The Infinite Zenith

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World Witches: Take Off!- Whole Series Review and Reflection

“We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.” –Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Hikari reluctantly agrees to ice swimming with Nikka and the others, but subsequently develops a cold from the temperature extremities, becoming bed-ridden while she recovers. Hikari later accompanies Edytha on a trip to pick up supplies, but the group get arrested for attempted to purchase alcohol as minors, and Gundula’s efforts to get them out of trouble fail. Meanwhile, Gertrude’s efforts in filming appear to show some results: after Charlotte and Francesca tag along, the group also manages to convince Sanya to appear in the movie – they suggest that Sanya might be able to find her parents more readily if she appears in a film and spreads the word. Charlotte and Francesca’s antics do create a compelling movie, although Eila begins falling ill in Sanya’s absence. Eila arrives in St. Trond just as Minna manages to convince the higher-ups to re-establish the 501st. They celebrate their reunion with a party – fearing Minna’s deadly cooking, Charlotte, Erica and Francesca whip up a wonderful range of party foods for everyone. However, a Neuroi arrives, forcing the girls to drop everything and sortie. Back in St. Petersburg, the 502nd prepare for Takami’s arrival: after Yoshika gives her a clean bill of health, she flies back out, eager to reunite with Hikari. Naoe is unable to hide her excitement and embarasses herself in front of the other Witches. Hikari is overjoyed to see Takami again, and the two promise to take to the skies and defend what’s dear to them. This is World Witches: Take Off!, a continuation to 2019’s 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! series. Continuing on in its predecessor’s footsteps, World Witches: Take Off! retains a joyful spirit and provides plenty of laughs. However, unlike 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, World Witches: Take Off! is split down the middle and follows two separate, overarching stories – one of the 501st putting a movie together in a bid to reunite and reactivate their group, and the other of the 502nd’s time spent getting Hikari up to speed on everything. World Witches: Take Off! thus ends up being quite serviceable in terms of its story, standing in sharp contrast with 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, which had no story, and where episodes consisted of standalone gags. Despite having two separate stories running concurrently, however, World Witches: Take Off! nonetheless manages to retain its predecessor’s humour.

On paper, World Witches: Take Off! is a straight upgrade to the style seen in 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, but in practise, the series is stymied by the fact that despite being about the World Witches, there is no actual encounter between the 501st and 502nd. The disappointment here stems from the fact that the opening sequence shows all of the Witches together, and it does not take much imagination to suppose what would happen had both the 501st and 502nd met one another. Such a large group of varied Witches would create opportunity for new jokes and new experiences that have hitherto been unseen in the Strike Witches universe as the different characters bounce off one another: Charlotte could fall victim to Waltrude, while both Gertrude and Naoe might go after Erica for her sloppiness. Hikari and Yoshika would get along very well with one another, while Eila would continue to be troubled by Nikka. The skies here are the limit for what is possible, and Strike Witches had always shown the importance of the moments the Witches spend together off the battlefield, so it was certainly conceivable that World Witches: Take Off! could’ve dared to go big and show something that had never been seen before. This was the impression that World Witches: Take Off! seemed to give off with its opening sequence, so I had been anticipating a meet-up between the 501st and 502nd. This was never realised – the closest it gets is when Yoshika clears Takami to return to Europe. Otherwise, it’s two separate stories in which the characters never do meet one another, and this was a shame, because it would’ve marked the first time the Witches have a chance to meet. I appreciate that the writers might’ve deliberately avoided this route because to do so would also be to introduce chaos into the Strike Witches universe of a sort that we’ve not seen before, and moreover, the series proper seems to keep the different groups apart, so this decision might also be to respect the writers’ choices.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If memory serves, Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! aired during the spring 2019 season, and similarly to World Witches: Take Off!, was a series of 13-minute long episodes. Those episodes were quite unrelated, and it was very easy to watch an episode, have a few laughs and then continue. World Witches: Take Off!, however, does have an overarching story: the 501st are putting a movie together, while the 502nd do their best to welcome Hikari amidst the chaos of Takami’s actions. While alternating between the two groups made it a little tricky to follow what was happening at times, I remained happy with how both stories retain their humour.

  • Being able to see the 502nd again reminds me of how much fun I had watching Brave Witches – it is a little bewildering to note that Brave Witches aired four years ago. The Strike Witches works have spanned quite a long time: Strike Witches‘ first season aired in 2008, and after 2010’s Strike Witches 2, it was a relatively short two year wait to Strike Witches: The Movie in 2012. Subsequently, 2015 had Operation Victory Arrow, and Brave Witches aired a year later. It would then be a longer four year wait to Road to Berlin. The fact that the Strike Witches franchise has been going strong since 2008 speaks to its quality.

  • I found the characters and their experiences within a well-developed world to be the main appeal of Strike Witches as a whole, and it would’ve been about ten years ago that I first heard of Strike Witches. I can’t quite pin down how I came to learn about this series, except that it was through Tango-Victor-Tango. My classmates in data structures at the time, also anime fans, suggested that I skip over this series because it offered nothing substantial, but I ended up going against their recommendation and picked the series up. Since then, I’ve been a fan of the military moé genre: Strike Witches was the surest indicator to what can happen when one keeps an open mind, and indeed, I found the series to be much more than its premise initially suggested.

  • Winter swimming is indeed a thing in northern countries, and as its name describes, is the practise of swimming in water that is just above freezing (typically 5ºC) during the winter months. Nikka is fond of the practise and suggests doing this as a means of keeping warm during the coldest months in St. Petersburg. Nikka is from Suomous (Finland), and her approaches therefore are in keeping with Finnish traditions – she suggests that dipping in ice-cold water and then hopping into a sauna immediately after has health benefits.

  • The practise of dipping in cold water is said to have health benefits, helping to reduce stress and fatigue, as well as improving resilience against infectious diseases. This is something that Naoe and Hikari initially have a great deal of trouble believing: standing in the cold air, both are surprised that Nikka has no trouble with things. One particularly funny detail is the fact that Hikari’s ahoge changes shape to reflect her mood in World Witches: Take Off!, whereas in Brave Witches, it always retains a consistent shape. Further to this, on the matter of Hikari, I always thought that Hikari was a little less well-endowed: unless I’m mistaken, World Witches: Take Off! portrays her as being less flat than in Brave Witches.

  • As it turns out, the actual danger from dipping in cold water is not from hypothermia itself: it is estimated that the average person can survive in these water temperatures for around half an hour before the core temperature begins to lower. However, the danger lies from cold shock, which causes the individual to hyperventilate and potentially inhale water. Moreover, the cold will cause uncontrolled muscle contractions and eventually result in cardiac arrest. While individuals with heart conditions or respiratory problems shouldn’t participate in cold water swimming, the practise should be okay for healthy individuals. Waltrud demonstrates this, and spurred on, Naoe and HIkari join her shortly after.

  • The practise that Nikka suggests, dipping in cold water and hitting a sauna after, brings to mind the Nordic Cycle (which unsurprisingly, originates from Finland) that Ena suggested to Rin in Heya Camp△. Hikari is surprised that things no longer hurt quite as bad despite her initial expectations, and the Witches thus prepare to head into the sauna for the next step of their winter experience. The Nordic Cycle has numerous health benefits, although it goes without saying that proper safety measures should be used, and caution be observed if one has any underlying conditions.

  • Back with the 501st, the Witches have convinced Sanya to join them: the idea is that since Sanya’s still looking for her parents, perhaps appearing in a movie and speaking about her aspirations will get her message out to more viewers. Seeing the merits of this approach, Sanya agrees and flies out to St. Trond base, where Charlotte and Francesca are. World Witches: Take Off! found a clever way to bring back Charlotte and Francesca into the fold; during the events of Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, Charlotte and Erica were single-handedly responsible for more than half of the trouble that had happened, and consequently, most of the series’ humour came from them.

  • The old “ketchup as blood” routine definitely seems to be a recurring joke in World Witches: Take Off!, and here, Francesca uses it to create a scene where viewers are supposedly more likely to be moved by Sanya’s plight. The non sequitur train of thought in World Witches: Take Off! kept each episode unpredictable and hilarious in its own way, as the Witches seek to accomplish their aims through increasingly dubious means. After Francesca douses Sanya in ketchup, a Neuroi appears, and Sanya shoots it down.

  • While effective for the scene director Charlotte has envisioned, it also creates a misunderstanding amongst Gertrude and Yoshika, who feel that Sanya’s injured for real. Since we viewers know what’s happening, this creates the dramatic irony that makes the scene so hilarious; when comprehension dawns on Yoshika and Gertrude, they are mortified and immediately set about punishing Charlotte and Francesca for their stunt.

  • However, it turns out Sanya had actually agreed to the arrangements for the movie’s sake, so there was no harm done. Misunderstandings and their resulting chaos are a central part of World Witches: Take Off!, and while such things do happen in Strike Witches proper, the Take Off! series strips away the Neuroi threat so that episodes can focus entirely on the characters. It suddenly hits me that, as each Take Off! episode is half the length of a standard episode, one could say with conviction that in a standard Strike Witches episode, half the time is spent on slice-of-life elements around being a Witch, and the other is on proper combat, world-building and the like.

