, and the old wing has been re-purposed for domestic flights. This is the reason why I wasn’t too bothered with the delay in the episode release, and with my schedule returning to normal this week, it’s also business as usual.

  • Hikari is unable to direct enough magic to keep her Striker output up and compensate for recoil: in a shooting exercise at the base firing range, she’s unable to land shots on a coin-sized target from a short range. I’d love to purchase my own .50-cal and bring that to a local firing range for kicks, although such rifles can easily run for the price of a vehicle, so that’s a hobby I’ll have to put on the backburner for now. The Mythbusters make extensive use of firing ranges to test their myths: one I recall with fondness is to see whether or not the waste gases from a .44 magnum can sever a finger.

  • Failing test after test, Edytha decides to adopt a different approach and determine Hikari’s attitude: she throws a hat on top of a small statue and tasks Hikari with climbing to the top, using her magic, to retrieve it. I’ve caught wind that Random Curiosity will not be reviewing Brave Witches this season, meaning that for folks who are interested in reading about Brave Witches, this will be the premier venue for catching up on what’s happening in Brave Witches, even if I’m not the fastest reviewer on account of my schedule.

  • Despite failing repeatedly, Hikari’s persistence borders on madness. I’ve chosen a quote from Albert Einstein to adorn this page, and further remark that the phrase “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is often misattributed to Einstein, when similar lines have been provided in earlier texts. With that being said, there are some situations where it is necessary to test something repeatedly (albeit under different situations) to determine what the cause of a particular phenomenon or observation is.

  • This week, I’ve been learning networking in Swift 3.0 to create HTTP requests with authentication credentials, asynchronous programming and parsing said files for information for my work. Because of different variables, I often run the same program with different parameters to test the outcome, and I hardly consider that as “insanity”. Back in Brave Witches, similar to how Yoshika put a mop in Perrine’s face during Strike Witches‘ fourth episode in season one, Hikari manages to (unintentionally) fling hot soup and cold water on Kanno, as a consequence of her growing fatigue over the course of a week.

  • Hikari’s tenacity impresses Gundula, but Edytha remarks that this exercise was intended to show Hikari that effort has its limits: from a practical perspective, this is both true and false. There are hard constraints (e.g. physical makeup, reflexes) that make it difficult for one to fulfill some dreams even with training, and it is for this reason that someone like myself could train tirelessly and never make it into the NHL. Conversely, there are also places where effort can make a difference: putting in the time to learn things like URL requests and JSON parsing has allowed me to acquire another skill in software development.

  • On one attempt to scale the statue, Hikari comes close but a mother bird protecting her chicks causes Hikari to fall. Later, Hikari falls asleep mid-climb and is only rescued by Kanno at the last moment. Despite Kanno’s remarks and general attitude towards Hikari, her actions seem to suggest that she’s growing more concerned about Hikari than she lets in on. Later, Hikari reawakens in her room, wonders what happened and simply gets up to reattempt.

  • Finding the balance between what is realistic and what is worth striving for can be challenging, and sometimes, what it takes for one to reach such an understanding is a good instructor. After Edytha notices Hikari making another attempt by night, she relates a story to her: one of her former students lacked the innate magical capacity to operate as a Witch was allowed to fly in a sortie and was injured in the process. Documentation does not mention this, and indeed, one of Edytha’s greater achievements is guiding the lazy Erica Hartmann into becoming a top-tier ace pilot.

  • On the final day of her allotted time in the Petersburg base, Hikari continues with her attempt even as weather conditions deteriorate. Seeing Hikari’s resolve, Edytha suggests to Hikari that she redirects her magic elsewhere in order to make the climb: her above-average endurance makes this possible, and she manages to haul herself closer to the top, even recovering and pulling herself up with her legs when she nearly falls again.

  • Mid-climb, a Neuroi is spotted in the area, forcing the 502nd to sortie. Hikari stays behind to complete her task, and after launching, Kanno decides to turn back. Reaching the statue, where Hikari is struggling, she insinuates that Hikari is destined for failure and is unlikely to make it as a Witch. All exhaustion forgotten, Hikari climbs to the top with the aim of proving otherwise, and Kanno smiles, knowing that Hikari’s made it.

  • The dynamic between Kanno and Hikari is one that is improving, reminiscent of how Perrine gradually accepts Yoshika as Strike Witches wears on. While some viewers dislike Kanno and would rather that she get less screentime, I’m of the mind that Kanno’s shifting relationship with Hikari could prove to be quite important in Brave Witches: I say this on the basis that this progression happened in Strike Witches, and that the general theme of cooperation is one that’s always been quite prevalent in Strike Witches.

  • Taking flight and channeling her magic into the Striker, Hikari soars into the skies amidst Crepuscular rays seeping through cracks in the cloud. The imagery supplied by the weather serves as an interesting parallel to Hikari’s situation; the weather darkens and begins pouring when it seems all is lost for Hikari, then the sun shines upon the world again when she makes it. Edytha arrives to give Hikari permission to launch, and Hikari notices that her unit seems more responsive.

  • While some folks have speculated that Edytha may meet her maker in upcoming episodes, there’s no chance of that happening, since documentation shows all of the 502nd, save Hikari and Takami, flying well into the future. Delving into that same documentation finds that Edytha is based on Edmund “Paule” Roßmann: a decorated pilot with eighty tallies, he mentored Erich Hartmann and was captured while attempting to rescue a crashed fellow pilot in 1943. Taken as a prisoner of war by the Soviets, released in 1949.

