The Infinite Zenith

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The Queen of Nederland- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

“Flowers grow back, even after they are stepped on. So will I.” –Unknown

After making little progress in stablising her magic, Yoshika takes a short break with Shizuka. While showering, Perrine deliberately lowers the water temperature to a much cooler 20°C, shocking Yoshika into the main bath and drawing her attention: it turns out that Perrine had been assigned to visit the Queen of Nederland to help with morale in the country, with the hope of bolstering the citizen’s spirits and spurring them to contribute to the effort needed to liberate Berlin. Perrine had agreed to the assignment and specifically request that Yoshika be allowed to accompany her. Shortly after arriving, Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka meets the Queen of Nederland, who answers a comment that Perrine had about the blue tulips in a painting being an uncommon sight: it turns out that these flowers had not bloomed in Nederland since the Human-Neuroi war started, despite her gardeners’ best efforts to revive the flower. After visiting the greenhouses, Perrine gets into a bit of a disagreement with the one of the gardeners about the blue tulips and hears about an earlier Witch had been present to help out. The next day, after Yoshika jumps head-first into helping the gardeners out, Perrine learns that they had an old M4 Sherman lying around. That evening, the girls visit the greenhouses, which are being warmed by an old boiler to maintain a temperature of precisely 20°C to keep the tulips happy. When the boiler explodes and fails, the gardeners hook up a backup power source: an old Striker Unit. Yoshika offers to power it, and in the process, begins to stablise her own magic. Perrine and Shizuka continue helping in the fields while Yoshika rests during the day, and when night falls, Yoshika resumes her duties. When Shizuka fetches water, she comes across a Neuroi, which subsequently destroys the greenhouse and most of the tulips. Yoshika takes to the skies with a hoe and embeds it in the Neuroi, allowing Perrine to finish it off. In the aftermath, it turns out that Perrine’s Tonnerre was the catalyst, and the previous Witch had been, in fact, her grandmother. Having been able to witness the blue tuplips blossom again, the Queen of Nederland feels that morale will be restored to their country and thanks Perrine.

Perrine represents one of Strike Witches‘ most interesting characters: she began her journey openly hostile towards Yoshika, dropping insults whenever they’d crossed paths, and even sabotaging Yoshika’s Striker Unit at one point. However, over time, Perrine was revealed to be purely dedicated on Gallia’s recovery, and she believes that an efficient group of Witches is the fastest way to accomplish this. As Perrine spent more time fighting alongside Yoshika, hostility would be displaced by a begrudging respect, and eventually, respect became friendship. By the events of Strike Witches: The Movie and Operation Victory Arrow, Perrine’s become a much more sympathetic character: she represents how character growth can be so critical towards making a series compelling. Road to Berlin shows precisely how far Perrine’s come since those early days; she is concerned for Yoshika’s well-being, respects her choices and also openly trusts her (as demonstrated when she asks Minna to allow Yoshika to come with her to Nederland). However, this gradual set of change has not impacted Perrine’s overall personality: hailing from nobility, Perrine is disciplined, well-mannered and conducts herself with grace. This is evident in her speech, which has a more formal tone than that of other characters. Furthermore, Perrine still retains her pride, as seen when she challenges the gardeners and declares she’ll out-do any Witch that had previously made the blue tulips bloom. By playing both of Perrine’s traits this episode, viewers are reminded of how far Perrine has come since the earliest episodes, and how despite the trouble Yoshika’s caused her previously, Perrine’s come to deeply appreciate everyone, including Yoshika, who is able to help in the Human-Neuroi War. However, she still retains her noblesse oblige mannerisms, and when the moment calls for it, Perrine is more than capable of getting things done, especially when she accepts help from those around her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Yoshika’s inconsistent magical output had become a secondary issue, but Road to Berlin continues to keep this on viewer’s minds. Yoshika is someone who gives everything her all, and even when she is unable to fight, trains tirelessly. Optimism is also one of Yoshika’s strong suits; she always attempts to do what she can, and so, while she may not be the most skillful of the 501st Witches, she certainly can be seen as being the most dangerous owing to the lengths she will go in order to accomplish her goals and protect those around her.

