The Infinite Zenith

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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.

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, Remarks On Duality and Accepting One’s Inner Darkness Through Introspection At The Quinquennial

“To become better, you have to admit your ignorance, at least to yourself.” –William A. Pasmore

On this day in 2017, Kantai Collection: The Movie finally became available to overseas viewers after a nine month long wait. While I had been enthusiastic to watch the film, upon finishing my experience, I found that the film had been technically excellent: the animation is superb, and the music was, in my own words, worthy of a feature film such as Letters From Iwo Jima or Isoroku Yamamoto. However, I had been left a shade disappointed with respect to the story, which appeared to leave aspects of Kantai Collection unanswered. As such, with Kantai Collection: The Movie approaching its five year anniversary and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release set for November 2022, I felt it was appropriate to give Kantai Collection: The Movie a revisit with a fresh set of eyes. Almost immediately, I found that the me of five years earlier had not been watching the film with both eyes open. Kantai Collection: The Movie makes a meaningful contribution to the franchise through its story, and this aspect is ultimately something that sets it apart from Azur Lane. Throughout Kantai Collection: The Movie, the Kan-musume face a new challenge in the form of an enigmatic voice emanating from Ironbottom Sound, which coincides with Kisaragi’s surprise return, seemingly from the dead. As the film progresses, Kaga reveals that Kan-musume and Abyssals share a close relationship; when one is sunk in combat, they are reborn in the other form, and are cursed to existing in an unending cycle of violence and struggle. While the Kan-musume reason that if they can survive while whittling down the Abyssal’s number, they can end the conflict, this approach actually implies the Kan-musume can only achieve their goal by extermination. In this way, the Kan-musume would become no better than their foe, resorting to force to achieve their aims. This is where Fubuki comes in: while she’s regarded as special in Kantai Collection, no evidence has ever been given of this. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki’s single largest contribution is her climactic confrontation with her Abyssal self. Although her Abyssal self attempts to persuade Fubuki that in a world born of suffering, the only recourse is to inflict equivalent suffering unto others, Fubuki rejects this mode of thinking, but also acknowledges that while a changing world can be frightening, the endless cycle of violence can be broken if one accepts that existence is the sum of both joy and sorrow, tranquility and anger, and hope and despair. In short, Fubuki accepts something the other Kan-musume do not: one must accept, and embrace their inner darkness, in order to become whole. This is the acknowledgement that as an individual, one has both positive and negative traits, but rather than attempting to reject one’s negative traits, life is a matter of taking ownership of them and recognising how to manage and work with them. This willingness to understand her own dark side is what makes Fubuki special: she sees her Abyssal self as another part of her, not to be feared or shunned, but to be accepted. In this way, Kantai Collection: The Movie gives Kantai Collection new purpose: winning this war, and breaking the loop, entails giving the other Kan-musume the strength to do the same.

Kantai Collection thus becomes a story of overcoming internal strife through acceptance, and self-empowerment through introspection, which provides the series with a significant amount of depth, far beyond endlessly grinding maps and collecting ships for kicks. While Kantai Collection‘s television series had been an inconsistent amalgamation of comedy and drama, introspection and adventure, Kantai Collection: The Movie dramatically improved on its predecessor’s consistency and messaging. The largest indicator of this is through the film’s incidental music. In the television series, Kantai Collection‘s soundtrack had been an eclectic mix of whimsical slice-of-life pieces, grand combat accompaniments and emotional flourishes, mirroring the series’ portrayal of a wide range of moments in Fubuki and the other Kan-musume‘s lives. Conversely, here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, the entire soundtrack conveys a sense of melancholy and longing. In turn, the whole of the film is an emotional, moving experience, speaking to the isolation that Kisaragi feels after returning, the unsettling feelings associated with the mystery surrounding Ironbottom Sound, and Fubuki’s own journey in coming to terms with who she is. In fact, melancholy permeates the whole of Kantai Collection: The Movie: there is a sense of sadness surrounding what the Kan-musume and Abyssals do, and this aspect of the film speaks to the horrors and desolation that was the Pacific War. The Kan-musume and Abyssals are halves of a whole, of the spirit that went into every destroyer, battleship, aircraft carrier and frigate that was ever commissioned. From the engineers, to the pilots, command craft and crew, each vessel was a home away from home, a friend that looked after its crew in exchange for being cared for, and so, when a ship was sunk in battle, these feelings manifested in the form of a grudge, decrying the unfairness of this world and at how easily so much effort and respect could be undone. Kantai Collection: The Movie forces viewers to be made aware of this fact, and in conjunction with Fubuki’s special nature, the film suggests that it is possible to move on from these injustices by first forgiving oneself and accepting one’s own inner darkness as the starting point. Five years after Kantai Collection: The Movie‘s home release and my subsequent review of the film, it becomes clear that the movie is remarkably mature, and back then, I lacked the maturity and wisdom to pick these messages up.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My revisit of Kantai Collection: The Movie comes as a result of Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s imminent release, and this me to rewatch the film. This time around, I’m rolling the Director’s Cut, which features three more minutes of footage depicting the sprites assisting the Kan-musume. Right out of the gates, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia when starting the film, which opens with a night battle that sees the Kan-musume succeed over their adversaries, the Abyssals. The scene is set to Natsumi Kameoka’s compositions, which added considerable audio depth to the film and series as a whole.

  • I found Azur Lane‘s music to be of a comparable quality, and generally speaking, both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane are distinct in their own way. One aspect about Kantai Collection I did prefer over Azur Lane is the attention paid to detail in the Kan-musume: their loadouts and gear are more consistent and thoughtfully designed compared to their counterparts in Azur Lane. However, Azur Lane‘s charm is that ships from a larger range of navies are shown, and the resulting factions opens the floor to a different kind of story, whereas here in Kantai Collection, the conflict is strictly Kan-musume versus Abyssals.

  • On the weekend after Kantai Collection: The Movie was released five years earlier, I went to the local mall and drove out to the town over to take a stroll in their historical Ranche Park. I recall revisiting the park again a few months later; during this time, my first start-up was showing signs of failure, and I wanted to take a step back. As I sat on the hillside overlooking the park, I promised myself that I would return to this park in the future, under better circumstances. Over the past few years, between a busy schedule and the global health crisis, plans to revisit this park were put on hold.

