“If you can’t laugh at your life, then your life is a punch line in a bad joke.” –Andrew Barger
After their successful destruction of the Neuroi in the Rhineland, the 501st part ways, with Yoshika staying behind with Minna, Gertrude and Erica at St. Trond base. Public relations forces them to shoot a movie about the 501st’s heroics, although with everyone gone, Gertrude decides to do a film around Yoshika’s exploits. Circumstance soon puts Minna in touch with the other members of the 501st, although things don’t go as smoothly as they’d like for Gertrude’s film: Perrine and Lynette are still hard at work restoring Gallia, while Charlotte and Francesca have gotten into a spot of trouble in Venezia after claiming to have blown away a Neuroi. Meanwhile, in Fuso, Hikari prepares to head over to Orussia with Takami, but when Takami accidentally spills ketchup on herself, is flown back to Fuso, leaving Hikari to join the 502nd. While the 502nd are initially hesitant, Alexsandra and Gundula conclude that having an extra Fuso Witch around could be good for publicity and help their group out with funds, which is always a problem on account of how Nikka, Naoe and Waltrud conduct themselves. Upon joining, Edytha sets about training Hikari, noting that those three are probably the most dangerous people around the base, second to only Alexsandra, who is lecturing Naoe about her actions. World Witches: Take Off! is a continuation of 2019’s Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, being a light-hearted parody of the Strike Witches series and stripping out the Human-Neuroi War in favour of what happens when the Witches are allowed to purely bounce off one another. Like its predecessor, World Witches: Take Off! episodes run for thirteen minutes at a time, and are loosely connected by a story, but otherwise, emphasises crude comedy above all else.
Insofar, World Witches: Take Off! has chosen to portray the 501st and 502nd quite separately. Every week, the focus alternates between the two Joint Fighter Wing groups; with the 501st, their antics are now well-established, and a familiar sight for anyone who’s seen Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!. The inclusion of the 502nd is what’s new to World Witches: Take Off!, but rather than dropping viewers straight into things, this series of shorts has instead chosen to re-tell the story in a more humourous light to show the more comedic side of the 502nd. Here, World Witches: Take Off! demonstrates a knack for being able to recount stories with a hilarious twist to them. In particular, the misunderstanding that causes Takami to be sent back to Fuso results from Hikari misunderstanding Takami, and after an accident involving ketchup, things seemingly become too serious to ignore. The ensuing chaos transforms Hikari into a blubbering mess, which is simultaneously piteous and adorable. Moments like this typify the Take Off! series’ ability to convey both humour and that warm, fuzzy feeling associated with small animals during its run. Halfway into World Witches: Take Off!, familiar faces come back in an all-new setting to create comedy, and for fans of Strike Witches looking for a little something to tide them over while awaiting Luminous Witches, the next big project, World Witches: Take Off! fits the bill nicely enough.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I am a little surprised that it’s been almost a full two years since 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! began airing, and as a result of the time that’s passed, a part of me felt that the art style in World Witches: Take Off! was a little different than that of its predecessor. After revisiting the old episodes, it turns out such is not the case: both series have the same art style and visual tone, a consequence of acca effe and Giga Production being at the helm of production.
- Unlike Strike Witches and Brave Witches proper, there are no major themes covered by the Take Off! series of shorts. These are purely meant for quick-and-easy entertainment, and consequently, does not need to stand up to the usual scrutiny or discussion of the typical series. The closest equivalent I can think of would be K-On!‘s Ura-On! miniseries, which similarly placed the characters in a surreal world of humour purely to elicit a few laughs. However, whereas Ura-On! is very crudely done (resembling little more than napkin sketches with voices), the Take Off! series have been surprisingly good with respect to production quality for a work of its type.
- In the beginning, World Witches: Take Off! has the Karlsland Witches working on a film with Yoshika at its core. While Gertrude intends on making Yoshika to be a hero of sorts, Yoshika has a bit of difficulty embracing this role. Gertrude intends on having Yoshika be the subject, but when things break down, Yoshika decides to try filming Gertrude instead, Things rapidly devolve when, enraged with Erica, Gertrude decides to give her the ol’ beatdown.
- After her awakening, Erica suggests doing the movie in a slightly different direction; having dealt with media before, Erica prefers putting on a very soppy manner to pull on the viewers’ heart strings. While Yoshika wonders if this could come across as being dishonest, Gertrude’s direction fares hardly better: World Witches: Take Off! continues in its predecessor’s manner in presenting Gertrude as being perhaps a little too doting on Yoshika. Once the film’s direction settles a little (Gertrude and Erica both figure it’s a good idea to highlight Yoshika’s healing magic), Erica begins to wonder where the rest of the 501st went.
