The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – Whole series review and reflection

“As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.” –Thanos, Avengers: Endgame

Everyday life at base continues for the 501st, with the Witches butchering their celebrations for Halloween, do their best to give Mio a proper haircut, attempt to fix Francesca’s toothache, explore different ways to relax and prepare for their night duties. The Witches also attempt to stay cool under the hot summer weather, and even begin picking up basic first aid skills from Erica, but fail when they become distracted by their mannequins. When Mio’s execution of the reppuzan levels the base, the Witches are taken to a desert island while the navy engages the Neuroi hive. A stray blast from Mio’s sword destroys the distant hive, and Yoshika loses all of her magic attempting to absorb the reppuzan when Mio’s sword goes out of control. The Witches are forced to disband now that the Neuroi threat has been neutralised, and from the fact they have no base to return to. This brings the only anime I actively followed during the spring season to a close, and I imagine that readers would be surprised that I return to wrap up my thoughts about it, especially considering that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was a series of shorts of similar length to Yama no Susume, but unlike Yama no Susume, has no coherent theme to speak of.

While Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! may lack a central message, character growth and even serviceable artwork and animation, the series proved to be surprisingly entertaining by accentuating the outrageous interactions amongst the characters and placing them in ridiculous situations. In the near-total absence of a Neuroi threat, if the girls are allowed to come and go as they please, complete chaos reigns as a result of everyone’s different cultural backgrounds and personalities. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! suggests that without the Neuroi unifying everyone’s efforts towards defending their countries and protecting what’s dear to them, the Witches themselves are simply ordinary people who may not always see eye-to-eye, creating moments of hilarity that far exceed initial expectations for a show of its type. It then stands to reason that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to show how extraordinary circumstances brought about by war really forces individuals to rise to the occasion and do what is necessary to protect their homelands and their people. As such, while appearing quite irrelevant and irreverent, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! actually sets the stage for what one can reasonably expect from Strike Witches: Road to Berlin – having provided viewers with an overt display of humour, it appears that the mood looks to darken as Strike Witches returns in 2020.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the time since my initial discussion for Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, very few have actively chosen to follow through with this short series which is certainly not known for being a logical or particularly useful addition to the Strike Witches world. One of the main challenges I had with Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was figuring out how it fit in the Strike Witches chronology. Ultimately, seeing the Witches’ base as being the one shown in the second season suggests that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is set during the events of Strike Witches 2. The manga The Sky That Connects Us acted as a bridge between the first and second seasons: while the second season was essentially a copy of the first, it began developing a more meaningful story.

  • The page quote is actually sourced from my more recent thoughts about the old anime community: a decade ago, shows like Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! would have been subject to all sorts of criticisms simply because viewers of that time period had a stronger need to find meaning in their works and saw shows like Strike Witches as being pointless, taking away from a studio’s ability to produce more “intellectually stimulating” works. I’ve long argued that the worth of a particular piece of fiction is not judged by its social relevance or how many obscure philosophical references it possesses, but rather, by its ability to immerse or amuse.

  • One adjective that I was not expecting to characterise Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! as was “adorable” – the character dynamics actually come across as being fairly endearing even though they are, from a more rational standpoint, more mischievous than what is tolerated in a normal setting. Here, the girls use a trap to try and catch Francesca so they can pull her tooth, but manage to ensnare Sanya instead. Continuing from earlier, the page quote is also applicable to recent events: I noticed an unusual trend of inbound traffic from Anime News Network this morning and was not able to find any referral links.

  • After looking around, it appears that anyone caught linking to my blog at Anime News Network’s forums, or commenting about this blog in a positive light, will immediately have their posts deleted and may even risk a ban. I knew ANN was rather intolerant of alternate perspectives, especially with respect to their actions of late, but this really hits home as to how adverse they are to any brand of thought contrary to their own. For my readers, I recommend being more cautious about how trustworthy certain articles from ANN are, and note that it’s a good idea to always exercise one’s own judgement before reaching a conclusion; while ANN might be well-known, their authority remains questionable, and their claims are not always factual. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, after finding a way to enjoy the months-old mochi from home with the others, Yoshika prepares to write a thank you letter for her family.

