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KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” –Joan Didion

After reviewing Yamashiro’s post-battle report, Yahagi determines that the Kan-musume are still combat-capable. The next day, Shigure shares a conversation with Isokaze and Hamakaze, learning in the process that to them, being sunk in combat isn’t quite as frightening as being forgotten, and Shigure promises to never forget their accomplishments. When the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron neet, Yahagi announces a BLUFOR/OPFOR training exercise to test everyone’s readiness. Shigure and Yukikaze end up assigned to the same team, and despite unexpected surprises appearing during the exercise, the pair manage to score hits on Yahagi herself. With confidence that the remaining Kan-musume can perform, the Second Torpedo Squadron is tasked with escort missions, defending convoys from Abyssal attack as they transport critical supplies. Shigure is happy to see an old friend, Ryūhō, and although Yukikaze develops stomach problems that end up requiring her to return to Kure for engine repairs, leaving their group down one defender, the escort mission continues. Shigure, Hamakaze and Isokaze manage to destroy the initial waves of Abyssal submarines, but things look grim after their store of depth charges is depleted. Fortunately, coastal defense Kan-musume are nearby, and they manage to repel the remaining Abyssal submarines, allowing Ryūhō and her escorts to safely reach their destination. With this, Itsuka Ano Umi de finally reaches its three-quarters mark; only two episodes remain, and Shigure’s nascent friendship with Yukikaze means that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s theme is slowly starting to manifest in a series that has otherwise been quite melancholy, a consequence of a lengthy conflict that has been gradually eroding at the Kan-musume‘s numbers.

At first glance, Yukikaze appears to be better suited for Kantai Collection‘s first season rather than Itsuka Ano Umi de: she’s cheerful, easygoing and hardly anything appears to dampen her spirits. This stands in stark contrast with the reserved and stoic Shigure, who’s weighted down by the losses she’s experienced over the years, and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s aesthetic appears to be in keeping with Shigure’s feelings; the use of lighting and music conveys her general feeling of melancholy and introspectiveness, but where Shigure experiences happiness, the music relaxes, and during battle, the soundtrack similarly becomes tense. After Yukikaze’s introduction, Shigure appears to be smiling more, and it is plain that she admires how Yukikaze is able to still find cheer even during more difficult times. Meeting Yukikaze, then, serves to drive change in Shigure: while this won’t change the fact she’s lost friends previously, being able to fight alongside someone so optimistic gives Shigure hope, and a reason to return after battle. The approach that Itsuka Ano Umi de is taking, in short, looks like it’s progressing exactly as I’d imagined it would. Anime generally seek to tell a story of growth and optimism; since Shigure had started her story burdened by losses and the prospect of fighting a war people would forget, it was logical that a new encounter would help change her perspective. On this reasoning, it appears that Itsuka Ano Umi de will likely wrap up with a difficult, but hard-won battle that shows Shigure that it is sufficient for her to always remember those she fought alongside, while at the same time, doing her best for the people in her present.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s production woes meant that, owing to scheduling conflicts, the sixth episode was only able to air in January after its episodes were delayed. Kantai Collection isn’t especially noteworthy, and even though Itsuka Ano Umi de has above-average production values, it’s difficult to say that the delays are worth it; Girls und Panzer had been an instance of an anime where it’d been worth the wait – the story and characters, coupled with the incredible attention paid to detail, had made it a series deserving of a proper conclusion.

  • Kantai Collection‘s second season is superior to its predecessor in tone and story, but it hasn’t given viewers quite the same opportunity to connect to the characters and root for them because delays in result in the unfortunate effect of making it easy to forget what’s happened, even though we’ve now reached Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s halfway point. While I have only good things to say about Itsuka Ano Umi de, it isn’t the case that this series is one where I’d say the wait for individual episodes are worth it.

  • While war is evidently a tragedy that leaves its mark on all involved, portrayal of its effects on individuals is something that requires a bit more time to capture – the decision in Itsuka Ano Umi de to go with with eight episodes rather than twelve, in conjunction with the delays, has meant that the Kantai Collection sequel hasn’t left quite as strong of an impression on me as I was originally anticipating. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed that reviews about Itsuka Ano Umi de has been similarly limited: a Google search finds that besides myself, there’s only one other site that’s actively writing about this series (excluding Reddit and MyAnimeList).

  • It’s fair to say that interest in Kantai Collection isn’t anywhere close to what it’d been seven years earlier, and while the franchise still has a dedicated following in Japan, that it’s been seven years since the original series aired means that this series was probably unlikely to have done well from the start owing to declining interest. This is lamentable, because Itsuka Ano Umi de is otherwise an overall improvement to Kantai Collection. Having a longer runtime, and a more consistent release pattern would’ve been to the series’ benefit, allowing the series to show the side of Kantai Collection that the first season had failed to convey.

  • Having said this, what Itsuka Ano Umi de does convey to viewers is well-done: the series has done a satisfactory job of striking a balance between the naval combat and slice-of-life pieces. I’ve long held that in any given series colloquially referred to as “cute girls doing cute things”, the ordinary moments spent away from said work’s main premise are equally as important as the moments portraying the characters advancing their craft. The reason for this is that it shows the characters as having more depth beyond their activity of choice, and because it also provides an opportunity to show how mundane experiences may unexpectedly provide a stroke of inspiration.

  • In the case of Itsuka Ano Umi de, showing the Kan-musume‘s lives outside of battle serves to humanise them and remind viewers that even the spirits of naval vessels share the same desires as people do, preferring peace and normalcy over warfare and destruction. The Kan-musume might be fighting a fierce war against a foe dead-set on humanity’s annihilation, but they’re doing so precisely because it gives humanity a chance to live on. By choosing to show what’s at stake in Itsuka Ano Umi de, there’s a stronger reason for the Kan-musume to sortie here in the second season, than there had been in the first.

  • Adding Yukikaze into things and having her pick up the mikan that Shigure are so fond of is to create a bond; while Yamashiro and Fusō have retired, and the number of active Kan-musume dwindles, the positive spirits that the remaining vessels to the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron gives viewers the sense that, even though it looks like the Kan-musume are on the backfoot, so long as everyone’s got one another, hope still remains.

  • To ensure that this disparate group of Kan-musume are able to work as a team, group leader Yahagi decides to organise a training exercise to see how everyone cooperates and respond to unexpected circumstances on the open seas. The admiral himself is present, and traditionally, shows like Itsuka Ano Umi de have always invited political discussions to some extent because of their historical associations, but so far, viewers are fortunate that those elements of the fanbase are absent. I’ve never been fond of those who shoehorn politics into everything, and on this note, I’ve got a brief update about one infamous military-moé fan, “Toukairin”. I had this individual banned from AnimeSuki some years earlier owing to their radical opinions about current events, and had hoped this ban would force him to re-evaluate his life decisions.

  • Unfortunately for me, Toukairin simply fell back on his old habits through Twitter, posting insults and hateful messages as “AKDNManUtd2010”. I managed to find this account by pure luck, and have since been working towards getting him suspended from Twitter. There’s no place for people who believe that petty insults constitutes as intelligent political discourse, and just today, I managed to get the AKDNManUtd2010 account temporarily locked. Although this lock will expire in a week, Toukairin has already lost a number of followers since his account was temporarily locked. I doubt AKDNManUtd2010 will check his tone once his account’s reinstated, but I will continue to report him for as long as necessary until AKDNManUtd2010 is permanently banned: Toukairin may be entitled to an opinion, but owing to his attitudes and actions, he certainly isn’t entitled to an audience or agreement. Returning back to Itsuka Ano Umi de, the training exercise begins shortly after the objectives are outlined, and everyone becomes fired up.

  • With the Admiral having a tangible presence in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the world of Kantai Collection becomes a lot more plausible. One of my biggest grievances about Kantai Collection‘s first season had been that it was too game-like, which in turn diminished the world’s ability to immerse viewers. One example of a game-turned-anime with excellent world-building and immersion is Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – all game elements have been removed from the anime, and instead, compelling stories are told about the characters. At the same time, the characters’ experiences take place in a world with a lived-in feeling, giving things significantly more depth.

  • In taking this approach, Itsuka Ano Umi de shows that yes, it is possible to tell good stories so long as the world is properly fleshed out. On an unrelated note, after doing some digging around, I’ve found nothing about the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de, save the fact that the incidental pieces are composed by Kaori Ohkoshi, who had worked on the music to the game. This is a shame, since the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de is excellent, and similarly, the opening song exudes World War Two vibes. There’s been nothing on whether or not a soundtrack exists at all for Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I imagine that things could go the same way as they had for Luminous Witches, where the original soundtrack had remained unreleased long after the series had ended.

  • For some of my military moé posts, a large part of the joy comes from being able to look at the hardware and tactics, and using real-world specifications, try to speculate on how something might end up. This is one of the things that made Girls und Panzer so enjoyable, but in Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume themselves are only modelled after their real-world counterparts, and the foes they fight have unknown properties, so trying to guess at the outcome of a battle isn’t something that can be reliably done.

  • While Kantai Collection players would probably have a better idea of how the different Kan-musume would perform in battle, as well as against one another during mock battles, my lack of familiarity with the ships’ in-game statistics leaves me ill-equipped to ponder how battles turn out. As such, I am content to simply watch things unfold: for my part, I don’t recognise half of the Kan-musume that appear, and it’s times like these where I do wish that they’d do as Shirobako had and provide name tags for characters making their first appearance.

  • Unlike the frenzy of a night battle, doing a training exercise by day under calm seas allows for the animation team at ENGI to really show viewers what they’ve got. ENGI has previously worked on Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! and its sequel; although Itsuka Ano Umi de is more detailed than Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out!, both series are characterised by extremely sharp lines and a more faded colour palette.

  • In the end, despite surprise attacks from aerial and sub-surface foes, Yukikaze and Shigure end up working together to reach Yahagi and “sink” her in the exercise, leaving Yahagi with a better measure of what the  Second Torpedo Squadron can do. Viewers have some reassurance that, despite the internal struggles Shigure faces, she’s still a team player and can cooperate with those around her.

  • Post-exercise, the Kan-musume maintain and clean their gear. Actions like these were absent in Kantai Collection‘s first season, so showing them here in Itsuka Ano Umi de serves to enhance the feeling of immersion. I get the sense that the first season had been rushed out as a means of promoting the game by fitting in the largest number of characters possible, and this had come at the expense of giving viewers a chance to connect with Kantai Collection‘s story and world. On the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de has made a more concerted effort towards giving viewers a chance to see why the Kan-musume are fighting, even as the tide of battle begins shifting against them.

  • Yukikaze’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky demeanour is prima facie better-suited for the likes of the original Kantai Collection, or perhaps Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!. However, on closer inspection, she’s precisely the sort of person that Shigure needs: since Shigure has seen many losses on the open oceans, she’s become quite reserved and jaded; having someone like Yukikaze in her corner would liven her world up and show that even though many of her allies and friends have retired from active service or were lost at sea, there’s still things worth fighting for.

  • Hence, when Yukikaze shows up and immediately helps herself to the onigiri and tangerines that Hamakaze’s brought, Shigure smiles while Hamakaze and Isokaze look on with surprised expressions. Small moments like these do much to remind viewers that even though Shigure is serious for the most part, there are things in the world that bring her joy, and as such, she still retains a reason for heading out into battle and returning alive. With characters that are written to have little left to live for, they often push themselves in battle and fight with little regard for their own safety.

  • In series like those, writers often have said characters developing a friendship or discovering something worth living for, which alters their mindset. Itsuka Ano Umi de doesn’t portray Shigure in this light and instead, has taken a more incremental route. Shigure may be rendered grim and taciturn from what she’s seen, but at the same time, she also understands there’s value in her commitment. In battle, Shigure fights with determination and caution. Outside of battle, there are still things she enjoys, and here, seeing Shigure interacting with the sprites maintaining one of Ryūhō’s aircraft show that Shigure’s able to value the smaller moments in life. It helps that Ryūhō is on excellent terms with Shigure: the pair have fought alongside one another previously.

  • When Yukikaze unexpectedly experiences stomach problems and is brought to her knees by the intensity of the pain, I was left wondering if Itsuka Ano Umi de was going to take a darker route to things, but these concerns were quite unnecessary: as a result of having eaten too many tangerines, Yukikaze is rendered unable to participate in the next assignment, to escort Ryūhō, and instead, requires repair work to be done. This leaves the escort ships down to three: Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze must carry out their task without Yukikaze.

  • The smaller team sizes and relative absence of secondary characters in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes things a little easier to follow, and most of the introduced characters do have a more substantial role, whereas in Kantai Collection, it could become difficult to keep track of everyone. Anime with a large number of characters will always have this challenge, and while some series will provide labels identifying the characters, I’ve always found that my preferred approach for handling this is to remember the names of the central characters and focus on their experiences.