- After the stunt in the movie, the other members were forced to disband, and even with Minna’s station in the Army, it takes a bit of effort to bring everyone back. Even Yoshika is set to return home when her mother asks about things, threatening the 501st further. Minna has one last play, and asks Yoshika to lie. At the very least, Yoshika is allowed to stay, and she feels that the best way to meet everyone is to go visit them with gifts and a warm thank-you.
- Back in Fuso, Hikari lives her daily life trying to be the best Witch that she can despite lacking a strong magical potential. It’s been some four years since Brave Witches aired, so I can understand why World Witches: Take Off! would wish to ease viewers back into things and properly do a parody of what had actually happened. It speaks volume to the writing in World Witches: Take Off! that almost every moment in the original Brave Witches could be made fun of while at the same time, preserving the original story.
- As memory serves, the original Brave Witches had Hikari participate in a competition to see who would have the chance to go over to Orussia and work directly with a front-line group of Witches. A great many stories, both anime and in other media, feature a protagonist whose strength of resolve and heart allow them to rise to whatever occasion arises. It’s a very uplifting way of looking at things, and indeed, while some folks might not be the most skilled or talented in this moment, they may possess other traits that allow them to be immensely valuable down the line. As such, it can be worthwhile to invest some effort in mentoring these folks to see what they’re truly capable of accomplishing.
- Brave Witches had Hikari selected for the position after she saves classmate Mia from drowning during their competition, which had been to determine who was the more competent flier. However, Hikari’s actions had demonstrated that, despite her weaker skill, her heart means that she’s a better team player. In World Witches: Take Off!, however, the prospect of the Karibuchi sisters being heroes sways the villagers and judge’s decisions somewhat.
- I initially mentioned that I would be writing about both World Witches: Take Off! and Azur Lane: Slow Ahead this season. Slow Ahead does offer enough materials to write about, but because of my current schedule, I’ve found it immensely difficult to keep up with everything as they aired. At this point in time, I’m fully caught up with World Witches: Take Off!, Yuru Camp△ 2, Non Non Biyori Nonstop and Higurashi: Gou. However, I’m still only on episode one of Slow Ahead, and I’ve fallen to being two episodes behind on The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ second season.
- I’m not too sure how my schedule looks for the near future, but I should be able to remain up to date on Yuru Camp△ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop. Since I’ve chosen to write about World Witches: Take Off! every six episodes, I do not foresee any troubles with writing about this series once it’s finished, and I still have plans to write about Slow Ahead once everything’s done. Thus, we return to World Witches: Take Off!, where it’s off to Orussia with Takami and Hikari. Knowing this series, one can safely assume that their journey will be anything but ordinary.
- Erica suggests bringing a wooden panel of the Witches over to Gallia as a gift of sorts for Perrine and the others, but after Yoshika notices that everyone’s faces are still in, decides to rectify that by carving out holes on the board. However, since Gertrude and Erica are still discussing the logic of transporting it, they assume that Yoshika’s got something else planned out and make to stop her.
- The page quote was chosen simply to mirror the humour that is present in World Witches: Take Off!: the series has very little in the way of themes, and instead, is purely focused on the comedic elements. Laughter is one of the more puzzling aspects about human evolution, being a core part of social interactions. In response to situations of irony and comedy, which results from ridiculous situations or situations that subvert expectations, as Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes best puts it, “if we couldn’t laugh at the things that don’t make sense, we couldn’t react to a lot of life”.
- I’ve not featured any such screenshots for this post, but there are moments where the characters deform even more, usually while retorting to something outrageous. “Funny faces”, as I call them, are an integral part of World Witches: Take Off!, and coupled with the over-the-top voice acting, really conveys the sense that nothing happening here is meant to be taken seriously. A major part of the comedy in World Witches: Take Off! comes from the fact that since viewers have existing knowledge of the characters, watching them act in exaggerated ways (or ways that contradict their usual personalities) creates enough of a disconnect to render a situation ludicrous.
- Upon arriving in Gallia, Lynette immediately denies Yoshika any opportunity to cop a feel, as it were. Gertrude is still intent on shooting footage for the film, but before they can ready the camera, Perrine notices the panel with Mio’s face cut out. Yoshika manages to stave off imminent disaster, and after explaining to Perrine what their goals were, the 501st decide to change focus and unload the supplies.