  • Mio remarks that onsen are best piping hot to the point of pain, and Perrine agrees even though it causes her discomfort, when Gertrude comments on the heat. I’m particularly fond of this moment: Mio’s characteristic laugh makes a brief return, and the facial expression on Gertrude reminds me somewhat of Harukana Receive‘s Haruka. Gertrude ended up being my favourite character from Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! because of her uncommon affection towards Yoshika: here, she’s far more supportive and concerned about Yoshika than anywhere else in Strike Witches.

  • One of the few grievances I have about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is that Lynette’s role was diminished. I vaguely recall mentioning this in my talk at the three episode mark, and I would hazard a guess that the reason for this is because Lynette is, compared to the other Witches, less remarkable in personality. Her main defining characteristic is to act as a peer for Yoshika, having somewhat more experience with the 501st while simultaneously being someone Yoshika could easily speak with. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertrude fulfills this role, and Lynette is rarely seen.

  • In Strike Witches‘ first season, Yoshika is depicted as having an uncommon fixation on the members of the 501st with a more substantial bust, but over time, this aspect to her character vanished. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Yoshika’s perversions are back, being presented as a minor part of the series’ comedy. However, even this is dialed back: Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s comedy comes from situational irony rather than anything lewd.

  • Gertrude is seen whipping up some coffee for Charlotte and Erica, who find the concoction surprisingly bitter. While I’ve mentioned my preference for tea over coffee previously, the reality is that practicality, rather than taste, is the primary consideration. In my coffee, I prefer adding milk and sugar, which transforms it into a Café au lait. My favourite coffee beverage, however, is mocha: essentially espresso mixed into hot chocolate, it is sweet and packs a small wallop.

  • Hanna-Justina Marseille makes an appearance in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, showing up as a part of a publicity stunt. Like her Strike Witches incarnation, Hanna is bold and confident, but is shocked that no one even recognises her. What’s more, Erica has now perfected the art of sleeping with her eyes open, and fails to see their guest. Later, while Hanna is conversing with Charlotte about tricks performed during combat, Charlotte refers to the time when Minna destroyed a Neuroi with her backside, earning her a beat down from Minna.

  • While Hanna refuses to do autographs, this is actually a ploy: she is flattered when Gertrude asks her for one such that she may give it to Chris, her younger sister. The observant reader will note that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! makes extensive use of characters in the background to accentuate the impact of the humour.

  • Mio’s use of a towel in Kanpu masatsu is a Japanese custom that is said to ward off disease and promote health. By rubbing oneself with a dry towel and using the friction to produce heat, the exercise has been found to have mildly beneficial impacts. I first learnt about this custom in Chibi Maruko-chan, and was quite surprised by this, since folk from Hong Kong, who are used to hot climates, have not developed an equivalent exercise for keeping warm.

  • Gertude is normally quite disciplined and stuffy about the rules, but when she accidentally renders their vehicle inoperable on an outing, she’s forced to employ the same trick that Erica used during Strike Witches with the hope of hitching a ride. To her mortification, the vehicle that pulls up when she uses this stunt happens to be operated by Erica.

  • In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertude is even more physical in expressing her displeasure for the the antics of others. She throws Charlotte and Francesca out a window for dressing inappropriately when the weather turns hot, and the two end up writhing on the beach. Much of the humour in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! may come from ludicrous moments, but there are also points where things are funny because they are non sequiturs.

  • Eventually, to beat the heat, Charlotte and Francesca suggest lighting a hundred candles and telling ghost stories, extinguishing the candles one by one until a hundred stories are told. No one else participates, and Charlotte realises that the only reason this even works is because the candles themselves heat the room up, therefore, by blowing them out, the apparent temperature is lowered. Eyeballing the problem, a hundred candles could conceivably increase the temperature of a room to a noticeable extent.

  • One aspect of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! that proved unexpectedly funny was how open Eila was about her feelings towards Sanya. While this was always more implicit in Strike Witches, the manga was a bit more forward about this. Sanya, on the other hand, defies expectations by being a bit more violent about things. Despite appearing calm and quiet in earlier iterations, the Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! version of Sanya has no reservations about slapping Eila, such as here, when she makes a dummy of Sanya for medical training purposes.

  • Despite her efforts to train the others in basic first aid, and having studied diligently for her own future, Erica ultimately comes up short when everyone deviates from their original assignments. Perrine ends up making a dummy in Mio’s likeness, and when Lynette shoots “Mio”, Perrine loses her composure, with the assignment completely forgotten. Upon seeing this, Mio assumes that she’s a ghost now and speaks to Minna, who is shocked. The Mio of Strike Witches would never succumb to such capers, hence the amusement.