  • With Sanya’s inclusion in the movie, it would appear that there’s enough footage to work with, and the Witches subsequently wrap up the principle photography, moving onwards to editing and finalising the movie. Gertude consents to give Sanya a small tap on the head as a reprimand for having scared them, and both embrace Sanya, immensely happy that things are fine and that their movie’s on track to being finished.

  • Because Eila’s crush on Sanya is so pronounced, when her intuition tells her Sanya’s being taken from her, Eila immediately falls ill, prompting Mio to call Minna and explain what’s going on. While Eila’s feelings for Sanya are out in the open irrespective of whether it’s a TV anime or manga, spin-off works crank things up a further for the sake of comedy, with the inevitably result that I’ve begun feeling sorry for Eila whenever such things happen to her. Here, I note that ketchup works great in World Witches: Take Off! because without things like viscosity and transparency, it is very difficult to tell the two apart.

  • In Brave Witches proper, Edytha often punished Witches who broke the rules by having them wear a sign of shame. After Edytha accidentally reveals to Waltrud and Nikka that Hikari’s got a cold, Naoe makes her wear the sign and figures that they should check up on Hikari: now that they’re down a Witch, Gundulla and Alexsandra worries that headquarters will cut their funding on account of their reduced operational capacity.

  • It turns out that after the cold swim, Hikari fell ill, but things look relatively minor, and Hikari’s in good hands as Georgette is looking after her. Much as how the 501st side of the story focuses on Charlotte, Francesca, Gertrude, Erica, Sanya and Eila because their presence is rather more noticeable, the 502nd’s story has Naoe, Nikka, Waltrud and Edytha at the forefront of things: Sadako and Georgette don’t really have much shine time in World Witches: Take Off! because comparatively, they’re less rambuncious than the others.

  • Edytha’s decision to keep quiet about Hikari’s cold stems from her worry that Nikka’s accident-prone nature, and the potential of Waltrud taking advantage of Hikari’s state, could make Hikari’s recovery a lengthy one. While nothing of the sort happens, Nikka and Waltrud do get into an accident after deciding to mix up a little something to help Hikari recover, but Nikka accidentally spills boiling water on herself and Waltrud in the process. Only the Witches’ accelerated healing factor allows such an incident to be funny: when scalded with boiling water, the usual response is to apply cool runner water to the afflicted areas for at least twenty minutes (but not nice or cold water)

  • Later, the 502nd learn that provisions are low, and while Alexsandra attempts to lighten the mood up with a joke about how they at least have unlimited supplies for making snow cones, the Witches soon fall into self-pity since the front lines are so quiet. It typifies World Witches: Take Off!‘s ability to turn even the most mundane of tasks into something enjoyable to watch. After Georgette actually begins eating the snow in desperation, it is decided that Hikari, Sadako, Edytha and Georgette will go on a shopping trip into town.

  • Picking up the common supplies proves easy enough, but when Edytha attempts to pick up some alcohol, the clerk ends up calling the authorities, causing the Witches to be detained. Using Japanese law, Edytha, being 19, is an adult, but the legal drinking age in Japan is 20, so technically, Edytha isn’t able to purchase alcohol anyways. Gundula soon receives a call from the local station asking for the girls’ parents to retrieve them, but at the same time, also gets a call from Takami. The ensuing chaos is a riot, and its resolution is never presented.

  • The last bit of the 501st’s story has everyone gathering for a party: with the film now complete, everyone’s invited to swing by St. Trond base.  Even now, Minna hadn’t been successful in convincing the brass to reform the 501st. When Yoshika decides to thank the other Witch squadrons for having caused them trouble, and reveals that she has a very specific list of people to thank based on certain attributes, Erica seizes the photos and decides that Yoshika should be able to express her gratitude via letters, prompting Yoshika to beg Erica for the letters back. Mio arrives shortly after: Minna’s somehow managed to get her back, too.

  • However, worried about what could happen if Minna were allowed to cook, Charlotte, Francesca and Erica had decided to take on the task themselves while Yoshika and Sanya head off to spread the word. Charlotte, Erica and Francesca’s plan to cook ahead of time proves vital, saving everyone from certain death. While the movie’s now done, there remains the matter of editing: Mio notes that Fuso has a branch in the military to handle this, causing the girls to go ballistic; they were hoping to have a more final say in what the film actually entails.

  • While the 501st is still not formally reactivated, the girls decide to party anyways, but as things get under way, the Neuroi suddenly appear. Charlotte and Francesca had joked that having the Neuroi show up would be the fastest way to convince the brass to reassemble the 501st for combat operations, but it seems the Neuroi had been waiting for the worst moment to make a return. This prompts Minna to order everyone to sortie for combat.

  • In this post, only a third of the screenshots are of the 501st: I deliberately skewed the screenshots to favour the 502nd because it’s their first time appearing in the parody format. At the end of their story, it turns out Takami had shown up herself to make sure Hikari was doing okay. It turns out that after arriving home, Takami became guilt-ridden about what happened and, side-tracked by seeing merchandise of herself, wants to make some of Hikari, too. The chibi forms of the characters are adorable, and one of the interesting things about the Take Off! series was the shifts in art styles.

  • Whether or not Yoshika is actually qualified to examine Takami is questionable: she expresses an interest in giving Takami her physical with indecent enthusiasm, and Takami misinterprets this as Yoshika being a noble physician. Unfortunately for Yoshika (and fortunately for Takami), the latter receives a phone call from St. Petersburg and learns Hikari’s in trouble. She thus sets off immediately, and Yoshika reluctantly stands down, salty that she’s not able to grope Takami.

  • It’s a tearful reunion in St. Petersberg, but as Gundula and Alexsandra can attest, since we viewers know precisely what led up to this point, this moment is less heartwarming than it is funny. The flow of events in World Witches: Take Off! loosely parallels those of Brave Witches, similarly to how Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! The Movie had been a re-telling of Strike Witches: The Movie‘s events in a parody format, and now, I’m interested to re-watch Brave Witches again. Having watched the televised run during the fall of 2016, I ended up with the broadcast version’s defects, which the home release subsequently rectified.

  • While Hikari anticipates fighting alongside Takami, and her ahoge takes on a heart-shape in response, it turns out that to facilitate this detour, Takami owes the military. Hikari decides to accompany her, just happy to be with her sister again, although the other Witches are inevitably disappointed. In particular, Nikka had become fond of Hikari, while Alexsandra laments the loss of their supplementary funding should the two actually leave. Upon further consideration, Hikari decides to stay, and Gundula manages to convince the brass to at least let Takami stay over the winter.

  • As far as I can tell, no one else is writing about World Witches: Take Off!, and it’s really hard to fault folks for not writing about this series of shorts. World Witches: Take Off! offers nothing substantial to talk about in the way of character growth or world building, instead, being just a hilarious collection of tales about the mishaps that accompany the Witches in a world where the most notable aspects of their personalities are allowed to clash. Of course, the humour might be a little off-putting for some folks: this isn’t to be too surprising, since World Witches: Take Off! isn’t exactly a conventional anime.

  • With this in mind, I’ve still managed to find things to talk about in this unconventional series, even where the series doesn’t offer much to work with. There’s a reason why my Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! reviews dominate search engines: I aim to share my experiences in a fair and comprehensive manner. Admittedly, shorts like these can be tricky to write for, and while I did have fun watching the Take Off! series, I’m not going to say that World Witches: Take Off! or Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! are masterpieces that change the anime landscape, but the series represent light-hearted fun that gives viewers something to check out while waiting for more Strike Witches.

  • Upon catching wind that Hikari and Takami are leaving, Naoe ties Alexsandra up with the aim of forcing a straight answer out of her as to what’s happening, only to learn that she’d been acting on outdated information. Alexsandra had never actually withheld any information from Naoe, and so, when the others find out about it, it’s the surprise of the century: Naoe acts and talks tough, but behind this façade is someone who genuinely cares about those around her.

  • In embarrassment, Naoe first tries to commit suicide, and then tries to kill Nikka (which fails because Nikka’s self-healing outpaces whatever damage Naoe can do). Before things go out of hand, Neuroi appear, and Hikari is excited to finally be able to fly alongside Takami. This brings World Witches: Take Off! to a close; the ending comes abruptly, and we never do see the 501st and 502nd meet, but altogether, World Witches: Take Off! remains an enjoyable romp for those looking to scratch the Strike Witches itch that Road to Berlin left behind.

  • With my talk on World Witches: Take Off! done, I’ve now wrapped up all of the anime I had been actively watching for the winter season. The spring season is upon us now: Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, and Yūki Yūna is a Hero Churutto! have my attention. I am likely to write about these series in a regular fashion. In addition, I plan to give 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. and Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui a go for the new season. Finally, I’m going to resume my Kamisama ni Hatta hi and Gundam SEED adventures on short order here, having put the brakes on so I could tend to everything else that’s been going on.