- It becomes clear that whatever movie Gertrude had in mind is unlikely to be made in any sort of capacity: while Yoshika attempts to interview Lynette on screen, she becomes distracted when Lynette mentions one of her duties. The Yoshika of Strike Witches is less perverted than her Take Off! counterpart, and this is often employed as a joke. In turn, Lynette in Take Off! is more versed with dodging Yoshika and evading any attempts Yoshika may make.
- Back in St. Petersburg, Alexsandra is despondent about how, thanks to Naoe and Nikka’s tendency to destroy gear during training and in combat, the costs of shipping in replacement parts and equipment have left the 502nd destitute. Nikka’s bad luck is something of a recurring joke in Brave Witches, and for better or worse, she continues to wreck everything she sets her hands on. Because Takami had been set to arrive, headquarters had given the 502nd a boost to their budget to accommodate a hero of Fuso and a junior Witch. The prospect of a budget boost excites Alexsandra, but it turns out she’d come to speak with Naoe and Nikka for another reason.
- There’s a spare room on base, and Alexsandra indicates the time has come to properly clean the room out. It is striking that Nikka’s bad luck in World Witches: Take Off! is only somewhat worse than it was in Brave Witches, and if Naoe is to believed, Nikka can even fall through a perfectly safe and solid floor. In Brave Witches, the St. Petersberg base always came across as a little run-down compared to the facilities the 501st operated out of, but thanks to Georgette, things continue to run smoothly. In this first half of World Witches: Take Off!, we’ve not had a chance to see Georgette much as of yet.
- Naoe had been somewhat of an unpleasant character at the beginning of Brave Witches, but as Hikari got to know her better, the two would get along on better terms. World Witches: Take Off! has Naoe at odds with everyone, especially Waltrud: during the course of Brave Witches, Waltrud was presented as a bit of a womaniser, but was otherwise a competent Witch in the air. Because World Witches: Take Off! exists to exaggerate certain traits about every Witch, Waltrud here becomes insufferable; she shocks Nikka, who shoves the window out of its frame.
- Cleaning with these three turns out to be more of a disaster than expect ed, and ultimately, Naoe’s patience runs out. She’s able to render the room spotless. Unfortunately for her, Nikka and Waltrud have both spotted Naoe while she was in a good mood, and things quickly sour. Like Gertrude, Naoe is quick to resort to physical violence in World Witches: Take Off!, even more so than her counterpart in Brave Witches.
- I don’t recall that Alexsandra was ever this quick to tears in the original Brave Witches, and it suddenly strikes me that, with the four years that have passed since Brave Witches, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details in that series. I do remember Brave Witches as having an immensely likeable set of characters and dialing back on the pantsu in favour of world-building. When the series ended, I was very happy with it. I get that Strike Witches originally built its reputation on a lack of pants, but over the years, the series has taken numerous strides to develop its story and characters further.
- It turns out that Hikari had been worried about keeping up with Takami, and during lunch, Takami is deep in thought trying to work out something. She decides to test Hikari’s ability to handle the unexpected, using ketchup to mimic an old wound being opened. This completely backfires, and insofar, watching Hikari trying to blubber out an explanation of what’s happened to another Fuso Witch was adorable beyond words. No one believes that Takami is fine, and as a result of this, she’s sent back to Fuso to recover.
- Hikari is understandably devastated as Takami is flown back to Fuso for a full checkup despite the “injury” being minor; as Takami explains things to Gundula and Alexsandra, the latter becomes gloomy about what will happen to their supplementary funding. Absolutely outrageous situations are par the course in World Witches: Take Off!, and admittedly, it is refreshing to see a series poke fun at itself. I believe Gundam 00 also did this briefly with a pair of trailers for its second season, and curiously enough, a handful of the predictions in this parody turned out true: aliens did end up attacking and Setsuna did end up becoming Gundam by the events of Awakening of the Trailblazer.
- Once Yoshika visits Perrine and Lynette, next on the list is Charlotte and Francesca in Venezia, who appear to be in a spot of bother. It turns out they’re desperate to be extracted and reactivated, having told a fib about their achievements that snowballed into something out of control. With guilt getting the better of them, the pair attempt to worm their way out of an event of sorts, counting on the 501st’s arrival as an excuse to leave town.
