The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Strike Witches

Shining with Light: Brave Witches Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“We just blew up that fucking ultimate weapon of theirs. P.S. Invasion cancelled, sir.” —George Gordon Haggard Jr., Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Despite Takami’s efforts with her Absolute Eye, the Neuroi Hive manages to repel the 502nd’s attack long enough to regenerate its cloud cover, deflecting the last of the heavy penetrator shells in the process. Hikari manages to arrive as the others land, wondering whether or not the hive can be defeated. She thanks the others for looking after Takami, and after the 502nd discover the remains of the shell’s core, a new plan is concocted: Naoe is to punch out the core after Hikari locates it. It turns out that, while Takami’s magic allows her to locate cores faster, Hikari’s Contact Eye is much more precise, and so, the 502nd take to the skies once more to deliver their payload. Gundula makes use of a magical shard to dissipate some of the clouds en route to the center, and once clear of the Neuroi fire, Hikari locates the core. Naoe is able to deal damage, but her magic is depleted in the process, leaving Hikari to kill the Hive with the Liberator. In the aftermath, Hikari is made a full member of the 502nd, parting ways with Takami on a high note. This is the ending that Brave Witches delivers, an expected and welcome one for its viewers. Remaining much more character-driven than Strike Witches‘ gimmick-laden final battles, Brave Witches manages to succeed in continuing the new trends that Operation Victory Arrow initiated, and with the season now over, I no longer will have Brave Witches to look forwards to on my Wednesday evenings. However, before that can happen, there is still a whole season’s worth of material to look over, alongside a verdict for the latest instalment in the Strike Witches franchise.

Hikari’s persistence and ceaseless determination may initially appear to be the primary theme in Brave Witches, but upon closer inspection, the actual thematic elements are much more intricate than Brave Witches otherwise conveys: through Hikari’s experiences with the 502nd, Brave Witches demonstrates that success is not solely determined by effort alone, but rather, as the sum of one’s experiences, whether these be a willingness to learn and adapt, a resolute eye for seeking out new solutions to a problem or supporting one’s allies within one’s means. Hikari might not be the fastest, strongest or tactically-minded Witch, but in her missions, she uses the resources available to her to the best of her capability, giving her teammates the support they require to neutralise the Neuroi threat, as well as being mindful of what she’s learned from Edytha to remain operational. Thus, while Hikari has a minimal number of Neuroi kills to her name (whereas Yoshika scores a few kills during the course of Strike Witches), her support role cannot be underestimated. While Hikari’s personality is a very driven one, her success as a Witch of the 502nd ultimately comes from her demonstrating an exemplary understanding of her own abilities to help those around her, whether it be giving Waltrud the Liberator or motivating Naoe into supporting her plan to destroy a Neuroi before the 502nd’s supply lines are crippled: by the finale, she’s evidently matured, taking the initiative to defeat an overwhelming enemy even when all seems lost and ultimately, earns the most substantial kill of the season in taking out the Neuroi with a Liberator, of all weapons.

Entering Brave Witches, my main interest was to see whether or not the spin-off could take the concepts from Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and apply them into a new group of Witches in a manner that would emphasise character growth and world-building over pantsu, making use of Neuroi battles to help characters mature. The Operation Victory Arrow OVAs had succeeded, and with the full season of Brave Witches complete, it is quite plain that Brave Witches has, as well: world-building is in abundance as characters explain the logistics of fighting Neuroi and delve into life as a Witch well beyond what was explored in the original Strike Witches. Moreover, whereas the Neuroi of the original Strike Witches were relatively lacking with respect to their intimidation factor, Operation Victory Arrow introduced new challenging aspects that made each battle a much more compelling one to behold. Brave Witches takes this one step further, allowing the Neuroi strategic capabilities, whether it be making use of a spotter-gunner pair to accurately target the 502nd’s provisions or manipulating the regional weather to facilitate easier movements. The Neuroi of Brave Witches represent a considerable threat to the Witches, but in keeping with the anime’s themes, a sufficient combination of teamwork, in conjunction with Hikari’s support, allows for the Neuroi to be repelled, leaving audiences with the impression that the 502nd has earned their victory over the Gregori Hive in spades.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the finale post to Brave Witches, I’m keeping in line with the tradition of having thirty screenshots and figure captions for this post, which should supply ample opportunity to cover most of the areas that are noteworthy. While stymied by production issues, and therefore should have ended last week, Brave Witches nonetheless represents a solid journey that I enjoyed every Wednesday of this season; looking back, it’s amazing as to how quickly these past three months have flown by, and now, it’s very nearly 2017.

  • Takami flies towards the Neuroi Hive with the aim of taking it out. In a solid summarisation of what the entirety of Brave Witches is about, the finale reinforces ceaselessly the theme that teamwork is the key to success. Takami is probably used to shouldering a great deal of responsibility as a consequence of her own role as an older sister, and consequently, is quite accustomed to solving her problems independently.

  • While a virtue, being independent also has its shortcomings: Takami is very nearly shot down before she manages to locate the core, and this time, it is with the support of the remainder of the 502nd that she pushes forwards.  With her fellow Witches repelling laser fire with every picogram of their strength, Takami manages to find the true core and relays its true coordinates to ground fire control, who prepare their 800 mm cannon for firing. However, Takami is downed a second time: lacking the energy to raise a shield, she’s shot down, and Georgette promptly makes to limit the damage.

  • Despite Hikari’s concerns, it appears that the Absolute Eye’s true danger is in diverting the user’s magic entirely away from defense, leaving them totally exposed. Moreover, Takami fell into a coma because medical attention was delayed early in Brave Witches. Hence, when Georgette is on station to support Takami, her condition does not deteriorate, and avoids the same sort of complications that were seen during the second episode. Such a moment here also gives me an opening to capture Georgette’s backside, but as far as fanservice goes, Brave Witches is remarkably tame.

  • The 502nd watch as the reserve shell is fired. This post comes a mere three days after Christmas; Christmas 2016 proved to be a superbly enjoyable one. Owing to scheduling, I had Christmas dinner with extended family a week before Christmas itself; on the menu was prime rib au jus, roasted crayfish topped with garlic and herbs and a unique, homemade sticky rice-stuffed turkey. This past week was Christmas proper: I remained at home thanks to heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve, where I had a turkey-and-ham dinner with the family. The weather cleared by Christmas Day: and after spending the morning playing through Sim City 4, I had a delicious turkey congee (where, as per tradition, I spent a quarter-hour picking the meat off the turkey bones used in the congee itself). Subsequently, I took a hike under the blue winter skies.

  • On Boxing Day, I spent a majority of the day at a mall, capitalising on the ridiculously good sales to pick up a new three-piece suit, tie, sport jacket and informal pants. Unlike last year, no hardcover books caught my eye (and I had already received some books for Christmas, including Makoto Shinkai’s The Sky Longing For Memories), so I passed on that. Because yesterday was a bank holiday, my company had the day off, and I took advantage of that: after stopping for some fish and chips with one of my friends, we watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s been a while since I had fish and chips: this time, I rolled with Alaskan Pollock, and the fish itself was fried nicely. There’s a savouriness to the batter, while the fish itself was flakey and tender. I was also impressed with the fries: seasoned well and thick-cut, they remind me a little of the fries a pub near my old junior high used to sell.

  • Now that I’ve seen Rogue One, I can say that Brave Witches shares commonalities with the latest Star Wars story. In the case of Rogue One, the combination of a darker story that nonetheless exudes hope with fantastic visual elements and Donnie Yen’s skill in martial arts made it a fantastic movie that is worked exceptionally well into the Star Wars universe. With the right balance of humour and introspection, this movie was remarkably fun to watch. Brave Witches does something similar for the Strike Witches franchise, and that I find the fact that I can even draw comparisons between Brave Witches and Rogue One to be a solid indicator that I greatly enjoyed Brave Witches.

  • The regeneration of cloud cover surrounding the Neuroi results in the destruction of the reserve shell, and with Takami out of the game, it seems as through all is lost: command has ordered the 502nd to retreat, as their entire arsenal has now been disabled or depleted. The 502nd themselves are dejected, wondering what other options they have left. However, Hikari is immensely relieved that Takami’s suffered no lasting harm, and her spirits are sufficient to overcome the grim mood settling over the 502nd.

  • Hikari makes another gamble on her Contact Eye, reasoning that like the Neuroi seen in the tenth episode, if the true core can be destroyed, the hive will follow. It’s a one-two combo that she’s now confident in delivering, and hearing this, Naoe is regains her resolve, stating that she’s still ready to punch out the Neuroi. Soon after, Gundula begins feeling a tingling in her old wounds: she’s found the remnants of the magical core from the destroyed shell.

