“I’m forty percent back, baby!” —Bender, Futurama
Takami sets off for Petersburg after her recovery as Hikari continues to aid the 502nd in their operations. When a senior officier announces that Takami is to participate in Operation Freyja, with the aim of taking out the Neuroi hive, the 502nd misinterpret the request and assume it’s Hikari. However, when Takami arrives, her reception with Hikari proves to be a cold one; she openly disapproves of Hikari’s presence in the front lines and has arranged for her to be transferred to her original assignment in Kauhava. Gundula notices that both sisters seem unable to properly enunciate their true thoughts — Hikari is determined to prove that she’s ready to fly and fight alongside Takami, while Takami worries about Hikari’s safety. When a Neuroi previously thought to be destroyed reappears, Gundula proposes a challenge: whoever locates the core first will remain with the 502nd, while the vanquished will be reassigned to Kauhava. In a tense battle, the Witches learn that the Neuroi was able to regenerate because it had a nested core, and Takami’s experience allows her to edge out Hikari, leaving Hikari in tears at the prospect of having to leave her friends and allies. Although it may be strange to compare Brave Witches vis-à-vis Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??, this tenth episode seems to have been ready-made to depict an alternative, but plausible dynamic that might have existed between Cocoa and Mocha.
Much as how Cocoa constantly strives to achieve what Mocha can accomplish, the skill gap between Hikari and Takami become quite apparent in this episode. In both cases, the younger sibling falls behind in their capabilities, make up for it with pure spirit, and find that their friends are much more at ease when the older sibling is around. Similarly, much like how Mocha cares deeply for Cocoa and will be moved to tears if Cocoa rejects her companionship, Takami worries for Hikari’s well being, fearing that Hikari might be injured in combat. This ultimately forms the crux of the episode — Takami feels that Hikari’s resolve will override her own concern; a conventional conversation would be unlikely to yield results, she reasons. This approach merely serves to drive Hikari to push harder and show Takami she’s ready to fly with her, and in the episode’s battle, Hikari’s improvement becomes visible when she manages to find the core mere moments after Takami did. While insufficient on terms of the agreement, this does show the distance that Hikari’s come since arriving in Petersburg.
Screenshots and Commentary
- To kick things off, I am trying to fight off a growing cold right now that comes as a consequence of temperature extremities (it’s been an average of around -20°C for the daytime high where I am, but my office, being in an older building, is blazing hot thanks to an overactive centralised heater and the fact that I sit beside a window), so today, I’ve been coughing even as I continue debugging my app and considering how to implement the remaining features.
- For now, I’ve not been coughing too much, so I’m still able to watch and write about the latest episode of Brave Witches without too much difficulty. Hikari’s growing capabilities as a Witch means she’s now able to use her Contact Eye in conjunction with plenty of teamwork from the 502nd; they destroy yet another Neuroi, and even Naoe has begun accepting Hikari as being useful for the team.
- Shortly after their sortie, Field Marshal Manstein appears. The most senior rank in old armies, the United States military has not historically used this rank, instead creating the rank General Of the Army (a five-star General): in December 1944, George Marshall was promoted to a five-star General and so, could have been addressed as Marshal Marshall by subordinates. Back in Brave Witches, Manstein provides the briefing to the Witches’ next operation: their mission to neutralise the large Neuroi hive has been pushed forward in response to the hazard it poses to the supply lines.
- It turns out the fleet Waltrud and the others were defending in episode eight was carrying a railway gun, probably the Schwerer Gustav. An 80 cm piece of siege artillery, it was constructed with the intent of smashing through the Maginot line during trench warfare, being one of the largest gun firing the heaviest shells ever build. Some translations yield this artillery piece as a “railgun”, but that is incorrect, since a railgun is strictly a device that consists of two parallel rails that accelerate a projectile to high speeds by means of high potential differences (contrast a coil-gun, or Gauss gun, which uses magnetic coils to accelerate a kinetic impactor). Such technology is very unlikely to be utilised in Strike Witches by conventional forces and would remain confined to the realm of magic if it existed.
