“I’m an unlucky charm…don’t go anywhere with me.” –Sophie Turner
After their arrival at the Petersburg base, Eila and Sanya find themselves kicked out of bed by Georgette, whose heart is intent on doing winter cleaning. Longing to visit the deserted streets of Petersburg with Sanya, Eila’s plans are dashed when Sanya is requested to discuss intelligence on the fronts. The next day, Eila runs into Waltrud and upon learning that Waltrud has set out to win Sanya’s heart, tries to stop her, only to burst into Sanya’s room while she’s changing. Alexsandra appears and defuses the situation, hauling Waltrud and Eila off so the latter can provide instruction for the other 502nd Witches. Sanya and Eila encounter Sadako on the third day while sneaking about base, trying to sneak out undetected to have a date together; Sadako acts in a manner contrary to her usual self and cuddles with Sanya while Eila tries in vain to stop her. As New Year’s Eve approaches, the girls begin preparing a special Russian dinner to celebrate. Learning that watching fireworks with someone special will bring them closer together, Eila decides to add fireworks to their celebration with the hope of becoming closer to Sanya, but Gundula denies Eila’s request for fireworks. Mid-dinner, a Neuroi attack prompts a section of the 502nd to sortie. Eila helps Hikari stabilise in flight before she, Sanya, Edytha engage the Neuroi in combat. They learn quickly that this Neuroi has tougher armour than bog-standard Neuroi, and despite their efforts the Neuroi breaks through their ranks. Owing to Eila’s precognition magic, she is able to foresee this and breaks off to intercept the Neuroi, destroying it. The resulting ceramic shards from the Neuroi give the impression of fireworks, allowing Eila to share a tender moment with Sanya. This is the gist of the Brave Witches OVA’s events, whose focus is predominantly on Sanya and Eila.
After the end of Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow, audiences were disappointed that Sanya and Eila were not given their own OVA – Operation Victory Arrow‘s final instalment dealt with Lynette and Perrine. While enjoyable, viewers were hoping to see more of the dynamics between Eila and Sanya, whose relationship has been of great interest to fans of Strike Witches. With this in mind, the Brave Witches OVA delivers this in spades: the OVA’s emphasis is on humour, providing a highly entertaining story about Eila’s efforts to spend time with Sanya, and despite her frequent failures, it is after the battle that Eila’s wish to watch fireworks with Sanya comes true, in manner of speaking. One of the great ironies of Strike Witches is that despite Eila’s powers for precognition, she’s unable to really find the opportunity to get closer to Sanya, being bested time and time again by the machinations of bad luck. However, like Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects Us, Eila is able to be there with Sanya in the most tender of moments, offsetting her usual bad luck and the comical situations she finds herself in while in pursuit of Sanya’s heart. The combination of hilarity and heart-warming moments in Eila’s efforts to court Sanya is what that makes their moments so enjoyable to watch: between Eila’s exasperation at how many of the 502nd is seemingly vying with her for Sanya’s attention and the lengths she is willing to go in order to do the same, the Brave Witches OVA ultimately ends up being the Eila and Sanya OVA that Strike Witches fans were looking for, being well worth the wait.
Screenshots and Commentary
- My considerable prowess for Google-fu has not yielded any results, so I am very confident in saying that this is the internet’s first and only review of the Brave Witches OVA. As is the typical modus operandi, this post will feature thirty screenshots and a bit of a surprise that leads me to note that, if you’re at a workplace or place of learning, please do not scroll any further. I will open the post with Georgette brusquely awakening Eila and Sanya, declaring her intention to clean their room. Her enthusiasm brings to mind Yūna’s energy from Yūki Yūna is a Hero: she’s a far cry from her quiet, shy self seen in Brave Witches proper.
- This is not particularly surprising a comparison; both Yūna and Georgette are voiced by Haruka Terui. The Brave Witches OVA is set in between the seventh and eighth episode, following the Christmas party that Nikka tries to prepare for Hikari, and before Eila and Sanya depart early during the eighth episode. For folks familiar with Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects us, the OVA is very similar to Eila and Sanya’s chapter in terms of composition.
- Unlike the installations that Yoshika and the 501st reside in during Strike Witches and its second season, the Petersburg base is a little older and less well-maintained. Cracks are visible in the walls, and there’s a distinctly minimal personal effects or clutter in the girls’ rooms. Here, the play of light suggests an early morning, and Eila’s plans to bring Sanya out on a walk of the nearby city are promptly done away with when Edytha and Gundula ask Sanya to debrief them on the situation in other regions.