  • Thus, a plan is born: using some of the shards to infuse Naoe’s gloves with magic, the Witches transform Naoe’s right fist into an impromptu shell. The plan seems viable until Naoe realises she’d given her gloves to Hikari, but Hikari has them on hand, allowing the plan to proceed. It is these subtle elements that mark Hikari as an invaluable support member of the 502nd: she’s always ready to lend a hand in whatever manner possible.

  • Meanwhile, Gundula locates a fragment of the shell that had punched through the Neuroi’s clouds earlier and mounts it to her rifle’s underbarrel grenade launcher. The plan is now prepared: after punching an opening through the clouds, the 502nd is to enter the hive and provide Hikari with all the covering fire they can muster. Hikari is then to use her Contact Eye to locate the core, and Naoe can subsequently disable the Neuroi.

  • While the plan sounds far-fetched on paper, in execution, Brave Witches presents the 502nd’s final attempt to destroy the Gregori Hive as one of courageous daring and bold resolve. With no Neuroi assimilation of human technology, this final battle is a show that Witches can best even a Hive on virtue of their own resourcefulness and an unfaltering sense of camaraderie amongst the Witches.

  • As a result, the Brave Witches finale solidly shows just how far Strike Witches has come: gone are the days of using the Witches as a paper-thin justification for showing pantsu, and instead, writers have made a serious effort to create plausible characters in a world rich in lore as a consequence of its unique premise.

  • Georgette stays behind to look after Takami while the remainder of the 502nd take flight and once again, do battle with a challenging foe. The notion of regenerating Neuroi brings to mind the Cyberdemon of DOOM: an incredibly thrilling but difficult battle, players felling it for the first time will be shocked as the Cyberdemon regenerates its health during teleportation to Hell, requiring a second fight to defeat it.

  • I recall that last year, for the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? finale, I was out on Boxing Day shopping when the episode released; when I got home, I was exhausted and could not summon up the motivation to watch the episode, much less write about it. I published the post out three days later. This year, the Brave Witches finale falls on a Wednesday, and I’ve grown acclimatised towards writing out posts on Wednesday evenings now. While this season’s episodic blogging of Brave Witches has been enjoyable, and demonstrates that I can keep up with an anime in an episodic fashion even in spite of my new routine, I think that in the long run, I will not likely be doing episodic posts for a large number of series.

  • Because this blog was not around when Strike Witches‘ first and second seasons were airing (in fact, I was a first-year undergraduate student at the time, going into my second year), I’ve never actually shown the interior of a hive. Armed with flexible arms, the Gregori hive is no pushover, driving the Witches to utilise all of their magical abilities and cunning in order to push through to its main body.

  • Hikari provides excellent covering fire for Naoe, who openly remarks that Hikari has improved substantially. At last, they reach the surface, and upon coming into contact with the Neuroi, Hikari is able to pinpoint the true core’s location, slamming her machine gun into the surface to mark the coordinates for Naoe. Looking back on this season, I recall saying that I would try to push posts out on Saturdays, but as the season wore on, posts came out increasingly early until I managed to work out a schedule that allowed me to publish on the same day as the episode released.

  • For me, Brave Witches also ended up being an exercise to determine whether or not it was possible for me to blog about a series in the episodic format, in a timely fashion. I suppose that the answer now is a resounding “yes”, although whether or not I choose to do so in 2017 will remain largely up to how interested I am in a show and how much time I’ve got. Back in Brave Witches, Naoe is able to expose the core with her strike, causing fractures along the hive’s surface. However, this effort is insufficient: despite Hikari’s words of encouragement, Naoe’s magical power has been exhausted, and she begins falling.

  • Hikari makes to save Naoe even when faced with the prospect of the true core shifting again, and as she positions herself to acquire a solid grip on Naoe, a familiar article falls from her pockets. It’s the FP-45 Liberator pistol, a literal Chekov’s Gun. Because folks from Tango-Victor-Tango seem to have their own definitions for literary terms, I’ll quickly define it here to be a dramatic principle that, once shown on screen, must be necessary to the narrative in some way. In short, if something is there, it must serve a purpose, otherwise, an author should remove it.

  • The term comes from Anton Chekov, who stated: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”. Brave Witches has executed this concept rather well: Hikari is given a Liberator pistol she becomes fond of, and counts as a good luck charm. In the original Strike Witches, the pistol would have likely been forgotten, never to be revisited. In Brave Witches, it returns twice to fulfil important roles in the story, in saving Waltrud from certain death, and giving Hikari the means to neutralise the hive.

  • Hikari humiliates the Neuroi by finishing it off with the Kolibri Liberator pistol. I do not believe there is an achievement in Battlefield 1 for killing an opponent with the Kolibri pistol, but there ought to be, since the weapon’s extremely low damage makes it seemingly a joke. However, as Matimi0 demonstrates, there is actually a way of making the Kolibri pistol work: used in conjunction with the Martini-Henri, it can be used to finish opponents, and the weapon’s high rate of fire can also be used to finish off camping snipers with well-placed headshots. I remarked in a comment somewhere that it would be hilarious if Hikari did wind up using the Liberator to finish the Neuroi, and with that prediction coming to pass, I am reasonably amused.

  • Takami and Georgette watch as the Neuroi hive collapses in a shower of sparkling ceramic. The end of the Neuroi hive is what prompts this page quote: sourced from Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Haggard makes this quip after informing a higher-up that Bad Company had just destroyed the Russian Scalar weapon to avert a war, but in Bad Company 2, it turns out the Russians are invading through Alaska. There is no such surprise in Brave Witches: the Gregori hive is gone for good.

  • Takami and Hikari reconcile properly after Hikari comes back from the assault unharmed, putting an end to the cooler interactions between the two sisters. One aspect that continued to be a point of contention is whether or not Takami’s behaviours during the tenth episode were justified, and being wise like the Mithrandir, I chose not to participate. If and when I’m asked for my position for the matter, I oppose the viewpoint that Takami’s behaviour was “written out of character”. Kind people are not incapable of surprisingly cold acts, especially when they lack the means to properly express it. The actual flow of events was that Hikari was already assigned for the transfer following Takami’s recovery, but Gundula offered Hikari a chance to replace Takami. Had she succeeded, Gundula would have moved to retain Hikari in the 502nd and accept full responsibility for the outcome of the operation against the Neuroi hive.

  • As such, whether or not Takami’s actions are “correct” are irrelevant: folks seem to be fixated on the misconception that Takami herself is directly responsible for Hikari’s reassignment, and while yes, Takami does come across as being quite unfriendly, the call ultimately was never hers to make. Her cold reception of Hikari is merely a front, trying to distance herself from what would otherwise be a difficult farewell and focus on the impending operation with minimal distractions. Hence, the back-and-forth about whether or not Takami’s actions are correct or necessary is about a completely different matter, resulting from misunderstanding the dialogues amongst the characters.

  • Back on the ground, Nikka smothers Naoe in relief that she’d made it back safely, promoting Naoe to say that this hurts more than anything the Neuroi could deal. She calls out to Georgette to be healed, but Georgette smiles and replies that she’s out of magic, as well. Because we’re so close to the Winter 2017 anime season, I note offhand that there aren’t any shows that catch my eye, so for the present, I’ll keep an open mind and in the meantime, look forwards to a season where I can spend my evenings on different things

  • The soundtrack in Brave Witches is something that I’ve mentioned with some frequency in earlier posts, primarily for its excellent role in creating a very specific emotional tenour in the anime. It released last week, and my copy’s arrived now — being able to listen to the songs closely, it is very obvious that the different pieces are meant to evoke memories of the music from the original Strike Witches, while at the same time, show that Brave Witches is distinct, unique from Strike Witches.

  • Of the slice-of-life pieces, my favourite tracks include 佐世保の魔法少女 (The Magical Girls of Sasebo), 孝美への想い (Her thoughts of Takami), 別離 (Separation) and 絆 (Bonds), while the combat-oriented tracks, such as 訓練の日々 (Daily Training), 試験飛行 (Test Flight), 502の戦い (502nd’s Battle) and グリゴーリ出現 (Gregori Appears) are of a quality that would not sound out of place in something like Battlefield 1. My favourite tracks overall on the soundtrack are 出発 (Departure), which resembles “500 Overs” from Strike Witches‘ second season soundtrack, and 別離 for evoking an image of a vast grass field under an unending blue sky, similar to Strike Witches‘ 再会 (Reunion) in atmospherics.

  • Throughout my episodic reviews of Brave Witches, I’ve made callbacks to other works, including Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka??, Futurama, James Bond, Battlefield 1 and even Dark Water. In addition, I’ve brought up concepts, such as thermal shock and structural properties of ceramics, as well as the distribution of mushrooms and some of Les Stroud’s Survivorman techniques: this plethora of topics demonstrates that there is no shortage of conversations that can be had from something like Brave Witches.

