“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” –Morty Smith, Rick and Morty
Strike Witches: Road to Berlin is coming out in 2020, and then Luminous Witches will air in 2021, it looks like the Strike Witches franchise has returned in full after a slow start in 2007 with its OVA – this series has been polarising for seemingly being an excuse to showcase female soldiers running around without any pants, but as the series progressed, it also matured deeply, showing that elements of world building can indeed far outweigh initial impressions that the series is merely for visual charm. Themes of camaraderie, trust and a determination to protect what one holds dear, plus minor themes about technological advancement, understanding and open-mindedness began making their way into a series to give characters credible growth. Strike Witches‘ 2013 movie, Operation Victory Arrow and Brave Witches represent a maturing series that began focusing more on the human side of the Human-Neuroi War, and of late, Strike Witches has become much more than being a flimsy excuse to fill a screen with crotches. It’s now been some two years since Brave Witches, and four years since Operation Victory Arrow; with new Strike Witches on the horizon, it stands to reason that fans have definitely earned something in the meantime to re-light their interest in the series.
Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! (Strike Witches: 501-butai Hasshinshimasu!) appears to be this “something”: on the surface, it deals with everyday life amongst the 501st. From Yoshika taking up cooking for everyone owing to their incapacity to cook (Minna, in particular, manages to harm her fellow soldiers more than the Neuroi do), to Gertrude’s determination to have Erica maintain a clean room, from Charlotte’s terrifying driving to Eila’s inability to properly express her feelings for Sanya, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s comical portrayal of the 501st marks a far cry from the series’ typical features. In fact, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s approach is so unexpectedly different that one would be forgiven if they were to mistake this for a bad joke: the animation and artwork appear as though it was produced by an algorithm that was designed to produce animation on its own, but was overfitted to a poor training data set. The insane premises and events suggest improvisation the same way Rick and Morty improvised the Interdimensional Cable skits. While inherently flawed, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! also seems to express different relationships amongst the characters: Gertrude acts as a mentor of sorts for Yoshika, while the slovenly Erica seems to be more at home with the lazy Charlotte and Francesca. The dynamics result in odd moments that show the members of the 501st in a caricature form of themselves, and this produces a unique brand of humour that is as outlandish as Interdimensional Cable.
Screenshots and Commentary
- There is no discussion out there on Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – I don’t mean that discussions are scant, or that they are light, because there simply is no one else talking about this series. This is unsurprising, given that this Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to be a bit of a practical joke. The artwork is of a much lower quality than what I usually watch, although the vast blue skies of Strike Witches remain.
- After becoming a part of the 501st, Yoshika is assigned to cooking duties because she’s apparently the only person on the team who can make anything edible. Gertrude feels badly for her and decides to help out. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertrude has a much closer friendship with Yoshika: she was initially distant, feeling Yoshika to resemble her younger sister, but the two get along quite well in Strike Witches proper.
- Minna is the commander of the 501st, and while she’s normally gentle and kind, there are some conditions where her personality will harden, usually in regards to everyone’s safety. This will not manifest in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, and instead, Minna is presented as being a bit ditzy, as well as having a terrible sense of taste. Her cooking is as lethal as a M829 APFSDS, putting everyone on the floor: when she suggests cooking in place of Yoshika, everyone vehemently objects.
- The events of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! are not so clearly determined: while everyone is located at the Britannian base see in the first season, Mio and Minna mention an infamous scene where Minna, concerned for Mio’s safety, holds her at gunpoint and demands that Mio stand down from active duty. This occurred later in season one, and the 501st leave the Britannian base after the season ends. The Sky That Connects Us shows that everyone is scattered around the globe, so Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! might not be really a formal part of the Strike Witches timeline.
- Charlotte and Erica are perhaps two of the scummiest members of the 501st, if Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is anything to go by. When assigned to patrol duty, they simply lounge around in swimwear and suggest that Yoshika do the same. It’s a callback to the first episode when Charlotte is seen chilling, but unlike the series proper, the low level of detail means that contours and the like are rendered with a much lower fidelity.
- Whereas Gertrude usually is content to deliver a verbal tongue-lashing in response to Erica’s slovenly ways, in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, she resorts to physical beatings that put everyone on the floor. Yoshika is made to suffer when she decides to do patrol duty properly and is given a heavy jacket that gives her heat stroke. With Yoshika out of commission, Minna cooks for everyone and manages to harm the 501st in ways that even the Neuroi do not.
- When Gertrude’s patience with Erica’s mess reaches its limits, she enlists Yoshika to help her in clearing out a mess that would defeat even the Konmari Method™: Marie Kondo’s approach to reducing clutter is to use a simple metric in deciding what to keep and what to chuck. If something creates happiness or has sentimental value, it can be kept, and otherwise, it is to be discarded. My parents’ method is simpler and more effective – if something is actively being used, then it should be kept.
- I would imagine that my parents’ approach, which I’ve adopted, would make for a much more boring approach. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, the Konmari Method™ eventually results in a series of accidents that allow Erica’s mess to be cleared, but also causes her to lose a medal. While trying to find the medal, Erica reintroduces the mess, undoing everyone’s efforts. One wonder how such a mess is even possible.
