“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one.” —Jacques Roumain
When Waltrud is made commander of a mission to escort a fleet of ships carrying high-value materials after discovering intel hidden away in some macarons from Sanya and Eila, she decides to assign Hikari, Nikka and Naoe to aid her in this mission. She grows enamoured with the Britannian Witch already escorting the surface vessels. They make the thousand-kilometer journey to rendezvous with the fleet, with Naoe and Waltrud receiving upgraded Striker Units en route. However, on the eve of the mission, Waltrud succumbs to the temptation of alcohol and wakes up on the morning of their assignment with a hangover. Despite seemingly unfit for combat, she recovers upon learning the Britannian Witch has been shot down by the Neuroi, a large type capable of generating numerous drones. In the midst of battle, Waltrud sends Hikari to assist Nikka and Naoe, but Hikari convinces her to take the FP-45 Liberator before leaving. Waltrud activates her own magic and destroys the Neuroi with a rifle grenade, but is impacted by one of the remaining drones. The hit turns out to be non-lethal, as the Liberator in her chest pocket has deflected the impact’s severity, and in the episode’s final moments, Waltrud’s injuries allow her a chance to interact with the Britannian Witch. Hence, in response to the question that Edytha poses, pertaining to why she picked Hikari, Nikka and Naoe for the task, it would appear that Waltrud seems quite attuned to individuals’ personalities and selecting the role most appropriate for them — this decision ultimately saves her life.
Waltrud’s laidback and ever-optimistic mannerisms make her the most easygoing of all the 502nd: she is fond of indulging herself, as evidenced by her alcohol consumption, and has a propensity to lie to her juniors, informing Hikari that the Liberator is a good luck charm rather than a miniature weapon. Although her nonchalant attitude leads her to frequently run afoul of Edytha and Naoe, this belies her capabilities as a Witch. Favouring high risk, high reward combat approaches, she’s able to engage the eighth episode’s Neuroi independently to both defend the fleet. Waltrud is therefore an excellent example of someone who counts on high spirits and (poor) jokes in order to overcome adversity: her seemingly flippant behaviours have the effect of keeping Nikka and Naoe from worrying too much about the presence of uncommonly dangerous Neuroi, and with these two focussed on the mission, Hikari is likewise able to follow suit. It is very likely that this is the reason why Waltrud remains a critical member of the 502nd despite irritating Edytha and Naoe; her antics, though a nuisance at times, also serve to shift the other Witches’ focus away from the ceaseless threat posed by the Neuroi towards something more commonplace, in turn lessening their fear somewhat.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Hikari marvels at the FP-45 Liberator, a single-shot pistol firing a .45 ACP round that was intended for use by resistance forces, but never saw widespread action. While small, with a short range of roughly 1-4 meters, the Liberator does not hold the title for smallest pistol of all time — this position belongs to the 2mm Kolibri, which was introduced in 1914 and fires exceptionally weak bullets. It’s the level ten unlock for a class in Battlefield 1 and was probably meant to be a joke weapon, since it deals only five damage per shot.
- Edytha presents the mission while the 502nd sit down for reindeer stew, courtesy of the supplies that Eila and Sanya brought during the previous episode. Their flight path takes them high into the arctic near Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a frigid region rich in natural resources. For this reason, the region is highly polluted as a result of intensive mining: the town of Norilsk and its nickel mines accounts for one percent of the world’s entire sulfur dioxide emissions. In Brave Witches, however, this would be before any industrialisation of the area, so the Kola Peninsula of Orussia would remain relatively pristine.
- Edytha and Waltrud’s interactions are always quite interesting to watch when the two are bouncing off one another, but the two also can share some insightful conversations. These aspect leads me to my remarks in this episode’s discussions, and in general, while I’m not quite so keen on indulgence as Waltrud, I definitely believe in the significance of good morale: when things get busy or stressful, I tend to crack particularly lame jokes about what I’m working on. Most folks won’t have an opportunity to see this unless they work with me in person.
- Waltrud’s entire willingness to accept the mission stems from the fact that she’s a womaniser to the same extent as Sean Connery’s James Bond. Curiously enough, the last time I saw someone fall for a girl in a photograph, it was in From Russia With Love (1963). The old James Bond films were amazing, although I was introduced to James Bond through Moonraker (1979), which features Roger Moore as James Bond and sees a plot to eliminate the world’s population from space.