Altogether, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series – while it does not bring anything particularly new to the table, nor does it help build the Strike Witches world further, World Witches: Take Off! continues on as its predecessor did, introducing a considerable amount of humour into the Strike Witches universe and acting as a parody of what’s happened. With this in mind, I’ve recently heard folks complain that “fun” is not a valid metric for assessing one’s enjoyment of entertainment on the basis that it’s too subjective a measure. I find this a narrow-minded way of thinking: World Witches: Take Off!, for instance, creates humour in its story that accentuates the worst traits in each character, and in the knowledge of the contrast the Take Off! series’ characters have with their usual counterparts, the dichotomy creates irony that is hard to reconcile, and hence, funny. This is where the enjoyment comes from, and for the lack of a better word, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series, even if it doesn’t do anything world-changing or novel. The format continues to work for this series of shorts, acting as a pleasant intermediary series between now and when Luminous Witches is set to air. Ever since it was known that Strike Witches would be returning after VividRed Operation, the series has indeed returned in a big way. This is not unwelcome, since I’ve come to greatly love the Strike Witches universe and its characters: the greatest joys have always been seeing what sorts of scenarios unfold with the characters, and Luminous Witches intends to take viewers to a different side of this world. I’m rather excited to see what’s coming, and while series like World Witches: Take Off! might not necessarily advance Strike Witches as a whole, the fact we’re getting anything at all is a great sign that there’s more to come.

A Luminous Witches PV- Introducing The Allied Air Force Aviation Magic Band

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.” –Debasish Mridha

Unlike the various Joint Fighter Wings, The Music Squadron are a group of Witches whose role is to provide a morale booster to those in areas afflicted by the Human-Neuroi War. Rather than taking to the skies with machine guns and destroying the Neuroi in aerial combat, the Music Squadron travel around, giving live concerts to people to protect their smiles through the power of music. Of course, when they’re not travelling around Europe and performing, they’re also dealing with the publicity that surrounds being idols: when Lyudmila acquire a camera, they struggle to take proper pictures of one another. A handful of the Witches do seem to have a natural affinity for the limelight, including Aila and Éléonore, who strike various poses, and Sylvie, who feels at home with photo shoots. However, when the girls transform into their performance outfits, pandemonium ensues, ruining their group photo. The Music Squadron made their first animated debut in a short four-minute preview video that was released back in December 2020, and later this year, they’re supposed to get their own dedicated series, Luminous Witches. Very little has been announced insofar, and at the time of writing, it is not known when Luminous Witches will begin airing – I am guessing that we could see this series air during either the summer or fall season of this year.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the behemoth that was Jon’s Creator Showcase, this post on Luminous Witches is partially to show that yes, I am capable of writing short form posts, too. Here, Virginia, Lyudmila and Shibuya check out the camera, an apparatus which Shibuya believes will capture one’s soul if misused. Photographic have existed since 1825, when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce successfully captured an image using a pewter plate coated with bitumen. By the events of Luminous Witches, 35 mm film would’ve been common, and the existence of cameras would be common knowledge.

  • It did therefore strike me as a bit strange that the Witches would be unfamiliar with cameras, and here, Maria, Manaia and Sylvie join the party. Luminous Witches has a sizeable cast, and while a long time ago, this would’ve proven intimidating, these days, larger casts are no problem: it took me a few episodes to properly learn everyone’s name in Brave Witches and so, here in Luminous Witches, I’m sure I’ll be able to do the same once Luminous Witches actually starts airing.

  • Because the character archetypes in Magic Squadron seem to have parallels with members of the 501st and 502nd, I immediately felt at home when this preview video began running. When the girls try to photograph Manaia, they are unsuccessful because Manaia isn’t able to keep still. Here, Eleonore is seen holding a flashbulb: while cameras have been around for at least a century by the events of Luminous Witches, the flash bulb is a newer innovation: the earliest flash bulbs were German in origin and date back to 1929, using oxygen gas and a magnesium filament; the resulting reaction created a sufficiently bright light to illuminate a scene, but the intensity would also mean flash bulbs were single-use.

  • In the short five-minute runtime, the Luminous Witches PV has a more laid-back feel compared to the more serious moments of combat. Magic Squadron doesn’t actively participate in combat, and I did initially wonder about the feasibility of leaving an entire squadron of Witches to act as musicians and singers in a war where humanity would presumably require all active Witches to be at its most effective. Having said this, Strike Witches has been pushing to convey the idea that there is no small role in war, and much as how there are no small roles in performing arts, Luminous Witches is likely to be a story about preserving hope.

  • I believe that Luminous Witches will focus on Virginia as the protagonist: hailing from Britannia, same as Lynette, Virginia is Magic Squadron’s composer, being responsible for arranging both vocal and instrumental music for their songs. Her best friend is Shibuya, who comes from Fuso and bears many similarities to Lynette (both in manner and appearance). While a five-minute PV does not fully show everyone’s attributes, even in this short runtime, one has a reasonable idea of everyone’s traits: Eleonore is a Gallian Witch who is very frank about things, Aila acts as an older sister for the others, and Manaia is like Francesca, being energetic and excitable. Maria, being from Karlsland, is rigid and disciplined, similar to Gertrude and Minna.

  • Mid-session, Joanna finally shows up; it turns out she’d been in the middle of an art project of sorts, and is covered in paint. Coming from Liberion, Joanna designed the logos for everyone in Magic Squadron, and she’s the same age as Francesca. One thing that I noticed in Luminous Witches‘ PV was the prevalence of every Witch’s familiar: these small, supernatural animals are often paired with a Witch to act as an attendant of sorts. Strike Witches and Brave Witches completely dispensed with these elements, preferring to focus on the Witches themselves. If Luminous Witches continues to depict familiars as the PV did, it could be a first for the series.

  • After a transformation sequence rivalling those of a magical girls anime, Magic Squadron is finally ready for a group photo. Their stage outfits are quite nice, striking a balance between the Witches’ military backgrounds and possessing the glitz that is most associated with idols. While I possess a reputation indicating a propensity for any anime with the moé aesthetic, I’m admittedly not particularly versed in idol anime: shows like Idolm@ster and Love Live! are probably the first that come to mind, dealing with the daily lives, triumphs and tribulations of those involved in the entertainment industry.

  • The only idol anime I’ve ever really gotten into was Wake Up, Girls!, which I picked up out of curiosity and became very into for the story it told. I do have Love Live: School Idol Project on my to-watch list, but after how busy February was, I intend to spend the remainder of March tending to the things I’ve left alone. It was around here that Virginia’s role as Luminous Witches‘ central character became clear: she’s stands at the centre of the photo, and she was also the first character viewers see in the PV.

  • An accident causes everyone’s familiars to suddenly reappear, spoiling the group photo and bringing the PV to an end. While the animation and artwork quality in the PV are not to the same level as what I’m accustomed to in Strike Witches or Brave Witches, it does a satisfactory job of giving an idea of what Luminous Witches will feel like. While there’s no airing date for this series yet, I am rather looking forwards to checking out a completely different side to the Strike Witches universe.

Luminous Witches will detail a completely different side of the Human-Neuroi War; up until now, we had largely followed the adventures of the Witches who’ve made a considerable difference at the front lines. However, the other aspects of the Strike Witches universe have not always been fully explored – Luminous Witches presents a chance to portray other parts of a world that viewers rarely get to see. The focus on a more light-hearted, musical side of the Strike Witches universe (without venturing into the realm of an open parody like the Take Off! series) could offer insight into the importance of support: while it is often the case that we only see the faces of those on the frontlines as the heroes, the reality is that all accomplishments were the consequence of a team effort. The Apollo 11 mission, for instance, was backed by no fewer than four hundred thousand scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff that made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic lunar landing successful. As such, to see the Music Squadron in action in Luminous Witches will represent an enjoyable change of pace, bringing idol music into the world of Strike Witches. I know a few folks who will be quite enthusiastic about Luminous Witches, as it combines the idol and military-moé genres. Given the extent of world building in Strike Witches, I imagine that Luminous Witches will be something that I’ll find enjoyable, as well.

World Witches: Take Off!- Review and Reflection At the Halfway Point

“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△ 2Non 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.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

We have a plan: six planes, three teams, one shot. Five weeks ago, we lost: all of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost a part of ourselves. Today, we have a chance to take it all back. You know your teams, you know your missions. Destroy this false god. One objective each: no mistakes, no do-overs. Most of us going somewhere we know, that doesn’t mean we should know what to expect. Be careful; look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives and we’re going to win, whatever it takes. Good luck.