  • With Hikari becoming a permanent member of the 502nd, I think that Takami is transferred into the 508th, which also happens to be the course number of my undergraduate honours thesis course, MDSC 508. An official announcement accompanying the episode was that, in 2017, with the release of the Blu-Ray volumes, there will be a thirteenth episode included. The special edition is set to come out on August 25, 2017, which is a long ways into the future, and the artwork for the episode suggests that it will be about Eila and Sanya, which will be quite welcome (especially amongst the fans who felt shafted after Operation Victory Arrow did not depict their stories to any great detail). Naturally, I will be watching and writing about the OVA when the time comes. I would definitely love to see a continuation of Brave Witches, or a series following the (mis)adventures of another Joint Fighter Wing, such as the Africa or Karlsland Witches. With this being said, the next Strike Witches will be the forth instalment, and while I would be both enthralled and disappointed if Strike Witches 4: Modern Warfare becomes a thing, more Strike Witches is always welcome in my book.

  • The short verdict for Brave Witches is that the anime earns an A- (8.5 on a 10-point scale, as per my old Health Science grading rubric). Despite its rough production and derivative story, Brave Witches successfully applies the best concepts of Strike Witches and focuses them into a cohesive story about Hikari and the Strike Witches world, counting on Hikari’s development and interactions with the 502nd to maintain interest in the series, showing that Strike Witches can definitely be a series that stands solidly on its merits (especially in world-building) well beyond pantsu shots alone. This brings my Brave Witches discussions to an end for the present, and it’s been one hell of a ride — I greatly enjoyed watching and writing about Brave Witches, and will miss writing about it.

The ultimate question that remains for Brave Witches is a simple one: is it worth watching? This is not a particularly easy one to answer straight off the bat, even for a self-professed fan of the War on Pants. The primary reason for this is because audiences are a diverse clientele, each with their own preferences and interests, so the answer I can decisively offer is that “it depends”. Brave Witches takes many of the elements from Strike Witches and hones them, creating a set of new characters that add flair to the universe without being derivatives of the 501st Witches. By choosing to focus on the character interactions and presenting the Neuroi as a more credible threat, their world becomes much more intricate, illustrating just how much of an impact the Neuroi have on the world’s inhabitants, as well as the lengths humanity is willing to go to defend its survival. The cumulative effect is that Brave Witches‘ thematic aspect becomes much stronger than in previous Strike Witches, demonstrating that despite the seemingly-ludicrous notion of watching girls flying around the skies sans pants, the universe offers more than enough to tell a noteworthy story about humanity’s quest for survival. Technically, Brave Witches is mid-tier: the artwork is solid for the most part, but production shortcomings were visible in some episodes. Although somewhat distracting in places, overt CG does not detract too substantially from the overall experience. The soundtrack is of a generally high quality, combining the motifs and moods of classic Strike Witches songs with new melodies to emphasise that Brave Witches is simultaneously similar to and different than Strike Witches. The sum of all these points allows for a clearer conclusion to be reached — Brave Witches earns a strong recommendation for existing Strike Witches fans who have appreciated the direction that the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs were heading (and perhaps, doubly so for those who were dissatisfied with Yoshika’s vast latent magical powers). Despite its predictability, there are enough surprises to keep the veteran viewers guessing. For general audiences, Brave Witches earns a recommendation; Brave Witches might prima facie be about girls flying around with their pantsu for the entire world to check out, but notions of teamwork, persistence and adaptability, coupled with a well-developed alternate universe means that there is much more to the anime than is initially apparent.

We Won’t Know Until We Try!: Brave Witches Eleventh Episode Impressions and Review

“Without vision you don’t see, and without practicality the bills don’t get paid.” —Paul Engle

Hikari sets off from the 502nd’s Petersburg base in fine spirits, after sharing a conversation with Naoe about how she’s glad to have had the opportunity to help everyone out to the best of her ability and giving the others a farewell. She meets Sanya and Eila at the train station, and they head off towards Sumous. Meanwhile, the 502nd are briefed on their assignment: they are to defend a pair of Schwerer Gustav 800 mm railway guns that have been equipped with special-purpose ammunition dedicated to take out the Neuroi hive. The operation proceeds nominally after the Witches fend off Neuroi waves, allowing the first gun to fire a HE round that strips away the clouds surrounding the hive. However, the hive responds with a fierce counter-attack, destroying the second gun. Takami tries to remove the shell from the damaged cannon and deliver it, but it is with the 502nd’s full efforts that the second shell is airlifted and dropped over the Neuroi hive. Despite seemingly succeeding, the Hive begins to regenerate; Takami learns that there is a second core that manages to elude her magic. Back on the ground, Hikari leaves the train with the goal of stopping Takami from executing her ability again. While previous battles against Neuroi hives in Strike Witches have always pushed the bounds for plausibility, Brave Witches‘ hive battle has proceeded in the absence of moments that defy known logic, and everything that has been seen this episode has been established firmly as being possible. With the mind no longer wandering about trying to make sense of everything, it leaves audiences free to enjoy the start of Brave Witches‘ final battle.

While the events the of penultimate episode of Brave Witches were predictable, the path taken to reach a particular outcome remain distinct from those seen in Strike Witches; Brave Witches continues to differentiate itself from its predecessor by making use of new tricks in a familiar environment, all the while striving to maintain a fine balance between continuity and viewer engagement. The magic-assisted Schwerer Gustav 800 mm railway guns utilised strategically to assault the Neuroi are indicative of the lessons learnt from the 501st’s misadventures with the Warlock, an artificial weapon using a Neuroi core to power its weapons. In spite of its overwhelming power, its operators lost control of it and were on the cusp of precipitating an even larger crisis. Hence, other military forces have learnt not to make extensive use of Neuroi technology, instead, falling back in weapons that have been tested to work. Practicality notwithstanding, conventional weapons nonetheless remain ineffective against a Neuroi with a mobile core, and in keeping with this episode’s title, it would appear that the eleventh episode is suggesting that in the face of extraordinary circumstances, innovation (in the form of trying something different) is a necessity to overcome challenging odds.

Screenshots and Commentary

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  • Hikari seems to be in high spirits even after the events of the previous episode: she bids farewell to the 502nd, receiving some food and drink from the others, as well as the damaged liberator back from Waltrud. Today’s post comes a bit slower than usual because WordPress decided it was a good idea to change up the user interface, conveniently discarding features I’ve grown used to for pushing a post out.

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  • The experience is akin to being switched off a bolt-action rifle I’ve been using for five years, with optics that must be manually zeroed but work between 0 and 1000 meters. The replacement rifle would be a semi-automatic weapon with self-zeroing optics that I have no control over, and can only be zeroed between 0 and 500 meters. There are features that I plainly miss from the old WordPress editor, namely, the ability to copy and paste tags from old posts, the ability to edit posts in bulk and the ability to copy images from my hosts without waiting for an upload, then center them in the page. Back in Brave Witches, once Hikari sets off, and Nikka tearfully waves her goodbye, the 502nd return to their briefing room and are given their assignment.

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  • These new “updates” to WordPress impede my speed, and is doubly frustrating because of a long day at work spent trying to figure out Apple’s nonexistent Swift 3.0 documentation. As it stands, seeing Eila and Sanya back in Brave Witches was precisely what I needed to relax this evening; they await Hikari at the train station and are set to accompany her to Kuahava via train.

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  • After Eila offers Hikari some salmiakki, the intense flavours in what is essentially salted liquorice overwhelm her, resulting in another “funny face” moment that I’m almost certain resulted in my prompt punishment through the new WordPress interface. The salt is not common table salt (sodium chloride), but the more potent ammonium chloride that can numb the tongue or even induce a stinging sensation. Like stinky tofu, durians and lutefisk, the description of salmiakki means that it is an acquired taste.

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  • Back in the air with a skilful partner, Naoe and Takami resolve to blow the Neuroi hive out of the skies as they fly towards their objective. Naoe has plainly grown to care for Hikari, but she remains most familiar with Takami; once the battle begins in earnest, the two take on a forward role in dealing with any Neuroi posing a threat to their escorts. Lacking any of the banter she and Hikari shared, it’s all business for Naoe.

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  • Large number of anti-air cannons and tanks participate in the battle, alongside conventional aircraft. Although capable of putting out a large volume of sustained fire, the Neuroi begin their own counter-attack, driving friendly casualties up to thirty percent in a matter of moments. However, in keeping the Neuroi occupied, this reduces the amount of fire directed against the railway artillery cannons.