  • In a briefing with Yahagi, the assignment is defined – the Second Torpedo Squadron is to follow a course that will see them escort Ryūhō over to the island of Taiwan to resupply forces there. The observant reader will note that the route the Kan-musume are taking hugs the coast of China, with red markers presumably denoting areas of Abyssal activity. I am glad that Ituska Ano Umi de returns things to Japan, since it gives the Kan-musume‘s fight greater weight – when Kantai Collection had set things in a generic location that was plainly not tropical (deciduous trees are visible), it felt as though the Kan-musume were fighting in a vacuum.

  • Separating the characters from the homeland they’re fighting for took away from the impact of their actions, and as such, while I felt that Fubuki and her goals were noble, Kantai Collection never quite succeeded in conveying this to viewers. Kantai Collection: The Movie was when the series began utilising setting more seriously – the Kan-musume were based out of the Solomon Islands, and the mystique of a tropical jungle in the remote reaches of the Pacific contributed to the feeling of unease the film had sought to convey.

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s sixth episode spends quite a bit of time showcasing the launch of the Second Torpedo Squadron. Moments like these accentuate the fact that the Kan-musume are naval vessels – in contrast with the original Kantai Collection, where the Kan-musume‘s launches felt more like the deployment of Iron Man suits, things happen much more slowly, suggesting at the mass and power of each vessel.

  • A quick look at Ryūhō finds that the original had been a light aircraft carrier that was primarily used as an aircraft transport and training carrier owing to her small size, poor speed and weaker construction. As the Pacific War turned against Japan, the Ryūhō would see increasing combat assignments, and in December of 1944, the Ryūhō was assigned on a run to Taiwan with Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze. History has Ryūhō reaching her destination and surviving American airstrikes before successfully returning home to Kure.

  • Assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de uses this assignment as the final assignment, one can readily predict what will happen in the series: Ryūhō will reach Taiwan with Hamakaze, Isokaze and Shigure, where they will get hammered by Abyssal forces. A combination of teamwork and luck will allow them to survive and return home. Of course, if Itsuka Ano Umi de goes for the historical route, Ryūhō was attacked while in harbour in March of 1945 and mission-killed. Hamakaze was sunk outside of Nagasaki, and Isokaze would be scuttled after sustaining heavy damage while escorting the Yamato a month later.  Seeing everyone sunk or decommissioned would likely go against the themes Itsuka Ano Umi de is seeking to convey, and ending the story on an optimistic note seems more likely.

  • Here, after running out of depth charges, Shigure pulls out a box and throws two reserves into the water, successfully sinking another Abyssal submarine in the process. By this point in time, the fierce enemy counteroffensive means that everyone’s running out of anti-submarine options, but fortunately, they’re close enough to their destination so that coastal patrol Kan-musume can help them deal with the remaining enemies.

  • I’ve never seen Kan-musume of this sort previously, and I’d expect that had they been in Kantai Collection, the episode would’ve likely had a more slice-of-life focus. Speaking to the gravity of the situation in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the newly-arrived coastal patrol team is all-serious as they dump their depth charges to take out the remaining Abyssal submarines giving Shigure and her team trouble.

  • The dark weather and rainy seas means another battle set under moody conditions, where the combat isn’t quite as visible to viewers as something that occurs during the light of day, but once the friendly patrols arrive, breaks in the cloud signify the end of a difficult stage of Shigure and her compatriots’ journey, giving viewers a chance to breathe again as the threat posed by the Abyssals are eradicated for the time being. It was lucky that this episode ends on a positive note, since there’s now a bit of a wait before the seventh episode. Without a cliffhanger, the wait will be significantly more manageable.

  • While the breaks mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de will have a tough time maintaining its momentum, one of the big positives is that this actually makes my blogging schedule a little more manageable. Had Itsuka Ano Umi de aired with more regularity, I would’ve found difficulty in getting Mō Ippon! and Bofuri into my schedule. These are the next two anime-related posts I’ve got planned for January, and I’m also eyeing a post on Kaginado!‘s second season; this had aired back during the spring, but owing to timing, I never did get around to watching it back then.

Itsuka Ano Umi de continues to demonstrate that it is the Kantai Collection viewers deserved back in 2015: character progression is meaningful, and the aesthetic is authentic. Coupled with world-building that hints at a much richer world, Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be enjoyable on all front save one: owing to production delays, the entire airing schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de has been thrown off. Scuttlebutt has it that the delays meant that broadcasters were left trying to fit the remaining episodes in with currently airing shows, and because slots are limited, the anime continues to be pushed back. The delays between episodes is understandable, but it does give the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de has been given the shaft. I imagine that at the height of its popularity, broadcasters would’ve ensured that Kantai Collection got a reasonable time slot to ensure viewers were happy, but given that it’s been over seven years since Kantai Collection was a popular topic, it is fair to suppose that diminished interest in the series means that the consequences of pushing Itsuka Ano Umi de back are minimal. This is a little disappointing, since the long gaps between episodes breaks the momentum within the story; a consistent schedule helps to maintain engagement, and if a story is too broken up, it does require a bit more effort to recall the previous episode’s events, and excitement is diminished as other things come up. While I expect Itsuka Ano Umi de to deliver a good experience to viewers, the next episode’s release date is February 12, and this suggests that Kantai Collection isn’t something that people are especially interested in. In spite of this, I am looking forwards to seeing Itsuka Ano Umi de send off the franchise in a respectful manner.

KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“What’s past is past. For both of us.” –Maverick, Top Gun: Maverick

After the third section enters Surigao Strait, Mogami’s spotter aircraft identify Abyssal patrol boats, signifying an ambush. Moments later, Abyssal forces strike the third section from the skies, but Shigure and the others are able to repel this attack and press forward deeper into the strait. Upon nightfall, Mogami, Yamagumo, Asagumo, and Michishio break off to engage Abyssal patrol boats. However, this leaves Shigure, Yamashiro and Fusō to come under fire from additional Abyssal forces. Mogami and the destroyers return just in time to provide covering fire, while the second fleet begin to advance towards the Abyssal fleet. During the combat, Fusō sustains damage from an Abyssal torpedo and is damaged, but Yamashiro orders the remainder of the third section to continue advancing. They reach the heart of the Abyssal fleet, where a pair of Night Strait Princesses await them. Although their firepower is inadequate to deal with this threat, the first fleet arrive and begin bombarding one of the Princesses, leaving Yamashiro to dispatch their remaining foe. In the aftermath, Fusō and Yamashiro are decommissioned, having sustained too much damage to remain sea-worthy. Shigure and Mogami both managed to survive with minor injuries, and although Shigure is saddened to see Fusō and Yamashiro retire, she promises to keep fighting for everyone’s sake. Shigure is reassigned to the Second Torpedo Squadron, learns that their contributions have delayed the Abyssal invasion of the Japanese mainland, and given orders to take some time off. She visits a ryokan and meets Yukikaze. The pair share time together, and Shigure hardly believes that even amidst a war, she is still able to rest up and enjoy something as luxurious as an onsen. The next day, she returns to base and meets the remainder of the Second Torpedo Squadron, which is placed under Yahagi’s command. Itsuka Ano Umi de was supposed to reach this point three weeks earlier, but unexpected challenges in production ultimate lead the fourth episode, the series’ halfway point, to be delayed until today.

Now that half of Itsuka Ano Umi de is in the books, it is evident that this is the Kantai Collection anime fans were waiting for. Between the grim gravity of the Kan-musume‘s situation, vividly-rendered battle sequences and significantly improved world-building, Itsuka Ano Umi de captures the emotional tenour of every moment more effectively than its predecessors did. The stakes are plainly laid out for viewers: the Abyssal’s objective is the attrition and destruction of Japan, and to this end, are preparing for an invasion. Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s version of Operation Shō-Gō, then, was to cripple the Abyssal fleet’s fighting capability, and thanks to the contributions of each fleet, including Shigure and the third section, enough damage was done so that the Abyssals won’t be directly attacking Japan any time soon. This in turn allows for the Kan-musume and their Admiral to repair their forces, rearm and reorganise for the difficult path ahead. After two full episodes of continuous combat, the fourth episode is deliberately paced to give viewers insight into the Shōwa era. Civilians are seen browsing through their local shopping district, and peaceful ryokan exist in rural areas, giving Shigure a chance to unwind and meet a peer, Yukikaze. Watching ordinary people live out their lives is a subtle reminder to viewers of what the Kan-musume are fighting for; they’re here to protect their homeland and its people. Seeing these elements coming together in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes this second season of Kantai Collection a dramatic improvement over its predecessor – there’s a clear reason why the Kan-musume must fight the Abyssals. This time around, Shigure and the others aren’t fighting to define the purpose of their existence, but rather, they’re fighting to protect what is dear to them. However, just because the Abyssals have taken a loss doesn’t mean the war is over yet, and at present, despite having sustained heavy damage to their own fleet, the Abyssals still have a largely-intact submarine force, which necessitates additional action in the name of protecting Japan and its people.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having now seen the combat sequences, it is plain that the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are a step above from those of its predecessors with respect to small details like the anti-air guns on each Kan-musume and the færies, which are more prominent than they’d been in earlier instalments. Similarly, Abyssals attack in larger groups, which, in conjunction with improved visuals and cinematography, means that battles tend to feel more dynamic and chaotic.

  • One aspect that Itsuka Ano Umi de will need to address is how the Abyssals fit into things in light of what Kantai Collection: The Movie had revealed; Kantai Collection had left the Abyssals purely as a foe to fight against, but the film clarified that they’re the negative manifestations of a given vessel’s spirits, and showed that Fubuki was the first to understand that rather than fighting those feelings, she should accept them because they were a part of her. In Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fubuki is absent, and the anime’s portrayal of the Battle of Leyte Gulf doesn’t have much context.

  • All that was shown thus far, is that command is launching a major offensive with the remaining assets that were available to them in a bid to wipe out the Abyssals. However, from the dialogue and overall mood in Itsuka Ano Umi de, things aren’t going well for the Kan-musume, standing in stark contrast with the cautious optimism that was seen at the film’s end. Because the film had portrayed the events of the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place in 1944, it stands to reason that following the movie’s events, the Kan-musume continued to sustain losses even with the newfound hope gained from Fubuki’s experiences.

  • Because the Pacific War ended with Imperial Japan’s defeat, if Itsuka Ano Umi de were to maintain a historically accurate portrayal of things, it would ultimately end with every Kan-musume in the First Strike Force’s Third Section except for Shigure being sunk. Because Shigure had already been shown as having seen the loss of her fellow Kan-musume earlier, taking the historically accurate route would mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s outcomes would be quite grim, leaving viewers to contemplate on the futility of war.

  • Such a theme would stand contrary to the messages the film left behind, and also suggest that the browser game itself is ultimately meaningless: if the fleets players have painstakingly worked to build and maintain are to be offered up as sacrifices, it would demotivate players from continuing to invest time and effort into the game. Assuming that this isn’t the case, Itsuka Ano Umi de needs to have things turn out differently for the the First Strike Force’s Third Section, and it wouldn’t be the first time Kantai Collection altered the outcome of a historical battle to better fit the story.

  • The first season of Kantai Collection had Fubuki and her friends come out on top at the Battle of Midway, whereas in reality, Japan suffered the loss of key assets that irrevocably altered the course of the Pacific War and tipped it in the Allies’ favour. I have heard that some folks consider Kantai Collection to be “revisionist” for this reason, but because Kantai Collection is simply a conflict involving the spirits of World War Two era vessels against a manifestation of their darker selves, the story can, and should be allowed to progress in a way that ensures the themes can be consistent.

  • This is why Jonathan Gad’s VICE article decrying the presence of miltary moé anime is invalid: Gad claims that series like Kantai Collection and Strike Witches are increasingly painting military forces as “cute” and harmless in an attempt to bury what’s happened historically. In the same article, Gad is also suggesting that the Japanese government is encouraging the production of such anime and games in an attempt to push this narrative. However, this conclusion is only reached if one hasn’t made an attempt to understand a given work. Kantai Collection‘s original run had strove to do two things: portray Fubuki’s journey to improve as a Kan-musume, and suggest that people have the agency to do good even in the face of overwhelming odds.

  • From a numbers perspective, one anime, about one online game, is not an attempt at whitewashing history, and together with the themes that were present in Kantai Collection, I can say with confidence that criticisms about Kantai Collection‘s first season being a weaker series because it couldn’t pin down its intended direction are more valid than suggestions that things like military moé is inherently harmful. Itsuka Ano Umi de appears to have stepped away from its predecessor’s approach entirely; insofar, the series has been a lot more focused and compelling.