  • However, with the vacation time I’ve had available to me this year, I was able to capitalise on an opportunity to return. After four years since I’d set foot at the historic Ranche Park, I thus returned, under tremendously sunny skies, to the viewpoint overlooking the town where I gazed across the valley as I had done four years earlier; the park has remained unchanged since I was here last, and a feeling of nostalgia washed over me. I allowed myself to live in the moment, in the realisation that I’d fulfilled a promise to better myself and revisit the park again. A week later, I would head over to the mall again. As I had done five years earlier, I enjoyed New York Fries’ Premium Chili-Cheese-and-Bacon Dog and Poutine Combo before heading off to pick up a foam pillow.

  • Upon revisiting the things I’d done five years earlier, under completely different circumstances, it dawned on me that with this additional life experience, rewatching Kantai Collection: The Movie again might’ve been a worthwhile endeavour because I would return with a fresh set of eyes. Since finishing the movie in 2017, I set down Kantai Collection and never returned to it. As such, all of my remarks surrounding the series in my later posts on Uma Musume Pretty Derby and Azur Lane were based on opinions that stem back from this time.

  • While some of my thoughts and impressions haven’t changed (I still feel that there’s a mystique surrounding the southern Pacific Islands that Kantai Collection: The Movie captures perfectly), my appreciation of the film’s main themes and intentions have increased. This is because back in 2017, I hadn’t quite been watching the film with an effort of trying to understand what the creators were trying to say. As it was, while Kantai Collection: The Movie was superb from an audio and visual perspective, I felt disappointed because the film hadn’t appeared to answer the questions I sought about the series or show its contributions to the franchise.

  • As it turns out, had I made a more sincere attempt in understanding things, I would’ve found Kantai Collection: The Movie to act as a conclusive presentation of how Kantai Collection works. Granted, there are some abstract moments in the theme, but these weren’t intended to willingly obscure or obfuscate the film’s main themes. In the present day, I make an attempt to see what a film wants to say with its narrative, and if a work has a cohesive message that is relevant, I am satisfied. Some folks believe that works of fiction must necessarily do more than this to succeed, but for me, the starting point of enjoying any work is the presence of a clear theme.

  • Throughout Kantai Collection, Fubuki had been presented as being special, but the television series never quite explored what this was. From the television series alone, one might gain the impression that Fubuki was special because, as a seemingly-generic individual with no distinct identifying traits in her personality, she could adapt and grow into whatever role was asked of her. However, Kantai Collection: The Movie suggests that Fubuki’s personality makes her uniquely suited for facing the problem that Kan-musume and Abyssals face.

  • This is because, once every character’s endless cycle between Kan-musume and Abyssal state is known, the Kan-musume determine that they can win the war by eliminating the Abyssals at a much greater rate than they themselves are sunk. On this logic, if no new Abyssals are created, then only Kan-musume will remain, and peace is attained in this fashion. However, given Kan-musume and Abyssals exist as a result of the unanswered feelings from the original World War Two naval vessels, the Kan-musume‘s plan would be akin to completely dismissing and suppressing the negative emotions within oneself.

  • This is, of course, a very unhealthy way of life, and in the context of Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume would be waging a war of extermination against the Abyssals. The Abyssals, being born from feelings of regret, hatred and pain, seek to destroy the Kan-musume, but the Kan-musume are supposed to represent optimism, hope and compassion. As such, while the idea of fighting the Abyssals to extinction works from a functional perspective, it would actually contradict the values that the Kan-musume themselves embody – annihilating one’s foes outright, rather than accepting their existence and reaching a mutual co-existence, usually will not lead to the solution one desires.

  • This is the sort of thing that period discussions surrounding Kantai Collection: The Movie were generally missing – a quick Google search for reviews of this movie will actually find my review, along with several others, topping the results. All of these reviews, mine included, conclude the series is best suited for fans of the series and is beautifully animated, but the story was confusing. Similarly, folks at AnimeSuki weren’t convinced that the film’s narrative could stand of its own accord and concluded the film had no emotional weight because the film focused purely on Fubuki. Some forum members suggest that Fubuki’s role as being special was naught more than a convenient plot device, and that the film should’ve had everyone fight Kisaragi or similar in order to have any depth.

  • However, to fight Kisaragi would be to promote destruction over understanding, and as I’d noted earlier, this would stand against the thing that the Kan-musume are supposed to represent. Since AnimeSuki nowadays appears adverse to perspectives that are not their own, I imagine I’d probably incur a ban for suggesting that these interpretations of the film are incomplete, and that the version of the film their members preferred to see would only reinforce the message that one’s foes should be destroyed. This mindset is precisely why the world is so divided: thanks in no small part to polarising media and social media, the world has increasingly trended towards an “us versus them” mindset, as opposed to acknowledging that problems can (and should) be solved by accepting the fact that other sides will exist, and that a solution in the middle, more often than not, can be reached.

  • At Tango-Victor-Tango, the forum-goers similarly characterised this movie as being poorly explained and hollow. Prima facie, my original review agreed with these perspectives. However, these perspectives, mine included, fail to take into account all of the design choices within Kantai Collection: The Movieboth the melancholy tenour that permeates the film, and the lingering sense of mystery come together to act as an analogy for the inner conflict between one’s best and worst self. I concede that it takes reading between the lines to draw this conclusion, but when everything in Kantai Collection: The Movie is summed up, it looks like the film had strove to convey how a real-world challenge that people face can drive the mechanisms behind those of a fictional world, enough to provide a plausible explanation for how players can collect ships and why they must fight the Abyssals.

  • As it stands, Kantai Collection had begun life as a game, and the game’s goals had proven to be quite simple. Attempting to fit a story around everything demands uncommon creativity from the writers, doubly so because Kantai Collection had been designed around the moé aesthetic. Azur Lane, when it came out five years later, found itself succumbing to the same problems that affected Kantai Collection, but when it released a spin-off, Slow Ahead, the problems vanished. This is because the mood in Slow Ahead matched the general vibe from the game more closely than the original series had. Had Kantai Collection originally aired as a light-hearted slice-of-life akin to Slow Ahead, it may have been considerably more accessible and effective in introducing the characters.