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  • Large number of particles fill the sky as projectiles begin punching through Neuroi. Fantastic for depicting transient objects, such as smoke, flame and ice crystals, particles are graphic objects used in rendering fuzzy phenomenon. They are used to great effect in contemporary games, and in my thesis, were used to fill biomolecular spaces with moving objects to give a sense of activity. Even though modern GPUs can render millions of particles in each frame, biomolecular spaces are yet more complex, being filled with billions of moving proteins and molecules.

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  • Having recovered from the saltiness of Eila’s liquorice, Hikari listens to radio transmissions from a receiver that Eila’s brought with them. Throughout the battle, Sanya uses her magic to listen in on her surroundings. Listening to the combat dialogue on a radio can be quite harrowing, since one can’t readily see what’s going on, and I suddenly recall that I’ve not listened to a Flames game on the FAN 960 AM radio channel for quite some time — it was quite difficult to follow a game. Typically, the only actions really easy to visualise were goals and saves.

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  • The first shell is fired as per the battle plan: here, Witches of the 502nd defend it from Neuroi attack, harmlessly deflecting the attack. The Schwerer Gustav guns were capable of putting 7.1 tonne shells 38 kilometers downrange and originally planned to be utilised to punch through heavily fortified positions on the Maginot Line, although the weapons were not used with any frequency — the Gustav saw combat use in a few battles, while the Dora was used in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 but is thought to have never been fired. Towards the end of World War II, Germany destroyed the weapons to prevent the advancing Red Army from capturing them.

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  • The first HE round is successful: after leaving the barrel, it imparts a large shock wave that jostles nearby Witches around and dispels the clouds surrounding the hive. However, heavy fire penetrates a shield that Nikka and Georgette have projecting, destroying the barrel on one of the Schwerer Gustav cannons and rendering it inoperational. Ground command immediately orders their remaining Gustav cannons to chamber the anti-Neuroi shell, but the twenty minute wait becomes unacceptable owing to how quickly the battle is moving.

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  • This is the first time that I’ve seen a Neuroi Hive without its clouds, and the structure  of the Gregori hive resembles a large shipyard similar to the Tharsis Shipyard from in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: it’s a large pillar with two large rings surrounding it, and Edytha discovers that it is impervious to conventional weaponry, necessitating the rounds from the Schwerer Gustav to destroy properly. The hive offers one additional challenge: flexible appendages that can independently target fast-moving targets such as the Witches.

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  • Determination and a refusal to give up is a trait the Karibuchi sisters share; Takami tries to single-handedly lift the anti-Neuroi shell to its destination. Alexsandra mentions that the shell’s mass is around one ton, but even assuming it is one metric ton (1000 kilograms) as opposed to one US ton (roughly 907.18474 kilograms), the shell would still be much lighter than the Schwerer Gustav’s high-explosive round, which was the lighter of the two shells the weapon could fire and had a mass of 4.8 metric tons.

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  • In a titanic effort from all of the 502nd’s Witches, the shell is finally moved and airlifted to its destination, where gravity is counted on to do the rest, allowing the shell to punch through the Neuroi’s core and destroy it. In its original specifications, the shell is stated to have the equivalent of a hundred Witches’ worth of magic, in turn leading me to wonder where the magical energy is extracted from.

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  • Going purely from aesthetics alone, Georgette and Nikka probably remain my favourite Witches of the 502nd, although I could be swayed to be more receptive of Takami after this screenshot. The reason why this image was included in lieu of a moment featuring the 502nd in combat was primarily because Brave Witches proved to be very disciplined with respect to the number of infamous pantsu moments that appeared throughout much of its run. However, there are some moments such as these, and so, I include Takami’s assets to accentuate the fact that crotch-shots are rare in Brave Witches, if they only appear once every two to four posts.

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  • The Neuroi hive shatters immediately after impact, and the 502nd believe their operation has completed successfully, but given that it is only the eleventh episode, it was not surprising to see the Neuroi begin reassembling itself, with the Witches learning that it had a second movable core. Ordinarily, this would be counted as a contrived means of extending the battle, but because Brave Witches has made it clear that Neuroi are capable of such a feat, I chalk things up to clever writing that plainly establish what is and is not possible within the Brave Witches universe.

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  • I’ve read that some viewers were looking for a bit of time spent giving Gundula some background (namely, how she came about her injury and what her story was) in animated form, but this penultimate episode offers none of that; apparently, the story was covered in supplementary material. She is a phenomenal Witch who suffered a serious back injury after having her sight obstructed by Neuroi debris, and while usually choosing desk work, she will fly into battle if the need is great. I found that Gundula resembles Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s Elisabeth in appearances alone.

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  • A break in Neuroi jamming allows Hikari to learn that the Neuroi has regenerated, and that Takami is planning to utilise her trump card to stop it. In light of Takami’s falling into a coma the last time this ability was used, Hikari feels that it’s up to her to stop Takami. She leaps off the train to Eila and Sanya’s surprise and begins making her way to her Striker unit, and one wonders if Eila and Sanya may also participate in next week’s showdown with the Neuroi hive.

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  • Now that things have cooled off a bit, I conclude that, if I can just figure out how to copy tags between posts and determine what’s needed to properly format images so there is not a large gap between the image and figure caption, I could probably grow accustomed to the new interface. Similarly, there might be a means, albeit a roundabout one, of solving the Swift 3.0 problem I’ve got at work. I won’t know until I try for either, and with that being said, this week’s post comes to a full end.

Hikari’s concern for her sister is what leads her to jump train and make her way back to an operational Striker Unit: having solidly established that Hikari cares deeply for Takami, it is quite fitting that it is this concern that prompts her to come back. With Hikari looking to join the battle against the Hive, the upcoming finale is shaping up to be a climatic sequence that will likely see the two sisters see eye-to-eye about Hikari’s desire to fight alongside the 502nd as a Witch. There’s only one episode to Brave Witches left by this point, and it should be quite apparent that Brave Witches has done a fantastic job this season in both standing out from Strike Witches while simultaneously incorporating the best elements from its predecessor. It will be quite exciting to see how Brave Witches chooses to send the audiences off in its finale. In keeping with how I handle finales for episodic reviews, next week’s post on the last episode will be a bit larger than the average post, detailing my thoughts on the series as a whole, and unless Brave Witches manages to do something completely outrageous (equivalent to an NHL team blowing a 6-0 lead with five minutes left in the third period), I am reasonably confident that my assessment of Brave Witches will be a predominantly positive one.

Big Sister and Little Sister: Brave Witches Tenth Episode Impressions and Review

“I’m forty percent back, baby!” —Bender, Futurama

Takami sets off for Petersburg after her recovery as Hikari continues to aid the 502nd in their operations. When a senior officier announces that Takami is to participate in Operation Freyja, with the aim of taking out the Neuroi hive, the 502nd misinterpret the request and assume it’s Hikari. However, when Takami arrives, her reception with Hikari proves to be a cold one; she openly disapproves of Hikari’s presence in the front lines and has arranged for her to be transferred to her original assignment in Kauhava. Gundula notices that both sisters seem unable to properly enunciate their true thoughts — Hikari is determined to prove that she’s ready to fly and fight alongside Takami, while Takami worries about Hikari’s safety. When a Neuroi previously thought to be destroyed reappears, Gundula proposes a challenge: whoever locates the core first will remain with the 502nd, while the vanquished will be reassigned to Kauhava. In a tense battle, the Witches learn that the Neuroi was able to regenerate because it had a nested core, and Takami’s experience allows her to edge out Hikari, leaving Hikari in tears at the prospect of having to leave her friends and allies. Although it may be strange to compare Brave Witches vis-à-vis Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??, this tenth episode seems to have been ready-made to depict an alternative, but plausible dynamic that might have existed between Cocoa and Mocha.

Much as how Cocoa constantly strives to achieve what Mocha can accomplish, the skill gap between Hikari and Takami become quite apparent in this episode. In both cases, the younger sibling falls behind in their capabilities, make up for it with pure spirit, and find that their friends are much more at ease when the older sibling is around. Similarly, much like how Mocha cares deeply for Cocoa and will be moved to tears if Cocoa rejects her companionship, Takami worries for Hikari’s well being, fearing that Hikari might be injured in combat. This ultimately forms the crux of the episode — Takami feels that Hikari’s resolve will override her own concern; a conventional conversation would be unlikely to yield results, she reasons. This approach merely serves to drive Hikari to push harder and show Takami she’s ready to fly with her, and in the episode’s battle, Hikari’s improvement becomes visible when she manages to find the core mere moments after Takami did. While insufficient on terms of the agreement, this does show the distance that Hikari’s come since arriving in Petersburg.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To kick things off, I am trying to fight off a growing cold right now that comes as a consequence of temperature extremities (it’s been an average of around -20°C for the daytime high where I am, but my office, being in an older building, is blazing hot thanks to an overactive centralised heater and the fact that I sit beside a window), so today, I’ve been coughing even as I continue debugging my app and considering how to implement the remaining features.

