“But one of the things I learned from improvising is that all of life is an improvisation, whether you like it or not. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century came out of people dropping things.” —Alan Arkin
While out on a reconnaissance assignment, Georgette, Sadako and Hikari encounter a Neuroi amidst a blizzard. They are unable to contact their base, and, lamenting at her limited contributions in the 502nd, Sadako engages the Neuroi, only to have her Striker Unit and weapons freeze from the frigid air. When Hikari attempts to shoot down the Neuroi, she is also incapacitated by the low temperatures. Crashing and succumbing to frostbite, Georgette and Sadako save her. While waiting out the blizzard, Hikari learns that Georgette had been avoiding her out of guilt, fearing that Hikari would not forgive her for being unable to save Takami. However, Hikari is grateful, and later, the trio encounter a derelict KV-2. Sheltering there overnight with a fire, they find the blizzard has stopped. Although they lack weapons, Sadako suggests using the temperature extremities against the Neuroi: they ignite fuel to elevate the temperatures and crack the Neuroi’s hull and intend to pierce the core with a makeshift explosive arrow. Sadako’s Striker Unit begins failing, but Hikari, recalling that Georgette’s healing magic generates excess heat, injures herself, allowing Georgette to heal her and simultaneously warm Sadako’s Striker. The final arrow Sadako fires downrange hits its target, neutralising the Neuroi. The fifth episode of Brave Witches continues on in the tradition of its predecessors, introducing the other Witches now that Hikari’s future is a little more certain.
Both Georgette and Sadako are given exposition in the fifth episode. Intrinsically shy and skilled with household chores, Georgette is initially hesitant about Hikari, fearing that the latter dislikes her owing to her inability to fully restore Takami to health. Similarly, while Sadako is an excellent cook and a skilled Witch with the ability to detect long-range targets, she doubts her ability and contributions to the 502nd, leading her to act recklessly in a bid to prove herself. However, while perhaps lacking the outright power and talents of the 501st, the 502nd are nonetheless resourceful and determined, winning battles through innovative thinking and teamwork. Georgette, Sadako and Hikari demonstrate that that they are more than capable of overcoming individual weaknesses accomplishing something as a team — watching Witches take down a Neuroi using rudimentary scientific knowledge and arrows is not something that has been seen before in animated form. Brave Witches continues to emphasise that it is taking a step in a different direction than Strike Witches. Delving into the new friendship forming between Hikari and two of the 502nd, the fifth episode balances this character growth with a thrilling combat sequence that further holds an interesting implication: the Neuroi, though powerful, seem susceptible to unassuming modes of assault.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This week’s focus is on Georgette and Sadako: the two are quite close as friends and here, Sadako remarks that it’s been Georgette’s fifth sample of her cooking before Waltrud shows up and messes with them. When Hikari enters, however, Georgette takes off. The parallel in Strike Witches is Gertrude’s response to Yoshika, who resembles her younger sister. In the fourth episode of the first season, Gertrude flies into battle, feeling that she must protect Yoshika, only to have the latter save her when she is shot down.
- Georgette is voiced by Haruka Terui (Yūki Yūna of Yūki Yūna is a Hero), and she plays this role well: the cheerful, ever-optimistic personality that Yūki projects is not present, and generally speaking, Georgette is much quieter, resembling Lynette in a sense. She wields a more modest form of healing magic: unlike Yoshika, who can heal multiple people on end, Georgette’s magic increases her metabolism and elevates her body temperature, restricting her usage.
- After finding her room mysteriously cleaned, Hikari discovers that it is Georgette who’s been cleaning things, stemming from her being born to innkeepers in Gallia. However, they encounter one another not in Georgette’s own room, and Naoe flies into a rage when Hikari asks her to borrow some books, resulting in Naoe colliding with the shelf. Owing to some inconsistencies in earlier posts, I’ve called Naoe by her given name, but to ensure that the Brave Witches posts are similarly formatted, I’ll refer to her as Naoe from here on out.