  • In previous Kantai Collection posts, I tended to steer clear of night battle shots simply because they’re hard to take screenshots for. Night battles are excellent for conveying a sense of urgency because most operations in the Kantai Collection anime usually begin by day, and having conflict stretch into the night shows the Kan-musume‘s determination. Similarly, the darkness night confers corresponds to decreased visibility, and this increases the danger that Kan-musume face. As the Third Section’s battle wears on, Fusō sustains damage as the Abyssals relentlessly hammer them.

  • There’s the faintest hint of resignation in Fusō’s character here in Itsuka Ano Umi de: although she’s kinder than Yamashiro and does her best to reassure everyone, the way she sounds in speech suggests that she’s aware of her impending demise and is at peace with things. Mogami and the Asashio-class destroyers act more similarly to military moé characters, and this creates a bit of a contrast, even during battle.

  • As the night wears on, the Abyssals begin sending heavier forces: the patrol boats that Shigure have been fending off are soon replaced by destroyers and cruisers. Having already been pushed to their limits, and with Fusō damaged, the Third Section appears to be completely overwhelmed, especially when what appears to be the Abyssal versions of Fusō and Yamashiro appear. The spider lilies make a return, blooming at the feet of the Kan-musume‘s foe, but they take on an unearthly blue hue. In reality, blue spider lilies do not appear with such a deep shade of blue. The Lycoris sprengeri (Electric Blue Spider Lily) is the closest equivalent, but it has more of a lilac colour, and their flowers have a different shape.

  • The timely arrival of other vessels allow the Third Section to live to fight another day: they provide covering fire thin out the number of guns firing at Fusō and Yamashiro. Because of the sheer number of characters in Kantai Collection, I have no objections to admitting that I’m not going to be able to recognise most of the vessels in the series beyond my personal favourites and central characters. As new vessels show up to pick up the slack, the Abyssal flagship, controlled by the doppelgänger Fusō and Yamashiro, increase the ferocity of their assault in turn.

  • I rarely provide any screenshots of the Abyssals because of their grotesque appearance, and because for the most part, their appearance on screen is usually limited to them exploding after being fired upon. I believe that the Abyssal specters of Fusō and Yamashiro here would be what’s known as event bosses, which are uncommonly tough and require careful preparation and special tactics to beat. I remember a time when the English-speaking Kantai Collection community griped about how difficult these events could be, requiring a combination of luck and time investment to overcome, but in the present, I’m not sure if large numbers of English-speakers still play Kantai Collection.

  • The game and franchise remain popular in Japan: the main reason why Kantai Collection never gained widespread popularity was simply because Kadokawa only intended for the game to be played by a domestic audience. However, this approach does mean that there is little incentive to adopt improved technologies: Kantai Collection didn’t make the jump over to HTML5 from Flash until 2018, and by then, longtime overseas players had grown bored of the fact that beyond the events, Kantai Collection hadn’t been offering them with anything new.

  • Kongō and Haruna subsequently appear, and I am immediately reminded of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō whenever Kongō speaks: both are voiced by Nao Tōyama, a renowned voice actress that I know best as Yuru Camp△‘s very own Shimarin. Unlike Rin, Karen and Kongō are energetic, spirited and lively – I’ve heard that Tōyama’s personality is more similar to Karen and Kongō’s than she is Rin, while Yumuri Hanamori, who voices Nadeshiko, is actually more similar to Rin. It was nice to see familiar faces returning in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I welcome hearing Kongō returning to the party.

  • Another old friend, Yamato, returns: the presence of the IJN’s most powerful battleship here suggests to me that the original operation must’ve been successful, since everyone’s now being redirected to save the Third Section from certain death. While writing for this post, I learnt that Yamato is voiced by none other than Ayana Taketatsu, another star voice actress known for her roles as K-On!‘s Azu-nyan, Fū Sawatari of TamayruaOreImo‘s very own Kirino Kōsaka, The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ Nino Nakano and even Sword Art Online‘s Suguha Kirigaya.

  • Encouraged by the show of support from her fellow Kan-musume, Yamashiro prepares for one final attack on the Abyssal’s flagship, firing on its weak spot in a show of acrobatics as Shigure provides covering fire. In the ensuing explosion, Yamashiro’s fate is not shown, but the resulting shot does take out the flagship moments before sunrise. Here, I will remark that the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s soundtrack and opening song are both excellent, but I’ve not found anything on either. By this point in the season, most anime will have already released the opening song.

  • When I reached this point in Itsuka Ano Umi de four weeks earlier, I had been hoping that viewers would have the chance to see the aftermath, but instead, the Kantai Collection anime’s official Twitter announced that owing to production issues, the anime would take a four-week hiatus before continuing. While it is true that Itsuka Ano Umi de is a cut above its predecessor, especially with respect to its character development and world-building, the fact that there’s only eight episodes meant that at least in theory, production would be a little more manageable than that of a twelve episode series.

  • Admittedly, the delay has allowed me to write about other things, and in this way, I was able to finish a more difficult post on Top Gun: Maverick before November drew to a close. Back in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fusō and Yamashiro prepare to take their final leave: although they’d survived the battle, they’re no longer combat-worthy. They bid Shigure and the admiral farewell. The admiral had remained a nameless and faceless in the original Kantai Collection, so bringing him to the party as a character with speaking roles serves to remove the game-like nature the first season had.

  • The slower pacing throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de is to the series’ advantage, forcing viewers to consider the costs of warfare and its all-consuming nature. Rather than driving home this point with the subtlety of a thrown brick, Itsuka Ano Umi de has instead opted for a more open-ended approach: a melancholy permeates every aspect of this series, even during more light-hearted moments, and this stands in stark contrast to how the first season had presented things. The melancholy throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de also is, inadvertently, a reflection of how Kantai Collection is no longer as big as it’d been seven years earlier.

  • Seven years ago, one could hardly go anywhere online without encountering people discussing how to get into Kantai Collection‘s browser game if they were overseas, and those who did figure it out played obsessively, sometimes to the detriment of their careers and real-world obligations. I do remember one player expressing the belief that a GTX 980 Ti was needed to get optimal frame rates in this browser game at Reddit, and in today’s terms, it’d be equivalent to stating as fact that, if one didn’t have an RTX 4090, they wouldn’t be able to play Kantai Collection.

  • In reality, if a browser game was so demanding that one needed an i9 13900k and RTX 4090 to run, then Kadokawa’s developers are clearly sub-par: at its core, Kantai Collection is merely a random number generator that pulls information from a hash table and rendering the results as 2D graphics. With this in mind, I have heard that Kantai Collection is poorly optimised and can cause memory leaks can slow down any machine with less than 32 GB of RAM, and given that Kadokawa thought acquiring Anime News Network was a good idea, I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kantai Collection team consisted of third-rate developers who can’t tell the difference between a method override and a method overload.

  • Outside of her combat roles, Shigure dresses in a more conservative outfit that is styled after women’s clothing from the Shōwa era. The intersection of the fantastical elements of Kantai Collection intersect with a more authentic portrayal of Japan here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and it was seeing Shigure’s journey from the naval base in Sasebo (incidentally, where Brave Witches‘ Hikari and Takami were from) to the rural ryokan that helped provide an answer to why Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be more compelling than its predecessor.

  • The reason is simple enough: by showing the world as being inhabited, and that the war against the Abyssals does have material consequences should the Kan-musume lose, it gives viewers a better idea of why the Kan-musume are fighting to begin with. The original Kantai Collection had been lacking this, placing the Kan-musume in a vacuum and omitting their battle’s significance. This made it difficult to root for the characters and their struggles: beyond sinking, it felt that their fight was inconsequential, being set in a remote part of the South Pacific.

  • One aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that really drives home the gravity of this situation was how, even though Shigure is allowed a chance to unwind and recuperate following her contributions to the latest operation, these scenes have a more muted tone to them. The cost of the ongoing war with the Abyssals is constantly weighing on her mind, and now, with both Fusō and Yamashiro retired, it does feel as though Shigure is continuing to lose the people around her. As such, whereas Kantai Collection would have originally taken this chance to show Shigure off a little, Itsuka Ano Umi de dispenses with this entirely.

  • I imagine that the dramatic shift in tone was probably in response to both the precedence that Kantai Collection: The Movie had set, as well as how Azur Lane came to prominence in the years afterward. Azur Lane had also tried to mix the introspective and melancholy elements with slice-of-life comedy moments and similarly struggled to deliver a cohesive story, so when they released the Slow Ahead! spin-off and found that there was much that could be done to lighten things up, it seemed natural that Itsuka Ano Umi de would need to go in the opposite direction to differentiate itself from its competitor.

  • Halfway through Itsuka Ano Umi de, it should be clear that this approach is working, and insofar, has succeeded in giving viewers a reason to watch Shigure’s journey. For anime like Kantai Collection, I imagine the aim was originally to drive interest in the game, but considering how long it’s been, I cannot help but get the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de was produced so Kadokawa could fulfil their original promise of delivering a second Kantai Collection season (albeit seven years later). Had something like Itsuka Ano Umi de been made back in 2015, it may have succeeded in promoting the game, but in the present, this second season, as enjoyable as it’s been, feels more like a Hail Mary.

  • In any other anime, moments like Shigure and Yukikaze spending time to know one another, before swapping ghost stories and clutching one another when the lights flicker, would be portrayed in greater detail to show viewers the bonding. The decision to truncate it is deliberate, meant to mirror how this is a war, and during wartime, the things that are normally taken for granted become scarcer. While these moments are short, however, they do much to show how even despite the losses she’s experienced already, Shigure still makes an effort to open up to those around her.

  • As a result, although the third section is no more, the Second Torpedo Squadron, Shigure’s new teammates, will almost certainly have a much bigger role to play, both in repelling the Abyssal attempts at an invasion, and in helping Shigure to accept the losses in her past and make the most of the present. After she returns to base with Yukikaze, viewers have a chance to see the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron, and here, I will note that Hamakaze is visible. It is good to see her with the potential of getting more screen time, along with Hibiki, a familiar face returning from the first season. I suppose that hoping Fubuki would return in some form was too much to ask for here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, but beyond this, the series has held my attention in a way the original Kantai Collection did not.

  • Having now reached the second season’s halfway point, I am hoping that the release schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de will be a little more consistent from here on out; there’s only four episodes left, and I do plan on returning at the three-quarters mark to offer some thoughts on where things have headed. In the meantime, my work year has come to a close. Owing to the fact I had thirteen-and-a-half vacation days unused, I determined it would be a good idea to use this time and catch up on some rest of my own as the winter holidays draw near. This rest can come later: later tonight, I’ve got a Christmas party with the office, and we’re set to return to the Italian restaurant we went to last year. Their food’s amazing, and this year, I now know to pace myself and not become full before the entrée shows up.

Itsuka Ano Umi de is what Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run should have been: rather than attempting to treat the animated adaptation as a video game, complete with mechanics and no apparent objective to mimic the game’s endless gameplay, Itsuka Ano Umi de instead gives the antagonists’ actions and intentions significantly more weight, which in turn provides a stronger, more tangible motivation for Shigure and the other Kan-musume. Moreover, each battle is presented as being a matter of life and death; even the small Abyssal Patrol boats are presented as threats that must be taken seriously, and every successful sortie comes with a cost, even if no one is outright sunk. Similarly, every single Kan-musume that comes home from battle is celebrated. The overall presentation of warfare in Itsuka Ano Umi de is vastly more mature than that of its predecessor, and presents a story that better represents the Kantai Collection universe in animated format. Itsuka Ano Umi de does not hold the viewer’s hand or explain its mechanics, and instead, chooses to focus purely on its story. While assuming that viewers are somewhat familiar with Kantai Collection and how things work in game means leaving out some aspects, Itsuka Ano Umi de is able to trade exposition for telling a more compelling story about Shigure and the other Kan-musume that are still around to fight the Abyssals. Despite what is likely to be an extremely difficult journey up ahead, the halfway point shows that despite the odds remaining firmly against the Kan-musume, everyone is willing to stand up and fight to protect the most precious things in their world. Following a three-week delay, one hopes that Itsuka Ano Umi de will continue maintaining a smarter pacing: there are only four episodes left, and the setup in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first half creates a compelling reason to watch the second half to see what outcomes result, as well as what learnings can be derived from Shigure’s experiences.

