“The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.” —Douglas MacArthur
When an artillery-spotter Neuroi pair begin shelling facilities close to the Petersburg base, Alexsandra, Nikka and Hikari are sent to locate the spotter unit. While flying through the city streets, Alexsandra experiences flashbacks of the city’s layout despite firmly asserting that she was not familiar with the town. The next day, the 502nd separate into two teams: one to take out the artillery unit, and the other to neutralise the spotter, which presents the additional challenge of being a shape-shifting type. While pursing the Neuroi, Alexsandra realises that she suppressed her memories of the area, worrying about being discriminated against when she revealed that she was a Witch to save her friends during her childhood. Unlocking her memories, she is able to identify where the spotter is hiding and dispatch it. It is able to send out one final signal before it is destroyed, and in parallel, Edytha and the others successfully destroy the artillery-type right after it fires another round. Feeling that Alexsandra does care about Petersburg, Nikka is able to stop the shell from razing their area but damages her Striker unit yet again. Atearful Alexsandra learns that the ladybug Nikka had drawn in her Striker unit is meant as a sign of luck, bringing the sixth episode to a close.
We’re now sitting at the halfway point in Brave Witches, during which Alexsandra and Nikka’s relationship is explored in greater detail. Earlier episodes had primarily depicted Alexsandra as eternally frustrated at Nikka’s tendency to total Striker units, leaving her with a great deal of extra work, but the sixth episode also shows that the two also have a strong friendship, as evidenced when Nikka capitalises on her regeneration factor to tank a Neuroi artillery round. The focus of this episode is primarily on Alexsandra’s own inner struggles: she overcomes her fears and doubts independently of external help, accepting her existence as a Witch and making use of her powers to help the 502nd in neutralising a particularly tricky opponent. This episode thus stands in contrast with earlier episodes, where the different Witches worked together in order to overcome adversity — here, it is shown that the higher-ranked Witches can also count on their own resolve to rectify their issues, affirming them as highly valuable leaders to their subordinates.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Although Hikari’s improved since her arrival in Petersburg, she continues to train under Edytha’s eye in order to ensure that she remains minimally ready for combat against the Neuroi. While working on her balance, Nikka runs into the hanger, being chased by an irate Alexsandra. It turns out that Nikka’s wrecked a Striker unit, bringing her total of damaged units up to two at this point.
- Alexsandra’s primary ability is magic-assisted eidetic memory, allowing her to recall layouts and concepts with unerring accuracy. She makes use of this to repair Nikka’s Striker unit, and Edytha laments that Alexsandra could be doing so much more than looking after Nikka. Nikka’s magic is also given here: she has the capacity to self-heal, which has been said to contribute to her tendency to crash or damage Striker units.
- After a Neuroi shell leaves flaming wreckage where a warehouse was, Gundula sends the 502nd to investigate the source of the damage. I’ve begun making my way through the Battlefield 1 campaign by this point in time, and the heavily-shelled landscapes of World War One are faithfully depicted in the game. It is absolutely astounding that DICE managed to capture these details so effectively, and I will be posting about the first mission, “Through Mud and Blood”, in short order.
- Initially, Edytha, Hikari and Alexsandra fly out to see if they cannot locate the Neuroi, but their search turns out unsuccessful. Splitting up to increase their search area, Alexsandra manages to locate the Neuroi and opens fire on it, but it retreats underground before she can deal any serious damage to it.
- The 502nd learn that the Neuroi’s precision is targeting installations critical to the their operations is a consequence of a spotter unit designating targets for the larger artillery unit; Gundula has the Witches disperse into two groups such that both can be taken out. In Brave Witches, the Witches refer to this spotter as a “marker”, although this is technically incorrect. A marker is used for indicating a point, so if the Neuroi were fulfilling this role, it would need to broadcast a signal at that point until the shell landed. Instead, it appears to be designating targets while disguised as ordinary objects, hence my choice to refer to it as a spotter (similar to the spotters in a two-man sniper team).