- I actually had no intentions of writing about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, but the combination of wanting to give myself a challenge and the fact that there’s no other blogs talking about this series means a unique opportunity for me to see if there’s anything noteworthy I could say about what essentially amounts to a shoddily-prepared show for something like Interdimensional Cable: the events of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! are outlandish and zany enough so that they could fit within the realm of what is shown in the multi-verse.
- Fanservice in is much lighter in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! than anywhere else in Strike Witches, which started out shoving everyone’s pantsu into the viewers’ faces. AS the series progressed, while such moments were still present, they became secondary to character growth. Here, Erica and Charlotte apologise after Minna kicks their asses for making fun of her dress.
- The Interdimensional Cable atmosphere of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is why I’ve opted to go with one of the more famous quotes from Rick and Morty, where Morty presents a very bleak view of the universe to Summer and suggests that things are what they are, so one might as well enjoy themselves with the time and plane of existence they do have. This is one way of saying that folks should not be so invested into minutiae surrounding their entertainment and take things a little less seriously.
- After Minna and Mio are invited to a party for officiers, Gertrude and Yoshika overlook duties at the base. They ren’t enough to rein in the undisciplined antics of Erica, Francesca and Charlotte, but it turns out that, in the absence of standards, Erica, Francesca and Charlotte actually have no goofing off to do. They decide to explore the rooms of their squadron mates, but find things that disturb them.
- Francesca, Charlotte and Erica’s reactions mirror my reaction to the weather yesterday: we’re only a stone’s throw from May, but Winter evidently wasn’t through with us yet and dropped 15 centimetres of snow on the city, bringing everything to a halt. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Yoshika and Gertude explained that nothing special occurred, while the lipstick marks on Mio and blood on Minna imply that something hilarious went down behind the scenes.
- After Yoshika accepts her paycheque, which features a bonus because her cooking is single-handedly keeping everyone’s spirits up, Yoshika decides to go shopping for new cooking implements. Gertrude decides to accompany her, along with Lynette, but when Charlotte offers to drive, the mere suggestion is enough to strike fear into the hearts of all those who know of her driving. As far as I can tell, Charlotte was not that bad a driver in Strike Witches, and I don’t ever recall a moment where she’s driven anyone anywhere.
- A part of the humour in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! stems from implicit moments, as well: leaving audiences to work out what occurred can be as funny as seeing things for oneself. While I’ve not very much to say about things in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I can say that watching the incredible antics of the 501st does bring a smile to my face. One of the genuine criticisms I have of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! so far is that Lynette hasn’t had much screen time yet. Of the Witches, I’m rather fond of her character.
- Back at base, Minna decides to make lunch, and Eila somehow gets pulled into things, reasoning that fermented stuff akin to the Japanese-style cooking Yoshika’s been doing must taste better. They whip up pickled herring and decide to add ammonia to it (which, incidentally, is toxic), scaring the living daylights out of Erica. She runs off to find Mio, in the hopes of putting an end to this nightmare. When Mio manages to cut the containers open, their noxious gases incapacitates her, reducing her to a trembling wreck. In any other series, this would be a pretty big deal, but in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, all injuries are temporary, and all damage sustained is quickly repaired. Hence, viewers may enjoy a laugh at Mio’s expense.
- Later, Eila succumbs to a cold and is bed ridden: while Yoshika accompanies Sanya on a night mission, Gertude and Erica look after her. Eila’s feelings for Sanya have formed the basis for many a joke in-series: Sanya is near oblivious to Eila’s feelings even where everyone else is aware of them.
- I’ve heard that summoning circles are all the rage on social media these days, and after leaving some of the Sanya cutouts so Eila won’t be lonely, the others allow her to rest. These props actually glow in the dark by some unknown mechanism, and actually look quite intimidating. When Sanya returns from her patrol and sees these, she’s a little put off, and once Eila recovers, she immediately hunts down Erica for the trouble.
- If folks were looking for a proper slice-of-life with the 501st, then Operation Victory Arrow and the manga, The Sky That Connects Us, do a solid job of presenting what goes down between Neuroi attacks. I will be returning to write about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! towards the end of the season: while nothing substantial, it is something that is fun in its own right. We are at the end of April now, and now is a good time as any to mention that, after a day of delayed flights, I am now in San José, California, where I will be attending Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8. I may work on a few posts here and there, but I expect to be quite busy until my return early May.
While Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! has numerous flaws and very little in the way of themes, its unusual brand of humour brings out the worst of all the characters and gives audiences something to laugh at – I imagine that this is a deliberate design choice to keep audiences busy, and presumably, to lower their guard ahead of Road to Berlin‘s release. Since Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! comes across as weak, Road of Berlin will stand in stark contrast and be more consistent with the increasingly detailed and mature themes that Strike Witches has trended towards. Fans of Strike Witches won’t gain much more than a few cheap laughs out of the characters’ misfortune in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, but it does act as somewhat of a reminder that each of Yoshika, Lynette, Perrine, Mio, Charlotte, Francesca, Gertrude, Erica, Minna, Eila and Sanya have come a long way since their initial appearances in 2008’s Strike Witches. The series is no longer dominated by needless pantsu, and there is a deeper, more enjoyable theme to the 501st’ exploits – if Road to Berlin is going to be more moody and reflective than the second season, then for the time being, viewers might as well watch everyone in unusual and strange conditions that exaggerate their characters far more than a proper season would.