Sortie Day – KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de First Episode Review and Reflections

“A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with tangerines. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a tangerine. So, we went looking for the tangerines. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a tangerine the size of a tangerine. The tangerine had been the tangerine.” –Michael Caine, The Tangerine Knight

While Shigure contemplates the loss of her allies in recent battles and recalls old memories with her sister ship, especially Kawakaze, Hamakaze appears and asks her to go take a look at the new assignments following a fleet reorganisation. As it turns out, Shigure’s been assigned to the First Strike Force, Section Three (1YB3H) ahead of a massive operation. This reorganisation speaks to how poorly the war’s been going for the Kan-musume: the fleet here is the remainder of all allied forces. She meets the heavy cruiser, Mogami, and the pair set off to meet her fellow compatriots, Shigure is surprised when Yamashiro immediately berates her for being late. While it appears that Yamashiro has crossed the line with her insults, the Asashio-class destroyers, Michishio, Asagumo and Yamagumo show up, demanding to know what beef Yamashiro has with destroyers. Shigure decides to bring out her tangerines and share them. Fusō thanks Shigure for having defused the tension, and mentions that their current assignment will be their only one: they’re to act as the diversionary force in a massive operation. However, despite the prospect of being sent out on a suicide mission, the destroyers begin singing, and everyone resolves to make it out of their assignment together. On the day of the operation, Shigure’s group prepare to sortie. Yamashiro passes some scout aircraft to Mogami, believing that she could make use of them, and Fusō asks Shigure to look after Yamashiro. She gives Shigure a special hairpin, and the group await orders to set sail. When the order is given, Shigure and the others take off, with Shigure remarking to herself that no rainfall lasts forever. Seven years after Kantai Collection‘s second season was announced, Itsuka Ano Umi de has finally aired, and right out of the gates, it is plain that this series is going to be a serious one. A feeling of melancholy and grim determination permeates every scene; even though the Asashio-class destroyers bring a bit of light-hearted humour into things, the overall assignment and atmospherics surrounding Itsuka Ano Umi de is unlike anything that Kantai Collection‘s first season had conveyed.

While such a setup prima facie sets the stage for tragedy and loss, Itsuka Ano Umi de also suggests that history will not repeat itself. Having lost Kawakaze in an earlier engagement, Shigure continues to eat her tangerine oranges. These tangerines are smaller than oranges, easier to peel and have a sweeter taste than oranges. They are high in vitamin C and anti-oxidants, which improves the immune system, heart health and even provides some resilience against cancer. In Japan, tangerines are known as mikan and are a common fruit seen during the winter, as quintessential as the venerable kotatsu. As in Chinese culture, where tangerine are eaten during the Lunar New Year, tangerine are a symbol of prosperity and happiness. In a series that opens the gate with a very muted colour palette, and a subdued tenour, the presence of tangerine in Itsuka Ano Umi de is significant. These fruits are juxtaposed sharply with the aesthetic in Itsuka Ano Umi de, being a splash of vibrant colour in an otherwise grey, washed-out environment. In conjunction with the fact that flashbacks suggest that Kawakaze was fond of tangerines, and shared them often with Shigure, Shigure sees tangerines as a source of comfort and camaraderie. Despite being insulted by Yamashiro, Shigure still shares her tangerines with her new battle group to break the water, feeling it to be an appropriate gesture of friendship. In this way, while Itsuka Ano Umi de lacks the same light-heartedness as its predecessor, tangerines have been utilised to show that even when the war has reached dire straits for the Kan-musume, there remains some hope yet. In the context of Itsuka Ano Umi de, tangerines come to represent fortitude and hope: traditionally, tangerines come in very large boxes in Japan, and are therefore eaten over time. To share tangerines with companions, then, is to symbolise that everyone will have the opportunity to continue spending time together as they fight hard to protect one another, and the values they stand for.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shigure is voiced by Yumi Tanibe, who is better known for her role as Yūdachi. Unlike Kantai Collection, however, Itsuka Ano Umi de is all business. Yūdachi and her trademark ~poi is completely absent here, and the overall aesthetic is more similar to Kantai Collection: The Movie, being more focused on the warfare elements than the slice-of-life piece. As far as characters go, Shigure and her background are more suited for a war drama type story; mirroring her real-world counterpart, which emerged from numerous battles as the sole survivor.

  • Right out of the gates, it’s clear that in seven years, animation techniques have improved greatly, and the Kan-musume now have access to anti-air guns in addition to their primary armaments. Battle scenes are rendered in greater detail, and the animation is crisper than before. Overall, the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are significant improvement over Kantai Collection‘s, and even Kantai Collection: The Movie, which had improved artwork and animation over the 2015 anime, feels dated in comparison. Both story and artwork come together to give Itsuka Ano Umi de merit.

  • However, one aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that weighs on my mind is the fact that it comes seven years too late; a second season to Kantai Collection was announced as early as March 2015, and while excitement surrounding what a potential continuation would entail was high when Kantai Collection was still fresh on viewer’s minds, excitement tapered off after the series ended, and no new news of a second season materialised. In fact, after Kantai Collection: The Movie, it wasn’t until January 2021 where news of a continuation appeared, and even then, it was only a vague comment that Itsuka Ano Umi de was being worked on.

  • By 2021, even viewers who’d found Kantai Collection somewhat enjoyable were skeptical that a second season would happen at all. In the past five years, despite losing almost all interest amongst the international community, Kantai Collection retains a healthy, if slowly declining, player base amongst people in Japan. The dōjin scene is still strong, and fanart of Kantai Collection is still being produced at a regular rate. Kantai Collection was always intended to be produced for a domestic market, and in this area, the franchise has done very well.

  • Kantai Collection was never intended to be played outside of Japan: anyone overseas attempting to register will not be successful unless they use a VPN. Back in the day, some folks determined that there was a way of using Kantai Collection‘s API to bypass the web client’s registration limitations and were able to play the game. These early adopters also popularised the term “API link” in the process, using the term in their guides. Back in the day, I never understood what these guides was referring to, but as it turns out, an “API link” refers to the endpoints that Kantai Collection‘s developers had exposed for their web clients to consume.

  • In computing, an API is an “Abstract Programming Interface”, which exposes parts of a system for other applications to use or consume. For instance, if I were writing a server for hosting and viewing images, my API would include method calls for retrieving and storing images. These method calls would be accessed by providing a URL that points to a RESTful request, and these are known as the endpoints. Quite simply, it was possible to forge a registration for a Kantai Collection account by making use of API endpoints that were not otherwise exposed to users in the web client’s UI and pass in the requisite parameters. In this way, players were able to get into the game; although I now understand what the guides refer to, I nonetheless contend that the phrase “API link” is nonsensical.

  • At present, I’m still deciding whether or not I’d like to blog about Itsuka Ano Umi de episodically, since Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s direction has proven quite promising so far. While Kantai Collection‘s second season required a seven year wait and English-speaking fans of the series lost interest in it, I imagine that in Japan, folks who enjoyed the anime wouldn’t find this series’ arrival in 2022 to be unexpected in any way, being merely a long-awaited continuation to the series.

  • I have a fondness for Shigure already – unlike the stock military moé character, Shigure’s significantly more reserved and is haunted by her past losses. Further to this, Shigure feels like a competent Kan-musume, having more combat experience than Fubuki had. This allows the story to advance more quickly than Kantai Collection‘s did; there’s no need for Shigure to familiarise herself with Kan-musume or how things work, and moreover, Shigure’s losses means that she has a concrete reason to fight.

  • I am surprised that in the aftermath of the first episode’s airing, discussions haven’t turned towards the tangerines. Folks have been wondering why they featured so prominently in the trailers, and while they don’t have any specific meaning on their own, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first episode does hint at the fact that they’re a representation of camaraderie. I personally see tangerines as a symbol of consistency; when I was a student, my parents would buy them and ask that I eat one every day to keep my fruit intake up. This practise has persisted after I graduated (I used to eat them during my mid-morning break, and this moved into the afternoon after I began working from home), and in the present, I buy tangerines every time I go grocery shopping.

  • Although starting a new posting would be exciting in any other anime, Itsuka Ano Umi de establishes immediately that things here are going to be more grim in nature: after getting an earful from Yamashiro, Shigure only just manages to maintain her composure, and ends up learning that their group is to act as a diversionary force for what feels like a desperate, all-out attack on the Abyssals. I did find this to be a little strange, since Kantai Collection: The Movie‘s outcome had implied the Kan-musume gained the upper hand following Fubuki’s discovery that Kan-musume and Abyssals were two sides of the same coin.

  • A quick glance at the remaining roster in Itsuka Ano Umi de suggests that even Fubuki has been sunk, and the carriers are noticeably absent. It is possible that they’re being kept in reserve, but the overall atmosphere in Itsuka Ano Umi de is gloomier than it’d been, even in the film. This does eliminate any hopes I had about Itsuka Ano Umi de presenting a slice-of-life story as Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! did, but on the flipside, a more focused story here in Itsuka Ano Umi de would demonstrate that the genre is indeed capable of making the more serious aesthetic work.

  • Besides Itsuka Ano Umi de, this season’s other military moé offering is Arknights, an animated adaptation of the Chinese free-to-play game. I ended up giving the first episode a go, but the story drops viewers right into things without any context, leaving me totally lost. Consequently, I have no plans to actively watch, or write about Arknights; it seems more prudent for me to wait for a few more episodes to come out before giving this series a go. Of course, folks who’ve played the game find the series to be more enjoyable.

  • I find that anime adaptations of games need to make an effort to ensure that the game world can fit neatly into a standalone story if the anime is to succeed. Uma Musume Pretty Derby is probably the best example of a game whose animated adaptation does this well: even though I’ve never played the game before, the anime was fantastic and actually gave me a desire to play the game. Back in Itsuka Ano Ume de, once Shigure helps their team to settle down, everyone resolves to carry out their assignment successfully and come back to one another.

  • The visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are of such a high standard that this series feels more like a film. The Kan-musume‘s forward operating base is located in the South Pacific’s Melanesia region, and while the Kan-musume live in simple huts constructed from reeds, the base facilities appear quite sophisticated. The war may be turning against the Kan-musume, but it appears that from a resource standpoint, they’ve not completely been depleted yet, so there’s still a glimmer of hope left. Subtle cues like these can be used to estimate where a story is.

  • So far, I’ve not seen any faces from the original Kantai Collection returning to Itsuka Ano Umi de, but despite the (presumably) significant losses the Kan-musume have faced, Kantai Collection‘s second season still offers plenty of ships to portray. I’ve taken a liking to Hamakaze, and Akebono is still on the active roster, so I’m hoping she’ll have speaking lines in Itsuka Ano Umi de. The preparation scenes in Itsuka Ano Umi de are more detailed than those of their predecessor, and together with the improved combat sequences, I am rather excited to see how naval battles unfold here.

  • Ahead of the operation, Yamashiro hands support aircraft to Mogami, who accepts them with joy. Her real-world counterpart was originally classified as light cruiser that conformed with the London Naval Treaty, but were designed to accept 8-inch guns. Despite suffering from construction problems, the Mogami-class would become some of the best cruisers Japan had available to them in World War Two. Originally capable of carrying three Aichi E13A seaplanes, the upgraded Mogami would have a capacity for eleven, allowing them to carry out reconnaissance, as well.

  • Prior to leaving port, Shigure receives her trademark hair ornament from Fusō. For now, the significance of this hair ornament is not mentioned, but fielding an educated guess (and my guesses tend to be reasonably accurate most of the time), I’d suggest that the ornament is a physical reminder of the promise she’s making to Fusō about looking after Yamashiro: it’s the case that despite her blunt manner and tough-talking attitude, Yamashiro is perhaps the most vulnerable of the Kan-musume in this group. In history, the Yamashiro were sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf trying to cover for the Shigure.

  • Knowing what’s happened in history, and the fact that Isuka Ano Umi de seems to be focusing on this particular battle, gives the anime a strong sense of melancholy: if Isuka Ano Umi de is going to be true to historical events, the themes here would be decidedly more pessimistic. In reality, the destruction of the IJN marked a major turning point in World War Two and provided the Allied forces with open seas, setting the stage for the final campaigns that brought the Pacific War to a close. However, the Abyssals in Kantai Collection aren’t analogs of the Allied forces and instead, represent the Kan-musume‘s own inner darkness, so if the Abyssals are allowed to triumph, Kantai Collection‘s anime would imply that Nihilism and pessimism prevails over optimism and effort (something I vehemently disagree with).

  • Assuming that themes from Kantai Collection: The Movie are still relevant here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, there is a possibility that Shigure will have to find another way to make peace with what she’s experienced. At this point in time, however, no one knows how Itsuka Ano Umi de will unfold, and as such, a part of my curiosity in Kantai Collection‘s second season lies in seeing what lies ahead for viewers. In this way, Itsuka Ano Umi de represents a chance for Kantai Collection‘s anime adaptation to show viewers that the series is capable of telling an impactful story about the nature of warfare in a mature, measured manner.