Claudia’s life with Tateyama’s Valkyries continues: she helps the crew to defeat another Pillar and meets Yayoi Amatsuka, a veteran pilot who reveals that she’s here as a result of an upcoming offensive against the Fuji Pillar itself. It turns out that Sonoko is not particularly close with Yayoi after an earlier incident, and with Odin’s predictions about the Fuji Pillar correct, the allied forces launch an all-out assault on the pillar. Upon entering, they are engaged by aircraft belonging to deceased comrades, and as the allied forces begin to fold, leadership orders a retreat. A titanic entity dubbed “Thor” destroys most of the remaining squadrons and the base of operations; Claudia and the others manage to escape, and Yayoi offers to head a rescue operation to save whatever remaining pilots they can, but is killed in the process. In the aftermath, Tateyama’s pilots immediately set about recapturing Tateyama base, and Claudia opens a portal to Valhalla. With Sonoka unfit to fly, Claudia and Azuzu enter the portal, where they discover a tapestry explaining Odin’s war. A Pillar appears and begins attacking Tateyama base. Miyako sorties to deal with the threat. When Sonoka realises that Yayoi would’ve wanted her to keep flying, and decides to help protect a mother who’s in labour, she regains the resolve to fly and ends up destroying the Pillar. World leaders soon learn that Odin had not been entirely truthful about Ragnarök: the war had started so he could build a vast army of undead for his own ends. Humanity resolve to attack the Fuji Pillar again, and manage to punch through its defenses for a final confrontation with Odin. Claudia, Azuzu and Miyako discover that Odin’s real fear had been isolation, and in his final moments, Odin allows Azuzu to finish him off shortly after Miyaki destroys the Fuji Pillar’s core. In the aftermath, Tateyama’s Valkyries pay their respect for Shield Squadron and formally welcome new Valkyries Kurumi Suzuhara and Moe Isuruji before setting off on their next assignment. This is Warlords of Sigrdrifa, a military-moé series that was originally set to air during the summer, but was pushed back to the fall season on account of the ongoing global health crisis. With its themes of friendship out in the open after the third episode, I continued to follow Warlords of Sigrdrifa through to its end, curious to see where the series would lead.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a curiosity in that its premise ultimately proved to be an insufficient reason to drive the events within the story. Odin and his desire to fight a new Ragnarök was ill-motivated, seemingly for little reason more than to satisfy a personal grudge, and consequently, it was difficult to ascertain just how seriously Warlord of Sigrdrifa’s foe should be taken. Without a satisfactory reason for waging war against humanity, Odin comes across as being petty and tiny; in Odin’s absence, Warlords of Sigrdrifa would’ve still managed to convey its messages clearly enough. This is the hazard that results when a story attempts to give nameless enemies faces and reasons. Strike Witches was built off on a very similar premise, but unlike the Pillars, the Neuroi are given the minimum exposition needed to justify why there is a need for Witches. This allowed Strike Witches to focus purely on the Witches and their interactions. Conversely, Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s incomplete use of Norse Mythology creates the expectation that themes and concepts from Norse Mythology would impact the plot. Consequently, when Odin and Thor are shown to be completely different than their mythological counterparts, it becomes unclear as to why there was a need for such figures as villans. The Marvel Cinematic Universe demonstrates how to appropriately use characters from Norse Mythology in a different setting while, at once, being respectful to the originals. Marvel’s Odin is a patient and wise leader, while Thor learns humility and honour over time. Warlords of Sigrdrifa renders these mighty mythological beings as a joke, consequently detracting from the overall story; it thus becomes difficult to take the threat of Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin seriously, and this in turn weakens the series’ sense of urgency, leaving the anime’s primary charm with the colourful, energetic and spirited Tateyama Valkyries.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Warlords of Sigrdrifa presented a bit of a challenge to write for because aside from the F-15Js that Shield Squadron flies, the remainder of the hardware seen in the series are magically enhanced, and do not bear any similarities to their real-world equivalents. Claudia’s Gloster Gladiator, Miyako’s Ki-44, Azuzu’s He 100 and Sonoka’s MC 72 have all been given upgrades that allow them to survive scenarios that fourth-generation fighters cannot. As such, there is no real-world precedence for estimating each aircraft’s capabilities and performance in a situation.

  • I remember that after the fourth episode aired, I received requests to watch Warlords of Sigrdrifa more closely: this had been the obligatory swimsuit episode, and an unconventional one, at that. I will only remark that I enjoyed this close-up of Miyako, who, after the whole of the events in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, draws with Claudia as my favourite character of the 909th: on top of the thousand reasons this screenshot provides for why I’m fond of Miyako, her happy-go-lucky personality brightens up the lives of those around her, and singlehandedly prevents Warlords of Sigrdrifa from ever venturing into grim-dark territory.

  • Unsurprisingly, Tateyama Base is modelled faithfully after its real-world counterpart, with the one exception that the primary runway has been extended into the sea similarly to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport. Today, Hong Kong’s flights are handled by the Chek Lap Kok Airport in Western Hong Kong, and I still remember my first ever flight to Hong Kong had been at Kai Tak, whose runway made it one of the most difficult airports to land at. Tateyama Base has no such constraints, and I’m guessing that in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, the extended runway is more about providing space for more aircraft to take off. The F-15J requires 250 metres to take off, and inspection of the existing runway at the base shows that the length is 500 metres, more than enough to accommodate F-15Js. Propeller powered aircraft of World War Two had similar lengths required to take off, and there is no reason to suppose that modifications to the Valkyries’ aircraft might decrease their take off lengths somewhat.

  • The swimsuit piece of the fourth episode was justified because of a need to stealthily get the 909th to their aircraft after the Pillars have severed surface access, and the men of Tateyama base decide to sneak everyone through a subterranean passage. The fanservice piece of this episode was a bit much, but once the 909th get to their aircraft, acclimatise to flying in swimsuits (especially Miyako) and begin combat operations, it’s business as usual.

  • The Pillar seen in the fourth episode was able to regenerate at will by making use of ultrasound, requiring that the 909th hit the main Pillars simultaneously to prevent it from communicating. They are successful, receiving help from another pilot in the process. Upon landing, Miyako greets one Yayoi Amatsuka, a veteran Valkyrie who travels about to support the efforts against the Pillars. Miyako is particularly thrilled to see her – the two embrace the moment they meet.

  • Once episode four is in the books, the remainder of Warlords of Sigrdrifa is focused on the path towards defeating the Pillars, all the while having Sonoka and Azuzu sort out their own personal doubts. By this point in time, while Claudia is less reserved and closed than she had been at the series’ beginning, she still faces her own challenges, Claudia herself appears to hold a special connection with Odin, and this weighs heavily on her. but try as I might, I was unable to appreciate his character. Before we delve into the aspects of Warlords of Sigrdrifa that impacted my experience, I’ll leave readers with one more reason to appreciate Claudia: while the series itself may be inconsistent, what is consistent is the artwork and animation.

  • Warlords of Sigrdrifa swings constantly between the grim desolation of warfare, and light-hearted slice-of-life moments, such as when Yayoi takes Miyako, Azuzu, Claudia and Sonoka to her favourite restaurant around, during which she succeeds in convincing Claudia to take on a food challenge worthy of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. The dramatic contrast in such moments is reflected in the dialogue, where base commander Ichiro Satomi and other officers wonder what sort of world would force the use of children in warfare.

  • While Claudia demolishes her food challenge, impressing those who witness her feat, Sonoka decides to take a walk, finding it difficult to be in the same room as Yayoi. While Sonoka is reluctant to give up her secrets, it turns out that two years earlier, fearing that Sonoka might be hurt in combat, Yayoi had deliberately disabled Sonoka’s aircraft. However, in the operation, Yayoi lost her entire squadron, and since then, Sonoka has resented her. A part of Sonoka’s growth in Warlords of Sigrdrifa is overcoming this and learning anew to fly for her own reasons.

  • One wonders why I’ve chosen not to show any of the combat sequences inside the Fuji Pillar, when for most military-moé series, I usually have a handful of sceenshots dedicated for these moments alone. There is a simple enough answer for this question: the interior of the Fuji Pillar is dark, dank, and camera angles were not conducive for good screenshots. This is one of the challenges about blogging for me – picking and choosing screenshots that offer something to talk about is never easy, and it is often the case that I struggle to find enough screenshots for a post, or else have too many.

  • With the first attempt to destroy the Fuji Pillar a failure, I turn my attention towards the bread-and-butter of this post: the justification for why, despite having a clear theme and the makings of an enjoyable series, I did not particularly feel as enthusiastic as Warlords of Sigrdrifa as I normally would about other military-moé series. The reason for this was because of the series’ portrayal of Norse Gods and their role in the events unfolding on Earth. Traditionally, military-moé series like Strike Witches and Sky Girls placed less emphasis on the enemies, using their appearance as the motivation to bring people together and, as they fight a common enemy, learn more about one another, as well as themselves.

  • Strike Witches only needed to establish that young women with magical abilities were needed to fight the Neuroi, and the WORMS in Sky Girls were nano-machines of unknown origin, but whose grey-goo-like traits render them a threat, giving Otoha Sakurano, Eika Ichijo and Karen Sonomiya reasons to fight. When the foe becomes established as having a motive (e.g. the Sirens of Azur Lane, Abyssals of Kantai Collection, Vertex in Yūki Yūna Is A Hero and Madoka Magica‘s Witches), there is a need to properly build out reasons why the foe opposes the protagonists, from taking advantage of emotional energy to overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics or take revenge on an unjust cycle. Most of the series I’ve seen have done an adequate job of this, so the antagonists’ existence and goals justify the protagonists’ reasons for fighting.