  • For now, I’ve not been coughing too much, so I’m still able to watch and write about the latest episode of Brave Witches without too much difficulty. Hikari’s growing capabilities as a Witch means she’s now able to use her Contact Eye in conjunction with plenty of teamwork from the 502nd; they destroy yet another Neuroi, and even Naoe has begun accepting Hikari as being useful for the team.

  • Shortly after their sortie, Field Marshal Manstein appears. The most senior rank in old armies, the United States military has not historically used this rank, instead creating the rank General Of the Army (a five-star General): in December 1944, George Marshall was promoted to a five-star General and so, could have been addressed as Marshal Marshall by subordinates. Back in Brave Witches, Manstein provides the briefing to the Witches’ next operation: their mission to neutralise the large Neuroi hive has been pushed forward in response to the hazard it poses to the supply lines.

  • It turns out the fleet Waltrud and the others were defending in episode eight was carrying a railway gun, probably the Schwerer Gustav. An 80 cm piece of siege artillery, it was constructed with the intent of smashing through the Maginot line during trench warfare, being one of the largest gun firing the heaviest shells ever build. Some translations yield this artillery piece as a “railgun”, but that is incorrect, since a railgun is strictly a device that consists of two parallel rails that accelerate a projectile to high speeds by means of high potential differences (contrast a coil-gun, or Gauss gun, which uses magnetic coils to accelerate a kinetic impactor). Such technology is very unlikely to be utilised in Strike Witches by conventional forces and would remain confined to the realm of magic if it existed.

  • While Hikari is delighted to see Takami once more, Takami does not return these feelings; she coldly dismisses Hikari and wonders why she’s been in Petersberg contrary to her assignment, before ordering her to return to her original post. Her response to Hikari leaves the latter in a bit of surprise, and their interactions for the remainder of the episode are not particularly cordial. The page quote is sourced from Futurama, meant to be my rather irreverent outlook on the episode’s main themes 😛

  • Despite nearly four months of inactivity, Takami’s combat skills do not appear to have deteriorated, and she fights Waltrud to a standstill during an exercise. The mock weapons in Strike Witches have always been denoted with an orange hue to indicate that they’re strictly for exercise, firing paint pellets.

  • I suddenly realise that I’ve not used a sauna for the longest time, and wish that I could spend a quarter-hour in one to help me overcome my cold; the warmth of a sauna would completely remove my body’s energy expenditure on keeping warm, and while much of the mechanisms behind how a sauna helps out remain speculation, it has been known to help in lessening cold-like symptoms. Since I don’t happen to have access to a sauna, I usually drink copious amounts of water and sleep more with the aim of recovering.

  • This moment speaks rather strongly about the gap in Takami and Hikari’s magical abilities: whereas Hikari must climb the monolith on all fours with her fullest concentration to reach the top, Takami can simply walk to the top. While it may come across as unusual that I bring Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? into this week’s Brave Witches discussion, I figured that the two episodes seemed to have quite a bit in common with its underlying portrayal of an older and younger sibling.

  • Gundula is very astute and picks up immediately the rationale behind Takami’s actions: it is only natural to be concerned about a younger sibling’s well-being and safety. As an older sibling myself, I know that feeling quite well, although I see myself as being more open-minded and trusting; I usually ask “are you sure” or equivalent, and if I get an affirmative, that’s good enough for me.

  • In stark contrast with GochiUsa‘s duel of the bakers, the stakes are much higher as both Takami and Hikari agree to a showdown: the first to locate the core leading to a kill will remain with the 502nd, while the defeated will be shipped off to Kauhava (a Finnish town with around 16000 people). Hikari’s resilience is remarkable, and even knowing how greatly Takami eclipses her, refuses to stand down. Both the Karibuchi sisters share this trait, being quite unmoving from their stances once their hearts are set on something.

  • Gundula smiles even as the emotional tenour of the room escalates: she knows that both the Karibuchi sisters will be giving it their all to demonstrate to the other the strength of their resolve and as such, also stand a better chance of besting a Neuroi that eluded even Waltrud. In light of this fact, Gundula finally steps out onto the battlefield for herself, donning a special brace to prevent her old injuries from manifesting.

  • I recall in my discussion of the first episode that time would requireed in order for me to recall the names of each Witch in the 502nd from memory, but as early as episode seven, I’ve learnt everyone’s names fully. Permit me a demonstration: besides Hikari and Takami up front, we have from left to right Edytha, Sadako, Nikka, Naoe, Gundula, Waltrud, Alexsandra and Georgette. This moment also allows me a chance to capture a screenshot of all the 502nd’s members, both fully-qualified and temporary, in a single frame.

  • Whereas the CG effects in the previous episode were particularly egregious, this tenth episode manages to improve on the quality overall: Hikari dodging laser fire from the Neuroi here is rendered in CG, and the flat geometric surfaces seen in earlier episodes appear to be smoothed out. She weaves through the fire and smoothly re-appears in a hand-drawn form.

  • The swarms of Neuroi make a return in Brave Witches, and this opponent is a tough one for the 502nd even with Takami back in combat. While Takami seemingly ends combat within the first thirty seconds, it turns out there’s a nested core inside the larger core, accounting for why the Neuroi was able to regenerate: the Neuroi seen in Brave Witches have been inventive, imaginative and provide interesting opponents for the Witches to fight each week, in contrast to the duller ones seen in Strike Witches.

  • Takami plainly is the superior Witch, as evidenced by her providing covering fire and carefully computing her next course of action to complete her objective, while Hikari seems uses a much less disciplined approach and rushes the objective. While Battlefield 1 as of late has promoted the PTFO (“Play the fucking objective”, for those unfamiliar with the acronym), playing the object means assessing whether or not an objective is safe, and moving in to secure it if an enemy presence is eliminated. It does not mean rushing blindly to a capture point and dying, costing one’s team a ticket.

  • Takami’s magic lets her locate the secondary core with a high precision, and I’ve noticed that in a great number of military-themed anime (even Gundam), none of the anime ever use the military grid reference system to refer to refer to points on Earth. This is perfectly fine, since devising a proper system would require proper knowledge of how the MGRS works, and then properly translating it to space or other environs. In Brave Witches, Takami shouts the coordinates out to Gundula of the Neuroi’s true core once she spots it.

  • While Takami is locating the core, Hikari tries to close the distance between her and the Neuroi. Naoe and Nikka shout words of encouragement, and Hikari manages to touch the Neuroi’s hull, discovering the core only seconds after Takami did. In contrast with my previous Brave Witches post, this one was done entirely on my MacBook Pro, including the preparation of screenshots. Without a mouse handy, it was trickier, but I think the results worked out nicely enough.

  • I might be sick, and I might’ve only had around ten to twelve frames’ worth of time (around 0.4167 to 0.5 seconds) to have captured this moment on a MacBook Pro (whose trackpad, spacebar and screenshot mechanism aren’t well-suited for capturing screenshots), but I managed to get the frame right before Gundula takes the shot and eliminates the Neuroi. These are not bad reflexes for someone with a cold, if I may say so myself.

  • Like Waltrud, Hikari is hit with a stray Neuroi drone after its destruction, and Takami saves her, smiling warmly for the first time in the episode. The outcome of this battle is that Takami wins our by a very narrow margin, and in fact, is reminiscent of a scene from Red Cliff, where Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang agreed that if the other failed their task (respectively, collecting a hundred thousand arrows and deceive Cao Cao into disposing of his top admirals), they would be executed under military law. Both manage to complete their tasks successfully, but were ready to accept death had they failed, and while more dramatic than what happens in Brave Witches, is a curious parallel: Hikari is set to head for Kauhava.

  • I admit that it was a little painful to watch Hikari bawl her eyes out in response to the outcome: the 502nd is where she’d learnt to be a Witch and where she bonded with people who once doubted her, contributing to their operations in whatever manner she could. However, because this is Hikari’s story, I doubt things will end so soon — Strike Witches‘ first season seemed grim in its final hours after the 501st was disbanded, but they managed to come back together and defeat the Neuroi. With this week’s episode, and post, now in the books, I’m going to head off and get some proper sleep.

Consequently, while Hikari is set to pack her bags and leave the 502nd, Hikari’s progressed, coupled with her own role as Brave Witches‘ protagonist and how things generally turn out in Strike Witches, means that in the upcoming final battle between the 502nd and the Neuroi hive will doubtlessly play out with Hikari contributing alongside everyone else. This prediction should be quite easy to reach given that Brave Witches has followed the methodologies of Strike Witches to some extent, although how the aforementioned outcomes are reached differ between the two series. As such, while it’s not difficult to surmise that Hikari will be participating in the final battle in some way, what will be worth keeping an eye for is how this particular outcome is reached, as well as how the journey impacts the different characters. With only two episodes of Brave Witches left on the table, I’m looking forwards to seeing what events await in the final episodes and differentiate itself from Strike Witches, especially given how Strike Witches pushed the boundaries for what stunts the 501st could accomplish against Neuroi hives.