  • We are now into November, and with Itsuka Ano Umi de finally starting, it means that all of the anime I’m intending to follow are now airing. I’ve hit my stride for this season: Yama no Susume: Next SummitBocchi The RockMobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From MercuryUzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out and Kancolle: Itsuka Ano Ume de are the shows I’m going to be actively watching. The year is beginning to entire its final months, and today, I decided to step out and grab a burger for lunch. Since it’d snowed this week, things were a bit slippery outside, but the burger was quite hearty (I’m always game for a burger with Applewood smoked bacon and onion rings). Looking ahead, I’ll be focused on writing about Next Summit and Itsuka Ano Ume de this month, although I’ll also have a few special topics posts here and there; the Yuru Camp△ movie is now out on Amazon Prime Japan, and I’m making fair progress through Modern Warfare II.

With the first episode of Itsuka Ano Umi de now in the books, it is clear that writers have decided to take Kantai Collection in a different direction than Azur Lane had. When Azur Lane‘s original run was plagued by an inconsistent tone that compromised the story’s coherence and left viewers with mixed feelings, Azur Lane ended up pivoting to a slice-of-life setup with Slow Ahead!. This comedy proved to be well-received, conveying Azur Lane‘s themes as effectively as the original series did, but without adding in elements that would detract from the ordinary, everyday antics their ship-girls experienced. Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run suffered from the same flaws, and while 2016’s Kantai Collection: The Movie, attempted to rectify this, viewers remain quite dissatisfied with things. In response to the reception, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s writers have taken things in the opposite direction, stripping out the comedic aspects of being a Kan-musume entirely in favour of showing a story of loss, acceptance and using these experiences as a source of strength. Shigure has suffered loss in her past and as a result, is more taciturn than the other Kan-musume. However, she’s still resolute and determined, and where the moment is appropriate, shows a happier side to her, as well. As such, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s direction is clear: as a result of her experiences with Mogami, Yamashiro, Fusō, Michishio, Asagumo and Yamagumo, Shigure will contribute towards giving the Kan-musume newfound hope in their seemingly unending battle against the Abyssal, and in time, will come to find that her closest friends will continue sharing tangerines with her. If Itsuka Ano Umi de can stick the course and portray Shigure’s journey in a convincing manner, focusing on her growth over light-hearted slice-of-life antics, Kantai Collection‘s second season will demonstrate that anime of this sort can indeed be written to tell a meaningful story.

Luminous Witches Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation

“Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.” –Ray Charles

Following the LNAF Band’s arrival in Britannia, they are whisked away to a variety of public relations events that leave them without a moment’s rest. Éléonore is invited to fly over to Gallia and help with the effort needed to raise morale withi the rebuilding effort. While she initially struggles with the decision, worried about what she will find back home, after a conversation with Virginia, Éléonore ends up taking the assignment, along with a feather from Moffy. On her first day, she visits Paris, and ends up making a request to Grace – Éléonore’s been curious to revisit her old home. Grace accepts this request, and the pair end up encountering a flock of black swans. Éléonore gives Moffy’s feather to the swans, who then fly off for Britannia, before running into the kitten she had as a child. Glad to see her doing well (the kitten’s grown up and has a family of her own now), Éléonore flies back to Britannia, where Virginia returns Moffy to the swans. Her Witch powers vanish, and she decides it’s time to return to her family, to the LNAF Band’s great disappointment. Grace reveals that command had intended Virginia to be transferred into a combat unit after she demonstrated the ability to communicate with other Night Witches, but with the loss of Witch powers, Grace approves for Virginia to be discharged. The impact on the LNAF Band is immense – everyone struggles with preparations for the Gallian concert and only find the strength to continue after imagining that Virginia is still with them. On the day Virginia prepares to board a train back to her parents, she overhears some passengers singing LNAF Band songs, and decides that Witch or not, she wants to be with Inori, Lyudmila, Maria, Manaia, Silvie, Joanna, Aira and Éléonore; Virginia manages to catch up to them just before they take off for Gallia. Upon arrival, the LNAF Band immediately begin preparations for their finale concert. Following a speech from Gallian Commander-in-Chief Cyrille de Gaulle, the LNAF Band take the stage and perform. During the concert, Moffy returns to Virginia and contracts with her, restoring her Witch powers. Following a successful performance, the LNAF Band return to Britannia and prepare to continue singing, starting with a one-year anniversary performance in the town near their headquarters. With this, Luminous Witches draws to a close, and with it, this marks the end of the latest Strike Witches spinoff, one which goes in a different direction than its predecessors.

Throughout its run, Luminous Witches hasn’t been subtle with its themes – this series reiterates the fact that all roles are of importance and that, just because someone is not on the frontlines actively contributing to the war effort, does not mean they can’t do what they can in a different capacity. Moreover, Luminous Witches illustrates how when people support one another, they are capable of excellence. Each member of the LNAF Band begin their journey as a misfit unsuited for combat operations, but together, everyone lifts one another upwards. This is demonstrated time and time again in Luminous Witches; Maria and the other Witches initially struggle to even fly, but they get around this by holding hands in the air. Over the course of Luminous Witches, the LNAF Band become more comfortable with one another and their duties, eventually becoming able to carry out the complex choreography that Maria’s envisioned in her mind and flying on their own. However, just because the Witches can fly on their own now doesn’t lead them to separate – instead, their bonds further strengthen. The sort of unity and spirit amongst members of the LNAF Band become critical because, once the Witches figure out how important they are to one another, these feelings become easier to convey in song. When Lyudmila and Inori struggle with the song-writing, advice to write the song to someone dear to them allows the pair to create the beginnings of music that connects hearts and minds together. The experiences the LNAF Band Witches have together come through in their music, and this allows the Music Squadron to reach people in ways they never imagined to be possible, showing how teamwork and putting forth one’s best can create things that far exceed expectations. In this way, Luminous Witches also exceeds expectations; although it’d been a spinoff of Strike Witches, the series has come to show another side to the Strike Witches universe, one that gives further insight into how large of an impact that the Human-Neuroi War is having on the world, but also how resilient humanity has been in this ongoing conflict, and how the resolve to keep fighting can come from the most unlikely of sources.

Luminous Witches also acts as an innovator in the Strike Witches franchise, marking the first time that Familiars are introduced into the series. Previously, the emphasis on the weekly battles against the Neuroi has meant that Witches are rushed into battle, and every available moment is shown of the Witches living and training together before taking into the skies to repel the Neuroi. The slower pacing in Luminous Witches has allowed for the series to finally depict the Familiars, spirit beings that are contractually bound to the Witches and provide their power. While the Familiars initially appeared to be an awkward addition that contradicted existing knowledge of how Witches operate, after Luminous Witches, it becomes clear that Familiars are an integral part of the series, being animal spirits that provide support and encouragement to Witches. However, despite their presence, Familiars never interfere with the LNAF Band’s ability to deliver hope; they are seamlessly woven into the story and are shown to have agency, accompanying worthy Witches on their experiences. Seeing Familiars in Luminous Witches leads to the question of whether or not they might become a more common aspect of future Strike Witches series: Luminous Witches has demonstrated how it is possible to introduce an element later into a series without breaking consistency established by previous works, and having now seen the Familiars, an additional side of the Strike Witches universe is finally shown to viewers. The strength of the bonds between a Witch and her Familiar is shown in Luminous Witches: although Virginia had thought she was doing the right thing by returning Moffy to her kin, it turns out Moffy’s come to enjoy her time with Virginia and sees her as a worthy Witch. Seeing this bond accounts for why Yoshika and Hikari never worry about their Familiars: they’ve likely already earned their Familiars’ trust and can therefore focus on doing what they can for those around them, too. At the end of Luminous Witches, it is firmly established that once Familiars see their Witch as worthy, they will stick around for the long haul, and this suggests that Virginia and Moffy will definitely be able to bring joy to the world alongside the other members of the LNAF Band.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The LNAF Band’s world tour drew to a close right after Yoshika and the 501st toppled the Gallia Hive; immediately after returning to Britannia, the LNAF Band is sent out on a public relations campaign to promote the Witches and their achievements. Although it’s exciting, the daily photography sessions and speeches leave the Witches exhausted. With the 501st’s victory, this marks the first time the events immediately following Strike Witches are animated, and from what Luminous Witches shows, the LNAF Band are even busier than their combat counterparts in the aftermath.

  • In between speeches, the Witches have a chance to unwind briefly: they enjoy a meal here, and Lyudmila wonders why Éléonore’s been in the spotlight the whole time even though Aira technically leads the LNAF Band. Unsurprisingly, since Éléonore is from Gallia, she’s got a bit more pressure on her, since her homeland has now been liberated. On the wall in this room, a world map can be seen. The oldest iterations of Strike Witches show China as being completely annihilated and replaced by an ocean, but later maps show China, with the in-world lore suggesting that the region is under complete Neuroi control and is depopulated.

  • This is a bit of a convenient way of avoiding the portrayal of Chinese Witches, which are noticeably absent in the whole of Strike Witches: it’s always struck me as odd that Fumikane Shimada declined to include Chinese Witches in Strike Witches, especially when considering how rich and storied Chinese culture is, but that’s a discussion for another time. Back in Luminous Witches, for Éléonore, the biggest conflict she experiences here is that while she yearns to return to Gallia, she also worries about seeing how damaged the country is following years of Neuroi occupation.

  • Seeing the scope of the destruction must’ve been sobering to Éléonore: she spends her first day touring Paris, which has been levelled. The Eiffel Tower lies in ruins, and while she’s asked to pose for photographers, her mind returns to a time when she’d been a child and had met a stray cat. Having taken this cat in shortly before the Neuroi arrived, Éléonore was dismayed to separate with this cat during the evacuation. That evening, Éléonore reflects on how she became a Witch, and asks Grace for a small request. Éléonore’s story also shines a bit more light on how Witches work here: it turns out that young women can become Witches after meeting a Familiar.

  • When Éléonore’s familiar ends up spotting some black swans, she pulls out the feather she’d brought with her. The swans appear to recognise it and fly off, seemingly in search of their companion. They leave behind a single black feather that Éléonore hangs on to. Throughout Luminous Witches, Virginia’s determination to bring Moffy back to her family has never wavered, no matter how many tours she’d gone on with the LNAF Band, and this side of Virginia shows that while she’s still young and starry-eyed, there’s a side of her that’s not dissimilar to Strike Witches‘ Yoshika, and Brave Witches‘ Hikari.

  • Although Éléonore’s family safely evacuated, the cat she’d left behind would continue to weigh on her conscience. However, this uncertainty is resolved when Éléonore finds the exact same cat, who’s now started a family of her own. To her, seeing this signifies how people can find ways to endure and survive even during the toughest of times; if her cat could make it, then there is hope that some day, human resilience and resolve means that life will return to Gallia.

  • Éléonore thanks Virginia for having encouraged her to participate in the tour of Gallia and gives her the feather she’d picked up from the swans. Earlier, Virginia spoke to how mysterious her meeting with Moffy was, citing it unusual that Moffy chose to remain with her after all this time. Virginia felt that Moffy has longed to soar and believes that as thanks for having been with her until now, it’s her duty to help Moffy find her kin. This pep talk motivated Éléonore to summon the courage needed to fly over to Gallia. Virginia might not have any combat experienced and is comparatively young, but her naïveté allows her to be very forward about how she feels, similarly to Yoshika.

  • Moffy responds to the feather, and moments later, the black swans arrive to take her home. It is here that Moffy and Virginia part ways: Virginia is sad to see Moffy go but appears to have no regrets, having finally achieved what she’d set out to do. Shortly after, her powers as a Witch vanish, and this left me to wonder how Luminous Witches‘ mechanics fit in with what previous instalments had established: Familiars were completely absent in Strike Witches‘ three seasons and Brave Witches, with magic being treated as one’s ability to draw power from another dimension.

  • However, here in Luminous Witches, it appears that being a Witch is directly related to one’s Familiar, and accessing magic is done by forming a contract with a Familiar. If a Witch releases a Familiar from their contract, they subsequently lose their power. Admittedly, this was a bit surprising to see, since it does go against what earlier works had suggested. Inconsistency is something that can arise in long-running works, no matter how much attention is paid to details. Even Girls und Panzer makes gaffes from time to time: in the third OVA, Miho and her friends visit a desert on the Ooarai School Ship even though previous footage of the ship shows no such terrain.

  • As the evening sets in, Virginia’s fellow LNAF members look on in silence as she contemplates what’s happened. On one hand, Virginia is happy that Moffy has reunited with her kin, but without any magic, she’s no longer a Witch. The lighting in this scene is vivid: it marks the end of one milestone in Luminous Witches, and there’s a bit of tension as the other Witches wonder what will happen next. Although no dialogue is present after Virginia gives up her Witch powers, the lighting speaks volumes to how uncertain everyone is feeling about things. This left the anticipation for the penultimate episode quite high.