- Edytha decides to send Hikari out on a recon mission with Georgette and Sadako to give her a chance to practise flying. By this point in time, it seems that Hikari’s slowly improving as a Witch, and at the minimum, is able to maintain a high RPM on the Shiden kai. En route to their assigned destination, Sadako and Hikari share a conversation: Sadako is from the Onomichi area of Hiroshima, which was featured in the Tamayura: More Aggressive OVA that Fū and the others visit with Maon after the latter fell ill and missed a school trip to Okinawa. Being from Sasebo in Nagasaki, it’s rather curious that two of the 502nd’s numbers are from the cities that were the sites of the atomic bombings.
- As the Witches push deeper, the weather begins to deteriorate. A blizzard begins taking shape, and visibility begins plummeting. Hikari learns here that Sadako is disappointed with her performance in combat, and wishes to play a much larger role among the 502nd beyond merely being a talented cook for the team by directly contributing to shooting down Neuroi. This growing desire to prove herself leads Sadako to charge into combat once the Neuroi is encountered.
- Hikari is told to remain behind while Sadako and Georgette engage the Neuroi. Below, a forest can be seen. This type of forest, known as taiga, or boreal forest, is the second-most extensive biome in the world after the oceans, constituting around 29 percent of the world’s forest cover. There is a certain charm about boreal forests by winter, and Les Stroud survives in the forests near a Norwegian fjord by winter in an episode from 2012. Some of his skills, such as being able to start a fire with fuel and flammable materials, becomes quite useful for Sadako, Georgette and Hikari in this episode.
- A Neuroi lies at the heart of the storm, and I remark that I hardly ever show the Neuroi in my screenshots. This is primarily because they can be difficult to capture in one frame, and because my discussions deal more with the Witches then their opponents. An enemy whose origin remains unexplained, the Neuroi serve a very simple role in Strike Witches: they act as the justification for why diverse groups of Witches aggregate and interact, driving the anime. Lacking any affiliation or human attributes, they’re not meant to provoke discussions about human conflict.
- The Neuroi that Hikari, Georgette and Sadako encounter is unconventional, deliberately manipulating the atmosphere to drop temperatures. This causes Striker units to malfunction, and also freezes the Witches’ guns, preventing them from firing. Aside from freezing any latent vapours in the atmosphere, extreme cold can also increase the viscosity of oils in the gun and reduce its performance. Steps can be taken to winterise a weapon, and practise can allow one to overcome these conditions, but it appears that none of the Witches have any training of this sort.
- In a matter of moments, all three are incapacitated and make a crash landing. After extricating themselves from the snow, Georgette and Sadako make to rescue Hikari, whose core temperatures is plummeting. Blaming herself for their predicament, Georgette delivers a resounding open palm to the face (again, correctly utilising the idea that sense can be slapped into someone as per Mythbusters).
- The blizzard intensifies as Hikari begins experiencing the start of frostbite. With their radio communications unavailable thanks to the Neuroi’s interference, Georgette and Sadako are unable to inform the others of a substantial Neuroi presence in their AO. The low temperatures also prevent their Striker units from operating, resulting in an unexpected survival situation, which naturally opens the floor up to discussing whether or not the Witches’ actions are consistent with those seen in Les Stroud’s Survivorman.
- The fanservice in the fifth episode, though more substantial than in previous Brave Witches episodes, nonetheless remains reasonably restrained. Georgette and Sadako strip down to their undergarments in order to share body heat with Hikari to keep her going: moving into shelter and sharing body heat is something that survival guides recommend. Rather than heat transfer, sharing body heat while wearing less clothing work in moderate cases because it reduces the body’s exposed surface areas, slowing heat loss. My fondness of Georgette also triples.
- Les Stroud stresses the importance of a fire as providing a serious psychological boost in any survival situation, and that where possible, one should apply ingenuity in starting a fire to conserve on matches and other ready-made fire-starting techniques. Some of the more interesting methods Stroud has used in Survivorman include using a camera lens, using chocolate and a coke can, extracting fuel from a car and using steel wool with a battery to start a fire.
- Back at base, the blizzard has precluded any rescue attempts, grounding the remainder of the 502nd. Despite being a calm and reserved instructor, Edytha shows another, hilarious, side to her personality after Waltrud breaks her collection of rare caviar to concoct a meal of sorts. Even the normally-collected Gundula remarks on the poor quality of the food that Waltrud creates, although I highly doubt it matches the inedible nature of Bender’s cooking in Futurama.