- I am tempted to run with the Lewis Gun in Battlefield 1 to emulate Alexsandra’s loadout: she enters battle with the Russian Degtyaryov DP-28 machine gun. The only commonality the two weapons share is their top-mounted pan magazine, but they look similar enough so that the loadout might fly. After the first major Battlefield 1 patch, which was a 2 GB download taking some 10 minutes to finish completely, LMGs have been improved to be more accurate, which means I should give the support class a shot now (I’ve been occupied with levelling the assault and medic classes insofar).
- The streets of Petersburg are rendered in excellent detail, although being quite devoid of life: the city was evacuated in the face of the Neuroi advance, hence the lack of people. Alexsandra demonstrates a strong dislike for the city early in the episode, insisting that her duty is to destroy the Neuroi rather than preserve the city, on the basis that there are few lives in the city left to defend. This manner hints at her own story, so it is not particularly surprising that her recollections foreshadow the episode’s events.
- Brave Witches is predictable to the point where once a few elements are presented within an episode, it becomes possible to accurately predict the events that unfold in the remain. However, while predictability is something that audiences ordinarily hold against a work (implying that it is derivative or unoriginal), Brave Witches‘ charm lies in its portrayal of the same events from a much more serious, narrative-driven manner.
- The Neuroi in Brave Witches also have become more tactical in nature compared to their Strike Witches counterparts; here, their application of weather-altering Neuroi to modify the surface conditions and facilitate their movements, as well as working in coordinated pairs, as with the artillery and spotter units, present much more difficult opponents for the Witches to defeat. This tactical element adds a sense of urgency to the Witches’ operations, giving the Human-Neuroi war a greater sense of impact than was previously portrayed in Strike Witches.
- While I’m not ordinarily able to notice CG elements in an anime compared to their hand-drawn counterparts, there are places in this episode where the CG is conspicuous. I remark that the Alexsandra, Nikka and Hikari resemble the characters in RWBY whenever they are rendered in CG. It’s a relatively minor element that does not detract from the episode’s enjoyment factor, and here at the halfway point, I’m rather enjoying what Brave Witches has presented thus far.
- Nikka’s regen factor allows her to tank impacts that would knock out other Witches, and here, her carelessness results in her colliding with a street lamp. She earlier collides a sign on a storefront, causing both her and Hikari to crash into the ground: between Hikari’s lesser skill and Nikka’s bad luck, it seems to be a bad idea to pair these two together in an operation. Alexsandra must deal with the consequences and enters pursuit of the spotter Neuroi alone.
- Hikari only winds up in a slightly better position than Nikka. A great deal of discussions out there tend to use the character’s nicknames rather than their given names for brevity’s sake, but here, I prefer to use everyone’s given name, since it’s easier to recall a nickname attached to a given name, rather than the other way around. Alexsandra is known as “Sasha”, and Nikka is “Nipa”. I used to go by a variety of nicknames, ranging from a shortened form of my name to something as ostentatious as “The Oracle”. When dealing with people, I inform them that I am perfectly happy go with either my full or shortened name, and remark that only more formal or professional settings require the use of my name’s full variant.
- I included this screenshot to highlight just how chaotic aerial battles can be in Brave Witches: the screen is aglow with laser fire and spent cartridges. Movement dominates the screen, and motion blur means that images tend to be quite fuzzy. In looking around for some information related to this post, I learned only now that Naoe is voiced by Rie Murakawa, the same Rie Murakawa who voices Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?‘s Megu Natsu and Non Non Biyori‘s Hotaru Ichijou. What a world-breaker this news is: Naoe’s voice is so different from that of Megu’s that I find myself impressed at Murakawa’s voice-acting skill.
- Alexsandra’s story is that she once lived in Petersburg and enjoyed life here with her friends, but after a near-accident that revealed her powers as a Witch, she feared the associated stigma. A capable mechanic and tactician, she’s a valuable asset to the 502nd and serves to counter out the more laid-back personalities of Nikka and Waltrud. Given that Alexsandra’s concerns had arisen before the Neuroi attack on Europe, they imply that Witches were once despised: Witches are seen as heroes in Strike Witches who are admired, rather than feared.