  • In retrospect, Virginia giving up her Witch powers is not the unexpected twist that it had been in the moment: prior to the climax of Strike Witches, the protagonist would always be put in a position where they would leave, only for circumstance and fate to push them back towards their companions. Strike Witches is a series defined by its propensity to stick with a known approach, and while this leaves both the main series and spin-offs predictable, the variations in how similar circumstances come about show how all of the Witches share a common mindset, whether they’re fighting to take a hive down or sing together for a nation’s morale.

  • Virginia’s circumstances shift wildly: command had been eyeing her for a combat role now that they know she’s capable of transmitting (during the Orussian leg of their tour, Virginia managed to send the Neuroi’s location to nearby Witches), but with her Witch powers gone, she decides to transfer out of the armed forces and return home now that she can no longer use her magic to be useful to her fellow LNAF Band members. Virginia was therefore set to leave the Music Squadron one way or another, although since losing her magic precludes her transfer into a combat unit, this outcome actually becomes a little more favourable for the LNAF Band.

  • While I’ve been around Strike Witches long enough to know that things will always unfold in a way to build up tension before the big finale, the series’ sequels and spinoffs have always found a way to create emotional investment; here in Luminous Witches, Virginia’s departure has a nontrivial impact on the group. Viewers have seen for themselves the sort of encouragement and energy Virgina bought to the table, and her sudden decision to leave the band surprises everyone. I would imagine that Virginia chose this route because she didn’t want to drag out any goodbyes.

  • After Virginia leaves her post, the other Witches begin preparations for their concert in Paris. However, without Virginia, everyone’s feeling a little off. Of everyone, Inori seems to be hit hardest: Luminous Witches has her in the role of “protagonist’s best friend”, and while it’s plain the pair are quite close, it suddenly hits me that Virginia doesn’t have quite as much on-screen time spent with Inori as Yoshika and Lynette did. Luminous Witches was written to be a 1-cour anime, and its story is sufficiently simple such that it would fit into this timeframe, but a part of me feels that, had this series been given a more unconventional fifteen episodes, it would’ve offered the space to flesh out characters and show off the concerts further.

  • While Inori and Lyudmilla talk about Virginia’s influence on their music, Maria and Manaia struggle with adapting their choreography to a team of eight, and Joanna and Silvie decide to make a ninth costume for Virginia anyways, even though she’s gone. While perhaps unremarkable compared to the other LNAF Band members, all of whom have their own unique quirks, Virginia’s biggest asset is that she comes from an everyman’s background. The tabula rasa archetype is a common one in anime and acts as a stand-in for viewers, who would similarly have no a priori knowledge of a world. A character’s growth from interacting with the fictional world, then, is a parallel for the viewer’s own increasing immersion into the world.

  • This is why military moé anime tend to feature similar protagonists: viewers share the same perspective as the protagonist and feel like they’re learning about the world alongside the lead character. Back in Luminous Witches, the LNAF Band go ahead with their latest speech prior to their departure for Gallia. In the end, everyone’s decided to prepare as though Virginia were still among their number. Although they continue to do what they can, Virginia’s absence is noticeable, and Inori breaks down in tears in between events.

  • Virginia boards a train and prepares to make her way back home: she hears the LNAF Band performing on the radio and wishes she were still a part of them. However, having resigned herself to her old life, Virginia boards the train. Here, I remark that Luminous Witches, befitting of a music-themed Strike Witches, has an excellent soundtrack, but at the time of writing, I’ve not heard anything about the series’ incidental music being available for purchase anywhere. Some of the songs that were performed during Luminous Witches will be released as a part of the character albums, but I would’ve liked to have seen the incidental music be released, too: Strike Witches‘ soundtracks, while perhaps not the most remarkable or innovative, do successfully capture the emotional tenour in this universe.

  • On board the train, after Virginia hears some of the other passengers singing a LNAF Band song, she thanks everyone for their support, and some of the children immediately recognise her. After spotting this, Virginia realises that Witch or not, she’s become an integral member of the LNAF Band. The children encourage her to return to her friends, and on the spur of the moment, Virginia asks her uncle to take her back to the airfield. The others are preparing for takeoff, but after Inori spots Virginia returning, she and the Witches implore Grace to cancel takeoff.

  • One supposes that the Lancaster has not hit V1 yet (the speed at which takeoff should not be aborted): takeoff is halted, giving Virginia a chance to catch up with her fellow LNAF Band members and join them on their finale tour in Gallia. Inori, Lyudmilla, Manaia, Maria, Silvie, Joanna, Éléonore and Aira rush out to greet her, tearfully welcoming Virginia back. For Virginia, the realisation she’s had here is that magical powers or not, her experience with everyone meant that at the very least, she should follow her heart and do what she can for those around her.

  • Luminous Witches proved to be an unexpectedly moving series: it’s a ways more tearful than its combat-oriented counterparts, but I was surprised that the series was able to focus on the emotional aspects of music so effectively. Strike Witches has long been known for its fanservice, so seeing the series dialling this back in favour of character growth and world-building has been especially enjoyable. With Virginia on board, it’s now onto Gallia for one final performance: having Virginia back lifts the LNAF Band’s spirits considerably, allowing Luminous Witches to enter its final episode on a high note.

  • In this way, Virginia returns to join her companions for one final performance at Gallia: the new LNAF Band uniforms look amazing, befitting of a celebration of humanity’s first major triumph over the Neuroi. While Virginia might lack any magic, her singing and dancing remain in good shape: shortly after arrival, the group practises for the show. On the day of the event, Éléonore and Aira watch as Gallian Commander-in-Chief Cyrille de Gaulle gives a speech. de Gaulle is modelled Charles de Gaulle, who led the Free France movement against Nazi Germany and ran the provisional government after France’s liberation.

  • de Gaulle would later become the President of France and retain his post until he resigned in 1969. Although there were some controversies in his time, de Gaulle is widely regarded as having a positive impact on France. During Luminous Witches‘ finale, several other Allied commanders can be seen, including General Patton and General Bradley. I had been hoping that the 501st would make an appearance during Luminous Witches‘ grand performance, but in retrospect, their absence is a consequence of the 501st being disbanded immediately after they destroyed the Gallian hive.

  • Virginia watches with joy as her friends soar into the skies for the first song of their performance. The Witches are performing on the Arc de Triomphe, an iconic Paris landmark that was finished in 1836 to honour those who fought for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. In Strike Witches, the presence of the Arc de Triomphe suggests that there was equivalent events in Gallian history, and from the top of the monument, the Witches notice that Paris had been rendered quite dark following the Neuroi occupation. When their performance begins, however, the LNAF Band’s music and spirits light up the night skies.

  • As Virginia continues to sing her part on the ground, her feather begins glowing. Inori had added the feather to her uniform so she could perform with a part of Moffy, and while Virginia cannot see the feather, the gesture is appreciated all the same. An elegant black shape appears in the night skies mid-performance, and it’s Moffy, who’s returned to Virginia. One can imagine that after meeting her kin, Moffy decided that her future also lay with Virginia, and this time, it appears that Moffy’s agreed to contract with Virginia. In a heartwarming moment, Virginia and Moffy reunite.

  • The resulting union creates a burst of magical signals that spreads across the world. From this moment, I gathered that it is probable that in her juvenile form, Moffy’s own abilities had not fully manifested yet, which would be why Virginia could only receive and not transmit. However, by maturing, Moffy gains the ability to transmit, as well. Mirroring this, Virginia’s magic antennae change shape and assumes the form of a parabolic dish. The LNAF Band’s music is transmitted across the world to all Night Witches, who are able to hear the LNAF Band’s performance.

  • Two familiar Witches, Heidemarie and Sanya, are given a cameo appearance as some of the Witches who receive the LNAF Band’s music. I’ve not seen Heidemarie since the events of Strike Witches: The Movie some six years ago, as well as the manga, The Sky That Connects Us. It is a little surprising as to how long Strike Witches has been around for: I found the series back in 2011 purely by chance, and while the Strike Witches back then had been a monster-of-the-week deal, the series has matured considerably over the years to the point where it plainly stands on the merits of its character growth and world building.

  • Gratuitous pantsu and crotch shots are totally absent in Luminous Witches, a first for Strike Witches and its spinoffs, but this never detracts from the show itself. Having said this, I feel that it was through the original fanservice that gave Strike Witches its recognition, and this is what created enough interest to allow the series to continue exploring the world that was introduced. Back in Luminous Witches, with her magic now back in full, Maria and Manaia immediately hand Virginia her Striker Unit. Having not flown for a while, Virginia’s flight is unsteady, but Inori and Lyudmilla help her into the skies.

  • By this point in time, the LNAF Band have become sufficiently comfortable with flying such that they no longer hold hands when taking to the skies, allowing Maria and Manaia to choreograph increasingly sophisticated routines for their performances. I’ve always felt the hand-holding was an excellent visual metaphor for reflecting on how these non-combat Witches supported one another, and over the course of the series, it appears that by supporting one another, everyone’s also lifted themselves up.

  • After performing their flight, the LNAF Band return to the Arc de Triomphe, which is now surrounded by thousands of spectators. Seeing such a number of people here speaks volumes to how much of an impact the group has had on morale around the world. In the finale, it did feel a little jarring to see SHAFT simplify the crowd animation: in most idol anime, audiences are rendered using a sea of glowsticks, but glowsticks are a post World War Two invention – Michael M. Rauhut invented the precusor to modern glowsticks in 1971. In the absence of the usual audience, crowds in Luminous Witches‘ finale do seem a little unusual.

  • Miracles are a common part of Strike Witches, allowing characters to overcome their internal struggles and achieve the impossible at the last possible hour. Luminous Witches joins its predecessors in suggesting that such miracles are not deus ex machina, but rather, the culmination of bonds of trust and respect cultivated over many trials and tribulations. While following the same approach, Strike Witches and its spin-offs remain worth watching because of how different the bonds among the characters are.

  • After the whole of Luminous Witches, Grace has become my favourite of the characters. Although she’s not a performer herself, Grace is talented and motivated, working from behind the scenes to ensure that the LNAF Band can be successful. Grace is voiced by Mikako Komatsu, and a quick search of this blog’s archives finds that Komatsu is Pride of Orange‘s Yōko, the Dream Monkey’s coach. Unlike Yōko, however, Grace is realistic about what she does, and a part of the joy of watching Luminous Witches is seeing her efforts come to fruition.

  • Because Grace had been responsible for the LNAF Band’s successes to the same extent that each of Virginia, Inori, Lyudmila, Maria, Manaia, Silvie, Joanna, Éléonore and Aira had, Aira and Éléonore decide it’s time to give Grace some shine time while everyone else prepares for the next act. While she’s at a loss for words, professionalism kicks in, and Grace begins with a speech thanking everyone. However, the size of the crowd soon fills her with a desire to sing.

  • Grace thus performs Amazing Grace for the thousands gathered – it is probably the most iconic of English hymns, and from a secular standpoint, symbolises the delivery of hope. Seeing Grace perform was quite unexpected: she had spent the whole of Luminous Witches putting the LNAF Band together and encouraging everyone to do their best, as well as arranging for their tours, accommodations and other supporting elements. However, when the chips are down, Grace has a wonderful singing voice too: unlike the other managers in idol series, Grace is also a capable singer in her own right and never missteps.

  • With the concert drawing to a close, the LNAF Band prepare for their last song, and thanks to Virginia’s awakened Witch powers, the entire concert is broadcast around the world, speaking to the strength of everyone’s feelings. As a bit of a parallel, the fact that the world has rallied around the LNAF Band and their music also speaks to humanity’s determination to live on. It is going to be a little sad to see Luminous Witches go: having accompanied me for the past three months, I looked forwards to watching episodes every week. While Luminous Witches‘ Sunday release meant I often missed episodes on Sunday itself, since I was out and about capitalising on the summer weather.

  • With autumn now here, the trees have finally begun to turn yellow, and I capitalised on the weather to go for a walk around Weaselhead Flats, a park in another part of town I rarely visit. If memory serves, the last time I visited Weaselhead Flats, I was finishing up primary school. It was a balmy 22ºC today, and as such, the walk was especially enjoyable. Yesterday, I walked the inner city and hit a viewpoint offering a stunning view of the city centre. I understand that this past weekend, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II open beta was running, but when the weather’s this nice, the games can wait.

