The Infinite Zenith

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

Good luck: Brave Witches Impressions and Review At The Halfway Point

“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.

10 responses to “Good luck: Brave Witches Impressions and Review At The Halfway Point

  1. ernietheracefan November 17, 2016 at 21:02

    That’s quite fast, buddy..

    BTW, last Wednesday was Georgette’s b’day..


    • infinitezenith November 17, 2016 at 22:01

      I noticed the surge of fan art, so I saw the celebrations for Georgette’s birthday 🙂

      As for the speed for this review, I think I found an approach that works for me. I might be able to publish on Thursday evenings about Brave Witches from here on out.

      Shame the discussion at AnimeSuki’s slowed down a little, though. Everything there could be addressed in two of the bullets in this post.


  2. Bucue December 31, 2016 at 18:18

    One point I think is worth clarifying as an interesting note as far as the reactions to Alexsandra’s magic awakening goes; is that, after conducting a considerable amount of research into the series, and seeing as witches have been shown in the Movie as having always served important roles in protecting mankind from Neruoi of old and up until the 1940’s: the reason for the shocked, fearful reactions of Alexsandra old friends and neighbors is due to two particularly likely aspects:

    The first is that it’s established in cannon, at least of this episode; is that Orussia and it’s people is culturally and socially very superstitious.This is a bit of a cultural nod as Slavic culture itself generally holds and is viewed to have quite a few superstitious beliefs, on both a local and national level. The fact their is also indication, if at least limited, of their being a sort of western religion and presence thereof that it could also somewhat feed the superstitions of an Orussia populous. That being said, it’s unlikely that witches generally speaking, even before the events of the war with the Neruoi in the 1940’s, to have been outright hateful of witches in general, though it could be possible that witches in Orussia can be looked at with a level of superstition in some instances and degrees. If witches in cannon for the series in Russia really were viewed with such a degree of animosity, even with the invasion of the Neruoi, it would be dubious that witches in Orussia, or in general, would be treated as even highhandedly as they have been or even see Orussia witches being allowed to even serve in the Orussian Military.

    The second aspect to factor in is that the scenario in which Alexsandra’s had awoken suddenly was in the attempt to protect her young friends and herself from being hit and possibly killed by a speeding car. Given that Alexsandra’s magic awoken at a very sudden and unpredictable way, and the fact that, more importantly, of the car hitting her shield and becoming heavily wreaked and possibly causing considerable, if not serious injury to the occupants of the car hitting her shield at such a speed as implied, that aside form the aforementioned superstitions of Orussians, it could also be that people were shocked by the sudden awakening of Alexsandra’s that wound up causing severe damage and injury, if not worse. One story from a Strike Witches Doujin A-la-cart involved a witch who as a child used to play the Violin for a recital until her magic suddenly awoken and she inadvertently used a magical attack thanks to magical energy be focused though her violin as she played it; causing considerable, horrific chaos to whatever the witch was directly standing in front of. While granted the cannon verification of the story presented in the a-la-cart is difficult to confirm and authenticate as being considered “part of official cannon” the reactions of the people around Alexsandra’s at the awakening of her magic likely would have been similar to the reactions of the people in the a-la-cart doujin, which is to say; considerable shock.

    Given the presentation of the worlds lore and the overall role and relationship humanity has with it’s witches and the impact witches have had in earth’s history in Strike Witches, and given the Neruoi’s impact and role in the series historical lore; it’s unlikely that witches would be shown quite a level of belligerence or for such reasons…. that being said it’s likely that Orussia’s perception of witches, wither of witches Orussian borne of in general; does appear to carry it’s own, much more superstitious view and treatment of witches than other nations.

    On an unrelated note: the servicemen that are shown in this episode, given their blue uniforms, are likely Orussian marine troops, which would kind of make sense as that they are tasked with garrisoning and holding the 502nd base and a port in Peters burg and given that Russian army troops alternatively wore uniforms who’s colors ranged from sand yellow, tan, olive or some variation of Khaki or beige.


    • infinitezenith January 10, 2017 at 20:09

      That’s some solid insights right there; thanks for sharing! On that note, what did you think of Brave Witches as a whole?


      • Bucue October 29, 2017 at 03:38

        Thank you, also my apologies for the following, much belated reply….

        I will say in many ways Brave Witches as a whole managed to live up to nearly all my expectations and I pretty much got what I was hoping for out of Brave Witches as a spin off series.

        Each of the girls were well showcased, explored and developed enough to be satisfying, and the interactions of the girls had me invested in seeing how things would work out. In addition the world building was expanded to a very impressive degree including showing aspects of witches magic that were interesting, fascinating and admittedly a few times a little surprising yet were still rather logical, grounded and felt like they fit within the cannon of the setting. They were very welcome.

        The Neruoi’s designs and even tactics being expanded to a very interesting degree as well and showed many new tactics and types of neruoi was greatly appreciated… and Brave Witches managed to further enforce the dire threat the neuroi posed to humanity and even showed their development and attempts into more modern tactics. The episode covered in this review was one that showed the Neruoi much more clearly and starkly (at least in the anime to a better degree) as an actual army of aliens rather then just either hoard of individuals or at worst monster of the week, granted the other anime series did try at times to show the neuroi as an army though admittedly it was initially middling though it got better with each installment and episode…. though in Brave Witches it did interestingly show implications that while the Neruoi may be trying to grasp an understanding and implementation of modern, human-like, combined arms military tactics; it seems they may be struggling in the execution of said tactics and possibly even lacking experience in using those tactics. it’s a small moment but an interesting and strongly compelling one full of fascinating implications.

        The appearance of Mechanized Armored infantry witches was an exciting moment and opens up many new narrative possibilities for future strike witches anime series. Also the narrative stories themselves ranged from great to good to at worst okay; even in the ‘okay’ category they were still serviceable, entertaining and enjoyable. I also really loved that that cha

        That said, as huge of a fan of Strike Witches as a series that I am (I’ve been told that I’m something of a ‘strike witches evangelist’); the only points that I found a bit troublesome were the CGI which even I as a super fan of the series can’t really defend all that much, though thankfully the Blueray/DVD release will be having all the CGI scenes in the Tv release revamped and replaced with actual hand drawn animation and that blueray/dvd release looks much better in animation quality and is simply gorgeous. Granted for me the TV release it’s not a deal breaker in the slightest; but even I have to admit that while the handdrawn animation for the TV release is alright and perfectly acceptable and good, the CGI is way too conspicuous to be ignored and is at slightly worse levels then Kanti Collection levels of poor CGI. And I guess if I’m nitpicking then occasionally the pacing in brave witches does feel slightly faster then normal, including the combat scenes in some instances but it’s not too bad in those regards and even then is only an occasional occurrence, the pacing the rest of the time is acceptable. The flaws may be a bit more noticeable in Brave Witches; but they are few and in everything else Brave Witches otherwise performs very well.

        I still loved Brave Witches and it was still just as fun as the rest of the Series and would still watch it, a sequel and any other subsequent installments of the World Witches series.


        • infinitezenith November 4, 2017 at 22:53

          I appreciate your taking the time to offer your insights; I found that Brave Witches was a straight upgrade from Strike Witches with respect to its narrative, characters and execution save for the CG. Having seen the BDs myself, they are considerably improved and do those scenes justice. On the topic of ground Witches and continuations, it would be very nice if a sequel or spin-off deals with these ground Witches and armoured warfare!


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