If pla-ket-ket – that pla-ket-ket
When I shoot you in your neck
The noise go pla-ket-ket-ket
And you know I will shoot you in your eye
Just so I can hear the pla-ket
– “100 Miles”, Skinbone
After Yoshika’s magic fails during a routine sortie, Lynette sets off to search for herbs in the nearby woods in the hope that something might help Yoshika. Instead, she stumbles upon an artefact of some sort, containing an ancient figurine that augments a Witch’s bust. The figurine also possesses Francesca and begins cursing the other Witches on the base. It turns out this figurine was used by earlier Witches as a means of praying for a successful harvest. After Eila and Sanya fall under the curse’s influence, Yoshika and the others attempt to destroy the figurine. Eventually, Yoshika herself is taken as a sacrifice for the ancient ritual, leaving Lynette to save her. With a well-placed round from her Boys AT Rifle, Lynette destroys the statue, returning everyone to normal. In the debriefing, Yoshika decides to ask Lynette for another shot to feel her up, as they’d been interrupted earlier: it appears that groping someone is inexplicably related to Yoshika’s ability to recharge her magic. Standing in sharp contrast with the sixth episode, Road to Berlin‘s seventh episode is an entirely light-hearted, almost meaningless romp that ventures into the realm of the supernatural: the only reason that an ancient figurine can plausibly cause a curse and possess Witches without drawing much ire is because the entire Strike Witches universe is built on the premise of magic, so it stands to reason that rogue magic could potentially manifest in an object and take on a life of its own. As it stands, the seventh episode offers crude laughs at the expense of advancing the story in Road to Berlin, perhaps even more uncivilised manner than its predecessors had done during earlier seasons.
While unremarkable on its own, Road to Berlin‘s seventh episode does offer one curious parallel to modelling the spread of infectious agents in a closed environment – for Lynette, after the figurine’s effects are known, the Witches aware of what’s going on are sent into a desperate attempt to escape those who become cursed, and those unaware (such as Minna) simply succumb without resistance. In a matter of hours, almost all of the Witches fall under the curse’s influence: while this curse is not self-limiting, it does have clear adverse effects on the Witches and a mode of transmission, allowing it to be seen as being similar to an infectious agent. The seventh episode thus suggests at the Witches’ vulnerability to things like curses (we suppose that normal bacterial and viral infections can be trivially dealt with using healing magic) because of their general lact of exposure and familiarity with magical curses. At a more general level, this episode can indicate how once an infectious agent is introduced to a relatively closed environment, its spread is bewilderingly quick. As such, while viewers may share a laugh at what happens in Road to Berlin‘s fanservice episode as a result of the curse unearthed, the events of said episode might also be a reminder to be careful in dealing with the current health crisis: unlike the Witches, who can simply end the figurine’s curse with a .55 round, we must continue to be diligent and do what’s necessary to avoid unnecessary exposure until such a time when a vaccine becomes available.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Lynette has not been getting anywhere nearly enough love in Road to Berlin, and this seventh episode has her as the only beacon of light in an otherwise hectic, chaotic frenzy. Soft-spoken and shy, Lynette has been counted as one of the most unremarkable of the 501st: she lacks any distinct traits and prefers to help out on base with the everyday housework over taking to the skies. Yoshika helped Lynette to gain confidence ever since they’d met, and for the most part, the two are inseparable. With Shizuka’s arrival in the 501st, however, Lynette’s gotten less screen-time.
- When Lynette finds a mysterious vase and returns it to base, an accident results in the vase being opened, revealing a mysterious figurine inside. My knowledge of archeology is extremely limited: the dogū here is an earthen statue that is likely ancient. Such statues date back to the Jōmon period, and the Shakōki-dogū (goggle-eyed dogū) are well known for their distinct appearance. The closest parallel that I can think of are the “Venus” figurines, Palaeolithic sculptures that are found in Europe. Anthropologists suggest that their consistent portrayal of a full-figured woman indicates they represent a deity of sorts, perhaps signifying fertility. However, without any written records from that era, the actual meaning that these sculptures have is lost to time, and we can only infer their meaning at present. It is very curious that separate civilisations in geographically separate regions ended up creating similar figurines, and I’m sure archeologists would find this a very curious topic to delve into. However, as I am neither an archeologist by trade, and this is a Road to Berlin post, I should return the focus back to the Witches’ antics.
- After Francesca picks up the figurine and begins playing with it to annoy Perrine, she undergoes an unexpected change in her figure and begins speaking in a strange manner before running off. After groping her, Yoshika’s magic appears to return momentarily: the episode did explain that a Witch can be thought of as a reservoir for magic, using their powers to control it for work (such as flight, shield projection, healing, etc.). Yoshika’s appeared to have resolved her ability to channel her magic when she has sufficient reserves of it, and the problem seems to be being able to regenerate her reserves efficiently now. The anime uses an excellent visual to represent how Witches work at a high level, which indicates that Witches can be seen as analogous to a battery. However, back in the day, AnimeSuki’s Sumeragi described a Witch’s raw output as “voltage”, but this is false, since voltage refers to potential difference. A Witch’s output correctly described as as the current, specifically, how much magic a Witch can channel. I’ve already covered this in my post about 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, so I won’t revisit that in two much detail.
