“It’s the insurance damage waiver for your beautiful new car. Now, will you need collision coverage? ”
“I hope not, but accidents do happen.”
“They frequently do with you.”
“Well, that takes care of the normal wear-and-tear. Is there any other protection I need?”
“Only from me 007, unless you bring that car back in pristine order.”
—Q and James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies
Naoe is punished in light of the latest damages her new Shiden Kai incur, and Alexsandra warns Hikari against developing a propensity for damaging Striker Units. Later that night, Naoe notices Hikari wandering into the hanger; despite Hikari’s insistence that she will improve, Naoe dismisses her. Gundula and Edytha brief the 502nd the next morning: there’s a Neuroi holding position over the supply lines that must be destroyed, and with Waltrud out of commission, Naoe is asked to lead the operation. The 502nd find that their adversary is capable of putting up a fierce frontal bombardment, and while Edytha learns the location of its core, Alexsandra is injured in defending Naoe from a stray beam. The next day, Naeo falters after Gundula gives Hikari authorisation to use her Contact Eye, but a surprise pep talk from Hikari leads Naoe to regain her composure. With Hikari able to locate the core, Naoe smashes her way through the Neuroi, neutralising it. Back in Japan, Takami reawakens when Yoshika revives her. Appropriately titled, this week’s episode of Brave Witches sees the failure of no fewer than four Striker Units within the course of the same episode and provides a definitive bit of insight as to why Alexsandra responds with punishment whenever a Striker Unit is damaged. Given that the 502nd are located in a relatively remote area where resupply lines are challenging to maintain, this unit’s unfortunate habit of damaging their primary means of engaging the Neuroi places strain on their provisions. Every repair means consuming supplies that might be crucial later on, and while Alexsandra is doing her best to ensure that the gear they have will last, the others’ blasé attitudes towards maintaining operational equipment is precisely what gives the 502nd their infamous moniker “Break Witches”.
The interactions between Hikari and Naoe form the focus for the ninth episode. While Naoe has shown increasing concern for Hikari as Brave Witches progressed, her opinion of Hikari as a Witch remains generally low owing to Hikari’s comparatively limited experience and abilities. Naoe is quick to dismiss Hikari at every turn, but when she begins to doubt herself following Waltrud and Alexsandra’s injuries, even she is not immune to a sense of unease. Naoe’s pride as a Witch is ultimately trumped when pitted against Hikari’s unwavering determination to contribute to the 502nd’s operations; her willingness to put herself in harm’s way, coupled with her reminders to Naoe as to what’s important, are sufficient for Naoe to come around and regain the resolve to complete their operation. In the aftermath, a lapsus linguae from Naoe leads her to count Hikari as a partner, an equal of sorts worthy of flying into combat with her. Although she vehemently denies having said so, it becomes clear that Hikari’s left an impression on Naoe. Notions of a novice having a strong positive impact on a squadron of veteran witches thus endure from Strike Witches, and similar to how Yoshika’s actions resulted in Perrine accepting her as time passed, Hikari is doing the same within the 502nd.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This week’s episode page quote is sourced from Tomorrow Never Dies, when Q walks 007 through an insurance form for his new BMW 750iL. One of the longest running jokes in the James Bond franchise is 007’s frequent disregard for Q Branch equipment — most of his cars, gadgets and tools are destroyed or lost at the end of a mission despite Q’s frequent pleas for Bond to return everything in “pristine condition”. It seemed an appropriate choice for mirroring the Break Witches’ tendency to go through an uncommonly high number of Strike Units.
- Waltrud is still recovering from last week’s episode: remarked to be one of the more capable Witches in the 502nd, her injury prompts Gundula to consider stepping out onto the battlefield herself. Insofar, she’s not seen any combat on account of an injury from an earlier operation that damaged her back. Prior to this, she was one of the top Witches around, and despite her seemingly-serious demeanour, is actually quite friendly and good-humoured.
- One could make a case that Naoe is tsundere towards Hikari, at once finding it difficult to accept her and making it a point to reinforce this while her actions seem to suggest otherwise. Fixated on improving herself, Naoe counts progress solely in terms of number of Neuroi shot down, whereas Hikari counts progress as how much support she is able to offer the others on each operation. I tend to play Battlefield with Hikari’s mindset: so as long as my team wins and I get points for revives, heals and resupplies, I count it a success even if my KD ratio is negative.