Break Witches: Brave Witches Impressions and Review at the ¾ Mark

“It’s the insurance damage waiver for your beautiful new car. Now, will you need collision coverage? ”
“Yes.”
“Fire?”
“Probably.”
“Property destruction?”
“Definitely.”
“Personal Injury?”
“I hope not, but accidents do happen.”
“They frequently do with you.”
“Well, that takes care of the normal wear-and-tear. Is there any other protection I need?”
“Only from me 007, unless you bring that car back in pristine order.”

—Q and James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies

Naoe is punished in light of the latest damages her new Shiden Kai incur, and Alexsandra warns Hikari against developing a propensity for damaging Striker Units. Later that night, Naoe notices Hikari wandering into the hanger; despite Hikari’s insistence that she will improve, Naoe dismisses her. Gundula and Edytha brief the 502nd the next morning: there’s a Neuroi holding position over the supply lines that must be destroyed, and with Waltrud out of commission, Naoe is asked to lead the operation. The 502nd find that their adversary is capable of putting up a fierce frontal bombardment, and while Edytha learns the location of its core, Alexsandra is injured in defending Naoe from a stray beam. The next day, Naeo falters after Gundula gives Hikari authorisation to use her Contact Eye, but a surprise pep talk from Hikari leads Naoe to regain her composure. With Hikari able to locate the core, Naoe smashes her way through the Neuroi, neutralising it. Back in Japan, Takami reawakens when Yoshika revives her. Appropriately titled, this week’s episode of Brave Witches sees the failure of no fewer than four Striker Units within the course of the same episode and provides a definitive bit of insight as to why Alexsandra responds with punishment whenever a Striker Unit is damaged. Given that the 502nd are located in a relatively remote area where resupply lines are challenging to maintain, this unit’s unfortunate habit of damaging their primary means of engaging the Neuroi places strain on their provisions. Every repair means consuming supplies that might be crucial later on, and while Alexsandra is doing her best to ensure that the gear they have will last, the others’ blasé attitudes towards maintaining operational equipment is precisely what gives the 502nd their infamous moniker “Break Witches”.

The interactions between Hikari and Naoe form the focus for the ninth episode. While Naoe has shown increasing concern for Hikari as Brave Witches progressed, her opinion of Hikari as a Witch remains generally low owing to Hikari’s comparatively limited experience and abilities. Naoe is quick to dismiss Hikari at every turn, but when she begins to doubt herself following Waltrud and Alexsandra’s injuries, even she is not immune to a sense of unease. Naoe’s pride as a Witch is ultimately trumped when pitted against Hikari’s unwavering determination to contribute to the 502nd’s operations; her willingness to put herself in harm’s way, coupled with her reminders to Naoe as to what’s important, are sufficient for Naoe to come around and regain the resolve to complete their operation. In the aftermath, a lapsus linguae from Naoe leads her to count Hikari as a partner, an equal of sorts worthy of flying into combat with her. Although she vehemently denies having said so, it becomes clear that Hikari’s left an impression on Naoe. Notions of a novice having a strong positive impact on a squadron of veteran witches thus endure from Strike Witches, and similar to how Yoshika’s actions resulted in Perrine accepting her as time passed, Hikari is doing the same within the 502nd.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This week’s episode page quote is sourced from Tomorrow Never Dies, when Q walks 007 through an insurance form for his new BMW 750iL. One of the longest running jokes in the James Bond franchise is 007’s frequent disregard for Q Branch equipment — most of his cars, gadgets and tools are destroyed or lost at the end of a mission despite Q’s frequent pleas for Bond to return everything in “pristine condition”. It seemed an appropriate choice for mirroring the Break Witches’ tendency to go through an uncommonly high number of Strike Units.

  • Waltrud is still recovering from last week’s episode: remarked to be one of the more capable Witches in the 502nd, her injury prompts Gundula to consider stepping out onto the battlefield herself. Insofar, she’s not seen any combat on account of an injury from an earlier operation that damaged her back. Prior to this, she was one of the top Witches around, and despite her seemingly-serious demeanour, is actually quite friendly and good-humoured.

  • One could make a case that Naoe is tsundere towards Hikari, at once finding it difficult to accept her and making it a point to reinforce this while her actions seem to suggest otherwise. Fixated on improving herself, Naoe counts progress solely in terms of number of Neuroi shot down, whereas Hikari counts progress as how much support she is able to offer the others on each operation. I tend to play Battlefield with Hikari’s mindset: so as long as my team wins and I get points for revives, heals and resupplies, I count it a success even if my KD ratio is negative.

  • In fact, some matches, I’ve been asked how I make the top three of scoreboards despite having a KD ratio below 1.0. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd’s first attempt on a new Neuroi ends when Alexsandra is shot down while deflecting beam fire from Naoe, who’s become careless and charges the Neuroi. Its unusual firing pattern leads Edytha to deduce that its other sections are not as heavily protected, and she quickly finds the core, but are unable to eliminate it once Alexsandra is shot down.

  • Injuries are par the course in Strike Witches, and Georgette does her best to stablise Alexsandra here. After a tense few moments, the doctors remark that Alexsandra will be okay. In spite of this, Naoe grows pensive, blaming herself for Alexsandra’s injury.

  • In spite of her harsh outlooks on anyone who damages their Striker Units, Alexsandra cares deeply for her teammates and expresses relief that Naoe is alright following their first failed attempt on the Neuroi. Having flown into combat with Naoe for a long period of time, Alexsandra notes that she’s well aware of Naoe’s preferred fighting style and hence, it was her limited covering fire that resulted in this accident, rather than anything on Naoe’s part.

  • In spite of two excellent pilots out of commission, the threat posed to the 502nd’s supply line necessitates another attempt on the Neuroi. The map behind Gundula and Edytha show major Neuroi positions: a long time ago, I recall reading that the Neuroi utilise a substance known as miasma (“μίασμα”, Greek for “pollution” and used in reference to a foul or offensive odor) that dissolves the land, which the Neuroi utilise to power their weapons and replication. This is why Neuroi cannot traverse oceans.

  • Following the arrival of the fan-type Neuroi, the landscape around the Petersburg area is blanketed in snow, and winter has set in fully. On my side, the weather has likewise become quite cold, averaging around -20°C over the next few days. With windchill, things will feel much colder, between -25°C and -30°C, although I feel that proper December weather has been long overdue: November was remarkably mild. With this being said, I’ve become okay with cold days, both because I have the proper clothing to keep warm, and because after a cold spell, days where it’s -15°C feel balmy by comparison.

  • Nikka, Hikari and Naoe fly over taiga en route to their target: the landscapes below reminds me of the ninth Ace Combat: Assault Horizon mission, set in Russian Taiga by winter as the player must provide air cover for allied transports carrying medical provisions. It’s been two-and-a-half years since I last flew a plane in Ace Combat, and during that time, I was also watching Wake Up, Girls!. Their latest movies, Shadow of Youth and Beyond The Bottom have finally become accessible, and at some point in the near future, I will be watching and writing about them.

  • Opponents whose patterns are well-established, though welcome to fight for reducing the danger, would offer very little excitement for viewers. On the other hand, Brave Witches seems to portray the Neuroi in a distinct manner even compared to Strike Witche: the Neuroi in Brave Witches seem to be much more intimidating in their capabilities, employing strategic actions or revealing surprise tactics that leave the Witches in surprise. This week’s Neuroi is capable of splitting up, promptly nullifying the 502nd’s original plan of striking its undefended core.

  • By focusing tributary beams into one concentrated blast, the Neuroi is able to put serious amounts of firepower downstream. What was supposed to be a straightforward (if challenging) mission becomes much more difficult after the Neuroi splits, and realising that they have no chance of hitting the core owing to the Neuroi’s further ability to alter its structure, Hikari requests permission to use her Contact Eye in order to quickly locate the core.

  • Gundula agrees and orders Naoe to proceed, much to Edytha’s horror. However, Naoe folds under the pressure, fearing that her actions may result in yet another injury. She falters and tries to call off the operation, but is stopped by Hikari, who reprimands her, saying that this isn’t the Naoe that she knows. With tears in her eyes, Hikari wishes to at least give this seemingly suicidal plan a shot before deciding whether or not it will work.

  • Hikari’s words seem to have the desired effect, and Naoe headbutts Hikari to briefly break her speech. Her confidence restored by Hikaris determination, Naoe quickly issues orders, outlining a plan to get Hikari closer to the Neuroi. I suddenly realise that I’ve not talked to any real extent about what I’ve been up to as of late, but today, I returned to campus to pick up two hardcover copies of my thesis paper, one for the department and one for keeps. This trip comes as I return to sit through an iOS class for prospective hires, and amidst a very busy season as I work to complete an iOS app prototype for my work.