  • While 20°C might be a comfortable air temperature, water at 20°C feels downright cold owing to its higher thermal conductivity and density compared to air: it pulls heat away from the body at a much higher rate, and while Yoshika initially feels that Perrine is screwing with her, it turns out that Perrine’s shown up to remind Yoshika to not overdo things, as well as explain that there’s a special assignment for them to handle. Thus, Perrine’s act of lowering the shower temperature down to 20°C is not an act of malice, but a more entertaining way to get Yoshika’s attention: Perrine’s clearly succeeded, and Yoshika does resemble her nickname, Mamefuji, as she sulks in the heated bath in the aftermath.

  • Perrine explains to Shizuka and Yoshika the details of this excursion: Yoshika briefly loses control of her Striker Unit for a moment, but support from Shizuka allows her to stablise on short order. This is why Shizuka was also summoned to help out: this is a relatively low-risk assignment that will allow Shizuka to practise flying with other Witches, and also look after Yoshika while she’s in the air. Mid-flight, Yoshika begins to wonder if she’ll be able to pick herbs from the flower gardens below for medicinal uses.

  • Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka travel to the Kasteel de Haar (de Haar Castle), located near Utrecht. The site’s been home to structures of some sort since the 13th century, but the castle occupying the site today began construction in 1892: Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar had inherited the ruins from his grandfather and set about transforming the castle into a proper home. It took some fifteen years to build it, and the castle was furnished with modern conveniences, such as electric lights and centralised heating. Today, the castle is open to the public. de Haar Castle is located some 94 kilometres from Fort Erfprins, a relatively short flight for Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka.

  • True to its real-world counterpart, de Haar Castle is shown with ornate woodcrafting that was inspired by designs from the church. While Perrine is undoubtedly accustomed to ornately-furnished accommodations and palatial countryside homes, such a site is rarer for Yoshika and Shizuka, who are in awe at how beautiful everything is. At the centre of the room is a massive painting, portraying a full field of blue tulips blooming just outside in the gardens.

  • One of the interesting points in this episode is that the Queen of Nederland can refer to the monarch ruling the country, as well as the blue tulips that the Dutch are fond of. The Netherlands did indeed have a monarch: from 1890 to 1948, Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria was the Queen of the Netherlands. After World War Two began, she reluctantly accepted the British help and set up a government-in-exile after the Nazis invaded, speaking frequently on the radio to motivate her countrymen, and returned to the Netherlands after the Allies liberated it with new ideas about how to run the Netherlands. Owing to poor health, she abdicated and turned the throne over to her daughter, Julianna.

  • After learning of the blue tulips, the Witches visit the greenhouses, who are tended to by scruffy-looking gardeners with kind hearts and a love for things that grow. Perrine’s initial magic does nothing to help the tulips blossom, and her pride bent, Perrine gets into a shouting match with the gardeners, promising that she’ll do anything to make the tulips bloom. The tulips’ natural range is in Europe, and technically, tulips bloom in all colours except blue: “blue” tulips are technically a very deep shade of violet that can appear blue under certain lighting conditions. For Strike Witches, such tulips are exceedingly rare, and require a bit of magic to grow.

  • Throughout my previous Strike Witches posts, I’ve featured pantsu from virtually every other Witch, so to round things out for Road to Berlin, I’ve decided the time is appropriate to showcase Perrine’s derrière as she works in the fields. At this point in time, I believe only Eila and Sanya are left, and truth be told, given the community’s stance on those two characters, I feel like I’d be overstepping certain boundaries if I choose to go in that direction. On the other hand, because I am covering Road to Berlin in an episodic fashion, and it is my blog, I both have the space to occasionally feature such screenshots and in the end, I have the final say in what screenshots I feature.