  • I’ve been a longtime defender of Fubuki and Yoshika-like characters in military-moé series, and the reason why this is the case is simple – providing a common archetype, the tabula rosa, allows for a naïve character to become shaped by their experiences and develop their potential. Without any other identifying traits, such characters become worth rooting for because they have nothing more than their effort and grit to go on. Because every world has different attributes, the same archetypes end up completely different as a result of their journeys.

  • The last segments of Kantai Collection: The Movie is the most significant part of the film, and also the least discussed. It is here that what makes Fubuki unique is explored: she alone doesn’t carry lingering feelings of resentment and hatred against her other half, or her fate, as the other Kan-musume do, and so, she is able to sail Ironbottom Sound without suffering the damaging effects from the area’s unusual waters. The phenomenon might be see as the combined grudges of the ships sunk here manifesting in physical form, compelling Kan-musume to give in to their negative feelings, and the damage to their gear is a visual metaphor for how being surrounded by negativity can chip at one’s well-being and confidence.

  • Whereas I missed this previously, Kantai Collection: The Movie makes it clear that Fubuki and her Abyssal self are two sides of the same coin. During the catastrophes of the Pacific War, the spirits imbibed by each vessel, the sum of the sailors, officers and engineers that ran each ship, eventually split in two from the torment and injustice of defeat. The positive feelings would become the Kan-musume, and the negative feelings became the Abyssals. Since then, these two sides have been at odds with one another, seeking to extinguish the other. However, the reality is that light cannot exist without darkness.

  • It is similarly unrealistic to eliminate negative feelings in oneself; when people say to “embrace their darkness”, they are referring to having enough emotional maturity to acknowledge that there are things that make one insecure, weak, et cetera. However, rather than trying to evade it, one becomes empowered by facing them head on. For instance, I’m impatient and quick to anger, quick to deal out judgement. I manage this by turning my impatience into an exercise of patience, of willing myself to take a step back and come back to something later. If later, my feelings of negativity go away, then it becomes clear that whatever had been bothering me was of no consequence. Conversely, if the feelings persist, I turn that restlessness and channel it towards something positive.

  • In confronting her Abyssal self, Fubuki demonstrates a sort of maturity that the other Kan-musume have not. She believes that having hope for the future is what allows one to put their best foot forward, and unsurprisingly, Fubuki’s Abyssal self cannot see why this is. Negative emotions can be all-consuming, and it takes strength to manage them. An exercise folks suggest is to write out the things that bothers one, and see if they can’t find any instances where those negative emotions led one to do something positive: this is supposed to help one understand that negativity is not dominating, and that there is nothing wrong with being human.

  • Because there’d been so little discussion of Kantai Collection: The Movie, one talk that did bring up the symbolism and imagery within the film still stands out to me. While I recognise the effort made towards interpreting these elements, their conclusion only merits partial credit. I can’t quite remember where I read this, but it was suggested that, when Fubuki finally faces her Abyssal self mano-a-mano, the red Spider Lilies that bloom were meant to represent reincarnation. However, the scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie unfolds as follows: Fubuki approaches her other half, and crumbles away from the effort. However, her Abyssal self also crumbles. In spite of this, Fubuki persists and manages to limp to her other half, embracing her tearfully and reassuring her that no one is going to be forgotten, that in spite of what’s happened, people will still be there for them.

  • According to hanakotoba, red Spider Lilies represent a final farewell, and bloom when people part ways permanently. While their usage in funerals led to their being associated with death, originally, red Spider Lilies simply refer to a parting of ways. What’s happened here is something similar to what I’ve experienced. In Chinese culture, killing black moths that enter one’s home is verboten because it is believed these moths house the spirits of the deceased. When a black moth entered my home, my parents told me to leave it be, and I later asked for clarification. From my grasp of Cantonese, I gathered they housed spirits, but missed the specific detail that these spirits may belong to one’s ancestors.

  • If I were to explain this to someone else, I would’ve probably butchered the story and concluded that moths are cursed. It is not surprising, then, that meanings can be lost over time, and similarly, anime are fond of using red Spider Lilies to symbolise death, when in reality, they were used by farmers to keep vermin away before being used at funerals for their distinct appearance: the red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, is poisonous. Kantai Collection: The Movie chooses to utilise the red Spider Lily correctly, rendering a field of them blooming as Fubuki bids her Abyssal form farewell before preparing to merge with her.

  • I don’t consider this a rebirth because what happens here is ultimately the restoration of two halves back into its original form. Reincarnation is best described as the process by which an individual’s soul is transplanted to another physical body. While one might then make the case that Fubuki is reborn in a metaphoric sense, the reality is that Fubuki herself prior to this merger still believed in accepting her other half. There is no significant change to her personality, and she’s not imbibing a lesson or experience that leaves her in a different place. On the other hand, a final farewell is an appropriate descriptor because by accepting her Abyssal self, Fubuki becomes whole again with an entity that had, until now, been an independent being with her own agency.

  • This entire scene is set to the track “Hope” (希望, Hepburn kibо̄), the single most moving and touching song on the Kantai Collection: The Movie soundtrack. Whenever I hear this song, my mind immediately whisks me back to the Ranche Park, and in this song, every emotion from Kantai Collection: The Movie is captured in a single, succinct track lasting a minute and forty-five seconds. In this track, the use of piano, string and woodwind simultaneously creates a feeling of wistfulness and empathy, of longing for a better future.

  • Far more than the red Spider Lilies, the true significance of the flower field scene in Kantai Collection: The Movie actually occurs when Fubuki finally embraces her Abyssal self. This is a very literal form of embracing one’s dark side, and shows how there’s nothing to fear. In doing this, Fubuki demonstrates that she’s overcome what troubles the other ship girls, and this acceptance liberates Abyssal Fubuki from her torment; her Abyssal self had existed in loneliness, so being accepted by someone, least of all the person who matters most to her, would show Fubuki’s Abyssal self that there is indeed hope, and that it is time to let go. With the farewell over, the entire scene dissolves.