  • If I failed to provide context for this moment, one would be forgiven for thinking that Perrine and Yoshika were somehow responsible for Mio’s “death”. However, this is thankfully not the case, and a few laughs arise from how outrageous things are. Moments like these are why Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! ended up exceeding expectations: I entered with the expectation that the series would be almost entirely slice-of-life driven, was a little dissuaded by the art style, but then warmed up to the hilarity the series bought to the table.

  • The Witches end up being dropped off on a desert island for some rest and relaxation after Mio accidentally destroys half the base with the reppuzan. During their excursion, Mio manages to unintentionally stop a Neuroi hive on her own when her sword loses control, and it takes Yoshika’s intervention to save Mio. On the topic of excursions, my past weekend was no less exciting than the trip to the Okanagan, and with the Calgary Stampede in town, I had a chance to try some outrageous midway foods of my own. Last Friday, I visited the Calgary Stampede after work and opened dinner with a corndog poutine that was savoury and also was topped with a flavourful honey mustard. I also ended up having a grilled lobster roll, which was very tasty and together with the corndog poutine, constituted the evening meal.

  • Besides poutine and a lobster roll, I also had the chance to check out one of the more exotic offerings of the year. Dubbed the Flamin’ Frog Legs, this midway cuisine consists of seasoned and marinated frog legs breaded with hot Cheetos. The combination worked surprisingly well, and I loved the sweet, slightly-fishy taste and chicken-like texture of the frog meat. I declined to play any of the midway games, but I did end up seeing the fireworks from the cable car ride on the fairway grounds. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Minna announces the dissolution of the 501st now that the Neuroi have been halted and their base destroyed.

  • In the end, Gertrude was the true MVP of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, acting as an elder-sister figure for Yoshika and looking after her, shielding her from the wackier personalities of the 501st. Overall, I ended up enjoying Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! much more than I thought I would, attesting to the value of keeping an open mind. With Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! now in the books, I proceed to the summer anime, and remark that I will be blogging about two series for the summer.

In light of what Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! has succeeded in doing, my impressions of this series overall are that it proved much more entertaining and amusing than I had initially thought. Coupled with creating a dichotomy of sorts for Road to Berlin, it appears that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to be a calm before the storm, providing viewers with a rambunctious and exuberant portrayal of what the Witches are like outside of their duties to remind them of how everyone would be were it not for conflict. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! presents the Witches as caricatures of their typical selves, exaggerating all aspects to leave audiences with a stronger impression of what everyone is like. I ultimately found Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! to be a superb comedy, but I cannot recommend this series to anyone save the most dedicated Strike Witches fans simply because the series does require some requisite knowledge of what Yoshika and the others are like, as well as for the fact that the premise and art style demand acceptance that this is not Strike Witches as we would normally know. With this short comedy in the books, the path is set for 2020’s Road to Berlin, during which I am certain that the stakes will be considerably higher than anything we’d seen previously.

4 responses to “Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – Whole series review and reflection

  1. ernietheracefan July 15, 2019 at 07:14

    After looking around, it appears that anyone caught linking to my blog at Anime News Network’s forums, or commenting about this blog in a positive light, will immediately have their posts deleted and may even risk a ban.

    Wait, what..? Probably because your reviews are good.. xD

    If 501st JFW Take Off can be this hilariously funny, I wonder how good 502nd would be..? (It probably will focused to Hikari’s stamina, Nipa’s bad lucks, Waltrud’s womanizing, & Georgette’s appetite)

    And The Luminous Witches are now complete..

    Like

    • infinitezenith July 21, 2019 at 20:51

      A hundred bucks says that’s the case. I also occasionally challenge ANN’s authority here simply to get my readers thinking about other perspectives, and unlike ANN, I know how to defend my position with logically valid methods, so that could also be a factor!

      I’m not sure if we’ll get a 502nd version of 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, but I can see potential in the series being at least as amusing as this. There is supposed to be a “movie” version of 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! that adds Shizuka to the mix, so that could be worth checking out.

      Finally, Luminous Witches is indeed gearing up for something, I’ve been seeing a great number of Tweets on it.

      Like

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