- In fact, some matches, I’ve been asked how I make the top three of scoreboards despite having a KD ratio below 1.0. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd’s first attempt on a new Neuroi ends when Alexsandra is shot down while deflecting beam fire from Naoe, who’s become careless and charges the Neuroi. Its unusual firing pattern leads Edytha to deduce that its other sections are not as heavily protected, and she quickly finds the core, but are unable to eliminate it once Alexsandra is shot down.
- Injuries are par the course in Strike Witches, and Georgette does her best to stablise Alexsandra here. After a tense few moments, the doctors remark that Alexsandra will be okay. In spite of this, Naoe grows pensive, blaming herself for Alexsandra’s injury.
- In spite of her harsh outlooks on anyone who damages their Striker Units, Alexsandra cares deeply for her teammates and expresses relief that Naoe is alright following their first failed attempt on the Neuroi. Having flown into combat with Naoe for a long period of time, Alexsandra notes that she’s well aware of Naoe’s preferred fighting style and hence, it was her limited covering fire that resulted in this accident, rather than anything on Naoe’s part.
- In spite of two excellent pilots out of commission, the threat posed to the 502nd’s supply line necessitates another attempt on the Neuroi. The map behind Gundula and Edytha show major Neuroi positions: a long time ago, I recall reading that the Neuroi utilise a substance known as miasma (“μίασμα”, Greek for “pollution” and used in reference to a foul or offensive odor) that dissolves the land, which the Neuroi utilise to power their weapons and replication. This is why Neuroi cannot traverse oceans.
- Following the arrival of the fan-type Neuroi, the landscape around the Petersburg area is blanketed in snow, and winter has set in fully. On my side, the weather has likewise become quite cold, averaging around -20°C over the next few days. With windchill, things will feel much colder, between -25°C and -30°C, although I feel that proper December weather has been long overdue: November was remarkably mild. With this being said, I’ve become okay with cold days, both because I have the proper clothing to keep warm, and because after a cold spell, days where it’s -15°C feel balmy by comparison.
- Nikka, Hikari and Naoe fly over taiga en route to their target: the landscapes below reminds me of the ninth Ace Combat: Assault Horizon mission, set in Russian Taiga by winter as the player must provide air cover for allied transports carrying medical provisions. It’s been two-and-a-half years since I last flew a plane in Ace Combat, and during that time, I was also watching Wake Up, Girls!. Their latest movies, Shadow of Youth and Beyond The Bottom have finally become accessible, and at some point in the near future, I will be watching and writing about them.
- Opponents whose patterns are well-established, though welcome to fight for reducing the danger, would offer very little excitement for viewers. On the other hand, Brave Witches seems to portray the Neuroi in a distinct manner even compared to Strike Witche: the Neuroi in Brave Witches seem to be much more intimidating in their capabilities, employing strategic actions or revealing surprise tactics that leave the Witches in surprise. This week’s Neuroi is capable of splitting up, promptly nullifying the 502nd’s original plan of striking its undefended core.
- By focusing tributary beams into one concentrated blast, the Neuroi is able to put serious amounts of firepower downstream. What was supposed to be a straightforward (if challenging) mission becomes much more difficult after the Neuroi splits, and realising that they have no chance of hitting the core owing to the Neuroi’s further ability to alter its structure, Hikari requests permission to use her Contact Eye in order to quickly locate the core.
- Gundula agrees and orders Naoe to proceed, much to Edytha’s horror. However, Naoe folds under the pressure, fearing that her actions may result in yet another injury. She falters and tries to call off the operation, but is stopped by Hikari, who reprimands her, saying that this isn’t the Naoe that she knows. With tears in her eyes, Hikari wishes to at least give this seemingly suicidal plan a shot before deciding whether or not it will work.
- Hikari’s words seem to have the desired effect, and Naoe headbutts Hikari to briefly break her speech. Her confidence restored by Hikaris determination, Naoe quickly issues orders, outlining a plan to get Hikari closer to the Neuroi. I suddenly realise that I’ve not talked to any real extent about what I’ve been up to as of late, but today, I returned to campus to pick up two hardcover copies of my thesis paper, one for the department and one for keeps. This trip comes as I return to sit through an iOS class for prospective hires, and amidst a very busy season as I work to complete an iOS app prototype for my work.