- Even while on break, the Britannian Witch’s photograph is never too far from Waltrud’s hand. Naoe is quite displeased with the arrangements, although Nikka seems to be taking things in stride. After eight episodes, it’s quite clear that Hikari, Nikka and Naoe are Brave Witches‘ equivalent of Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. Owing to the tremendous length of their journey, the Witches’ travels are broken up into different legs.
- The distances involved, coupled with Nikka’s tendency for poor luck means that her Striker begins to malfunction shortly before they reach their next pitstop. Because Nikka flies Waltrud’s Striker unit later on, it’s safe to say that her old unit has bitten the dust, bringing the total of failed Strikers that Nikka has seen in Brave Witches up to a grand total of four. The next episode is titled “Break Witches”, so that total will likely rise further.
- Up until now, the Ground Striker Units have not been seen, but a few frames depict some Ground Witches being briefed before cutting away to Waltrud ogling them. These units are the land-based equivalents and propel their users on the ground at great speeds, and owing to the decreased emphasis on air mobility, Ground Witches appear to be equipped with heavier-calibre, slower-firing cannons that likely are useful against armour. It would be fantastic to see a series about Ground Witches, and even better would be a series where the two kinds of Witches collaborate to defeat their foes.
- I believe the acquisition of upgrades mid-season is known amongst audiences as “mid-season upgrades”. Naoe is ecstatic at finally being able to pilot a Shiden Kai herself, marvelling at its increased performance specifications. Being someone who pushes their gear to its limits, I’m also fond of upgrading the equipment I use, and readers who’ve read my Planetarian post will note that I’m now rocking the EVGA GTX 1060 SC 6 GB edition: since I’ve acquired it, I’ve been enjoying the latest games at a buttery smooth 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution, and remark that this particular GPU is still on backorder at Memory Express for my store. It was only with a reservation that I was able to pick mine up back in August.
- I’ve reiterated this point in other posts previously, but delving into literature further, it seems that I’m not deficient on enzymes for breaking down alcohol. Instead, I have an overexpression of alcohol dehydrogenase, which causes me to decompose alcohol much more quickly than usual, and in turn, I grow sick quickly. Prolonged exposure to alcohol can increase my susceptibility to disease, so this is why I don’t drink, much less with Waltrud’s speed. Brave Witches calls wine “grape juice”, which is technically acceptable: wine really is just rotten grape juice. With that being said, the episode’s title is rather curious — I wouldn’t want ethanol anywhere near my ocular systems.
- Because of an intolerance for alcohol, I’m no fun at parties, but fortunately, my friends and colleagues are accepting of this, and will usually laugh off my preferences for ginger ale or root beer. With that being said, I will drink on some occasions, usually preferring a good rum of sorts. Waltrud’s carelessness seems to hit a new low when she sorties into battle despite her hangover, and in any other setting, this would be unacceptable. However, in Brave Witches, the Witches’ magic might be assumed to help them overcome any effects of the aforementioned hangover.
- With the battle against the Neuroi under way, I found myself impressed at the sheer number of Neuroi present on screen in this battle. Such numbers, however, is not a first for the Strike Witches franchise — during the first season, the 501st engage cube-like Neuroi in large numbers in their eighth episode as well, but that one ended with Minna expressing concern over Mio’s declining magic. While Strike Witches was more heavy-handed with its infamous pantsu moments, they explored themes about team dynamics as well. Consequently, it might be worthwhile to go back and watch both seasons again once Brave Witches draws to a close.
- The page quote comes from Waltrud’s fixation on grape juice, but could easily refer to the nature of the Neuroi the Witches encounter this episode. If and when I’m asked, I do posts with paragraphs of discussion and figure captions as “reactions”: anime discussion and blogs usually come in two varieties, with some folks taking a hybrid approach as I’ve done. While I enjoy drawing elements together to discuss their importance in the bigger picture, I also enjoy responding to individual events on screen. In general, however, I find that individuals who do reaction-type discussions usually leave very little in the way of context. This is perfectly acceptable, but for my readers, I’m not about to let them hunt down the precise moments that I refer to in order to follow them, hence my extensive use of imagery.
- This scene captures the sheer intensity of the battle taking place in the skies above, with particle effects all over the place as the Witches shoot down the smaller drones to clear a path and neutralise the mothership. In the chaos, friendly vessels begin sustaining damage, even with Waltrud, Naoe, Nikka and Hikari’s efforts. Hikari is ordered to provide fire support for the others, but before she takes off, she gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”.