- While the OVA’s only been available since August 25, there were theatrical screenings that preceded the release of the BD volumes containing the OVA back in May. I’ve seen at least one individual fly to Japan for the singular goal of watching the OVA. For me, that is an unreasonable use of money, since the cost of a flight would set me back by an average of 1300 CAD (and cheaper flights start at around 800 CAD). Even for folks situated in other parts of the world more conducive for travelling to Japan on short notice (e.g. from Manila, a flight starts at 400 CAD on average), it’s more economical to simply import the BDs even if the wait is longer.
- While this OVA might deal predominantly with Sanya and Eila, there are other moments worth mentioning, including Georgette’s unexpected decision to use force in vacating Naoe from her spot to continue with her cleaning. Even if the feat itself is not particularly impressive considering what Witches can do when drawing upon their powers fully, when Georgette Hulks out and tosses Naoe from her spot, bed and all, the moment leads to all sorts of comedy.
- While the original televised run of Brave Witches was marred by obvious CG elements, the BDs represent a considerable leap in visual quality. The OVA continues on with the quality present in the BDs, and here, a small book unearthed when Georgette moves Naoe’s bed is visible. It turns out to be titled “The Little Princess”, and Georgette remarks it’s a cute book uncharacteristic of the fare that Naoe is typically seen reading. I have a very diverse interest in books, ranging from the political thrillers of Tom Clancy to Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.
- Naoe’s ensuing reaction was a bloody riot, and second only to Eila, Naoe’s funny face moments in the OVA alone make it worth watching. Here, I will admit that the Brave Witches OVA arrived much sooner than expected, just in time for the long weekend. I also learned that Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar DLC will become available to premium players on the fifth of September, which coincides with the conclusion of the Labor Day Long Weekend and when I did a talk for the Battlefield 1 beta last year.
- The latest DLC is Russian-themed, and so, is a perfect opportunity to experience Brave Witches in the Frostbite Engine. I’ll be doing a few talks as I experience the DLC, but for the present, we return to Brave Witches, which pits Waltrud and Eila in a one-on-one. Both are formidable Witches when in the air, but on the ground away from their duties, their actions belie their prowess in the skies. After Eila runs into Waltrud, she quickly takes off to protect Sanya from Waltrud’s plans.
- Eila and Waltrud burst into Sanya’s room, only to be surprised at the sight awaiting them. One must wonder where Waltrud got the bouquet of flowers from; such commodities cannot be inexpensive, and it is unlikely that the 502nd have a flower garden at their base. Even if this were the case, the Russian winter would preclude anything from growing. Having said this, the presence of fresh flowers is not a big deal, providing a bit of visual humour.
- Earlier, I remarked that this post has images that are ill-suited for viewing at a workplace. This particular screenshot is not the pair I’m referring to; after initial surprise at having unexpected guests, Sanya’s reaction turns to one of embarrassment. I don’t think I’ve seen Sanya sport such an expression previously, and therein lies one of the joys of OVAs, allowing characters to demonstrate a side of their characters that would otherwise not be seen or feel out of place in the narrative proper.
- When Alexsandra passes by, she manages to separate Eila and Waltrud, before turning to Sanya and noting that Sanya’s got a very pleasant presence that Alexsandra can relate to. This is hardly surprising, considering that both are from Orussia. After a short conversation, Alexsandra’s come to borrow Eila to help provide instruction for the 502nd’s other Witches, and knowing that Waltrud is likely to capitalise in Eila’s absence, hauls her away, as well.
- Despite her precognition magic giving her a unique edge in battle by offering her a glimpse into the immediate future, not unlike that of a Newtype, Eila’s technical ability of a Witch is lacking: she’s very dependent on her ability to keep ahead of enemies in battle and therefore has had little incentive to develop teamwork and her mastery of shield projection. Consequently, she finds it very difficult to explain her tactics during combat: it somewhat brings to mind Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer”, a very clever book that explains how things work using the thousand most common English words – one of my favourites includes “tall road” for “bridge” and “up goer 5” for “Saturn V Rocket”.
- Eila’s explanations leave the others befuddled; Hikari seems to derive the idea that combat is explosive and high paced, while Naoe is frustrated. Meanwhile, Waltrud does not even seem to care, enamoured by Eila herself. Alexsandra is disappointed at this turn of events, exasperated that Eila’s not of more help. I’ve not been a TA for quite some time now, but I imagine that I used to be reasonably clear as a TA. Beyond being known helping students, both in and outside of my own section on short notice, one of my favourite remarks from students is “speaks fluent English”.