  • The next morning, after Yoshika goes on a run, sees the gardeners preparing a field and decides to help out, Shizuka joins, and Perrine is roped into helping. Despite being no stranger to manual labour, Perrine is still quite unaccustomed to things – whereas Yoshika grew up on a farm and has used a hoe before to help grab yams, Perrine’s technique is less than stellar, prompting some laughs from the gardeners. Never one to be outdone, Perrine asks if they have any machinery, and quickly repairs an old M4 Sherman back to operating condition so that she can do more for less.

  • One of the gardeners is especially distant towards the Witches, bringing to mind the young boy that was seen in Operation Victory Arrow in Perrine and Lynette’s episode. While Yoshika’s made a delicious dinner that the others enjoy, this gardener quickly finishes his meal and heads back out to the greenhouses. It turns out that the tulips need an ambient temperature of 20ºC to grow in, and to this end, the gardeners take turns stoking the boiler’s fires to maintain this temperature during the night. However, the old boiler has reached the end of its operational lifespan and explodes. With the tulips under threat, the gardeners quickly hook up a makeshift boiler using a Striker Unit as the power source.

  • Perrine initially offers to power the Striker Unit, but Yoshika insists that she be the one to do it – if she’s not capable of fighting alongside the Neuroi, then she should be lending her power to a different scenario. This sentiment is admirable: in an older time, Perrine would’ve likely said no outright, but having come to understand Yoshika’s way of thinking, Perrine agrees to allow Yoshika to power the old Striker Unit, which is modelled after the French Nieuport 10 biplane. The original Nieuport 10 fulfilled a variety of roles: the base version was a reconnaissance aircraft, but once a Vickers Machine Gun or Lewis Gun was bolted onto it, it became a fighter.

  • The old Nieuport 10 Striker Unit even resembles the old biplane, having a flimsier-looking construction compared to the sleeker, contemporary Striker Units. The Unit’s lower output is less demanding on Yoshika than her Shinden Kai: despite having some initial trouble controlling her output, causing the room temperature to drop and then rise uncontrollably, after Yoshika remembers the ideal temperature as being the same feeling as when Perrine changed the water temperature back at base, she takes a deep breath, calms herself and focuses. Hours of sustaining this concentration allows Yoshika to feel more confident in channeling her magic.

  • With the Witches helping out, things for the gardeners progress very smoothly: through sheer force of will and determination, Yoshika manages to keep the Striker Unit going for an entire night, earning herself the respect of the Gardeners, even the fellow who had been hostile towards the Witches earlier. Here, Shizuka and Perrine work in the fields with the gardeners while Yoshika sleeps: the M4 has drawn some attention amongst viewers, and admittedly, while perhaps not as sharp as the M4s seen in Girls und Panzer, still looks authentic and powerful despite being relegated to an agricultural role. It suddenly hits me that a Strike Witches-Girls und Panzer crossover could be quite nice: despite being produced by different studios, the character designs in both are similar enough so seeing Miho and her Panzer IV alongside Yoshika and the 501st would not be too jarring.

  • The Neuroi that Shizuka unearths is a smaller one, but it still goes on a small rampage: Perrine, Shizuka and Yoshika completely lack the weapons to stop it, and resort to making do with what they’ve got: Shizuka attempts to slow it down using the shield, and Perrine intervenes with the M4: despite lacking any weaponry, the armoured vehicle still offers some resistance against the Neuroi. The Neuroi ends up flipping the tank and destroys the greenhouse after Perrine hits it with her Tonnerre, seemingly with no effect on target. Only a single tulip survives the onslaught, and Yoshika ends up joining the fray herself after asking Shizuka to look after the gardeners. While she looks like she’s about to fail yet again, Yoshika successfully Yoshika stablises her Striker Unit and takes off, hoe in hand.