- The Liberator would probably be effective against Neuroi the same way the Kolibri pistol is effective against other players in Battlefield 1, and should Brave Witches ever be a video game, there should be an achievement for defeating a Neuroi with the Liberator. However, as Hikari is still under the impression that the Liberator is a good luck charm, she passes it to Waltrud, who confidently states that she’ll be invincible with it.
- Waltrud’s magic seems to be a booster that greatly increases her speed in combat at the expense of her Striker Unit. She utilises this boost to destroy multiple drones before engaging the larger Neuroi at closer range: in combat, she typically wields an MG 42 or the STG 44 (MP 44), the forerunner of modern assault rifles.
- After Hikari and the others take out one half of the Neuroi, they learn that the core is residing in the remaining half that Waltrud is fighting. Her skill as a Witch is apparent here, and despite her normally lax demenour, Waltrud is one of the top operators in the 502nd, second only to Gundula in terms of kill count. She manages to locate the core and destroys it with what appears to be an under-barrel grenade launcher, before she is swatted from the air by a stray Neuroi drone. My inner weapons historian than asks: were there really under-barrel weapons in this age for the STG 44?
- It turns out there is: even though under-barrel grenade launchers only became widespread after the development of the M203 and Soviet BG-15 in the late 1960s and previous grenade launchers were either carried as standalone weapons like the M79, or else took the form of rifle grenades, the weapon in Brave Witches is authentic. Waltrud is seen here after firing a Sturmpistole, a modified flare gun designed to fire anti-tank projectile. Not particularly effective against even light tanks, the idea was soon discarded, but historically, Sturmpistoles could be mounted as under-barrel attachments for the STG 44.
- In frustration that Waltrud is able to pull off stunts such as those, Naoe states that she’d like to punch out Waltrud’s lights. A viewer with a keen ear and keener sense of memory will note that tracks from Strike Witches and Strike Witches: The Movie also make a return in this episode. The return of familiar music serves to remind audiences that while being about a different group of Witches and their stories, this nonetheless remains Strike Witches.
- Despite injuries sustained after falling into the ocean, Waltrud is in fine spirits and enjoying the Britannian Witch’s company. As it turns out, Waltrud is a surprisingly good judge of character: she answers Edytha’s remarks about choosing Hikari, explaining that Hikari’s phenomenal in the support role. Right before she takes off to engage the Neuroi, Hikari gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”, and it is this action that saves Waltrud: ironically, rather than being misleading about the Liberator’s purpose, her misinformation and Hikari’s reactions turned out to be beneficial.
- If Waltrud had been flying a new-model Striker in this battle, and the Neuroi are able to both regenerate, as well as incorporate the Striker’s circuitry into its workings, the next Neuroi the 502nd encounter could be quite fearsome. The episode preview betrays nothing about what is to happen, so with this week’s episode in the books, it’s time for me to conclude this post. This is the fastest I’ve been all season with respect to getting a Brave Witches post out, and this episode’s talk comes on the same day as the episode. It is a consequence of unique scheduling, so next week, I imagine I’ll be back to finishing the ninth episode’s discussion on Thursday. Until then, it’s back to iOS programming as deadlines loom at work, and playing Battlefield 1 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided when I’m off work.
Nearing the three-quarters mark, and with new model Striker Units introduced, as well as a foreboding scene where the Neuroi is shown to be regenerating and integrates Striker technology into its operation, Brave Witches is beginning to gear up for its final quarter. Strike Witches has typically taken this direction as the season progressed: unlike the Neuroi in earlier segments of their respective seasons, Neuroi appearing towards the end were not to be trifled with, forcing the Witches to work together in full in order to accomplish victory. As Waltrud mentions en route to their destination, the final enemy the 502nd will face in Brave Witches is the large hive in their AO. This is sure to be a thrilling fight, and one wonders how the 502nd will take down their foe (Strike Witches‘ main theme means that the final episode’s outcome is more noteworthy for how it reached its conclusion, rather than what the outcome itself is going to be), but until then, the remaining few episodes will deal with any characters who’ve not had much exposition yet: Gundula and Naoe come to mind, and once their stories are presented, it’ll be time for the 502nd to take on the hive as a full-fledged team, as the 501st had done before them.