  • While Hikari may not have any kills to her name, her actions have contributed in some form towards the other members of the 502nd succeeding in taking out Neuroi. The importance of this support role, assisting the other Witches, cannot be understated, and it is for this reason that assists are counted in hockey in addition to goals: without players setting one another up for goals, it would make the game that much more difficult. Success comes from a team effort, and getting into position to help a teammate score is just as important as getting the goal itself. Hikari’s role thus brings to mind the San José Sharks’ Joe Thornton, who has topped the leaderboards for many years on account of having the most assists in the NHL over the past decade.

  • After coming into contact with the Neuroi, Hikari opens fire on its surface, eventually revealing the core and giving Naoe a clear shot at it. She prepares her signature move, focusing her shield onto a small spot and charging at the core, delivering enough force to crack it. The destruction of the core is confirmed when the other Neuroi units begin disintegrating. Having successfully neutralised yet another Neuroi, Naoe is lost in the moment and acknowledges off-hand that Hikari is a worthy partner, only to rescind it in embarrassment.

  • Neuroi leave behind glittering fragments whenever they are totally destroyed: having recalled that Neuroi consume land (primarily silicates with some metals and minerals), and an earlier post where I postulated that the Neuroi seem to have ceramic-like properties, I conclude that the non-core elements in a Neuroi are composed of a refined silicon-metal composite, undergoing refinement and treating in an unknown process to form the Neuroi’s body. The core, on the other hand, would probably be an organic crystal of unknown make-up.

  • Unintentional or not, Naoe’s subsequent remarks notwithstanding, it is clear that she is appreciative of Hikari’s efforts and role in helping her overcome her own fears. However, as the air is now filled with fine Neuroi particulates, Hikari, Naoe and Nikka’s Striker engines become less effectual: assuming that Neuroi and volcanic ash are somewhat similar, the crystals would freeze and become affixed to the turbines. This reduces the airflow through the engine, in turn decreasing the air pressure, causing gas to flow out in the reverse direction to cause a flame out. This is probably the mechanic for why all three Striker Units go down, bringing Nikka’s damaged Striker count for Brave Witches up to five.

  • That number is actually a little below my predictions, since I anticipated Nikka breaking at least another Striker in this week’s episode. Being counted as a Break Witch causes Hikari much happiness, as it implies she’s now an accepted member of the 502nd. Alexsandra is less pleased, and with Waltrud on the mend from her injuries, she is ordered to kneel in punishment for having lost a Striker unit in the previous episode.

  • It turns out that Yoshika’s magic is sufficiently powerful to revive Takami. Her appearance in Brave Witches was met with a mixed reception, and I’m in the camp who welcomes Yoshika’s cameo. Looking back, I rather enjoyed her character: not a soldier by training, she brings a different perspective to the 501st that left a noticeable impact, and I argue that were it not for Yoshika, the 501st would’ve been quite different and perhaps, unable to take out the first of the Neuroi hives.

  • With Takami on the mend thanks to Yoshika, this week’s episode draws to a close, and I am looking forwards to watching things between Takami and Hikari play out. It’s a little surprising as to how quickly even December is proceeding, and I believe that this is my first anime-related post for this month, having pushed quickly to get the remainder of the Battlefield 1 campaign posts out so I could return to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Having moved past the three-quarters mark now, Brave Witches continues to follow life at the Petersburg base as Hikari grows more familiar with the 502nd. Traditionally, Strike Witches spent a majority of its seasons doing this, culminating in an over-the-top finale involving battle with uncommonly challenging Neuroi at its finale. Given Brave Witches‘ current progression, it stands to reason that the next episode will be the final calm before the storm: three months have elapsed since Hikari joined the 502nd in lieu of Takami, and with her having reawakened thanks to Yoshika, she’s is now set to return and see for herself the place that Hikari has earned amongst the 502nd. Going from the previews, Takami is likely to find it difficult to accept Hikari putting herself in danger, and this will be a conflict that must be resolved before the whole of the 502nd take on their final enemy for this season. In particular, given that Takami has returned, the final fight will doubtlessly be a grueling one that will rival the final battles of Strike Witches in terms of intensity, being a thrilling battle that will keep suspense high even if the outcome is already known — this is the magic of Strike Witches that Brave Witches has done a fantastic job of improving upon.

Grape Juice For Your Eyes!: Brave Witches Eighth Episode Impressions and Review

“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one.” —Jacques Roumain

When Waltrud is made commander of a mission to escort a fleet of ships carrying high-value materials after discovering intel hidden away in some macarons from Sanya and Eila, she decides to assign Hikari, Nikka and Naoe to aid her in this mission. She grows enamoured with the Britannian Witch already escorting the surface vessels. They make the thousand-kilometer journey to rendezvous with the fleet, with Naoe and Waltrud receiving upgraded Striker Units en route. However, on the eve of the mission, Waltrud succumbs to the temptation of alcohol and wakes up on the morning of their assignment with a hangover. Despite seemingly unfit for combat, she recovers upon learning the Britannian Witch has been shot down by the Neuroi, a large type capable of generating numerous drones. In the midst of battle, Waltrud sends Hikari to assist Nikka and Naoe, but Hikari convinces her to take the FP-45 Liberator before leaving. Waltrud activates her own magic and destroys the Neuroi with a rifle grenade, but is impacted by one of the remaining drones. The hit turns out to be non-lethal, as the Liberator in her chest pocket has deflected the impact’s severity, and in the episode’s final moments, Waltrud’s injuries allow her a chance to interact with the Britannian Witch. Hence, in response to the question that Edytha poses, pertaining to why she picked Hikari, Nikka and Naoe for the task, it would appear that Waltrud seems quite attuned to individuals’ personalities and selecting the role most appropriate for them — this decision ultimately saves her life.

Waltrud’s laidback and ever-optimistic mannerisms make her the most easygoing of all the 502nd: she is fond of indulging herself, as evidenced by her alcohol consumption, and has a propensity to lie to her juniors, informing Hikari that the Liberator is a good luck charm rather than a miniature weapon. Although her nonchalant attitude leads her to frequently run afoul of Edytha and Naoe, this belies her capabilities as a Witch. Favouring high risk, high reward combat approaches, she’s able to engage the eighth episode’s Neuroi independently to both defend the fleet. Waltrud is therefore an excellent example of someone who counts on high spirits and (poor) jokes in order to overcome adversity: her seemingly flippant behaviours have the effect of keeping Nikka and Naoe from worrying too much about the presence of uncommonly dangerous Neuroi, and with these two focussed on the mission, Hikari is likewise able to follow suit. It is very likely that this is the reason why Waltrud remains a critical member of the 502nd despite irritating Edytha and Naoe; her antics, though a nuisance at times, also serve to shift the other Witches’ focus away from the ceaseless threat posed by the Neuroi towards something more commonplace, in turn lessening their fear somewhat.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hikari marvels at the FP-45 Liberator, a single-shot pistol firing a .45 ACP round that was intended for use by resistance forces, but never saw widespread action. While small, with a short range of roughly 1-4 meters, the Liberator does not hold the title for smallest pistol of all time — this position belongs to the 2mm Kolibri, which was introduced in 1914 and fires exceptionally weak bullets. It’s the level ten unlock for a class in Battlefield 1 and was probably meant to be a joke weapon, since it deals only five damage per shot.

  • Edytha presents the mission while the 502nd sit down for reindeer stew, courtesy of the supplies that Eila and Sanya brought during the previous episode. Their flight path takes them high into the arctic near Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a frigid region rich in natural resources. For this reason, the region is highly polluted as a result of intensive mining: the town of Norilsk and its nickel mines accounts for one percent of the world’s entire sulfur dioxide emissions. In Brave Witches, however, this would be before any industrialisation of the area, so the Kola Peninsula of Orussia would remain relatively pristine.

  • Edytha and Waltrud’s interactions are always quite interesting to watch when the two are bouncing off one another, but the two also can share some insightful conversations. These aspect leads me to my remarks in this episode’s discussions, and in general, while I’m not quite so keen on indulgence as Waltrud, I definitely believe in the significance of good morale: when things get busy or stressful, I tend to crack particularly lame jokes about what I’m working on. Most folks won’t have an opportunity to see this unless they work with me in person.

  • Waltrud’s entire willingness to accept the mission stems from the fact that she’s a womaniser to the same extent as Sean Connery’s James Bond. Curiously enough, the last time I saw someone fall for a girl in a photograph, it was in From Russia With Love (1963). The old James Bond films were amazing, although I was introduced to James Bond through Moonraker (1979), which features Roger Moore as James Bond and sees a plot to eliminate the world’s population from space.