  • Without Abyssal Fubuki’s grudge driving the opposing forces, Abyssal forces begin to disappear, and the film hits its dénouement. In the aftermath, Kisaragi and Mutsuki share a tearful moment before parting ways. Although Kisaragi’s return is a large part of the story, it ultimately became secondary to Fubuki’s journey, but, despite lacking more detail, I saw it as a show of how Abyssal or not, Kisaragi’s choices is what makes her a Kan-musume. While the film saw her slowly consumed by Abyssal traits owing to her lingering feelings of regret, in her heart, she still wants to return to the others. Seeing this is a cathartic release following the film’s build-up, and with the Abyssal presence neutralised, the Abyssal Kisaragi vanishes.

  • This exercise, in revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie, represented a chance for me to reflect on how I’ve changed as a blogger. While the film still remains unable to convince me to play the browser game, I now see the movie as a sincere effort to give more weight to the world that Fubuki and the Kan-musume inhabit. In this function, Kantai Collection: The Movie is successful. Looking back, going back and revisiting a work after some time has passed, especially a work one has already written about, is a fantastic exercise for bloggers. Doing this allows one to reflect on how their thoughts and opinions change over time, and how life experiences may shape their experiences of something, potentially helping one to be a more consistent and confident writer.

  • In this way, I’ve come to remind myself that opinions certainly aren’t immutable, and works that I’ve disagreed with previously do have more merit to them than I’d initially thought. Kantai Collection: The Movie is one such example, and it was quite instructive to go back and revisit the film: while my original review was still somewhat positive, I have noticed that of late, I’ve been increasingly unfair towards Kantai Collection in my other posts. Returning to watch the movie anew, with a fresh set of eyes, has helped me greatly in remembering what Kantai Collection had been going for by the time its movie was released.

  • Having revisited Kantai Collection: The Movie, it becomes clear that Fubuki’s story is over. Itsuka Ano Umi de is going to focus on Shigure, and all of the promotional materials have suggested that this second season of Kantai Collection is going to be more serious than its predecessor. Set for release in November, I’m currently still working out how I’d like to write about this one, since Itsuka Ano Umi de airs during the same season as Yama no Susume: Next Summit. While it’s great to be seeing more Kantai Collection after all this time, I admit that, like the wistfulness conveyed here in Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is a bit of melancholy surrounding Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s release: five years have passed since the film’s release, and a nontrivial number of this series’ fans likely would’ve already moved on.

  • While Kantai Collection: The Movie had been all-business, Mutsuki does get a happy ending: Kisaragi returns to her in full, appearing to be fully cured of her previous affliction. If I had to guess, assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de is set after Kantai Collection: The Movie, it is possible that the story could focus on Shigure coming to terms with her own inner darkness. The original IJN Shigure’s story is a tragic one: originally dubbed “invincible”, the Shigure was sunk after being hit by a torpedo from the submarine, USS Blackfin, at Gulf of Siam in January 1945. As such, with my curiosity in this sequel piqued, I am interested to see what directions Kantai Collection will take next. In the meantime, we are on the doorsteps of September: this is going to be the last post for the month, and since I am hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, I am presently working on making this showcase one worthy of the community.

Revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie thus becomes an important exercise for myself and this blog, because it shows how important it is to look inward and understand oneself, as well as accept how one’s life experiences can shift their opinions over time. In reflecting on these changes, one becomes more informed of their own values, and comes out a stronger individual as a result. I’ve never believed in clinging onto old opinions as absolute, and acknowledge that over time, things do change. In 2017, I was of the mind that Cocoapods was little more than bloatware that made it difficult to modify and update an iOS app. However, had I stuck with this belief, I would be a lesser developer for it. My experiences would subsequently show me that I was wrong, and I’ve never been too proud to own up to the fact I made a mistake. After taking the plunge and accepting Cocoapods, I became a better iOS developer, integrating new libraries into my project more elegantly and recognising that there are other excellent developers out there whose existing efforts can both inform me of how to improve myself, and save me time on a project. Similarly, with Kantai Collection: The Movie, I now see a series that strove to remind viewers that beyond the game’s mechanics, a very inspiring tale was told to give the characters’ experiences more weight and moreover, this tale holds applicability even now. Kantai Collection: The Movie has therefore aged very gracefully, presenting messages that remain relevant to this day. As such, I am not so proud that I won’t redact my earlier commentary about this series: Kantai Collection, through its movie, did say something meaningful, and despite over six years having elapsed since the film’s original screening in Japan, Itsuka Ano Umi de still remains relevant, as this second season may potentially expand upon the film’s themes and show the sort of change that Fubuki had laid down the groundwork for. Itsuka Ano Umi de will consist of eight episodes and begin airing in November, and while Kantai Collection may not be as popular as it had been back in 2017, the series still has life in it yet, with Itsuka Ano Umi de possessing the potential of reminding viewers why a six year wait for Kantai Collection‘s second season was completely worthwhile.

Luminous Witches: Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” –Mother Teresa

With the LNAF Band now assembled, the girls immediately set about preparing for their debut concert. Maria and Manaia end up taking on choreography, while Silvie and Joanna work on costume design. Lyudmila and Inori work on songwriting, and Virginia visits the different groups, offering help where she can. On the day of the performance, a rainstorm rolls into the area, but dissipates by the scheduled start of the performance. Aira and Éléonore kicks the show off with a ballad before the others join and introduce themselves. While Grace is shocked that rainfall has damaged their audio system, Virginia decides to sing anyways, and the others join in – the audience are thoroughly impressed, and Felicia approaches Grace to inform her that the LNAF Band programme is a go. Kicking off the first leg of their European tour is Romagna, but upon arrival, Silvie asks Grace to take her off the roster. While the other Witches head around town passing out fliers, Silvie visits her mother’s grave and speaks with her father. It turns out that Silvie is one of the heirs to the Romagnan royal family, and since becoming a Witch, had been denied an active frontline role because her superiors worried about her. Fearing she’ll disappoint her father, she declines to appear on stage, but a conversation with Joanna convinces her to change her mind. She decides to accept the ribbon Joanna had asked her to wear, and joins the others in singing for the Romagnans. While the other Witches are surprised to learn of Silvie’s background, they are doubly surprised that Silvie’s so ordinary, and Grace reads an interview where Silvie’s father comments on how everything the Witches do will contribute to the war effort. After a series of performances, the LNAF Band stop in Greece, where Maria is frustrated by the lack of progress in a series of new routines she’d designed. Following an argument with Manaia, Maria tries to draft new flight routines but becomes disheartened by the fact that she lacks the ability to fly them. Manaia and Virginia later find the drafts Maria had discarded, and Manaia reassures Maria that it doesn’t matter if Maria can’t fly, because they can fly together. Taking Maria into the open skies, Manaia and Maria manage to perform one of the routines Maria had planned, and the pair reconcile. Later, the LNAF Band practise projecting multi-coloured shields, while Grace considers asking headquarters to increase their budget. At the halfway point, Luminous Witches has settled into a comfortable and consistent pattern, capitalising on its episodes to show how the characters’ individual problems are overcome together.