  • When she’s directing her magic into flight, Hikari becomes highly maneuverable and dodges multiple Neuroi beams, closing the distance and opening fire at a range where recoil is of limited consequences. This marked increase in performance stems from Hikari managing more effectively the magic output she’s got, and entering future engagements, I imagine that Hikari will switch her focus mid-battle to fulfil whatever task is at hand. It will definitely be interesting to see how this impacts how the 502nd will fight.

  • It seems that Hikari’s main ability is the power to locate a Neuroi’s core upon coming into contact with one, and here, she relays this information to her team: their combined fire brings down the Neuroi, marking the first time in Brave Witches where Hikari has a direct contribution to taking out a Neuroi. Known as “Contact Eye”, its activation is a high-risk-high-reward play that requires Hikari get close to a Neuroi, and for this reason, Gundula advises Hikari against using it.

  • So ends the first battle of Brave Witches — capturing screenshots of the combat sequences in Brave Witches has proven to be surprisingly challenging, not because of the overt pantsu shots, but because there is a considerable amount of blurring in order to accentuate speed. One of my cardinal rules is that screenshots must be clear and sharp, so I will not select blurry images. Brave Witches has almost done away with the unnecessary crotch-shots during combat; while it’s a trademark of Strike Witches, it appears that Brave Witches is taking things in a wholly new and welcome direction to differentiate itself from its predecessor.

  • Hikari is informed of her ability in a debriefing following their sortie as the evening light fills Gundula’s office. Subtle details in the environment show that the Petersburg facility, such as the cracks in the walls and chipped furnishings, is an older one that has not seen much maintenance ostensibly because it has not been considered a part of the front lines until now. Silver Link’s done a fine job thus far with the visuals and artwork, and admittedly, I prefer their style over Gonzo’s.

  • I could have spent this evening playing Battlefield 1 and worming my way closer to unlocking the Model 10-A for the assault class, but instead, I chose to finish this review first, reasoning that I’ll have more time on the weekend to play through Battlefield 1. Aside from Brave Witches, I will be doing talks for the short Shelter, as well as for Gundam: The Origin‘s final episode this month — it does not appear that there will be too much on my plate for the month of November, so I will be taking advantage of that time to get further into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and unlock more stuff in Battlefield 1. In the meantime, I’ve got an evening at a local comedy club with coworkers tomorrow evening to look forwards to.

At the end of episode four, I am now very excited about Brave Witches: this spin-off has captured and improved upon the methodology used in Strike Witches, driving greater emphasis towards the side of Witches that make them human. Rather than the contrivances of placing the cameras conveniently behind the Witches’ backsides for the sake of amusing the viewers, Brave Witches aims to delve into the Witches’ interactions with their world amidst a difficult conflict. The world of Strike Witches had always been quite conducive towards exploration of how society may have developed in light of the Neuroi threat, and in Brave Witches, it seems that steps have been taken towards making use of such a unique world to show how the circumstances have shaped the people behind the heroics. It’s been a very welcome direction for the franchise as a whole, and in travelling along paths hitherto untraveled by Strike Witches, Brave Witches continues to impress, bringing a refreshing new perspective on this world that had previously been ignored in favour of conjuring cheap tricks for a much more limited audience.

6 responses to “If You Want to Fight, Get Stronger!: Brave Witches Fourth Episode Impressions and Review

  1. Jusuchin (Military Otaku) November 3, 2016 at 22:12

    As noted, I imagine Hikari will be trained to be a terrific flier. Without the ability to raise a shield without cutting power to the engines, she is at a disadvantage. DItto for using magic to brace her Type 99 cannon. That could be mitigated though if she would be given the numerous StG/MP-44 rifles evident in the Petersburg Base’s armory.

    That or the next supply convoy from Fusou will end up bringing along a technical attachment to allow her to raise a shield without a significant decrease in power. Or Pokryshkin can develop it all on her own.

    I’m in full agreement with your thoughts on Brave Witches. I think dedicated fans are getting a little tired of the endless fanservice, and the popularity of non-anime witches and semi-official side stories show that we want more. And just little things that most people would miss is enough to excite a fan. For me, the revelation that the League of Nations not only continue operation, but seems more powerful than the founders of both it and the UN seem to be implied. I mean, it has an overarching military command structure where the various generals and marshals of member states are all working together on the same page as well as the establishment of the Joint Fighter Wings.

    Like

    • infinitezenith November 3, 2016 at 22:23

      All of the elements you mention could feasibly come together to produce something that could make Brave Witches a superb addition to the franchise. Given their direction towards building up technical and interpersonal elements, it is conceivable that Hikari’s skills in flight could be augmented by a new loadout and Striker configuration that brings out her fullest potential. It would be consistent with the approach they’ve taken towards presenting the story so far, and further show Brave Witches as being able to stand on its own, perhaps even better than Strike Witches. Thus, I would be very happy to see this realised🙂

      With respect to the UN, it seems like a necessity that an international command be formed to oversee the Witches’ operations. In the face of an extraterrestrial threat, fiction commonly portrays humanity uniting under one banner, so it’s not too surprising to see in the Strike Witches universe. However, it does disappoint me that our own UN does not seem to be particularly effectual in dealing with conflicts and other crisis.

      Like

  2. ernietheracefan November 4, 2016 at 03:32

    I had a goosebumps at the “encouraging” scene (that was awesome).

    BTW, did you watching Man of Honor..?

    Like

    • infinitezenith November 4, 2016 at 23:27

      Reverse psychology is surprisingly functional, so I have no idea why anyone would consider Kanno to be a nuisance. In fact, I’ve grown rather interested of the role that she’ll play towards aiding Hikari in becoming a better Witch.

      As for Men of Honour, that seems an interesting film, although I don’t imagine that its similarities to anything seen in Brave Witches is deliberate.

      Like

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