  • Thanks to Virginia’s magic, the Gallian performance reaches a worldwide audience, filling the skies with a display far surpassing even today’s 8K screens. While technology has advanced considerably since the Second World War, to the point where we’re able to stream UHD in real time to people around the world, the constraints of an older era meant that reaching so many people would definitely have a romantic appeal to it. In this way, people around the world are able to celebrate the destruction of the Gallian hive and have hope that there is a chance of winning the Human-Neuroi War.

  • Following the Gallian concert, Moffy reverts to her old form, and the LNAF Band prepare to practise again: a year has passed since Grace gathered everyone and formed the LNAF Band, and everyone’s been allowed to stay together. Demand for morale-lifting music is at an all-time high, and the Music Squadron must keep training to stay at the top of their game. However, despite the hard work involved, everyone’s all smiles now that they’re allowed to stick together.

  • When I wrote about the Luminous Witches preview video back in February 2021, I had been hoping that the series would come out soon, but various circumstances led to Luminous Witches‘ being delayed. The series soon fell from my mind, but when it was finally given a release date, I’d been quite excited to watch it. The end result exceeded my expectations – I had already known that I would enjoy anything set in the Strike Witches universe, but how Luminous Witches unfolded proved to be captivating. Despite there being no combat to speak of, and correspondingly, no military hardware to discuss, watching everyone slowly becoming closer over the the course of the season proved very rewarding.

  • While Grace acts embarrassed at the thought of performing alongside the others, I imagine that she’s also a little pleased that the others suggest she’s still youthful enough to sing. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Grace with Virginia and the others, and here, I will note that both interest in and discussions surrounding Luminous Witches have been quite limited – my posts on Luminous Witches have been quiet, and other discussions (excluding episodic reactions) on the series are hard to come by. However, I would still like to thank those for sticking this journey out, and I hope that my approach towards Luminous Witches have been helpful to some capacity.

  • Overall, Luminous Witches earns an A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.5 of 10) – this series exemplifies how far the Strike Witches franchise has come in presenting a touching series with lovable characters, and, even without the aspects that are central to Strike Witches, can remain faithful to the originals while at the same time, continuing to build out the world further. After twelve episodes, I’m familiar with the Music Squadron the same way I’m familiar with the 501st and 502nd. While the series may not have changed my world views to any significant extent, I exit Luminous Witches fully satisfied and grateful to have followed this series every week.

As SHAFT’s first Strike Witches, Luminous Witches was of a technically excellent quality in its hand-animated scenes, voice acting, music and audio engineering. The main shortcoming in the series is how blocky the dance sequences look – this is traditionally the weakest aspect of any idol anime, where computer animations are used to render multiple characters dancing simultaneously. While Luminous Witches makes an effort in trying to clean these scenes up, their usage remains quite evident. On the other hand, every other aspect of Luminous Witches is of a consistently good quality, allowing Virginia and the LNAF Band’s experiences to remain immersive and convincing. Altogether, while Luminous Witches is not particularly innovative or novel from a storytelling perspective, and the technical aspects aren’t groundbreaking, the series’ sincerity and genuine characters make this a worthy addition to the Strike Witches universe, showing how it’s possible to support people in ways beyond picking up a weapon and eliminating the Neuroi one at a time. By being able to reach the hearts and minds of the civilian populations in a given nation, the LNAF Band give the people a reason to hold onto hope, and to keep backing the Witches as everyone works together to repel the Neuroi and restore peace to a war-ravaged world. Luminous Witches therefore ends up being a touching series, one which both expands on the Strike Witches universe and demonstrates how much of the world still remains to be explored. With this being said, because Luminous Witches is dependent on a priori knowledge of the other Witches and the gravity of the Human-Neuroi War, Luminous Witches cannot be considered to be an ordinary idol anime. One will have the most enjoyment of this series if they’ve seen at least the original 2008 Strike Witches series; while this one’s a little dated, it provides enough insight into the Human-Neuroi War such that the events of Luminous Witches have more context. On the other hand, Luminous Witches is a fantastic series for existing fans of the series, adding a new dimension to a universe that has been steadily maturing and improving since it began its run.

Luminous Witches: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” –Vera Nazarian

Upon their arrival in Chelyabinsk, Orussia, Virginia has Moffy looked at by a local Witch, Anna, while Grace, Aira and Éléonore travel into town, where the locals are busy rebuilding. Grace eventually determines that it would be appropriate to host a radio concert after learning from Virginia that Anna’s husband, Volodya, was once a concert pianist and would perform for his daughter on her birthday. On the evening of the radio show, a Neuroi’s unexpected appearance jams all communications. Virginia is able to locate it and manages to transmit its coordinates to the 503rd Joint Fighter Wing, who promptly intercept and destroy it. Volodya begins performing, and over the skies of Britannia, Sanya, Eila and Yoshika hear Volodya’s performance. The LNAF Band head over to Tokyo, Fuso, and after a concert where Lyudmilla accidentally botches her part of the choreography, she becomes envious of Éléonore for how close she seems with Aira. The group stays with Inori’s grandmother, and during the evening, Inori reluctantly decides to perform with Lyudmilla. When Aira realises Lyudmilla is singing her old song, she realises that her music did reach someone, and later during the evening, Virginia wanders off after receiving a signal. She meets a Night Witch, Tomomi Nishisugi, who’s a big fan of the LNAF Band and reiterates that their music’s done much for others. The LNAF Band begin the final leg of their world tour, finishing off in New York, Liberion. Joanna has a chance to catch up with her family, and inspired to put on a show that will reach them, she suggests changes to the programme that Grace approves of. With help from the locals to get the costumes done, the LNAF Band take to the skies for their performance’s finale and put on a show that reaches everyone in New York, including Joanna’s family. After the girls conclude their concert and express contentment at how well things went, Grace arrives with the news that the 501st has destroyed the Gallian Neuroi hive. Here at Luminous Witches‘ three-quarters milestone, the series has remained consistently endearing and heartwarming with its portrayal of the importance of morale during times of adversity.

In Luminous Witches‘ third quarter, the series explores how music can connect people despite physical distances separating them, drawing upon this to show how the LNAF Band have been immensely successful. When Lyudmilla, Virginia and Inori meet Anna and Volodya, who had mentioned they had a daughter that Volodya had played piano for long ago, Strike Witches veterans will almost immediately draw the connection with Sanya, who had managed to hear her father’s playing after succeeding in a night operation with Eila and Yoshika during the events of season one. Although they’d been separated by a great distance, for Sanya, hearing the reassuring sounds of her father’s piano was the affirmation that her parents were alright and moreover, were thinking about her. Although Virginia and the LNAF Band won’t know of this connection, Luminous Witches shows how putting in the effort to make a difference and accommodate others can have far-reaching, tangible positive outcomes. For Sanya, knowing her parents will always be there for her helps her to be a more confident part of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing. Similarly, in Fuso, Aira is shocked to learn that Lyudmilla had listened to her earliest songs, during a time in her career when she thought there’d be no listeners. For Lyudmilla, Aira’s songs would become sources of inspiration and strength, giving her something to regroup to when things had looked grim, and while it is fate that Aira and Lyudmilla do end up in the LNAF Band together, Lyudmilla’s admiration of Aira is not unfounded: although perhaps rough by her standards today, Aira shown how small actions, such as choosing to put one’s best foot forward even at a time when few might be looking, can set others on a path to better themselves. Knowing one’s efforts have tangible meaning is ultimately what Luminous Witches shows here; Virginia learns that the LNAF Band is having a tangible impact, and when Joanna arrives with the LNAF Band in New York, seeing just how enthusiastic her family is about what she’s accomplished with the LNAF Band similarly provides her with the encouragement to continue doing her best. The end result of this is a successful music and airshow over the skies of Manhattan, one which dazzles both concert-goers and citizens alike. The timing of Grace’s announcement, that Gallia’s been liberated, couldn’t be better: although the outcomes of the 501st’s efforts were the culmination of Yoshika’s resolute refusal to give up and Minna’s decision to violate direct orders, rather than anything the LNAF Band may have done directly, one cannot help but feel that the LNAF Band’s concerts (and the ensuing emotions) may have reached the 501st from time to time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Luminous Witches has exceeded expectations thus far because of the series’ ability to combine the intricate world of Strike Witches with a tale of how music can reach people’s hearts no matter one’s distance. The rough, grittier side of the idol industry is discarded here in Luminous Witches: with the military’s backing, the LNAF Band are free to focus on their performances without worrying about sales figures and competing idol units, creating a very positive and cheerful atmosphere that brings to mind the likes of 2014’s Locodol.

  • While Luminous Witches is lighter compared to its predecessors (excluding the World Witches Take Off! spinoffs), the story is not compromised for humour. Virginia’s quest to continue finding Moffy’s companions continue, and here, she meets a Orussian Witch by the name of Anna. Anna has an extensive knowledge of Witches and magic, and it turns out that constantly travelling is placing a strain on Moffy’s well-being, which is why he’s appearing exhausted since the world tour began.

  • The idea of a world tour works exceedingly well because, even though the LNAF Band only spend one episode in a stop, and very little of that stop can be portrayed, it does give Luminous Witches a chance to explore places that Strike Witches previously could not: traditionally, Strike Witches and Brave Witches had the characters stationed at a base, and all of their operations would take place in an area around this base. While the Witches have a reasonably large operational range, they remain stationed in Europe. Strike Witches has shown Afrikan and Fuso Witches in other media, but at present, no animated adaptations of these stories exist.

  • Compared to its predecessors, Luminous Witches is G-rated: even in a sauna, the girls wear bathing suits. In Strike Witches and Luminous Witches, fanservice was more heavily employed: Lynette, for instance, wore her Britannian outfit without a skirt, but here in Luminous Witches, Virginia rocks a skirt. I do get the feeling that Strike Witches began as a bit of a joke, but over the past fifteen years, the series has had an opportunity to build out its world further. Stories became more mature and nuanced, and it became clear that the character dynamics and stories, rather than the pantsu and crotch shots, were the real reason that Strike Witches continued to be successful.

  • Originally, Luminous Witches‘ seventh episode was scheduled to air on August 14. However, production issues meant that the episode was pushed back a week, and with it, it meant that this discussion was pushed back by a week, too. The end result of this is that my quarterly post thus comes during the Labour Day long weekend. After a full summer of sunshine and blue skies, smoke from the forest fires west of my area swept into my area. In spite of this, I headed out for one final adventure and drove over to Turner Valley, a small town about an hour south of my city. After walking the Friendship trail, I swung by the Chuckwagon Café, an iconic eatery featured on You Gotta Eat Here!, for their House Burger, a mouth-watering six-ounce all-Alberta Beef burger topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, thick-cut bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and a homemade sweet pepper relish with a side of homemade fries. The wait for a table reached 75 minutes, but it was absolutely worth it.

  • With this, my summer culinary tour of Southern Alberta draws to a close. Back in Luminous Witches, having managed to convince Volodyn to join them, the LNAF Band prepare to perform their radio show. However, when the transmission equipment malfunctions, and the power goes out, it becomes clear that the Neuroi have appeared. This was probably the tensest moment in Luminous Witches: unlike their combat counterparts, the Music Squadron doesn’t have any weapons to speak of. In spite of this, they choose to sortie anyways, and here, Virginia manages to transmit as a Night Witch for the first time. Nearby Witches from the 503rd receive the Neuroi’s position, and they immediately begin firing on its position, eventually destroying its core.

  • With the Neuroi gone, Music Squadron begin hearing Volodya’s piano. As it turns out, Anna isn’t actually a Witch, but her daughter’s Familiar actually had a sibling, and to keep her family safe, she decided to leave the Familiar behind while she went over to the frontlines. While the performance might not have been in time for the Witch’s birthday, the LNAF Band feel that the sincerity of their emotions will allow Anna and Volodyn’s performance to reach their daughter, and this is ultimately what counts.

  • As soon as the piano begins playing, my eyes immediately began watering: it’s been more than a decade since I watched Strike Witches‘ first season, but I’ll recognise Sanya no Uta from anywhere in the world. Back in the day, I picked up Strike Witches after it caught my eye, and while other anime fans in my data structures class advised against watching it, I proceeded anyways. While the fanservice was quite brazen, it was still a fun watch, and the world-building had especially captured my attention. However, having now had a chance to go back and look at things again, it becomes clear here in Luminous Witches, being able to see both sides of the coin meant really being able to understand just how powerful music can be.

  • The real treat in Luminous Witches was actually seeing Sanya, Eila and Yoshika after they’d beaten a Neuroi together. The scene here faithfully captures the moments from Strike Witches‘ sixth episode: Gonzo’s original composition and framing, right down to using the full moon as a backdrop, is reproduced in SHAFT’s interpretation of the scene: Eila is carrying Sanya, who had lost one of her Striker units during the engagement with the Neuroi. Moments like these are a nice touch for veteran viewers, and Strike Witches has been running long enough so that new instalments don’t generate quite as much excitement as they once did.