- Georgette, meanwhile, continues on her cleaning spree. It is largely through her efforts that the Petersburg base remain quite clean and inviting even in spite of its aging facilities. It’s actually a very nice touch to see chipped paint in walls exposing the brick underneath, giving the base a much older, worn feeling to it. However, older and having seen better days does not correspond with being a dank, unfriendly place to be: good lighting and cleanliness does wonders for making older buildings a cozy place to be.
- Eila’s quest to take Sanya on a date in Petersburg fails completely even when she employs her magic to evade other members of the 502nd. In Brave Witches proper, Sadako is quite reserved – it’s an unexpected aspect of her character that audiences see in the OVA, as she hugs Sanya tightly, to Eila’s great displeasure. Her efforts to extricate Sanya from Sadako end in failure. It is here that some of Eila’s best “funny face” moments come to be.
- Naoe and Edytha watch on as Sadako continues cuddling with Sanya in the presence of a highly riled-up Eila, implying in their conversation that Sadako’s done that to everyone else in the 502nd. As nearly eleven months have passed since I watched Brave Witches, I cannot quite remember of Sadako does something similar to Hikari: in the anime proper, I remember her as a capable cook who doubted her abilities as a Witch.
- Not even the 502nd’s captains are safe from Georgette’s Need to Clean. After Georgette evicts them from Gundula’s office, Alexsandra and Gundula are left to enjoy their tea in peace, but in the cool of the hallway. While I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say I’d welcome a Russian winter right now, the temperature where I am hit a maximum of 32ºC. It’s quite the contrast from last year, where the weather was grey and overcast when I visited Drumheller.
- Georgette expresses her gratitude to Sanya for having helped her catch a mouse that was getting into their provisions, leading a jealous Sadako to remark that it’s taking her full self-restraint to not hug Sanya again. While Sanya might be a character in Strike Witches, for folks in China, Sanya (三亚) is the name of Heinan’s southernmost city. With a population of 685000, the city is known as China’s Florida, being a popular destination for its warm weather and pleasant beaches.
- Sadako praises Sanya for her knowledge of Orussian cuisines; for their New Year’s Eve party, borscht (борщ-суп, a sour soup made from beets), pirozhki (пирожки, a fried bread with beef and vegetable filling), Olivier salad (Russian salad with potatoes, a variety of vegetables, apples and chicken), pelmeni (пельме́ни, dumplings with a meat or fish filling) and a dish known colloquially as “Herring under a fur coat” (Селёдка под шубой, or “dressed herring”) are on the menu. Dressed herring is very popular as a New Year’s Eve dish in Russia, being made of pickled herring topped with layers of layers of grated boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beet roots), chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had Russian cuisine before.
- When Edytha gives Sanya permission to use her caviar collection to make something for the New Year’s Eve party, Waltrud appears out of the blue and wantonly wastes it, this time by eating it directly, earning herself yet another beating from Edytha. This is a returning joke from Brave Witches, where Waltrud had previously destroyed Edytha’s caviar stock when supplies were running low amidst a fierce snowstorm. Enraged by the other’s efforts in stealing Sanya from her, Eila suddenly loses steam and decides to go with Nikka to the sauna on base.
- In The Sky That Connects Us, Eila, Sanya and Nikka relax in a sauna, but they’re wearing towels: the OVA has them without any sort of clothing, and the last post I have an open screenshot of papilla mammaria was for Yosuha no Sora, which was not too long ago. After groping everyone, including Nikka, and remarking that she’s bored, Eila resigns herself to the fact that she might not get to spend any time with Sanya while they’re in Petersburg. However, Nikka notes that watching fireworks in the company of a special someone might push things along, re-energising Eila.
- Steam certainly does not work this way in reality: Eila stands up and hops off, with the steam following her as she moves. However, if Brave Witches had dared to go the whole nine yards in this moment, I would have not featured the screenshot at all. While Nikka and Naoe watch Eila leave to make the proposal of including fireworks in the evening celebrations to Gundula, Hikari basks in a memory of her watching fireworks with Takami.
- While a day trip out of town would be nice, the hotter temperatures today meant such a trip would be somewhat uncomfortable. In lieu of this, I figured it would be appropriate to visit the area mall instead: I’ve been looking to buy new running shoes to replace a pair from two years ago, as well as a new bag (my old backpack has been around since I was an undergraduate). This particular mall is a relatively new one and quite popular; it’s very busy during the Labour Day long weekend, and after enjoying New York Fries’ Premium Dog (which I added relish, onions, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce to) and their latest Beef Lovers’ poutine, I picked up the items I was looking to buy. After a day’s shopping, we then went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which featured a chicken stir-fry, sa lai gwut (which I finally figured out the hanji for, being “沙拉骨”), crispy shrimps and vegetables.