  • By comparison, in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, it turns out that Odin was unable to accept that the world-ending event, Ragnarök, happened long in his past, and in an attempt to bring back the days of old, Odin summoned the Pillars to attack humanity, while at once granting certain young women the power of a Valkyrie so that they could fight and be struck down in combat. Reduced to its components, Odin’s reason for troubling humanity is akin to someone who was displeased about missing an event and is throwing a tantrum in frustration. I get this feeling: missing an event is a disappointment, but in the absence of powers beyond our comprehension, there is no going back and getting that second chance.

  • Because Odin’s motivations for this war are so crude, it speaks poorly to his character. In general, Warlord of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin is an affront to the original: the Norse God Odin was a wise and benevolent ruler of Asgard, preferring to take the appearance of an aged wizard when traveling the other Realms (inspiring Gandalf’s appearance). The Marvel Cinematic Universe is faithful to this portrayal, and Anthony Hopkins did a particularly excellent job of conveying Odin’s traits. However, Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin is more of a spoiled brat than a god: I was therefore quite surprised to learn that Yumiri Hanamori voices Odin. I know her best as Anne Happy‘s Hanako, and Yuru Camp△‘s very own Nadeshiko Kagamihama.

  • I personally found that Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s portrayal of Norse mythology was a particularly poor one: it was a little disappointing to see Norse Gods as foes of humanity, especially when their original texts presented them as beings with their own agency and challenges. Since a resurgence of interest in Scandinavian mythology during the 19th century, Norse Mythology has become more widespread, and many famous works today are inspired by Norse Mythology, most notably, Marvel’s Thor, and J.R.R Tolkein’s own works. Both Thor and Tolkein offer their own unique spin on the original tales while at once, remaining respectful, but in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, presenting Thor as a dæmonic machine, and Odin as an impertinent child, diminished the credibility of the threat they were intended to present towards Claudia and the others.

  • As it was in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, Odin and Thor are only named after the originals, being so radically different that it was not particularly useful to read up on Norse Mythology to see what was being said. The dramatic departure is not a problem in and of itself, but rather, lies in the characterisation and portrayal of these mythological figures as antagonists. Had Warlords of Sigrdrifa eliminated Odin’s child form and purely presented him as a calm, composed God declaring war on humanity to create an army of undead, Warlords of Sigrdrifa would have been all the stronger for it. This single, simple switch would’ve created an antagonist whose presence would’ve given Claudia and the others a more credible foe to fight.

  • The real Ragnarök entails the twilight of the Gods, when calamity will erase their world and take out the most powerful gods, including Odin, Thor, Loki and Heimdallr. A handful of Gods will survive, along with two humans who will inherit a renewed world. The point of Ragnarök, then, is that no era or dynasty lasts forever, and change is inevitable. Thor: Ragnarok cleverly built upon this, wherein Thor realised that saving Asgard meant allowing Surtur to destroy Asgard, which defeats Hela; in the chaos, he helps the Asguardians to escape. In Thor: Ragnarok, Odin also accepts his own death, stating that Ragnarök is inevitable.

  • The existence of other works, has, admittedly influenced my own expectations for what an antagonist should be like, and so, in this department, Warlords of Sigrdrifa falls short completely. I found Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Odin more of a nuisance than a threat, existing and fighting for what came across as petty, shallow reasons. This was an impression I initially had from watching Iron Man 3, but upon rewatching this film, I realised that the point of Iron Man 3 was to show that Tony Stark’s attitude meant he had an unfortunate habit of creating his own enemies. Time may yet change my perception of Warlords of Sigrdrifa, but for now, I am not particularly convinced that Odin posed a credible threat to the world, despite the Pillars’ power.

  • The final challenge the 909th face before their next shot at the Fuji Pillar was reconciling with one another: Azuzu had been particularly worried about the knowledge she found while in Valhalla, and worries that the plan she’s crafted will be insufficient against the likes of Odin. When Miyako organises a summer festival to lift everyone’s spirits, Azuzu initially rejects Miyako, wondering why Miyako is focused on this when the fate of humanity is riding on a razor’s edge. Once they reconcile, good times are had by all as traditional summer activities, such as goldfish scooping and target-shooting, are on the evening’s iteniary.

  • Warlords of Sigrdrifa was at its best when it showed how fellowship and teamwork allows each of the 909th to overcome their challenges: the intensity of the combat sequences and themes of loss, in conjunction with healing and acceptance are what this anime presents well. I found Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka particularly likeable, and their struggles were presented in a satisfactory manner. Even though the rest of Warlords of Sigrdrifa was very shaky, the main characters were consistently strong.

  • Miyako manages to pull Azuzu aside for a plane ride together towards the tenth episode’s end: as the finale for the summer festival, she’s mounted fireworks launchers on her aircraft and puts on an airshow for Tateyama’s residence. It’s a quiet moment for the attendees and the 909th: Claudia begins singing a song, tears filling her eyes. This song is of significance in Warlords of Sigrdrifa, signifying that Claudia’s different than the other Valkyries: memory of this song suggests that she is a descendent of the Gods. Beyond this, I’m not sure if there’s an important reference to Norse Mythology that I’m missing out on here.

  • I will note that my own knowledge of Norse Mythology is very superficial, being limited to basic background: it would be interesting to hear from someone who’d taken a few courses on Germanic and Scandinavian folk beliefs and mythology to see how well (or poorly) Warlords of Sigrdrifa does things. I’ve long stressed that having extensive supplementary knowledge should not be requisite for enjoying a given work; while folks with the knowledge may be pleased to learn a work has done their research, viewers unfamiliar with the details should still be able to come out with a good idea of what the work had been trying to accomplish.

  • Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka ended up being the primary reason why I sat through the whole of Warlords of Sigrdrifa, demonstrating how compelling characters can indeed impact a show. In this case, it was a case of wanting to see how the four overcome their final challenge against Odin, and what awaited everyone on the other side: everyone has, at this point, overcome most of their own inner dæmons and were fighting to protect what had been important to them. This is what motivates the page quote, which I adapted from Captain America’s speech in Avengers: Endgame – it demonstrates the sort of resolve that Sonoka, Claudia, Miyako and Azuzu have entering their final battle.

  • While the Pillars are capable of impressive constructs rivalling those of the Neuroi in terms of numbers and scale, I’ve not featured them prominently during the second attempt at the Fuji Pillar for the simple reason that such screenshots were always very dark. Warlords of Sigrdrifa (and The Division 2) showcases the limitations of this blog’s format – in a video format, darkness is less apparent since sound and motion keep the viewer’s attention. However, with static screenshots, important elements become trickier to pick out, and Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s combat sequences are better seen, rather than read about.

  • While Claudia engages Odin in a dogfight, Sonoka engages the fallen Valkyries in combat. Miyako focuses on the entity dubbed Thor, leaving Azuzu free to reach the Fuji Pillar’s core. Shield Squadron’s flight ends here: to keep Miyako alive, they sacrifice themselves, and Miyako is ultimately able to destroy Thor with her Ki-44’s custom Hero Cannon, surprised that the mechanics had secretly installed a third cannon to provide her with additional firepower. After fighting Claudia to a draw, Odin retreats to the Pillar’s Core when his aircraft is destroyed, where Azuzu confronts him.

  • Azuzu had planned ahead and accounted for Miyako’s stunts, so her initial confrontation with Odin was really just to stall for time. Once Miyako destroys the Fuji Pillar’s core, they conclude that Odin’s greatest enemy was loneliness. With no more cards on the table Odin concedes defeat, and Azuzu finishes him off before all four of the 909th escape the Fuji Pillar, which finally disappears. A part of Ragnarök is acceptance, and Odin’s final decision in Warlords of Sigrdrifa did seem to be at odds with his initial mannerisms. Before I return discussion to the victorious 909th, I have one final remark on Odin: the name Odin was also used in the fall season’s Kamisama ni Natta Hi, a series from P.A. Works: Hina constantly demands to be referred to as Odin. Unfortunately, I did not find myself engaged with Kamisama no Natta Hi after a few episodes. With the introduction of Hiroto Suzuki, an insufferable and impertinent individual, I became sufficiently irritated as to stop watching the series outright.

  • Since 2018’s The World in Colours, P.A. Works has not been producing series that caught my eye. This will change soon: Shirobako: The Movie will become available tomorrow, and I do intend on writing about it in the future. On the topic of future posting, I’ve settled on a schedule that I believe will act as a balance between creating new content to keep readers engaged, while at the same time, giving me time to unwind. For the winter anime season, I intend to write about Yuru Camp △ 2 in an episodic fashion, and Non Non Biyori Nonstop will receive a quarterly review format (one for the first episode, and then every three episodes). I am watching The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ second season, as well: I’m planning to take a look after three episodes and then return once the season is done to write about this one at present, although this is not set in stone. Ore dake Haireru Kakushi Dungeon and Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun also look interesting enough to merit a look, as well.