- While Hikari is delighted to see Takami once more, Takami does not return these feelings; she coldly dismisses Hikari and wonders why she’s been in Petersberg contrary to her assignment, before ordering her to return to her original post. Her response to Hikari leaves the latter in a bit of surprise, and their interactions for the remainder of the episode are not particularly cordial. The page quote is sourced from Futurama, meant to be my rather irreverent outlook on the episode’s main themes 😛
- Despite nearly four months of inactivity, Takami’s combat skills do not appear to have deteriorated, and she fights Waltrud to a standstill during an exercise. The mock weapons in Strike Witches have always been denoted with an orange hue to indicate that they’re strictly for exercise, firing paint pellets.
- I suddenly realise that I’ve not used a sauna for the longest time, and wish that I could spend a quarter-hour in one to help me overcome my cold; the warmth of a sauna would completely remove my body’s energy expenditure on keeping warm, and while much of the mechanisms behind how a sauna helps out remain speculation, it has been known to help in lessening cold-like symptoms. Since I don’t happen to have access to a sauna, I usually drink copious amounts of water and sleep more with the aim of recovering.
- This moment speaks rather strongly about the gap in Takami and Hikari’s magical abilities: whereas Hikari must climb the monolith on all fours with her fullest concentration to reach the top, Takami can simply walk to the top. While it may come across as unusual that I bring Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? into this week’s Brave Witches discussion, I figured that the two episodes seemed to have quite a bit in common with its underlying portrayal of an older and younger sibling.
- Gundula is very astute and picks up immediately the rationale behind Takami’s actions: it is only natural to be concerned about a younger sibling’s well-being and safety. As an older sibling myself, I know that feeling quite well, although I see myself as being more open-minded and trusting; I usually ask “are you sure” or equivalent, and if I get an affirmative, that’s good enough for me.
- In stark contrast with GochiUsa‘s duel of the bakers, the stakes are much higher as both Takami and Hikari agree to a showdown: the first to locate the core leading to a kill will remain with the 502nd, while the defeated will be shipped off to Kauhava (a Finnish town with around 16000 people). Hikari’s resilience is remarkable, and even knowing how greatly Takami eclipses her, refuses to stand down. Both the Karibuchi sisters share this trait, being quite unmoving from their stances once their hearts are set on something.
- Gundula smiles even as the emotional tenour of the room escalates: she knows that both the Karibuchi sisters will be giving it their all to demonstrate to the other the strength of their resolve and as such, also stand a better chance of besting a Neuroi that eluded even Waltrud. In light of this fact, Gundula finally steps out onto the battlefield for herself, donning a special brace to prevent her old injuries from manifesting.
- I recall in my discussion of the first episode that time would requireed in order for me to recall the names of each Witch in the 502nd from memory, but as early as episode seven, I’ve learnt everyone’s names fully. Permit me a demonstration: besides Hikari and Takami up front, we have from left to right Edytha, Sadako, Nikka, Naoe, Gundula, Waltrud, Alexsandra and Georgette. This moment also allows me a chance to capture a screenshot of all the 502nd’s members, both fully-qualified and temporary, in a single frame.
- Whereas the CG effects in the previous episode were particularly egregious, this tenth episode manages to improve on the quality overall: Hikari dodging laser fire from the Neuroi here is rendered in CG, and the flat geometric surfaces seen in earlier episodes appear to be smoothed out. She weaves through the fire and smoothly re-appears in a hand-drawn form.
- The swarms of Neuroi make a return in Brave Witches, and this opponent is a tough one for the 502nd even with Takami back in combat. While Takami seemingly ends combat within the first thirty seconds, it turns out there’s a nested core inside the larger core, accounting for why the Neuroi was able to regenerate: the Neuroi seen in Brave Witches have been inventive, imaginative and provide interesting opponents for the Witches to fight each week, in contrast to the duller ones seen in Strike Witches.