In a series where there are no Neuroi to directly fight, Luminous Witches chooses to focus on the Witches themselves. Although everyone gets along well enough, each of the LNAF Band’s members bring with them their own background and associated emotional baggage into their journey. Aira had joined because this was all she could do, and she tried pushing the trainees in an attempt to make up for her own declining combat performance. Silvie ends up signing up for the LNAF Band because she wanted to do something more despite constantly being sidelined by worried superiors, but also wanted to avoid disappointing her father, who she felt was under the impression she was actively contributing to the war effort. Maria’s weak magic and flight ability leaves her frustrated that she can’t do more for her peers, and she lashes out at Manaia as a result. However, just because each of the LNAF Band’s Witches have their own problems doesn’t mean they can’t perform well together, and in typical Strike Witches manner, Luminous Witches sells the idea that everyone benefits with help from one another. In the context of Luminous Witches, the idea is that music is what brings together this disparate group of Witches and gives them a purpose that is, while perhaps less visceral than taking to the skies with a high-calibre machine gun and blasting Neuroi, still nonetheless an important role. As each of the Witches overcomes their own doubts and concerns, they become increasingly effective as LNAF Band members. In this way, Luminous Witches is doing a fantastic job of introducing all of the characters to viewers, and by learning of everyone’s backgrounds, this helps viewers to empathise with and support everyone – seeing what each of the Witches struggles with, and how they overcome this limitation makes the LNAF Band’s accomplishments all the more meaningful. Now that we’ve passed the sixth episode, I anticipate that the other Witches will also be given some time in the spotlight before Luminous Witches culminates with a finale performance, one that I hope would see iconic faces return as a part of the audience.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After Aira and Éléonore set about assigning everyone tasks based on their choices (and after rebalancing the roles so Manaia isn’t doing everything, in spite of her enthusiasm), Virginia is asked to observe the others as a part of her probationary period, while Maria’s working on putting a routine together now that she’s been made a dance choreographer. Since Maria’s never done something of this sort before, she figures she could watch the other Witches fly and see if she can’t put something together.

  • Later, Virginia swings by to check in on Lyudmila and Inori to see how they’re doing. Despite being assigned to be the lyricist on account of her flowery writing, Lyudmila finds herself struggling to write down the things that adequately capture how she feels. Virginia suggests that Lyudmila writes things as though she were directing them to Aira, and in a stroke of inspiration, Lyudmila’s creative juices begin flowing. The choice to have Virginia observe the other Witches thus has a positive, if unintended side effect: her naïveté allows her to come up with suggestions that no one else has thought of.

  • Grace ends up securing permission for the LNAF Band to perform their debut concert at the local village, and preparations thus begin in earnest as everyone does their part in preparing for their first-ever concert together as the LNAF Band. Besides of Éléonore and Aira, everyone else is a novice, but spirits are high. The positivity and optimism amongst members of the Music Squadron is encouraging, and this has given Luminous Witches a very friendly, welcoming tenour that has made this series fun to watch.

  • Whereas Strike Witches and Brave Witches had the Witches flying independently, Luminous Witches has the Witches holding one another’s hands while flying. This bit of symbolism is a constant reminder that all Witches benefit from acting as a team, and especially in the case of the Music Squadron, whose members might not be combat-effective, but nonetheless, still have the right mindset to do something bigger together. Here, Aira flies with Inori: no longer weighted down by her doubt, she’s more than happy to train the newcomers.

  • As preparations bring the LNAF Band closer to their debut, spirits are high. Designs for the stage are finalised, while Joanna and Silvie have managed to fully convert some school uniforms donated to the Witches into idol costumes. Even though it’s rainy on the morning of the performance, the girls remain hopeful that things will turn out well, and by the time Music Squadron are ready to head on stage, the weather’s cleared up, allowing the show to continue.

  • The performance opens with Éléonore and Aira singing as they’d previously done. There’s quite a few albums already released with the LNAF Band’s performance, but at this point in time, I’ve not had the chance to listen to them yet. One thing I’d like to check out is whether or not any of the songs in Luminous Witches is already released, but if this isn’t the case, a series of character songs will be released later this year. The vocal songs in Luminous Witches, befitting of a music-driven series, are quite good, a far cry from contemporary popular music.

  • By my admission, I’ve never been a big fan of popular music on the virtue that it’s too repetitive; the general rule I follow is that, if the song doesn’t get stuck in my head because the melody or chorus was engineered in a way to have this effect, I will likely have no complaints about the song. Having said this, the music that I enjoy most either tells a convincing story, or otherwise paints a vivid image in my mind’s eye. Songs can achieve this without ever forcing themselves to be catchy. In fact, I would suggest that catchy music resembles narcotics in that they force a listener’s brain to fill in the gaps and create an “itch”, which forces an individual to listen to the song again to remove this itch.

  • Grace resembles Captain America‘s Peggy Carter in appearance and role; I’m certain that, were Luminous Witches to be live action, Hayley Atwell would do a fine job of portraying Grace. Here, she reacts to the revelation that rainwater from the wet tent has leaked onto their broadcasting equipment, creating a short that renders said equipment non-operational. However, speaking to the girls’ faith in one another, they begin to sing even without the instrumental accompaniment, leading to the show’s main event.