  • With the practise she’s had in concentration, Yoshika appears to be able to fly again. However, on her own, Yoshika would have had no chance in defeating the Neuroi without weapons, but Strike Witches constantly reminds viewers that the Witches are so powerful because their teamwork, in conjunction with a bit of magic, is what allows them to deal with an enemy that has survived conventional weapons. She draws fire off Perrine and embeds the hoe’s head into the Neuroi’s body without doing any real damage. However, despite losing her weapon, it’s not over yet: Perrine intends on using her Tonnerre to finish it off, and the hoe’s metal head makes it the perfect conductor.

  • Perrine’s Tonnerre tears into the Neuroi and destroys the core, eliminating the threat just in time for sunrise. Amidst the rubble and what’s left of the greenhouse, a faint blue glow is seen. As it turns out, the surviving blue tulip had indeed blossomed, and here, it is revealed that it was precisely the lightning magic of a Clostermann Witch that had allowed the blue tulips to bloom previously. That Perrine happened to take this assignment can be thought of as fate, and acts as a nice reminder to viewers that, at least in Strike Witches, the world is in good hands, and the current generation of Witches are both capable of defending and rebuilding civilisation .

  • While Perrine is smug about having done precisely what she’d set out to do with magic unique to her family, the realisation that it had been, in fact, her grandmother who first stopped in this side of Nederland and created a small miracle humbles her: the Witch she’d so boldly proclaimed to surpass was family, and now, for the Nederland citizens, knowing that the Clostermann’s magic will allow the elusive blue tulip to bloom is a rather clever bit of a metaphor for the fact that, as long as there are Witches, things like miracles are indeed possible.

  • When the Queen of Nederland thanks Perrine for her work and how the blue tulip’s return will kindle hope, Perrine returns the gratitude: this assignment has allowed her to connect with her family in a very unusual, but heartwarming fashion. For their efforts, the Nederland gardeners give the Witches herbs for their trouble, and it appears that Yoshika is able to fly again without difficulty: Shizuka’s remarks all but clear things up, and Yoshika thanks Perrine: it turns out something as simple as a move to grab her attention ultimately led her to discover how to best control her magic anew.

  • With this no longer a concern, I imagine that once the next several episodes finish depicting the remainder of the 501st and give them some screen-time, all attention can be directed towards dealing with the matter of liberating Berlin. With this post in the books, I am looking to wrap up a post on Warlords of Sigrdrifa after three episodes: I am caught up with the series, but I did not decide to write about it until recently. For this one, I have two posts planned for it in total, and besides the “after three” post, I’ll also be returning to do a whole-series review. Finally, the Halo 4 flighting is drawing to a close this Friday. I have no plans to write about it: the campaign was excellent, but the multiplayer remains quite unplayable on account of how unbalanced controller aim-assist is. Until input-based matchmaking allows me to play exclusively with other mouse-and-keyboard players, I imagine that anything related to the Halo multiplayer experience could be quite frustrating.

This episode’s focus on tulips is seemingly trivial, but it also gives Perrine a chance to interact with common folks and understand their situation: the small things Witches do on the ground might not be as visceral as destroying Neuroi, but even these simpler actions can help a population to regroup. While Perrine might be of a privileged background, she shows concern for the well-being of people in all stations, indicating to viewers that despite her rough start with Yoshika, she’s a kind person at heart and an integral part of the 501st. These slice-of-life episodes, with their emphasis on everyday life in the Strike Witches universe and reduced combat, serve an important function in the series despite appearing to be frivolous: understanding how people conduct themselves out of combat also can give insight into how they conduct themselves when under stress or while carrying out their duties. For Shizuka, seeing the 501st in moments outside of fighting Neuroi will help her to appreciate how each of the Witches prefers to fight, and complement their fighting style accordingly. Moreover, for the viewer, seeing common, everyday moments and how the Witches handle conflict, adversity and disagreement gives the confidence that, when the chips are down, the Witches can be counted upon to work together as as team and achieve a shared goal, no matter how challenging it may be. With the fifth episode in the books, we are rapidly approaching Road to Berlin‘s halfway point, and the sixth episode appears to be centred around the Karlsland Witches. While the delays in repairs to Antwerpen’s port frustrate the Witches to no end, and even viewers are beginning to wonder when the 501st will have a chance to head for Berlin, I imagine that we’ll likely have a few more character-oriented episodes before the Battle of Berlin can begin; until then, besides the Karlsland Witches, I feel that Eila and Sanya will have an episode to themselves, and hopefully, Lynette (who has been shafted from a screen time perspective) will also get an episode of her own.