  • Despite this, I’ve long been a fan of this series because it’s matured considerably during the course of its run, and by Luminous Witches, it is clear that Strike Witches can be made to work in the total absence of pantsu. After a night’s effort, the LNAF Band catch a quick kip before they’re whisked off to their next destination, Fuso. While this episode did not have any live performances, choosing to frame things with a radio show and using this as an opportunity to tie Luminous Witches in with the events of Strike Witches was a particularly clever move on the writers’ part, allowing for one to ascertain that the LANF Band are flying around the world with their music at the same time that Yoshika and the others are working towards an assault on the Gallian hive.

  • At a Fuso shrine, Aira draws “bad luck”, prompting Lyudmilla to ask her to switch it out. Drawing fortunes at a shrine is an integral part of Japanese culture, and I’ve never actually seen luck switching out like that. Fortunes and luck work on a self-fulfilling prophecy principal, in which receiving a fortune of a certain type impacts one’s confidence, and in turn, said confidence affects one’s ability to stay focused. Since Lyudmilla is unaware of what 凶 means, and happily accepts it from Aira, humour comes from what ends up happening to Lyudmilla.

  • Following their latest concert in Fuso, the LNAF Band sign autographed copies of their latest album. While the other Witches are pleased with how smoothly things proceeded, Lyudmilla is sulking because she ended up accelerating ahead, breaking choreography, and Éléonore was forced to join her to cover the mistake. To the audience below, nothing unusual has happened, and it speaks volumes to how where performers are attuned to every detail of their work, audiences end up picking up on the energy and vibes surrounding a show. A missed step like Lyudmilla’s isn’t likely to raise too many eyebrows, and while Aira tries to get Lyudmilla to lighten up about things, she ends up mentioning another one of Lyudmilla’s mistakes, which only sours things further.

  • To help out with things, Grace has arranged for the girls to stay over at the Shibuya residence with Inori’s grandmother. The residence is large, but hasn’t been prepared for guests since their housekeeper had urgent business to attend to. Fortunately for Grace and Inori’s grandmother, the LNAF Band are excited to be here and more than ready to help out. Grace herself is slated to hang out with Leftenant Ishida to review the LNAF Band’s performance.

  • While the other Witches immediately busy themselves in getting the Shibuya residence set up, Lyudmilla finds herself growing irate when Éléonore appears to excel in all tasks. Lyudmilla ends up challenging Éléonore to various housekeeping tasks and is beaten at every turn, but Éléonore herself seems quite unaware of what’s going on until Lyudmilla directly requests a showdown with Striker Units later on, with the aim of proving her worthiness to Aira.

  • Because Luminous Witches had been quite focused on musical performances and preparations for concerts, the series had been very disciplined with regard to elements that Strike Witches is best known for. Even during a race over the ocean, there are more close-ups of Lyudmilla’s Striker Unit, rather than Lyudmilla herself – this shifts attention away from Lyudmilla’s figure and onto the feeling of unease surrounding the notion that her bad luck may not have entirely run its course yet.

  • Sure enough, Lyudmilla’s Striker Unit malfunctions after a critical turn, and while she had been set to win, this unexpected malfunction sends her tumbling into the ocean, surprising the others. That Lyudmilla had been holding out against Éléonore suggests that as a pilot, she’d been okay, but otherwise, wasn’t able to aim effectively. Here, Inori, Virginia and Manaia look on – Manaia’s got a flag in hand, ready to wave it when a winner is known, but once Lyudmilla falls into the water, the race is off, and Inori is later seen helping her apply some ointment to ease the stinging after she fell into a group of jellyfish.

  • Virginia begins to feel that Lyudmilla’s been unlike her usual self and decides to speak to Éléonore about things – Éléonore feels that Lyudmilla’s spirits must be a result of her working harder to offset the fact that her home nation is besieged by the Neuroi, and that seeing her in such spirits was encouraging. It doesn’t appear that Éléonore has quite grasped the fact that Lyudmilla is infatuated with Aira, but the moment does speak to the fact that Éléonore wasn’t acting out of malice towards Lyudmilla, and in fact, actually respects her greatly, seeing her as a source of inspiration.

  • After the evening meal, the girls change into yukata and settle down for the evening, where Inori’s grandmother is treated to a story of Inori’s contributions within the LNAF Band. Inori’s grandmother then shares with the girls the fact that Inori had once taken koto lessons, but she later gave up after feeling she’d made little progress. Virginia encourages Inori to perform, and she ropes Lyudmilla into joining her. While Inori’s reasons for joining the LNAF Band remain unexplored at this time, one supposes that some of her characteristics made her less suited for being a combat Witch.

  • After joining Inori for an impromptu performance, Lyudmilla shares a moment with Aira and expresses that she’d been motivated by Aira’s music, promising to one day surpass her and make a name for herself. Aira is encouraged by this – she hadn’t known that her music reached anyone early on. We recall that Aira had been a devoted and focused Witch, so when her magical powers began fading, she would’ve lost a bit of her way until she took up music, and now, knowing she inspired Lyudmilla gives her the vindication that her efforts were worth it.

  • When Moffy’s magic suddenly activates in the middle of the night, Virginia rushes out and encounters Tomomi Nishisugi, another Night Witch who’s fond of Virginia and the LNAF Band’s music. Moments like these are brief, but serve to reinforce the fact that the LNAF Band’s work is not to be underestimated. When Luminous Witches began airing, some folks had derided the need for such a series, but much as how the LNAF Band’s lifted the spirits of those in the Strike Witches universe, the series has also proven to be a much-needed source of relaxation.

  • The last time I watched an anime that took viewers to New York City was Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid‘s OVA. Here in Luminous Witches, the New York we see are of a Manhattan in the 1940s; in reality, Manhattan had a population of two million in the 1940s and was already a bustling hub of business and culture. The actual concert itself is set on Fort Jay on Governor’s Island – it is named after John Jay and was built in 1794 to defend New York, and by World War Two, was headquarters to the First Army.

  • The Witches are impressed with the city lights and limosine that’s come to pick them up – as a callback to history, Continental United States was spared the destruction that ravaged Europe, and coming out of the Second World War, America was the only industrial power left on the planet with intact infrastructure, giving them a massive economic advantage. Similarly, the Neuroi invasion only appears to have impacted Europe in Strike Witches, and their inability to cross open water meant the conflict appears limited to Europe. Here, Aira is surprised that Éléonore can casually hop into New York’s cultural scene, as she admires all of Broadway and partakes in some popcorn. When Aira asks her about Gallia’s own culture, Éléonore sees this as a bit of inspiration for what Gallia could be restored to in the future.

  • The next day, while Lyudmilla and Inori explore New York, Inori becomes entranced by the sights and sounds, even buying a doughnut from a street-side vendor before Lyudmilla hauls her off. Inori was adorable in this scene, expressing pure joy at being able to enjoy North American cuisine. The choice to have her buy a doughnut might also speak to the Japanese love for doughnuts – Japan is second only to Canadians on a per capita consumption of this confectionary, and while Japan has their own variety of doughnuts, the Western style doughnuts became wildly popular in the 1970s after Dunkin’ Donuts and Mister Donut opened branches there.

  • While out and about, Joanna and Silvie go shopping for new costume materials, before swinging by the neighbourhood Joanna grew up in. Her siblings subsequently greet her, and the remainder of the Witches are introduced to Joanna’s family – it was a pleasant surprise to provide viewers with an opportunity to see Joanna’s siblings and meet the family she’s been working so hard for. Since Strike Witches had the Witches focus on their fight, the Witches do not have much of an opportunity to visit family. For instance, Lynette comes from a family of Witches, but we’ve never seen them in animated form (one of Lynette’s sisters do show up in The Skies that Connect Us).

  • Similar to Inori’s grandmother, Joanna’s family are overjoyed to see her among the LNAF Band’s members, and in fact, they’ve even got a few scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of her adventures abroad. Since Silvie’s story, Luminous Witches has done a wonderful job of showing how, despite not being combat Witches, the girls’ families are still proud of them for doing what they can for humanity. As it turns out, the fellow that Inori had brought the doughnut from happens to be Joanna’s father.

  • On the day of the performance, the LNAF Band perform for a massive crowd before switching their uniforms out. The Witches had grown very ambitious, inspired to try and put on an incredible show; Silvie and Joanna have gone above and beyond to make this a memorable showing, and while their uniform design proved complicated, Grace finds a local textile mill willing to help with producing the new uniforms. With new choreography and music, this show proves to be the LNAF Band’s biggest one yet. In this episode, parts of the performance are rendered in CG, but unlike their earlier renderings, SHAFT has done a more consistent job here. While the 3D assets still feel a little uncanny, they are more polished.

  • Excited to get into the skies for their big finale, Joanna and Silvie lead the show by using their Striker Units to draw massive doughnuts in the air. While her family couldn’t get front row seats at the performance, the LNAF Band have devised an ingenious method for bringing the show to all of New York’s residents, by using their Strikers to draw patterns in the sky that linger. By this point in time, all of the Witches have become skillful enough at flying to remain airborne for prolonged periods of time and perform the manoeuvres that Maria had choreographed. The Brooklyn Bridge is visible here, and Joanna’s family eagerly anticipates her arrival.

  • The LNAF Band utilise a Striker variant of the T-6 Texan, a trainer aircraft the that first flew in 1935 and was used by the United States Air Force and Navy, as well as the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. Although retired from service, the aircraft remains popular in airshow demonstrations, and because the aircraft resembles the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it is used to simulate other aircraft in films. For air shows, the LNAF Band gives their Striker Units different colours; they’ve been red previously, but to match the girls’ dresses, they’ve been painted blue for this show.

  • Following a show that exceeded expectations, the LNAF Band are exhausted by pleased. Everyone had already gotten along on reasonable terms, but seeing the Magic Squadron perform in this fashion really accentuates how far everyone’s come since Grace had assembled everyone for a pilot project. However, as icing on the cake, Grace arrives with news from Gallia: the 501st have just defeated the Gallian Hive, paving the way for the liberation of Gallia. I still remember watching Yoshika participating in this battle after Minna defied orders to continue engaging the hive. Strike Witches and Strike Witches 2 had been the only instalments in the series where humanity attempted to use Neuroi technology against them, but by later series, Witches would engage hives without attempting to utilise methods with unknown properties.

  • Grace is overjoyed at the news, and Éléonore is surprised: new possibility suddenly fills her mind, and viewers will gather that there is now a chance for her homeland to be restored to its former glory, letting her to show her friends the best that Gallia has to offer in the future. However, Strike Witches shows that the rebuilding process is a tough one, and Perinne had been leading the effort to rebuild throughout the later instalments of Strike Witches. In a war where humanity had been on the backfoot, Grace’s smile speaks volumes to how monumental the Witches’ achievements are. We now enter Luminous Witches‘ final quarter, and while the ninth episode felt quite conclusive, that there are three more episodes means viewers will have a chance to see the world in the period following the Gallian hive’s destruction.

The finale concert in New York made the latest episode take on the traits of a season finale, and now, with news of the Gallian hive’s destruction reaching everyone’s ears, it becomes clear that Luminous Witches had always been intended to act as a side story of sorts, showing what was going on while Yoshika was getting to know her felling 501st Witches better and struggling with her own misgivings as the Neuroi begin deploying units in the form of a Witch. Seeing Sanya, Eila and Yoshika appear here in Luminous Witches was a callback to the original series which had aired fourteen years earlier, rewarding longtime fans for having accompanied the series for this long, and also tying the stories in as one that is set during the same timeframe as some of the Strike Witches‘ universes fiercest battles. That the LNAF Band are operational during this time and performing for people in what may be seen as humanity’s darkest hours serves to reiterate just how much of a positive impact Virginia and her friends are having on the course of the Human-Neuroi War, even though no one in the LNAF Band wields a machine gun. Instead, the LNAF Band’s greatest weapon is the ability to make feelings of hope and encouragement tangible through song and dance. With the Gallian hive now destroyed, and mention that this is the first time any Neuroi hive has been taken down, this marks a turning point in the war, showing humanity that, beyond any doubt, their Witches are symbols of hope, and instruments of liberation. Further to this, because the LNAF Band’s world tour has concluded in New York, and there are still three episodes left, one cannot help but wonder where Luminous Witches will go with its last three episodes. It would be a pleasure to see the 501st again, and there might be a possibility (however slim) that Yoshika and her team will have a chance to watch the LNAF Band perform in person. Time will tell how Luminous Witches will unfold, but given how consistent this series has been after three quarters, one can be reasonably confident that whatever lies ahead will also be quite heartwarming to watch.