  • The actual performance itself is animated using CG, and this results in the Witches taking on a very stilted appearance; they resemble the characters from 2013’s RWBY. Although some six years have passed since 2016’s Brave Witches, where similar techniques were used, it appears that the complexities in creating compelling dance sequences is still a challenge even for veteran production studios like SHAFT. These will likely be touched up in a BD release of Luminous Witches, but, despite being quite noticeable, the heart behind the performance is sincere.

  • In the aftermath of their first performance, the villagers are invigorated, and Felicia is convinced that the LNAF Band is more than just talk: she decides to speak with her higher ups, and ends up giving the LNAF Band clearance to begin doing a tour across Europe. Although Grace is initially surprised, she seizes on the chance, as this is precisely what she’d been hoping to initiate. The stage is therefore set for Luminous Witches to really begin exploring the world, and the first stop on the LNAF Band’s itinerary is Romagna.

  • To the girls’ great surprise, Grace has managed to secure an Avro Lancaster as their transport aircraft. The Lancaster is an iconic British heavy bomber that succeeded the Handley Page Halifax, which has a similar design (the Lancaster has a larger canopy and the dorsal gun emplacement is closer to the rear of the aircraft): it was originally intended to be used for night bombing missions and was the only aircraft capable of carrying the ten-tonne Grand Slam bombs. However, the Lancaster was also an effective daytime high-altitude bomber. The Lancaster’s high payload, and comparatively smaller number of defensive armaments and crew requirements therefore makes it an attractive choice for the LNAF Band, who are flying around Europe with their Striker Units in tow.

  • Compared to the 2021 short PV, Luminous Witches‘ full anime features much more consistent character designs, and by the fifth episode, I was as familiar with each member of the LNAF Band as I was with the 501st and 502nd: off the top of my head, we’ve got Aira, Éléonore, Silvie, Inori, Lyudmila, Virginia, Manaia, Joanna and Maria. Traditionally, shows with a larger number of characters overwhelm me somewhat, and I only tend to remember the central set of characters (e.g. in Shirobako, I only remember Aoi, and in Girls und Panzer, it took almost a decade to learn everyone’s names). However, Strike Witches has a talent for making their characters memorable, making it easier to recall who’s who.

  • The LNAF Band’s first stop is in Romagna, a region in Northern Italy. Until now, we’ve only seen London and the Britannian countryside, so having Luminous Witches visit other parts of Europe allows SHAFT to really show viewers what they’ve got. Upon arriving, the girls’ first goal is to raise publicity for their event: without things like television or social media to spread the word, the LNAF Band fall back on the tried-and-true method of handing out fliers. Some of the Witches struggle with their shyness (Inori even tries passing a flier out to a statue), others, like Manaia, are absolutely enjoying every moment of their work.

  • The fifth episode focuses on Silvie, who had approached Grace earlier with the request to not appear on stage. As it turns out, Silvie is a part of the Romagnan royal family and is one of the successors to the Princess title. She’d joined the Witches hoping to fight the Neuroi, but her royal background meant that her superiors were always reluctant to send her into combat lest she became injured or killed, and this is why she never saw any sorties. She worries that this will disappoint her father, who had high hopes for her as a Witch. Here, she visits her late mother’s grave: from what other citizens say, Silvie greatly resembles her mother.

  • When Silvie meets Virginia and Joanna at a Romagnan church, she points out the copula is actually a trompe-l’œil, a painting meant to create an optical illusion of depth. She begins to feel that there’s nothing beautiful about what is basically a facsimile of depth, but for Virginia, she feels that real or not, the effect is quite nice. Virginia’s remarks speaks to the idea that what matters is what impact one can make, no matter what form it is, and this optimistic way of thinking represents yet another instance where Virginia’s cheerful attitude is an asset to her team.

  • While the the LNAF Band enjoy dinner, I remark that we’re now in the heart of summer, a time where the days are beginning to gradually shorten, but a time during which the weather remains at its best. To spend some of the accumulated vacation time I had, I ended up taking the past Friday and this Monday off. On Friday, I decided to swing by a part of town I rarely visit to walk the riverside pathways there and check out the downtown core from another angle. Back in July, I ended up missing out on the free Stampede pancake breakfast after an unforeseen setback, and since then, I’ve been looking to enjoy pancakes again. Hence, after my walk ended, I swing by a delightful eatery called the Blue Star Diner, where I had their Fried Chicken and Pancakes, a gourmet pancake dish consisting of fried chicken breast, smoked bacon and a sunny-side egg topped with parsley, cilantro, chipotle garlic honey and chili butter on a bed of two fluffy buttermilk pancakes, served with all-Canadian maple syrup.

  • My first bite was a veritable explosion of flavour and nearly brought tears to my eyes: I was immediately shown how wide the gap between specialty pancakes and common pancakes were. This meal proved a pleasant one, and in conjunction with a hot chocolate, warmed me right up: while the skies were pleasant, it’d been blustery and merely 14°C. Back in Luminous Witches, a conversation with Joanna convinces Silvie to accept herself; Joanna shares her own background with Silvie, and it turns out that she’d joined the armed forces because despite her own talents as a visual artist, her family was having some financial troubles, so becoming a Witch would allow her to help them to put food on the table. For Joanna, all of the Witches in the LNAF Band are there for their own reasons, but this doesn’t mean their desire to contribute isn’t genuine. Spotting this, Silvie decides to give Joanna’s suggestion, of tying her hair up, another go.

  • On the day of the concert, Silvie feels a lot more confident and ready to perform. The Witches fly out over to the performance venue, a Romagnan amphitheater packed with an excited audience. The song that the LNAF Band performs here feels more like a contemporary idol piece rather than the ballad that Aira and Éléonore previously performed. Modern idol music, as we know it, is derived from J-Pop, which began taking shape in the 1960s after Japanese artists began stylising their songs in the rock ‘n roll style. However, the style of music in idol groups is largely inspired by Morning Musume, which was formed in 1997.