  • So, there we have it, the game plan for the upcoming three months. I’ll return the discussion to Warlords of Sigrdrifa, where in the aftermath of their victory, Miyako and Claudia embrace, while Azuzu finally breaks down into a blubbering mess, grateful everyone made it out okay. The combination of facial features used in comedy meant that altogether, it was hard to see Warlords of Sigrdrifa as an all-serious series, although I will note that Yūki Yūna is a Hero employed a similar approach and took viewers for quite a ride. In the end, cheering for the Valkryies is what allowed me to finish Warlords of Sigrdrifa: I had no plans to watch this series originally, since I’d already been waist-deep in shows (to say nothing of the fact I had been writing episodic reviews for GochiUsa BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin at the time), and the premise had always been a little weaker to me.

  • With this being said, it was ultimately the characters that led me to continue following Warlords of Sigrdrifa. If memory serves, I was recommended this anime on the virtue that it was similar enough to what I write about, as well as having references to series that I am fond of. However, I note that trivia about voice actresses, the hardware being used or similarities to other series do not impact my enjoyment (or lack thereof) in any way – for the shows I watch, they must stand the test of telling a serviceable story before I look at anything else. Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a curiosity in this department: the characters are likeable, and their development is plausible, but the world-building and rationale was weak.

  • Altogether, Warlords of Sigrdrifa is a C (2.0 of 4.0, or 6 of 10 points): I found that the Norse Mythology was unsatisfactorily presented in the series, and Odin’s motivations for waging war against humanity were weak. Moreover, Odin’s personality was particularly grating, unbefitting of a king. However, the magic that is Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka encouraged me to watch this one through to see how’d they fared in the grand scheme of things, and the ending was about as good as could be hoped for. By normal grading conventions, a “C” grade is still passable – Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka ended up being what saved Warlords of Sigrdrifa from being something I failed to complete: even if I was displeased with the world-building and antagonists, the main Valkyries were a compelling bunch that led me to return each week.

  • Warlords of Sigrdrifa not something I’d be too willing to recommend to general viewers, and I found that it was overshadowed by Strike Witches: Road to Berlin. Most viewers wouldn’t be missing out on too much should they skip this one, but open-minded folks looking for military-moé could find some enjoyment out of Warlords of Sigrdrifa. With this post now in the books, I’m finished writing about all of the shows I’d followed last season, meaning that I’ve got a clean slate for the latest series. Readers can look forwards to posts on Yuru Camp △ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop in the days upcoming, which fills the void that GochiUsa: BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin leaves behind.

While the first three episodes established Claudia’s understanding of fellowship, the remainder of Warlords of Sigrdrifa is devoted to showing the other characters. In particular, Sonoka learns what it means to continue fighting for the future: after losing her old squadron in combat, she became more distant from others, and harbours resentment towards Yayoi for not fulfilling her promise of looking after wing-mates. It ultimately takes a kick to the rear to motivate Sonoka; having come to understand there is still much to protect and fight for, she is able to find the confidence to fly again: the memories from the fallen continue to live on in her alongside her current friends. Similarly, Azuzu had long felt that she was cursed with knowledge and regards most people with distance, feeling that any failures on her part will only cause suffering. It is only with Claudia encouraging her that Azuzu becomes more confident in her abilities, to the point where she shares her findings with the Tateyama staff and help them in the titanic final battle against the Pillar. In this journey of understanding what companionship means to them, Claudia, Azuzu and Sonoka grow as a team, mustering the resolve and strength to ultimately defeat Odin for the sake of their futures. While Miyako is the most colourful and energetic of everyone amongst the Tateyama Valkyries, she winds up being a static character, eternally optimistic and lively as she strives to maintain the morale of those around her. With her boundless energy and enthusiasm, she manages to pull Claudia and Azuzu out of their slumps, as well as support Sonoka well enough for the latter to find her own path. Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s themes are nothing new, and while the setting is a curious one, the messages are generic enough to be applicable in a wide variety of scenarios. Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka alone carry Warlords of Sigrdrifa, although ultimately, Warlords of Sigrdrifa does not particularly surpass existing military-moé series to an extent as to make it easy to recommend. Folks who enjoy all things military-moé will likely still find Warlords of Sigrdrifa a passable experience, although for most viewers, inconsistencies in the story, a flimsy justification for the villain’s actions and questionable jokes in a few places may be enough of a rationale to give other series a go: while successful in presenting its themes, Warlords of Sigrdrifa feels incomplete in the world-building and story department. With this being said, each of Claudia, Miyako, Azuzu and Sonoka were highly engaging characters, speaking to how there are instances where good characters can still help an anime along.

I Still Want to Protect- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“I’m never going to tell you to stop thinking. But I will tell you when it is time to shut up and listen to orders. If everybody does what they think is right when the bullets are about to start flying, then we won’t operate as a cohesive unit. Sometimes you may not like the order you are given, sometimes it might not make sense to you, but you have to do as you’re told” –John Clark, Locked On

Because Shizuka’s Striker Unit sustained damage, she is ordered to remain outside while the remainder of the 501st make their way down into the Berlin subway system and search for an opening leading back to the surface. After navigating through the labyrinth, they encounter a vast underground city and deduce that Wolf’s core must be in a large building at the center. Meanwhile, Yoshika continues to heal the wounded: the Neuroi’s onslaught results in the Ratte’s destruction as well as serious damage to the flaktower. Yoshika pulls a soldier off the rooftops and brings him to safety before attempting to fire on the Neuroi, but the 501st’s efforts below pull all of the Neuroi downstairs, clearing the skies above. Shizuka encounters Mio in the skies, and after the B-17 unsuccessfully attempts to punch a hole in the dome, Shizuka decides to borrow the Shinden and manually detonate the bomb herself. This blows a hole in the dome, and against orders, Shizuka flies into the dome to engage the Neuroi in an attempt to save Yoshika. She is critically wounded, and in despair, Yoshika grieves for her. The intensity of her emotions returns her magic, and filled with a resolute determination, Yoshika resurrects Shizuka before engaging the Neuroi on her own. The sheer power Yoshika brings to the table prompts the Neuroi to surface, and the 501st follow in hot pursuit. Realising the Witches’ power, Wolf’s core returns to its bell form and reforms the massive city before attempting to escape, but Yoshika manages to stop the bell long enough for Minna, Gertrude and Erica to destroy it. With the core destroyed, Wolf collapses, and Berlin is liberated. The skies over Berlin clear out, and the Witches stick around to assist with the cleanup before taking off for their next mission. This brings Road to Berlin to a close, and with it, the time has come to look back on this third season of Strike Witches‘ place in the series.

While Yoshika remains the lead character in Road to Berlin, this third season’s biggest draw was Shizuka’s introduction into the 501st. Strike Witches (and Brave Witches) were both framed around a novice Witch joining an elite air group, and in the process, comes to learn a combination of both what the skies mean to one another, as well as how to work together as a cohesive unit against seemingly-insurmountable odds. Yoshika might’ve struggled all season to deal with her fluctuating magical power, but Shizuka’s own journey was perhaps the more important of the two: introduced during the movie to keep an eye on Yoshika as she travels to Europe, Shizuka has since replaced Mio. While possessing a modicum of skill from her own training, Shizuka constantly struggles to find a balance between following orders and her own heart. In this finale, it becomes evident that Yoshika’s influence has had a nontrivial impact on Shizuka: she only reluctantly follows Minna’s order to remain on the surface, and later, openly ignores an order, speeding into the opening to rescue Yoshika. Again, it is the decision to follow her heart, that directly results in her being wounded, setting off the process that restores Yoshika’s magic and allowing the 501st to stop Wolf. Through Road to Berlin, Shizuka learns that there is a gap between following orders and trusting her own judgement, and that things are not always so black and white. In reality, orders exist for a reason: officers and leaders have a clearer picture of what’s happening than the soldiers on the ground and will attempt to make decisions based on this information, in conjunction with their experience. The sorts of things seen in Strike Witches are, naturally, not how things should always be conducted in reality, but the resulting message is simple enough – for the soldiers on the ground, sometimes, the orders won’t make sense, especially in the heat of the moment. Of course, Road to Berlin chooses this approach because its message is about following one’s heart can have positive consequences, and that individuals should, where permissible, follow their own hearts.