6 responses to “The Queen of Nederland- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

  1. Jusuchin (Military Otaku) November 5, 2020 at 10:17

    I still can’t believe I spent 40 minutes looking for the exact mine plow attachment for the Sherman.

    And re: Biplane

    Older Striker unit, before the Miyafuji magic engine, that removed the need for the backpack mount. Have screenshots from the Fuso Sea Incident manga in post to show something similar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith November 5, 2020 at 10:22

      You’re right in that it’s either a Bullhorn Plough or modelled after one. If memory serves, Hobart’s Funnies were a key part of D-Day, intended to carry out special functions, and despite their utility, are largely forgotten. It’s good to see shows like Strike Witches bring them back out: a Bullshorn Plough-equipped Sherman would be rather suited for the task at hand here.

      As for the old biplane, this does remind me of the older Universal Century mobile suits, like the Zaku I Sniper, which possessed a backpack to house the dedicated generator for its primary weapon. The bulkiness conveys a sense of age, and for anyone interested to see what these older Striker Units look like, I’m going to drop a link to your post, since you’ve got the images available 🙂

      Like

      • Jusuchin (Military Otaku) November 5, 2020 at 10:26

        As someone said, if you just need to turn the soil, the mine plow is useful.

        There was some discussion in the RP discord I was in on why such a piece of military hardware was wasted as an agricultural tool when the Allied Forces were in need of war materiel. Apart from the meta reason of “we have the CG models”, pretty sure the push to Berlin will feature newer models of the Sherman, possibly the 76mm versions.

        So an older model Sherman, given to the Dutch as sort of lend lease during the original recapture of the low countries, not being rounded up and needed makes sense for me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • kumashock November 5, 2020 at 20:42

      Biplane striker units were the witches’ main weapon in the First Neuroi War. Lynette’s mother Minnie Bishop was a leading Britannian ace witch in that war. IRL The Dutch did quite well out of WW1, impounding and then using aircraft from both sides that somehow ended up over the Dutch border. i wonder if that is how the Dutch got their Nieuport Striker Unit? We will never know I guess unless someone finally fleshes out the First Neuroi War one day.

      Like

      • infinitezenith November 5, 2020 at 21:39

        I have a feeling that the Strike Witches extended universe is probably much larger than we know, taking the form of various manga and novels. It was the case with Gundam, where side stories and light novels covered aspects of their respective conflicts in an incredibly detailed extent and offer insight into the universe far surpassing what the anime alone can during its runtime. Unfortunately for Gundam fans, most of these works remain untranslated, and so, short of flying over to Japan and picking them up in bookstores on top of learning Japanese, they remain quite inaccessible. Of course, as fans, we are free to speculate on what happened in our own manner, and Strike Witches is good about presenting enough details such that speculation is rooted in what is known 🙂

        Like

      • Jusuchin (Military Otaku) November 6, 2020 at 13:31

        It seems it was inferred that it was the elder Clostermann’s unit. Maybe like the Sherman, it was left behind for ‘local use’ as units to the front rotated in with newer equipment.

        That said IZ, the semi-official doujin is at least bilingual, and there have been talks that Dan Kanemitsu had wanted to continue down that line. But like in all things, it’s either up to the fans, or weighed before a committee. BD and Merch sales will have to carry our wishes to the Japanese.

        Liked by 1 person

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