- While Sanya and Eila are sharing a quiet moment together, tending to the base’s flowers, the possessed Francesca gropes Sanya, breaking the peace. Sanya is one of the last characters one would expect something like this would happen to, and her look of embarrassment here is a rare sight. For this week’s post, I’ve reverted back to the twenty screenshot format: brevity is a virtue, and shorter posts are generally easier to write for when it comes to TV series: films usually offer a lot more to consider, whereas episodic reviews only require that I consider what that particular episode contributes to the story overall.
- After Sanya becomes cursed, she begins speaking in tongues, gropes Eila and curses her in the process, as well. The strange speech patterns is what motivates the page quote: they’re lyrics from a parody of Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles, completely redone in a hilarious manner in a remix called 100 Miles. When speaking, the speech is rendered in a Madoka Magica-like font at the bottom of the screen, but all viewers will hear from anyone who isn’t Francesca is Pla-ket-ket-ket-ket-ket-ket. I first heard the 100 Miles parody at a raclette party two years ago, and spent the entire evening laughing along with friends as we listened to various bad music on YouTube whilst roasting sausages and shrimps.
- Lynette, Shizuka, Perrine, Yoshika and Charlotte react in horror after Eila succumbs to the curse. The seventh episode, for all its ludicrousness, did remind me of some of the work I studied during my time in graduate school, where I used NetLogo to mimic transmission of infectious diseases in a population. Despite its low skill ceiling, NetLogo is immensely powerful and allows for curious models to be developed based upon multi-agent interactions, reducing the need for complex mathematical systems to be implemented.
- Multi-agent systems excel in modelling highly stochastic systems where interactions can be thought of as rules rather than relationships, and consequently, agent-based models have the advantage in being able to describe immensely complex interactions. However, I’ve found them to be computationally expensive at large scales: they are ineffective for modelling things at a coarse granularity. Of course, neither mathematical or agent-based modelling can describe what happens in Road to Berlin: the precise mechanism of a figurine able to utilise magic and possess a Witch to impose its will while simultaneously floating in the air unsupported is unknown, and one can only imagine that the figurine must have enough magic in it to sustain its actions.
- After Charlotte scarifies herself to allow Yoshika a chance to destroy the figurine, Yoshika quickly learns that the figurine seems impervious to damage: she destroys a frying pan in the process of trying to break the figurine. Of all the Witches, Charlotte’s bust is the most substantial, so when she succumbs to the curse’s effects, her shirt’s buttons suffer a structural failure (whereas everyone else’s clothing seem to accommodate the new volume without too much trouble). The effects appear quite uncomfortable on those affected, and if I had to guess, I would imagine the magic involved here accelerates mammary growth. Considering that healing magic can accelerate repair of tissues, it is not inconceivable that misapplications of magic could have such effects on the Witches’ bust.
- When considering the effects (and limitations) of magic, my mind inevitably wanders over to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, a set of laws that are supposed limit what is possible with magic, otherwise, in the words of the Other Minister, wizards and witches would be able to sort out anything. That magic has its limitations is a bit of a reassurance in this episode, otherwise, the effects on the Witches would be devastating. When Perrine finds herself chased by the possessed Eila and Sanya, she rams them in frustration after recalling a conversation she had with Lynette.
- Coming into contact with the two means that Perrine gets cursed, and Shizuka stays behind to keep Perrine distracted. This is all for naught, however. During the episode, a part of me wondered if there was an alternate measure towards ending the curse that didn’t involve destroying the statue: in Hai-Furi, for instance, exposure to salt water inactivated the Totalitarian virus by an unknown mechanism, and for a brief moment, I wondered if touching a potato might cure Perrine. There’s no such luck here, and in moments, Shizuka herself is also cursed.
- Meanwhile, Minna is taken out after Charlotte and Eila find her while she’s showering. It suddenly strikes me that, despite ostensibly being a light-hearted fanservice episode, Road to Berlin makes extensive use of dark lighting, yellow and violet hues during the course of the episode, creating a distinctly horror-like atmosphere. Viewers only can laugh as the Witches succumb to the curse one-by-one, but the choice of palette manages to subtly convey the abject terror that the Witches face when confronted with this unknown.
- While Gertrude and Erica sit around waiting for dinner, they’re unaware of what’s gone down until Minna shows up. Erica is promptly taken out, and Gertrude escapes. She manages to find Yoshika and Lynette, and it isn’t until she tries punching the figurine out that viewers are made aware of the gravity of the situation: at this point, it becomes clear that the only way to do any appreciable damage to the figurine would probably be with a firearm of some sort.