  • I’d always wondered how fitting in modern idol trends into the World War Two era would unfold; seeing contemporary performances in an era before television, on paper, would feel unusual, but Luminous Witches manages to make everything work out. In this way, Silvie is able to enjoy her performance, and her father’s shown up to watch. In a news interview later, her father would state that he enjoyed watching Silvie perform, and that he agrees with the sentiment that any effort to the Human-Neuroi War is important.

  • Silvie decides to reveal her royal heritage to her fellow LNAF Band members, and they’re shocked that someone of such a pedigree could get along so well with commoners. In the moment, Joanna also reveals her own verbal tic, a tendency to speak like a guy as a result of having grown up with male siblings. Luminous Witches suggests that backgrounds and origins aren’t as significant as what one’s actions are, and in this way, Silvie’s gotten past her own doubts to become a full-fledged member of the LNAF band, no longer worried that she’s being sidelined simply because of her background.

  • Maria’s been presented as lethargic but amicable up until this point, but when the time for the LNAF Band to begin incorporating the Striker Units into their performances, she takes on a much stricter and more demanding character, befitting of a Karlslander. The sixth episode focuses on Maria: it turns out that while her own magic is weak (even more so than Hikari’s), she gained her station owing to having saved Field Marshall Erwin Rommel at some point. Although Rommel’s name is not mentioned, it’s clear Maria’s referring to Rommel, who was known as the Desert Fox.

  • Having not seen too much of Maria up until now, I found her mannerisms adorable: despite her limited magic, she still tries her hardest in the ways that she can. This is in keeping with the LNAF Band’s modus operandi, and in fact, recalling Strike Witches‘ first season, a recurring theme throughout the whole franchise is about doing what one is able to. Yoshika had joined the 501st while in search of her father and ended up doing what she could to defend those around her, but her simple determination to do what she felt was right eventually would lead her to become a legend of sorts.

  • The Witches of the LNAF Band won’t have such potential in them, but by this point in the series, they’ve gone on several tours and are presently stationed in Greece. After a difficult meeting, Maria tries to enjoy Inori’s cooking. Another recurring element in Strike Witches is the general enjoyment of Fuso cuisine; while foods from around the world are seen, the fact that everyone is partial to Fuso cooking is a subtle, but gentle reminder of this series’ origins. When the conversation topic turns to whether or not Maria and Manaia are having troubles, Maria begins coughing, and Manaia excuses herself without getting seconds.

  • One cannot help but feel bad for Maria here: she very much feels like an imposter of sorts because she’s a Witch despite lacking any magical talent. While she goes about creating elaborate flight routines for her bandmates, Maria realises that she’s unlikely to ever be able to fly any of them. In frustration, she chucks half her proposed drawings out into the Greece afternoon. Originally, she and Manaia had been assigned to choreograph the flight routines, but Manaia’s free spirit and seeming inability to use technical terms frustrated Maria, who’d resolved to do everything herself with typical Karsland efficiency.

  • Speaking to her indigenous origins, Manaia’s shield has Māori influence. Her carefree spirit allows her to project a shield of sunshine yellow, and Manaia’s explanation suggests that allowing one’s feelings to flow through them will produce a shield with a natural colour. The default aquamarine shield that Witches typically project, then, is a symbol of focus and training. After Virginia finds Manaia and brings her sandwiches, the pair play around with their shields until Manaia spots pages floating in a tree. Upon looking more closely, they’re the same notes Maria had discarded.

  • Manaia thus goes on a hunt for the remainder of the notes with Virginia, and while she might lack the same technical finesse as Maria, she still spots routines that she could be excited about performing. Virginia and Manaia spend the remainder of their afternoon running around in the Greek countryside, and here, I express a hope that the LNAF Band will have the chance to perform in Greece. This country, counted as the originator of Western civilisation, has thousands of years of history and is located on the shores of the Mediterranean; as such, the area is littered with ancient ruins under exceptionally gorgeous skies.

  • Just when the others prepare to embark on a search for the two, Manaia and Virginia return to base. Here, Maria tearfully admits that she’s an extremely poor flier and had been trying to design something she could also participate in, but worried about her ability. I relate to Maria’s situation wholly: one of the reasons why I had been considering medical school was because in all of my computer science courses, and my summer research, I’d long felt that my ability to get through them was always because I had a lot of help in my corner. If I did well, I thought to myself, I did so because of a great deal of luck.

  • It wasn’t until my medical school applications fell through, and I had a conversation with my supervisor, that I learnt that my affinity was in the computer sciences. My supervisor extended me an invitation to work on a new project, and I accepted. When this project concluded, I became a little more confident that software development was indeed my area of strength. In Luminous Witches, Manaia takes Maria on a flight. While Manaia struggles with some of the terminology and finesse, and Maria struggles to stay aloft, once the pair find their groove, they perform a new manoeuvre successfully.

  • This newfound success brings Manaia and Maria closer to one another, speaking yet again to the significance of teamwork. In Strike Witches, Brave Witches and now, Luminous Witches, it seems that even amongst a close-knit group of Witches, subgroups form, and through mutual encouragement and support, individual Witches become stronger, more confident and better equipped to deal with whatever follows next. The rekindled bonds between Manaia and Maria are visualised by a vivid sunset: although SHAFT may have dropped the ball in CG, their hand-drawn moments remain of a superb quality.

  • In the aftermath, Manaia manages to show the other Witches how to project shields of a different colour by allowing their thoughts to wander somewhere comforting. Speaking to Aira’s previous experience as a disciplined Witch, she struggles and wonders what on earth going with the flow feels like. Meanwhile, with the successes the LNAF Band have seen thus far, and their plans for more wonderful performances, Grace begins to contemplate requesting an even larger budget.