- It’s now evening, and although the weather is cooling down, a thick smoke is covering the area again. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd settle down to dinner after Gundula gives a short New Year’s toast, resolving to work towards ending the Human-Neuroi War. The foods mentioned earlier are present, but as the girls begin to enjoy things, an alarm signals the arrival of a Neuroi. This turn of events is hardly unexpected: every Strike Witches episode and OVA previous feature Neuroi combat. Thus, it’s time to take off into the night and deal with the enemy.
- Sanya’s magic allows her to project radio waves and act as a human AWACS, detecting hostile elements in the air even under the cover of darkness. With Hikari in tow, Sanya is reminded of Yoshika and their first night battle together, suggesting that they hold hands to avoid getting separated. Carrying the Fliegerhammer MRL into combat, Sanya provides heavy firepower useful for punching through the ceramic exterior of a Neuroi. This weapon is likely the logical development for the Fliegerfaust (“pilot fist”), a prototype German multi-barrel rocket launcher that was intended to act as a MANPAD, and shares similarity in appearance to the American M202 FLASH, a multiple-tube rocket launcher for firing incendiary projectiles.
- The low light conditions of night combat causes Hikari to lose orientation and enter a spin, but Eila, who’d been surprisingly incapable of providing useful advice earlier, helps Hikari return to a stable flight pattern here. When the Witches begin engaging the Neuroi, they find its armour uncommonly tough, requiring multiple direct hits from Edytha and Sanya to begin even cracking the armour. Even after they expose the core, the Neuroi’s quick regeneration and subsequent boost of speed surprises the Witches – it punches through their lines on a beeline to their base.
- However, this turns out to have been the distraction Eila needed: she was able to foresee this and already positioned herself to destroy the Neuroi. With several well-placed shots from her MG-42, the Neuroi disappears into a shower of luminescent crystals, filling the sky with a calm glow evocative of a single, impressive firework.
- While Eila is disappointed that her wish of spending some time with Sanya while in Petersburg was seemingly not realised (she never does have the chance to explore the deserted city adjacent to their base during the time the two spend in Petersburg), and that there were no fireworks to speak of, Sanya notes that the Neuroi shards resemble fireworks, which suggests to Eila that she did get her wish after all. The two usher in a New Year hand-in-hand subsequently.
- With the Neuroi threat eliminated, the OVA draws to a close and reminds audiences that the narrative resumes in episode eight. This also coincides to the near-end of this post: I was not expecting to finish the Brave Witches OVA this quickly, but all the same, it’s nice to get this talk out of the gates. I am, however, surprised at the lack of discussion (or even reaction) from the folks who’ve been long waiting for a Sanya and Eila OVA since Operation Victory Arrow ended with Arnhem Bridge two years ago – that we did end up getting a Sanya and Eila OVA through Brave Witches is most certainly welcome.
- I’ll close this post off with a screenshot of Sanya smiling, and looking into the future, the next post on the horizon will deal with Kantai Collection: The Movie. With Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of The Tsar not releasing until after the long weekend is over, I will take advantage of this time to watch the movie and write about it. The alternative is forgetting about this film after the DLC releases, and quite truthfully, that would result in certain death for any Kantai Collection: The Movie discussion that I would have otherwise have planned; DICE was not joking around when they said the In The Name of The Tsar DLC would be the biggest Battlefield update of all time. Besides the new maps, weapons and game modes, DICE has also made sweeping changes to the way LMGs, SMGs and self-loading rifles handle, as well as to conquest ticket bleed. The end results, which can be experienced in CTE, make Battlefield 1 feel a lot more similar to Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3 in handling.
Overall, the Brave Witches OVA ended up being a romp through the chaos at the 502nd headquarters that emphasised humour, bringing to mind the setup for Strike Witches‘ second season. Brave Witches ended up being a more focused, narrative-driven presentation of the Strike Witches universe that demonstrated the franchise could cover ground beyond gratuitous pantsu moments: the narrative was squarely centred around Hikari’s journey towards becoming a full-fledged member of the 502nd, showcasing Neuroi that were legitimate threats in their operation and firepower. The TV series proper succeeded in doing so, spinning a much more focused story that allowed the characters to grow and shine. Consequently, the decision to return back to the comedy and lighter-hearted tones in an OVA was a well-made one, allowing the characters to be seen behaving in entertaining ways without compromising the emotional tenour of the TV series proper. I’ve not seen or heard any news about a continuation of Brave Witches, or if there will be focus on a new group of Witches in any sequels. Even with three seasons in total in addition to a film, the world of Strike Witches remains one that is rife with opportunity for exploration, and as such, any continued exploration of this world would be most welcome in my books.