- The figurine’s magic clearly has not impeded the other Witches’ judgement: Gertrude decides to seek help by radioing a nearby base, and for a moment, my spirits soared at the thought of seeing new Witches, but it turns out the communication lines have been cut. Against my will, I am reminded of an old classic: the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Pranks a Lot”, where ahead of messing with Mr. Krabs, Patrick and SpongeBob glue the door shut, replace the glass with rubber and clog the toilers to the Krusty Krab in order to keep Mr. Krabs from escaping. While I have a distaste for SpongeBob memes when they’re taken out of the context, the old show did have its merits and moments where it genuinely shined: the first three seasons were excellent and innovative.
- Gertrude decides to fly out herself in search of help, but the others are a step ahead of her: they completely disable her Striker Unit, and Gertrude succumbs to the curse, leaving Lynette and Yoshika to wonder on the best course of action. Yoshika feels that if the curse is anything like magic, then she might be able to use her healing magic to dispel the curse. However, her magic power has degraded. Recalling that her magic briefly came back after groping Francesca earlier, Yoshika asks Lynette if it is possible for her to recover her magic in this manner. It is not lost on me that 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! did something precisely like this: being pressed against Lynette’s chest allowed Yoshika to channel enough magic for her to safely heal Erica and Charlotte.
- It was rather surprising to see elements from 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! make their way into Road to Berlin, and suddenly, I’m glad to have checked out that spin-off. Back in Road to Berlin, in the absence of any context, this screenshot would almost certainly raise alarms amongst readers, since my modus operandi is precisely not to showcase such moments if I can help it. With this being said, while Lynette is shy, her friends’ needs outweighs her sense of modesty, and she reluctantly allows Yoshika to grope her if it may give Yoshika the magic needed to save her friends.
- Before anything can happen, the others arrive and whisk Yoshika away for some ancient ceremony. At this point in the episode, I was conflicted: on one hand, stopping the ceremony makes the most sense from a thematic perspective, but on the other, I was curious to see what would happen had the ceremony actually succeeded. Strike Witches is only as serious as it needs to be, and there are some outrageous moments in the series that only serve to embarrass the characters at worst. However, Lynette has no intention of finding out; considering how much trouble the figurine and its powers have caused, she’s intent on destroying it.
- Having grabbed her Boys AT Rifle, Lynette’s followed the others to the shrine where she’d found the figurine and manages to snipe the rope holding Yoshika in place. Yoshika subsequently escapes and attempts to use her magic in an attempt to stop the others, but is unsuccessful. It boils down to Lynette and her sharp-shooting to save the day: she puts a round that passes precisely through a gap in the Witches’ shields and destroys the figurine, bringing this nightmare to an end. Here, I will note that the episode has absolutely nothing to do with the online magazine of the same name, which has a history of writing falsified articles and backing people on the wrong side of history for views.
- The seventh episode of Road to Berlin marks the first episode of the season where no Neuroi is present, and as tempting as it might be to suggest that the figurine is a Neuroi (it would be, after all, an unexpected twist were it the case that Neuroi could manipulate magic in this manner), the lack of a core when Lynette shoots down the figurine is enough for me to conclude that the figurine, however evil it might be, is not of Neuroi origin. In the aftermath, Minna explains what the figurine was about, wrapping up any loose ends.
- I’ll admit that it was nice to have an episode dedicated to Lynette: although it might’ve been her fault that she’d retrieve the figurine to begin with, she also finishes the fight and cleans up after her own mess. As the sun rises, the other Witches come to, recalling the night’s unusual experiences and save Francesca, are pleased that things are normal once more. Francesca, on the other hand, wishes she was able to keep her augmented bust the curse provided.
- Yoshika feels shafted that she never got to grope Lynette and asks for another go at things as the episode draws to a close. I don’t mind admitting that this week’s episode was a bit tricky to write for, since fanservice hardly is conducive for interesting discussions, and I instead, opted to voice some thoughts on current events as they tied in with the episode. With the seventh episode in the books, I’m much more confident about next week’s episode, and in the meantime, I’m glad this post is now in the books.
Fanservice episodes have been a staple of Strike Witches since the first season, and while Brave Witches opted for a more meaningful story that contributed to world-building in place of lowbrow jokes, Road to Berlin appears to have returned to the serie’s roots – simultaneously being more faithful to the originals and being a step down from the direction introduced in Brave Witches, Road to Berlin likely aims to suggest to viewers that, while the series has advanced from its origins, it remains respectful to what had originally made the series stand apart from its contemporaries. In this episode, Yoshika’s old traits returned in full force: her fascination with her peers’ mammaries had been absent from the film, leading me to wonder if Yoshika had moved away from that stage of her life, but it appears this tendency is retrained, only to be overshadowed by her desire to protect and fight for those important to her. I suppose this serves to humanise Yoshika’s character and show that she does have her eccentricities outside of her reputation in the armed forces. Outside of this seventh episode, Road to Berlin has been a thrill, so I imagine that this episode’s events are not an indicator of what Road to Berlin is about; while there was a possibility of spending twenty minutes to world-build further here, fanservice romps in Strike Witches will continue to offer some amusement, and this is the route the writers have taken. Next week’s episode should see a return to the norm: the focus is on Sanya and Eila as Christmas rolls in, and as long as Road to Berlin continues to stay focused with its other episodes, I won’t hold this outlier against the series in any way.