- While Hikari may not have any kills to her name, her actions have contributed in some form towards the other members of the 502nd succeeding in taking out Neuroi. The importance of this support role, assisting the other Witches, cannot be understated, and it is for this reason that assists are counted in hockey in addition to goals: without players setting one another up for goals, it would make the game that much more difficult. Success comes from a team effort, and getting into position to help a teammate score is just as important as getting the goal itself. Hikari’s role thus brings to mind the San José Sharks’ Joe Thornton, who has topped the leaderboards for many years on account of having the most assists in the NHL over the past decade.
- After coming into contact with the Neuroi, Hikari opens fire on its surface, eventually revealing the core and giving Naoe a clear shot at it. She prepares her signature move, focusing her shield onto a small spot and charging at the core, delivering enough force to crack it. The destruction of the core is confirmed when the other Neuroi units begin disintegrating. Having successfully neutralised yet another Neuroi, Naoe is lost in the moment and acknowledges off-hand that Hikari is a worthy partner, only to rescind it in embarrassment.
- Neuroi leave behind glittering fragments whenever they are totally destroyed: having recalled that Neuroi consume land (primarily silicates with some metals and minerals), and an earlier post where I postulated that the Neuroi seem to have ceramic-like properties, I conclude that the non-core elements in a Neuroi are composed of a refined silicon-metal composite, undergoing refinement and treating in an unknown process to form the Neuroi’s body. The core, on the other hand, would probably be an organic crystal of unknown make-up.
- Unintentional or not, Naoe’s subsequent remarks notwithstanding, it is clear that she is appreciative of Hikari’s efforts and role in helping her overcome her own fears. However, as the air is now filled with fine Neuroi particulates, Hikari, Naoe and Nikka’s Striker engines become less effectual: assuming that Neuroi and volcanic ash are somewhat similar, the crystals would freeze and become affixed to the turbines. This reduces the airflow through the engine, in turn decreasing the air pressure, causing gas to flow out in the reverse direction to cause a flame out. This is probably the mechanic for why all three Striker Units go down, bringing Nikka’s damaged Striker count for Brave Witches up to five.
- That number is actually a little below my predictions, since I anticipated Nikka breaking at least another Striker in this week’s episode. Being counted as a Break Witch causes Hikari much happiness, as it implies she’s now an accepted member of the 502nd. Alexsandra is less pleased, and with Waltrud on the mend from her injuries, she is ordered to kneel in punishment for having lost a Striker unit in the previous episode.
- It turns out that Yoshika’s magic is sufficiently powerful to revive Takami. Her appearance in Brave Witches was met with a mixed reception, and I’m in the camp who welcomes Yoshika’s cameo. Looking back, I rather enjoyed her character: not a soldier by training, she brings a different perspective to the 501st that left a noticeable impact, and I argue that were it not for Yoshika, the 501st would’ve been quite different and perhaps, unable to take out the first of the Neuroi hives.
- With Takami on the mend thanks to Yoshika, this week’s episode draws to a close, and I am looking forwards to watching things between Takami and Hikari play out. It’s a little surprising as to how quickly even December is proceeding, and I believe that this is my first anime-related post for this month, having pushed quickly to get the remainder of the Battlefield 1 campaign posts out so I could return to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Having moved past the three-quarters mark now, Brave Witches continues to follow life at the Petersburg base as Hikari grows more familiar with the 502nd. Traditionally, Strike Witches spent a majority of its seasons doing this, culminating in an over-the-top finale involving battle with uncommonly challenging Neuroi at its finale. Given Brave Witches‘ current progression, it stands to reason that the next episode will be the final calm before the storm: three months have elapsed since Hikari joined the 502nd in lieu of Takami, and with her having reawakened thanks to Yoshika, she’s is now set to return and see for herself the place that Hikari has earned amongst the 502nd. Going from the previews, Takami is likely to find it difficult to accept Hikari putting herself in danger, and this will be a conflict that must be resolved before the whole of the 502nd take on their final enemy for this season. In particular, given that Takami has returned, the final fight will doubtlessly be a grueling one that will rival the final battles of Strike Witches in terms of intensity, being a thrilling battle that will keep suspense high even if the outcome is already known — this is the magic of Strike Witches that Brave Witches has done a fantastic job of improving upon.