The other element resulting from Road to Berlin‘s finale that will likely invite discussion is whether or not Yoshika was justified in getting her magic back just in time to carry out a pivotal play that results in Wolf’s destruction: the answer to this is a simple, and resounding yes. The constraints and extent of magic in Strike Witches have never really been vigorously defined within the series, and what’s possible or not depends precisely on what the story requires. While Strike Witches as a whole does make use of real-world hardware and feature historical figures, this cannot (and should not) be taken as a sign that Strike Witches was ever intended to be realistic. Stories are written to convey a specific idea, not adhere religiously to reality: that there are real-world elements in Strike Witches simply serves as a world-building exercise and make it clear what humanity has to work with. In the context of Road to Berlin, Yoshika’s magic disappearing and returning simply is a metaphor for her own feelings about the 501st, specifically, that she cares greatly for those around her, enough to create miracles on the strength of these feelings alone. This concept is certainly not new to anime: the psychoframe in Mobile Suit Gundam was written with a similar premise in mind. As such, there isn’t a particular need to begrudge Yoshika for being able to pull off such feats anymore than there is a need to try and find counterarguments against the execution in Road to Berlin. From a narrative and story perspective, Road to Berlin delivers the classic Strike Witches experience – featuring the 501st, Road to Berlin very much takes off after its predecessors in terms of structuring and themes. Messages of friendship, teamwork and trust are at the forefront of Road to Berlin, and while the series has never dealt with anything more complex, Strike Witches always excelled at putting things together for a visual spectacle. Unlike its predecessors, however, Road to Berlin is more open about its messages, having the characters precisely spell out their intentions, and a consequence of this communication, viewers are given a chance to enjoy classic 501st interactions with a modernised spin on things.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Road to Berlin‘s finale begins in a grim enough manner: the Neuroi have focused fire on the flak tower, causing it to yield. These massive fortifications were historically so notoriously durable that even the largest Soviet gun, the 203 mm howitzer, failed to do any appreciable damage to their surface walls. Conversely, the Neuroi’s sustained beams are able to collapse one of the walls. One of the soldiers hits the roof armed with an MP-40, feeling that even it is a pointless gesture, he’d rather go down fighting, and I believe it marks the first time I’ve ever seen an ordinary soldier defeating a Neuroi: his shots puncture one of the drone’s cores, destroying it.

  • Shizuka’s Striker Unit suffered from damage and is no longer able to make the tunnel flight: she’s ordered to stay behind while the remainder of the 501st head underground, entering the Berlin U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn, literally “underground rail”). The U-Bahn began construction in 1910, and in the 1930s, was given an expansion dubbed the Großprofil, which added north-south stations. Seeing their derelict state in Road to Berlin brought to mind the Geisterbahnhöfe of the Cold War: when Berlin was split into East and West, U-Bahn lines belonging to West Berlin were prohibited from stopping at stations underneath East Berlin, and these stations were subsequently sealed off, creating a surreal environment. Since the Cold War ended, most of these Ghost Stations were re-opened and put back into service.

  • Shizuka notices a lone B-17 headed into Berlin and is brought on board. Mio and Ursula are also present, and Ursula suggests using the B-17’s fuel-air explosives payload to probe the Neuroi’s shell, which has insofar resisted all damage. However, the bombs’ calibration are off, and so, they initially deal no damage to the shell, exploding too early to have an appreciable impact. Back underground, the 501st continue to navigate after a caved-in section of the tunnels forces them to divert. With Gertrude’s brute strength allowing them to open up new passages, and Minna using her magic to navigate, the 501st find themselves in a titanic underground cavern.

  • It turns out that Wolf had been constructing a vast city-like structure for itself: the city immediately brought to mind Albert Speer’s plans for Berlin: dubbed Germania, this was a part of Adolf Hitler’s plans to completely rebuild the German capital in his vision for a thousand-year Reich. At the heart of Germania would be the Volkshalle, a massive domed building Hitler intended to be the heart of his Third Reich, a place where citizens would pay deference to him. Such a city was only ever planned: when World War Two started, Hitler ordered all resources to be redirected towards the war effort, and while demolitions had begun in some areas, the project was stopped.

  • Gertrude remarks that Germania was the design of a Karlsland Emperor in-universe, suggesting that Karlsland might have once had ambitions to at least create a massive city rivalling those of ancient Greek or Roman cities. The parallels between Wolf’s interior city and Germania are immediately apparent: this callout was to suggest that Wolf’s grip on Karlsland is an analogue to Hitler’s grip on Germany during the time of the Third Reich, and in Strike Witches, the Neuroi’s presence is what prompted humanity to set aside their differences. Witches have mentioned it is possible, were it not for the Neuroi, humanity would’ve been entangled in its own bitter conflicts.

  • Because the Volkshalle was the centrepiece of Germania, it is therefore unsurprising that Wolf’s core must be concealed within the Neuroi’s impressions of Volkshalle. Minna immediately orders the Witches to concentrate all of their firepower on this large structure. As they begin dealing damage to the outer layers, Wolf realises what’s happening and sends all of the drones to the dome’s subterranean sections. The damage being dealt is also enough to thin the dome enough for communications signals to get through: Minna is able to get in touch with Mio and explain the situation using Sanya’s communication magic to amplify the signal.

  • It was hilarious that even during a fight against a hive, Eila still has time to worry about Minna getting too close to Sanya. Of course, Minna is doing this purely for practicality’s sake, but Eila has no way of knowing. This was a rather fun moment that lightened things up, and indeed, Road to Berlin‘s hive fight never had the same outrageous moments as seen in the first two seasons, being much more in line with the hive fight seen in Brave Witches.

  • Sustained fire from the Witches eventually causes the central Volkshalle to collapse, and the resulting damage thins the dome again. Despite being a hive, Wolf never did feel quite as intimidating as the previous hives did. This was largely a consequence of being familiar with Strike Witches and how the series unfolds: since I know precisely how things would end, there was never any question of what the outcomes would be. Thus, regardless of what the hive could pull off, the conclusion would always be the same, and so, I never once felt that the Witches were in any imminent mortal peril.

  • With only a single bomb left, Shizuka is given permission to sortie in the Shinden and manually detonate the bomb by firing on it once it gets within range. The Shinden was specifically designed for Yoshika’s use, having a much higher magic consumption rate and corresponding output because it had been specially designed for Yoshika. Despite struggling with its operation, Shizuka manages to keep up, following the bomb closely and setting it off at the required altitude. The resulting blast opens a hole in the Neuroi’s dome, and with no time to lose, Shizuka enters the hole against Mio’s orders.

  • When Yoshika notices a Witch flying towards the dome, she picks up the soldier’s discarded MP-40 and begins firing. Chambered for the 9 mm Parabellum round, the MP-40 submachine gun was a popular weapon amongst German soldiers, who found it a reliable weapon for the most part. Erica is seen using an MP-40 during Strike Witches: The Movie, switching over to it once her MG-42 ran dry. The MP-40’s only real shortcoming was the fact that its magazine design made it prone to jamming: it was only loosely connected to the weapon, and misalignments would result if care wasn’t taken.

  • Yoshika holds the MP-40 correctly, gripping the front at the magazine housing. Soldiers who used the magazine as a foregrip would inadvertently pull the magazine lip back from the feed, causing the weapon to fail, and soldiers were told to either hold the magazine housing or the handle underneath the barrel. In general, clutching the magazine while using a firearm is a bad idea: even if gripping the magazine doesn’t cause malfunctions, the magazine is housing what is essentially explosives. Magazines can explode if abused, and it does not take an active imagination to figure out what happens to one’s hand in this scenario.

  • When Yoshika runs dry on the MP-40, it seems she’s doomed to be deep-fried. However, intent on protecting Yoshika, Shizuka had managed to enter the dome before the Neuroi fully sealed the hole. She makes it just in time to shield Yoshika from certain death. Relieved that Yoshika is okay, Shizuka immediately takes off and begins to thin out the Neuroi drones in the skies above. It was rewarding to see Shizuka being able to fulfill her end of the promise to protect Yoshika, and by this point in Road to Berlin, it is clear that Yoshika’s blasé attitude surrounding orders have rubbed off on Shizuka.

  • While Shizuka is no longer the freshmen she once was, the ferocity and danger posed by the hives cannot be understated: despite managing to destroy almost all of the remaining drones in the sky on her own, Shizuka fails to dodge a beam from the remaining drone. Moments before her bullets destroy it, she takes a fatal hit from the beam and tumbles to the ground, grievously injured. In any other series, it’d be curtains for Shizuka: every detail about this instance would suggest that Shizuka is close to death.

  • Shizuka’s fortune lies in the fact that she’s in Strike Witches: I’ve never seen a Witch die on-screen before, and even in the worst of situations, Witches always seem to manage to escape by the seat of their pantsu. With Shizuka sustaining such an injury, Yoshika desperately tries to activate her healing magic; Shizuka is losing blood fast and is beyond the help of conventional medicine. However, nothing happens: Shizuka continues to bleed out, and her eyes begin closing.

  • With the thoughts of losing a dear friend on her mind, Yoshika succumbs to raw emotion, letting out a terrifying scream. The weight of her emotions reactivates her magic, flooding the area in a warm light. Shizuka’s wounds close, and she stablises. I imagine that this will be the subject of no small discussion for at least a few weeks to come, but for me, I will not be giving this too much thought. The reasoning behind this is that Strike Witches has never specified what constraints govern how magic in this universe works. Much as how J.R.R. Tolkien never explicitly defined what the Maiar and Valar‘s powers were, the precise nature of magic in Strike Witches is still very much a black box.

  • All that is known, for instance, is that Gandalf was never meant to confront Sauron in a one-on-one, and so, the scope of both his and Sauron’s magic simply didn’t need to be explored, because the theme of Lord of the Rings wasn’t about who had better magic. Similarly, in Road to Berlin, the presence of magic is only to drive the idea that there are different ways of helping people, and that camaraderie is an immeasurably powerful force. Understanding why a work was presented the way it was is key to enjoying its themes, and I’ve long found that plot holes can be dealt with more elegantly (by means of reasoning and an open mind) than incomplete or unsatisfactory themes (which are much harder to explain away).