- Because of the lack of pants in Strike Witches, whenever the characters grovel on the ground in the dogeza position (土下座), viewers are treated to a bit of scenery. The act of dogeza is usually reserved for situations demanding higher deference than even a deep bow, and anime are especially fond of using this when characters are begging for forgiveness. The equivalent in Cantonese is 叩頭 (jyutping kau3 tau4), and originally, like in Japan, was used to show deep respect to someone. While rarely used today, it is still a common practise in martial arts circles. The word eventually made its way into English as “kowtow”, which presently means “to be overly submissive”. When I see people do this, however, thanks to my weak command of some aspects of Cantonese, I idiosyncratically call it 拜神 (jyutping baai3 san4, literally “worshipping a deity”).
- Charlotte ends up being torn about leaving town, hoping to stay and enjoy the beer for another day, but now that they’ve found her, Gertrude is pretty gung-ho about getting Charlotte and Francesca back with the 501st – she offers to carry Charlotte and her motorcycle back single-handedly, but when this proves cumbersome, Yoshika steps in to help out. The real Yoshika is ever quick to help out, but World Witches: Take Off! supposes that Yoshika has ulterior motives beyond doing something altruistically.
- With Charlotte, it’s easy to guess why Yoshika is so quick on the uptake – after being denied by Lynette earlier, one can see this as Yoshika’s perversions manifesting yet again in World Witches: Take Off!. While such mannerisms can become tiresome very quickly, this has never been a problem in the Take Off! series because viewers are well aware of the fact that this is a parody of Strike Witches, and as such, greatly exaggerated mannerisms are understood as poking fun at every characters’ worst traits in the name of a few good laughs.
- When Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! finished airing, I recall reading somewhere that I had one of the few reviews around on the series shorts, and more unusually, of these few reviews, mine was the only one that was positive. The reason why I enjoyed Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! (and are currently enjoying World Witches: Take Off!) is simply because it is pure frivolity. There are no messages, no themes and no learnings; while I don’t have enough material to write my usual discussions for something like World Witches: Take Off!, the series still has enough materials to cover (e.g. what made it funny for me, and why the humour works).
- One of the things that World Witches: Take Off! does well is bringing back elements from Brave Witches and turning them into things that viewers certainly thought of doing. When Edytha suggests that Hikari climb the obelisk to retrieve a hat as part of her exercise and demonstrates it, Waltrud shows up and tries to sneak a peek of Edytha’s pantsu, prompting Edytha to drop down on Waltrud. I imagine that a handful of viewers would camp the obelisk for the same reasons as Waltrud, hence the joke being amusing. Waltrud does indeed exhibit such tendencies in Brave Witches, and official artwork implies that the pair are involved in a romantic manner.
- Later, Nikka falls to the ground after birds interrupt her climb, and while her face is initially too mangled to show to human eyes, her healing factor leaves her good to go moments later. As it turns out, the real exercise was to help Hikari identify the troublesome members of the 502nd. Whether or not this holds true is irrelevant: what it does suggest is that Hikari is in for a bit of turbulence in St. Petersburg as she acclimatises to life with the 502nd, and unlike Brave Witches, which saw Hikari improve as a Witch owing to her field experience, days of watching the Witches clash with one another will likely leave Hikari wondering what on earth happens up here.
- Alexsandra’s biggest gripe in Brave Witches had been broken resupply lines making it difficult to secure the materials needed to maintain and repair Striker Units. Her constant worry about the budget in World Witches: Take Off! is a callback to this, and here, she yells at Naoe for having wrecked more equipment. With this, we’re halfway through the second Strike Witches parody, and while there’s no sign of it happening yet, I remain hopeful that the 501st and 502nd could meet up properly for the first time; if the opening sequence is to be believed, Eila will get the short end of the stick should this happen.
The biggest element that’s been missing so far from World Witches: Take Off! is the actual meeting of the 501st and the 502nd. The opening sequence suggested that World Witches: Take Off! would be about the wild adventures and zany antics that could only come from such a large, varied cast coming together and bouncing off one another. Things like watching Eila suffer as Sanya speaks with more people, or Waltrud messing with members of the 501st presents an opportunity to create humour that is unparalleled. However, at the halfway point, World Witches: Take Off! shows no sign of having the 501st and 502nd meet. Time will tell as to whether or not a meet-up between the 501st and 502nd become a reality; I imagine that many viewers, myself included, would be quite keen to see this because it represents a chance to take the characters in a hitherto unseen direction and create new humour that is only possible with everyone and their unique characteristics. Having said this, World Witches: Take Off! has done a reasonable job of creating laughs insofar, and this series, while certainly not for anyone just entering the Strike Witches world (or have an aversion for bad jokes), is similar to Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! in that it provides outrageous moments of hilarity for the viewer, while at the same time, providing a glimpse into what life is like for Witches when they’re not training or sortieing to deal with the Neuroi threat.