- Magic-assisted eidetic memory is something that is unattainable for present-day humanity, and although some science fiction works have suggested the use of external devices to help us store memories (in a similar manner as the Pensieves of Harry Potter), the main challenge in implementing such devices in reality would be the interface between the brain and said storage medium, as well as how to parse neural impulses, then translate those into a format that can be stored and retrieved. Dealing with brain-related topics is always a thrill, but in this Brave Witches talk, I’ve opted to keep that to a minimum since such a topic could easily encompass the entire scope of the discussion.
- Setting aside her personal doubts and allowing herself to make full use of her memories, Alexsandra is able to determine an aberration in the Petersburg skyline indicative of the Neuroi’s position. It is promptly eliminated, but not before sending off one last set of coordinates for the artillery-type. I remark that the Neuroi in the past two Brave Witches episodes appear to have been written to fit with the characters’ abilities, creating challenges for them to defeat using their innate abilities.
- While Alexsandra is content to evacuate the area as the last Neuroi shell drops from the sky, Nikka decides that this order does not stand. She breaks away from the group and projects a shield with the aim of stopping the projectile. Her efforts are successful, although that results in her damaging her Striker unit once again. This brings the total number of Striker units Nikka’s damaged up to three in Brave Witches.
- On the whole, the sixth episode featured some fantastic artwork of St. Petersburg under a fresh snowfall and blue skies: its plot line offers a chance to explore the streets of Petersburg and see some of its surroundings; earlier, Nikka collides with the Neuroi’s impersonation of the Bronze Horseman, and other landmarks are also replicated faithfully. I wonder what it would be like to visit Russia during the winter and see cities such as St. Petersburg or Moscow under a fresh snowfall.
- I would visit Russia in winter for the atmosphere rather than to experience the climate: while I often joke that the weak Canadian winter no match for Real Soviet Winter™, it’s actually the case that my home city has a lower average low temperature than Moscow and St. Petersburg for the months of December and January, as well as getting more snow overall. In other words, Canadian winters can match a Russian winter in terms of intensity. However, being a newer city with much less history, there is a certain magic about Russian cities that my own town cannot quite capture.
- The page quote is from General Douglas MacArthur, one of my favourite figures from World War Two, and I believe that people do their best when they use their skill to create opportunity. Of course, there is a bit of luck that comes from the outside, but for the most part, I prefer counting on luck made from within as much as possible. The words that Alexsandra inscribes into Nikka’s Striker, удачи (pronounced “udachi”) translates to “good luck”, lending itself to the episode title. With this post at its conclusion, upcoming posts will deal with the Battlefield 1 mission “Through Mud and Blood” and the finale to Gundam: The Origin.
Similar to how Strike Witches‘ sixth episodes for both seasons focussed on Sanya and Eila, Brave Witches adopts a parallel approach in delving into interactions amongst the Orussian and Suomus Witches. Their dynamics have proven to be quite entertaining to watch, being rather more reserved than those of the Karlsland or Fuso Witches. At the halfway yardstick, Brave Witches has given screentime for Naoe, Georgette, Sadako, Nikka and Alexsandra; this leaves Waltrud, Gundula and Edytha’s tribulations as remaining to be explored. Traditionally, Strike Witches utilises its seventh episode for some serious fanservice: in the first season, the episode follows Erica’s misadventures after she commandeers pantsu from Francesca, while in the second season, a small insect-sized Neuroi embarrasses the Witches by lodging in their pantsu. After the seventh episode, the tone invariably became more serious as the Witches prepare for battle with increasingly deadly Neuroi. While Brave Witches has reduced this sort of thing, it seems logical to suppose that the seventh episode of Brave Witches will be more relaxed in nature, before the narrative shifts gears in preparation for the 502nd’s own task to defeat a nearby hive.