  • With her powers online, Yoshika transforms into a one-Witch army, soloing more or less the entire swarm of drones Wolf has thrown at her. Throwing up massive shields, and multiple shields at once, there are points where Yoshika doesn’t even fire her weapon, using her magic to wreak havoc on an hitherto unseen scale. Realising the damage Yoshika stands to deal, Wolf sends all of its remaining drones upstairs, and Minna realises that following them will allow them to find a way out. Eila and Sanya finish off the Volkshalle before joining the others.

  • As Yoshika greets the 501st, who are relieved to find her okay, they look down to see Patton and Shizuka in fine spirits. I do wonder what the real George S. Patton would’ve thought of his likeness being used in a magical girl anime three-quarters of a century after his time. Historically, Patton was a very fiery character known for his vulgar tongue but generally effective mode of command. It is only through anime that such a sight is possible, and the pair signal to the 501st that they’re alright.

  • However, the fight to liberate Berlin is not over yet; Wolf clearly understands it is on the back foot, and it extracts all remaining drones from underground to form a massive floating city built in Germania’s image. In any other series, this floating city would be a foe of terrifying power, but again, with the 501st, there hardly seems to be an enemy that the Witches together can’t defeat. While Wolf is unique in its ability to assemble different structures, ranging from small drones to an entire city.

  • Bradley manages to reach Minna and informs her that with Wolf now in the open, Berlin’s as good as theirs once they destroy it. The Witches thus commence their final assault on Wolf: set to the ending theme, there was never any doubt as to what the outcome would be; in works of fiction, the use of certain songs typically indicates that a battle’s outcome is foregone. This isn’t always true, but with only a few minutes left in Road to Berlin‘s finale, it became evident that the Witches were not going to encounter any more surprises in their fight against Wolf.

  • While Wolf remains quite dangerous, the victory has never felt closer for the 501st, who tear into the Neuroi with everything they’ve got. Wolf’s physical appearance differs dramatically from that of Gregori, which was itself different from previous hives seen in Strike Witches: it would appear that Neuroi hives all differ in appearance, so no two hive battles would ever be the same. It is not lost on me that leadership elements in Strike Witches have changed considerably since the first season: Generals Patton and Bradley were helpful allies keen on helping the Witches out here in Road to Berlin, but I remember a time when military brass imagined it to be a good idea to place their faith in untested technologies that proved even more variable than the Neuroi during the first and second seasons.

  • When Wolf begins sustaining serious damage, its bell-shaped core attempts to escape yet again. It begins rising into the atmosphere at a prodigious speed, and even Charlotte says she’s unable to accelerate quickly enough to catch up. However, with her unnatural power, Yoshika manages to reach the bell-shaped core and projects a powerful shield to slow it down. Minna, Gertrude and Erica press forwards with their MG-42s, shredding the outer casing and exposing the core.

  • With the core now exposed, Minna fires the remaining bullets that crack the core open: credit for this kill thus goes to Minna, although to be sure, it was most definitely a team effort that allowed for this victory to result. With its core destroyed, Wolf is neutralised, and the grim clouds covering Berlin dissipate. The light of a warm afternoon bathes the land in a gentle light, and the Witches slowly take in the fact that they’ve now completed their mission in full.

  • As the darkness gives way to light, Berlin can be seen below. I imagine that for Road to Berlin, the city below was probably drawn as a static background, and then the Witches’ movements were overlaid on top to create a sense of scale. While more challenging than animating a battle over the ocean, the end result is much more impressive from a visual standpoint, all the more so when sunlight begins shining over the liberated Berlin.

  • With Road to Berlin‘s outcome, I imagine that a handful of viewers will complain that Yoshika’s power takes the fun out of Strike Witches, that her magic coming back is purely deus ex machina, that the 501st would be more enjoyable to watch without her, et cetera. However, I contend that Yoshika seems most similar to Donnie Yen’s Ip Man in that both characters were written to accommodate a particular idea. As Ip Man, Yen only ever draws fights at worst, and does not lose even when the odds were stacked against him; Ip Man pulls victories and second winds from nowhere as the story demands, and while certainly not plausible, much less realistic, it does emphasise the film’s themes.

  • Strike Witches does something similar with Yoshika: she’s precisely as powerful as the series needs her to be, and in having her magic (only somewhat) unexpectedly return in Road to Berlin, the series intended to really drive home the point that things like fellowship prevail over adversity, without fail. I’ve never really found arguments against Yoshika to be too convincing: the overt displays of power in the series have always been a visual metaphor for willpower, and accepting that this is core to Strike Witches is essential to finding enjoyment in this series.

  • Road to Berlin‘s soundtrack released earlier today, and having had a chance to listen to it in full, I found that the slice-of-life pieces to be my favourite pieces of incidental music. “Magical Girl Alps”, “Feelings of the Still Summer”, “Chasing Dreams”, “Time to Rest” and “Sadness of the Still Summer” capture a sense of wistfulness in Road to Berlin that the vast blue skies always seem to convey. While the training and combat pieces are enjoyable, I’ve always found that the best music in Strike Witches and Brave Witches were in the more relaxing-sounding songs, as these usually corresponded with slice-of-life moments.

  • For Erica, Gertrude and Minna, the victory over Wolf is still sinking in. As shards of the defeated hive fall from the skies, there is no immediate celebration, just relief that they were able to take back Berlin together. In the series’ aftermath, the Witches head down to Berlin and begin helping out with the cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Even though there is a lot of work that remains, the Witches are all smiles. I’ve got no screenshots from these moments, since they overlap with the end credits. I imagine that in the future, a home release could see a creditless sequence.

  • With this Road to Berlin finale post in the books, I will note now that writing this series on the same day as the episodes aired was a tricky one, and it was only thanks to unique circumstances that I was able to keep up with things in a timely fashion. Under normal conditions, I certainly would not have been able to write for Road to Berlin and GochiUsa: BLOOM in a punctual manner. Having said this, this blog is only run by one individual, and this season had demonstrated that, while I am able to keep up with two series in an episodic manner, it is a very exhausting process. I do hope that readers enjoyed following my thoughts on Road to Berlin this season: consistently putting out posts means that I had to always find novel and interesting things to say, lest posts become dull very quickly.

  • Once the end credits finish rolling, the 501st head for their next assignment, leaving the future of Strike Witches free for a continuation. With Road to Berlin now in the books, I have no qualms giving this series an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10): Road to Berlin represents the third season of Strike Witches that I’ve been waiting for since it was announced that a new season featuring the 501st would be in the works after Vividred Operation concluded. With the right combination of classic Strike Witches elements and a new maturity stemming from successes seen in works like Brave Witches and Operation Victory ArrowRoad to Berlin takes the viewers on a familiar journey that nonetheless differentiates itself from its predecessors. Throughout the course of Road to Berlin, I became increasingly fond of Shizuka, as well: it was excellent to see her become a full-fledged member of the 501st after her adventure began in Strike Witches: The Movie.

With the epilogue in Road to Berlin, the path is cleared for future adventures – Road to Berlin leaves open the idea that the 501st could return in the future, but having now seen three seasons of the venerable 501st in combat and off duty, it would be a nice change of pace to see other Witch squadrons: Yoshika, Lynette, Perrine, Charlotte, Francesca, Minna, Gertrude, Erica, Sanya and Eila are all interesting characters in their own right, but since the Strike Witches universe has demonstrated the depth and breadth of its world, especially through something like Brave Witches, I find that it would be worthwhile to explore other squadrons, as well. It is evident that the Strike Witches franchise isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: even with the 501st’ tremendous victory in Berlin, sections of Karlsland remain under occupation from Neuroi forces, and as Yoshika puts it, there’s no rest for the weary. After overseeing repair efforts in Berlin and enjoying the triumph that puts the Karlsland capital back in Allied hands, it’s onwards to the next mission. Because Strike Witches is set in an alternate history, the story could be continued almost indefinitely: if the Human-Neuroi War is protracted, parallels between the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War might be explored as humanity advances Jet Strikers to a point where they become as effective as modern jet aircraft. Even if the Human-Neuroi war were to end, there are plenty of other squadrons to write about, and the World War One parallel similarly offers much material that can be presented. It becomes apparent that, 501st or not, the Strike Witches universe is vast, just waiting to be explored. However, in the meantime, with the eight year wait finally over, I can say that Road to Berlin delivers Strike Witches‘ third season in style, striking a fine balance between being faithful to elements seen in the originals, while at the same time, making use of lessons from the earlier seasons to build a more compelling and engaging universe. In this department, Road to Berlin has certainly succeeded: I have no qualms recommending this series to anyone who enjoy Strike Witches, although newcomers may find Road to Berlin to be a bit tricky to accept on account of the lack of pants, even if the series has dialed things back considerably from the earliest days of Strike Witches.