- Takami plainly is the superior Witch, as evidenced by her providing covering fire and carefully computing her next course of action to complete her objective, while Hikari seems uses a much less disciplined approach and rushes the objective. While Battlefield 1 as of late has promoted the PTFO (“Play the fucking objective”, for those unfamiliar with the acronym), playing the object means assessing whether or not an objective is safe, and moving in to secure it if an enemy presence is eliminated. It does not mean rushing blindly to a capture point and dying, costing one’s team a ticket.
- Takami’s magic lets her locate the secondary core with a high precision, and I’ve noticed that in a great number of military-themed anime (even Gundam), none of the anime ever use the military grid reference system to refer to refer to points on Earth. This is perfectly fine, since devising a proper system would require proper knowledge of how the MGRS works, and then properly translating it to space or other environs. In Brave Witches, Takami shouts the coordinates out to Gundula of the Neuroi’s true core once she spots it.
- While Takami is locating the core, Hikari tries to close the distance between her and the Neuroi. Naoe and Nikka shout words of encouragement, and Hikari manages to touch the Neuroi’s hull, discovering the core only seconds after Takami did. In contrast with my previous Brave Witches post, this one was done entirely on my MacBook Pro, including the preparation of screenshots. Without a mouse handy, it was trickier, but I think the results worked out nicely enough.
- I might be sick, and I might’ve only had around ten to twelve frames’ worth of time (around 0.4167 to 0.5 seconds) to have captured this moment on a MacBook Pro (whose trackpad, spacebar and screenshot mechanism aren’t well-suited for capturing screenshots), but I managed to get the frame right before Gundula takes the shot and eliminates the Neuroi. These are not bad reflexes for someone with a cold, if I may say so myself.
- Like Waltrud, Hikari is hit with a stray Neuroi drone after its destruction, and Takami saves her, smiling warmly for the first time in the episode. The outcome of this battle is that Takami wins our by a very narrow margin, and in fact, is reminiscent of a scene from Red Cliff, where Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang agreed that if the other failed their task (respectively, collecting a hundred thousand arrows and deceive Cao Cao into disposing of his top admirals), they would be executed under military law. Both manage to complete their tasks successfully, but were ready to accept death had they failed, and while more dramatic than what happens in Brave Witches, is a curious parallel: Hikari is set to head for Kauhava.
- I admit that it was a little painful to watch Hikari bawl her eyes out in response to the outcome: the 502nd is where she’d learnt to be a Witch and where she bonded with people who once doubted her, contributing to their operations in whatever manner she could. However, because this is Hikari’s story, I doubt things will end so soon — Strike Witches‘ first season seemed grim in its final hours after the 501st was disbanded, but they managed to come back together and defeat the Neuroi. With this week’s episode, and post, now in the books, I’m going to head off and get some proper sleep.
Consequently, while Hikari is set to pack her bags and leave the 502nd, Hikari’s progressed, coupled with her own role as Brave Witches‘ protagonist and how things generally turn out in Strike Witches, means that in the upcoming final battle between the 502nd and the Neuroi hive will doubtlessly play out with Hikari contributing alongside everyone else. This prediction should be quite easy to reach given that Brave Witches has followed the methodologies of Strike Witches to some extent, although how the aforementioned outcomes are reached differ between the two series. As such, while it’s not difficult to surmise that Hikari will be participating in the final battle in some way, what will be worth keeping an eye for is how this particular outcome is reached, as well as how the journey impacts the different characters. With only two episodes of Brave Witches left on the table, I’m looking forwards to seeing what events await in the final episodes and differentiate itself from Strike Witches, especially given how Strike Witches pushed the boundaries for what stunts the 501st could accomplish against Neuroi hives.