- With their weapons unusable, Sadako suggests that they apply the concept of thermal shock to defeat the Neuroi. Rapid temperature changes can cause different stress forces to accumulate inside an object, and if it exceeds the material’s strength, will cause it to fail. To generate this heat, Hikari and Georgette craft shrapnel-filled incendiary bombs to elevate the air temperature and weaken the Neuroi. Sadako then devises an improvised bow and explosive arrows.
- The three Witches then soar into the air and begin their rematch with the Neuroi. The skies begin clearing, although temperatures remain quite low. The Neuroi’s means of remove thermal energy from the air are presumably different than those used in air conditioning units and refrigerators. These devices use the gas law to drive temperature changes: compressing a special fluid and allowing it to expand in a condenser causes it to draw energy from its surroundings, lowering temperature. More exotic systems might directly impact the kinetic energy of individual atoms, and while it would be interesting discussion to speculate on how the Neuroi operate, it would also also make this post lengthier.
- The differences in thermal energy have their intended effect on the Neuroi: its surface begins to crack, and the core is exposed, giving Sadako an opening to destroy it. While the Neuroi’s composition is never explored in Strike Witches, its response to weapons suggest that it is likely an exotic ceramic-like material without any fibres: unlike metals or composite ceramics, which deform, the material making up Neuroi fracture when subject to stress.
- Sadako’s first round misses as her Striker begins to freeze. In a bid to keep Sadako in the air, Hikari runs her head against Sadako’s Striker, creating an injury that allows Georgette to utilise her magic and its associated thermal energy. It’s a move on Hikari’s part that demonstrates her commitment to the team, and even if she did not get the kill, her actions directly contribute to another tally. This screenshot also furthers my appreciation for Georgette’s character.
- The Neuroi is thus defeated when Sadako’s second shot hits the core dead-on, bringing this post nearly to its end. The discussion for this episode comes out a bit later because it’s been a busy week. After convocation on Thursday, I went to the Smuggler’s Inn for dinner (a 12oz Cajun-blackened New York Steak with a bacon-and-sour-cream topped baked potato and hot sauce, plus soup and salad). Yesterday, I went to the regional mall to purchase a autumn new coat to replace my aging one.
- Today, with the additional break time conferred by the fact that it’s a long weekend and that the weather remained pleasant enough to go for a day trip into the mountains, I rolled on La Belle Patate in Canmore again to enjoy their deluxe poutine (onions, mushrooms, bacon and Montreal Smoked Meat) accompanied with a spruce-beer soda (which tasted highly refreshing). After completing a short hike in the Nordic Center Provincial Park east of the Bow River, I returned to the Canmore city center and sipped a cocoa with latte art before driving up to the Grassi lakes area to check out the Scar-on-the-mountain.
- I’ll wrap up with another picture of Georgette, who seems to be Brave Witches‘ Lynette in that she’s growing to be my favourite Witch of the 502nd. This post was surprisingly fun to write because of how much scientific discussion the episode’s events offer, and the episode also demonstrates the importance of having a competent cook on staff. Even if Sadako isn’t a Master Chief or Doom Slayer-level monster capable of neutralising Neuroi, her role in giving the others a good meal helps keep morale up. In Mighty Ships, crew often remark that a ship functions best when the crew are given a proper meal, and it’s no different in the military: the phrase “an army marches on its stomach”, attributed to both Napoleon Bonaparte and Frederick the Great, is yet another reminder of just how critical food is. That’s pretty much it for this week’s post, and upcoming posts include talks on the Battlefield 1 campaign.
Brave Witches‘ halfway point will be reached next week, and so far, although Brave Witches has taken a similar approach to Strike Witches with respect to the episodic formula of introducing new characters for the protagonist to interact with on an interpersonal level, then add a Neuroi battle to really drive home the point that the characters have bonded sufficiently well to work together as a team. However, whereas Strike Witches was more informal in its interactions, Brave Witches presents characters that also possess a unique set of weaknesses that serve to both give them a more plausible air, as well as an opportunity to create a more interesting story for the sort of motivations they have for fighting as Witches. In creating characters aware of their own limitations, an additional dimension is added to Brave Witches that make each character more relatable, and whose respective growth is all the more rewarding to watch. Once all of the characters’ interactions with Hikari are known, it will be intriguing to see how differently the 502nd operate relative to their counterparts in the 501st.