  • Even while on break, the Britannian Witch’s photograph is never too far from Waltrud’s hand. Naoe is quite displeased with the arrangements, although Nikka seems to be taking things in stride. After eight episodes, it’s quite clear that Hikari, Nikka and Naoe are Brave Witches‘ equivalent of Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. Owing to the tremendous length of their journey, the Witches’ travels are broken up into different legs.

  • The distances involved, coupled with Nikka’s tendency for poor luck means that her Striker begins to malfunction shortly before they reach their next pitstop. Because Nikka flies Waltrud’s Striker unit later on, it’s safe to say that her old unit has bitten the dust, bringing the total of failed Strikers that Nikka has seen in Brave Witches up to a grand total of four. The next episode is titled “Break Witches”, so that total will likely rise further.

  • Up until now, the Ground Striker Units have not been seen, but a few frames depict some Ground Witches being briefed before cutting away to Waltrud ogling them. These units are the land-based equivalents and propel their users on the ground at great speeds, and owing to the decreased emphasis on air mobility, Ground Witches appear to be equipped with heavier-calibre, slower-firing cannons that likely are useful against armour. It would be fantastic to see a series about Ground Witches, and even better would be a series where the two kinds of Witches collaborate to defeat their foes.

  • I believe the acquisition of upgrades mid-season is known amongst audiences as “mid-season upgrades”. Naoe is ecstatic at finally being able to pilot a Shiden Kai herself, marvelling at its increased performance specifications. Being someone who pushes their gear to its limits, I’m also fond of upgrading the equipment I use, and readers who’ve read my Planetarian post will note that I’m now rocking the EVGA GTX 1060 SC 6 GB edition: since I’ve acquired it, I’ve been enjoying the latest games at a buttery smooth 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution, and remark that this particular GPU is still on backorder at Memory Express for my store. It was only with a reservation that I was able to pick mine up back in August.

  • I’ve reiterated this point in other posts previously, but delving into literature further, it seems that I’m not deficient on enzymes for breaking down alcohol. Instead, I have an overexpression of alcohol dehydrogenase, which causes me to decompose alcohol much more quickly than usual, and in turn, I grow sick quickly. Prolonged exposure to alcohol can increase my susceptibility to disease, so this is why I don’t drink, much less with Waltrud’s speed. Brave Witches calls wine “grape juice”, which is technically acceptable: wine really is just rotten grape juice. With that being said, the episode’s title is rather curious — I wouldn’t want ethanol anywhere near my ocular systems.

  • Because of an intolerance for alcohol, I’m no fun at parties, but fortunately, my friends and colleagues are accepting of this, and will usually laugh off my preferences for ginger ale or root beer. With that being said, I will drink on some occasions, usually preferring a good rum of sorts. Waltrud’s carelessness seems to hit a new low when she sorties into battle despite her hangover, and in any other setting, this would be unacceptable. However, in Brave Witches, the Witches’ magic might be assumed to help them overcome any effects of the aforementioned hangover.

  • With the battle against the Neuroi under way, I found myself impressed at the sheer number of Neuroi present on screen in this battle. Such numbers, however, is not a first for the Strike Witches franchise — during the first season, the 501st engage cube-like Neuroi in large numbers in their eighth episode as well, but that one ended with Minna expressing concern over Mio’s declining magic. While Strike Witches was more heavy-handed with its infamous pantsu moments, they explored themes about team dynamics as well. Consequently, it might be worthwhile to go back and watch both seasons again once Brave Witches draws to a close.

  • The page quote comes from Waltrud’s fixation on grape juice, but could easily refer to the nature of the Neuroi the Witches encounter this episode. If and when I’m asked, I do posts with paragraphs of discussion and figure captions as “reactions”: anime discussion and blogs usually come in two varieties, with some folks taking a hybrid approach as I’ve done. While I enjoy drawing elements together to discuss their importance in the bigger picture, I also enjoy responding to individual events on screen. In general, however, I find that individuals who do reaction-type discussions usually leave very little in the way of context. This is perfectly acceptable, but for my readers, I’m not about to let them hunt down the precise moments that I refer to in order to follow them, hence my extensive use of imagery.

  • This scene captures the sheer intensity of the battle taking place in the skies above, with particle effects all over the place as the Witches shoot down the smaller drones to clear a path and neutralise the mothership. In the chaos, friendly vessels begin sustaining damage, even with Waltrud, Naoe, Nikka and Hikari’s efforts. Hikari is ordered to provide fire support for the others, but before she takes off, she gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”.

  • The Liberator would probably be effective against Neuroi the same way the Kolibri pistol is effective against other players in Battlefield 1, and should Brave Witches ever be a video game, there should be an achievement for defeating a Neuroi with the Liberator. However, as Hikari is still under the impression that the Liberator is a good luck charm, she passes it to Waltrud, who confidently states that she’ll be invincible with it.

  • Waltrud’s magic seems to be a booster that greatly increases her speed in combat at the expense of her Striker Unit. She utilises this boost to destroy multiple drones before engaging the larger Neuroi at closer range: in combat, she typically wields an MG 42 or the STG 44 (MP 44), the forerunner of modern assault rifles.

  • After Hikari and the others take out one half of the Neuroi, they learn that the core is residing in the remaining half that Waltrud is fighting. Her skill as a Witch is apparent here, and despite her normally lax demenour, Waltrud is one of the top operators in the 502nd, second only to Gundula in terms of kill count. She manages to locate the core and destroys it with what appears to be an under-barrel grenade launcher, before she is swatted from the air by a stray Neuroi drone. My inner weapons historian than asks: were there really under-barrel weapons in this age for the STG 44?

  • It turns out there is: even though under-barrel grenade launchers only became widespread after the development of the M203 and Soviet BG-15 in the late 1960s and previous grenade launchers were either carried as standalone weapons like the M79, or else took the form of rifle grenades, the weapon in Brave Witches is authentic. Waltrud is seen here after firing a Sturmpistole, a modified flare gun designed to fire anti-tank projectile. Not particularly effective against even light tanks, the idea was soon discarded, but historically, Sturmpistoles could be mounted as under-barrel attachments for the STG 44.

  • In frustration that Waltrud is able to pull off stunts such as those, Naoe states that she’d like to punch out Waltrud’s lights. A viewer with a keen ear and keener sense of memory will note that tracks from Strike Witches and Strike Witches: The Movie also make a return in this episode. The return of familiar music serves to remind audiences that while being about a different group of Witches and their stories, this nonetheless remains Strike Witches.

  • Despite injuries sustained after falling into the ocean, Waltrud is in fine spirits and enjoying the Britannian Witch’s company. As it turns out, Waltrud is a surprisingly good judge of character: she answers Edytha’s remarks about choosing Hikari, explaining that Hikari’s phenomenal in the support role. Right before she takes off to engage the Neuroi, Hikari gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”, and it is this action that saves Waltrud: ironically, rather than being misleading about the Liberator’s purpose, her misinformation and Hikari’s reactions turned out to be beneficial.

  • If Waltrud had been flying a new-model Striker in this battle, and the Neuroi are able to both regenerate, as well as incorporate the Striker’s circuitry into its workings, the next Neuroi the 502nd encounter could be quite fearsome. The episode preview betrays nothing about what is to happen, so with this week’s episode in the books, it’s time for me to conclude this post. This is the fastest I’ve been all season with respect to getting a Brave Witches post out, and this episode’s talk comes on the same day as the episode. It is a consequence of unique scheduling, so next week, I imagine I’ll be back to finishing the ninth episode’s discussion on Thursday. Until then, it’s back to iOS programming as deadlines loom at work, and playing Battlefield 1 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided when I’m off work.

Nearing the three-quarters mark, and with new model Striker Units introduced, as well as a foreboding scene where the Neuroi is shown to be regenerating and integrates Striker technology into its operation, Brave Witches is beginning to gear up for its final quarter. Strike Witches has typically taken this direction as the season progressed: unlike the Neuroi in earlier segments of their respective seasons, Neuroi appearing towards the end were not to be trifled with, forcing the Witches to work together in full in order to accomplish victory. As Waltrud mentions en route to their destination, the final enemy the 502nd will face in Brave Witches is the large hive in their AO. This is sure to be a thrilling fight, and one wonders how the 502nd will take down their foe (Strike Witches‘ main theme means that the final episode’s outcome is more noteworthy for how it reached its conclusion, rather than what the outcome itself is going to be), but until then, the remaining few episodes will deal with any characters who’ve not had much exposition yet: Gundula and Naoe come to mind, and once their stories are presented, it’ll be time for the 502nd to take on the hive as a full-fledged team, as the 501st had done before them.