One of the unintended consequences of removing the Neuroi as an active threat from Luminous Witches is that the series ends up feeling more adorable than any previous Strike Witches series. In tenour, Luminous Witches is more similar to World Witches Take Off! than Strike Witches, and the urgency of warfare is completely displaced. Instead, each of the characters exude a vibe that, taken together, makes Luminous Witches feels like K-On!, GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosaic set in the Strike Witches Universe. The troubles that affect Aira, Silvie and Maria, for instance, are nowhere near as emotionally charged as the pressure Mio faced when her Witch powers began declining, or the struggle Hikari experiences in trying to prove her worth as a member of the 502nd. This is a reminder that the Human-Neuroi War has compelled Witches to mature far more quickly than would otherwise occur, speaking to how far-reaching the war’s impact is. However, even in such a universe, normalcy does exist – seeing the smaller scale of the problems that the LNAF Band face in Luminous Witches face shows that despite the scope of the conflict, people still strive to live normal lives. In presenting this side of the Strike Witches universe, the weight of the efforts the other Witch squadrons are putting in to repel the Neuroi becomes more apparent. Strike Witches had originally been an “enemy-of-the-week” excuse to show the Witches and their pantsu, but as the series matured, and more of the world was developed, the opportunity to see more of this world has presented itself. The more laid-back atmosphere in Luminous Witches is especially conducive towards showing the slice-of-life side of things, but unlike World Witches Take Off!, where the humour is derived off crude gags, Luminous Witches is able to build humour and catharsis through natural interactions among the LNAF Band’s members, whom, as time passes, become increasingly familiar and comfortable with one another.

Luminous Witches: Review and Reflections After Three

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller

Upon spotting the recruitment posters, Lyudmila and Inori decide to join the LNAF Band. They join the other applicants, but the interviews leave Aira wondering if anyone is really suited for the role after it is revealed their only candidates are not combat capable. While Grace continues to review the day’s results, the other Witches decide to cook dinner and stay the night. As night settles in, Inori recalls that Virginia has Night Witch magic, and to help Grace search for Virginia, she suggests flying out and singing together. The music wakes Virginia up, and since she’s unable to transmit, all Virginia can do is climb to the rooftop and signal for the others, who soon spot her magic antennae glowing in the night. In this way, Virginia reunites with Inori and Lyudmila. In the morning, Virginia agrees to enlist and join the LNAF Band. While she takes her basic qualifications exam, the other girls begin training with the senior Witches. Grace trains Inori and Silvie, a Romagnan Witch. Elenore ends up with Manaia (New Zeiland) and Joanna (Liberion), while to Lyudmila’s great pleasure, she and Maria (Karlsland) are to be taught by Aira. While the others begin training their singing and dancing, Aira drills Maria and Lyudmila in flying. However, Maria’s weaker magic causes her to pass out during training, leaving Aira to feel guilty. Meanwhile, Virginia passes basic training, and Elenore decides to take everyone over to a nearby village to get everyone accustomed to performing in front of a crowd. In the process, the children begin enjoying watching, and their parents later express that it’s been a while since the children have had anything to smile about. Aira later admits she’d been pushing Maria and Lyudmila so hard because she’d felt useless at being unable to fulfil a combat role, and promises to be a better instructor. Back in the village, the children decide to call their local Witch squadron the Luminous Witches, giving the series its name. Three episodes into Luminous Witches, viewers have now been introduced to the principal cast – besides Virginia, Inori and Lyudmila, we have Silvie, Manaia, Joanna, and Maria joining the party. Everyone has their own unique traits: unlike Strike Witches, where the characters’ personalities are stereotypes of their home nation, everyone in Luminous Witches is quite distinct. However, all of the Witches are united by their love of music, and with everyone now beginning their journey, it is quite clear that Luminous Witches will be a very laid-back and easygoing series that, while standing in stark contrast with the tenour previous Strike Witches conveyed, still acts to build up the Strike Witches world further.

Because everyone in the LNAF Band is unfit for combat for their own reasons, Luminous Witches‘ Witches are the bottom of the barrel, incapable of taking to the skies and defending humanity through direct actions. Each of the Witches are lacking in some way – Virginia can only receive magic signals, and Lyudmila can’t aim worth shit. Maria’s magic isn’t powerful enough to keep her in the air, and Manaia’s magic is inconsistent (on good days, she can fly like the wind, but on bad days, she’s unable to even move). Similarly, Aira’s magic is fading. Each of the LNAF Band’s Witches possess limitations that stop them from being an asset on the battlefield, and especially for Aira, being forced away from the frontlines is having a negative impact on her mindset. Although Lyudmila admires Aira greatly, once she gets to know the real Aira a little better, the situation becomes a little more embarrassing for both. Luminous Witches continues to explore what Witches go through as they age, and their magical abilities diminish. However, unlike Strike Witches, Luminous Witches shows how even though Aira herself cannot fight, there remains things she can do – while Aira is a skillful singer, what she longs for most is to return to the skies, and this disconnect results in dissatisfaction. When the new Witches arrive, Aira is unaccustomed to dealing with them. The presence of new Witches also represents a new opportunity – seeing everyone train to become performers, and the energy they bring to the table will doubtlessly help Aira to find new purpose. Grace’s constant remarks that Witches can do more than just fight holds merit, and it is plain that even in-universe, Grace struggles to convince command of the idea that music Witches can be important. In reality, some folks question the merit of making something like Luminous Witches and argue there’s no point for a Music Squadron to exist because Witches can be sourced for all tasks. However, in the Strike Witches universe, it appears that there are enough Witches so that not every Witch is necessarily an asset; there isn’t any strong indicator that humanity’s resources are pushed so far to the brink that any magic user is needed on the frontlines. Further to this, the idea of Witches being musicians, to civilians, would be a morale booster. Non-magic users don’t necessarily need to know these Witches are sidelined in some way: to have Witches show up from time to time and lift spirits would also help people to push towards the war effort. As well, these Witches may not be frontline material, but they still know the ins and outs. Having someone with this knowledge say something reassuring in a concert would be important to morale. As such, even early on in Luminous Witches, it is clear that this series means to show viewers how there’s many ways of being helpful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The vast fields of Britannia feature prominently in Luminous Witches – Strike Witches was originally set in Britannia, using the island nation as a staging point to mount an offensive against the Gallian Neuroi Hive, and here in the pastoral setting, Strike Witches conveyed a sense of tranquility. However, things were periodically broken up by Neuroi attacks, and the actions of Air Marshall Trevor Maloney led to the Warlock Crisis, in which an automated air superiority fighter built using Neuroi technology lost control and precipitated a crisis that the 501st would be forced to fix. Maloney was subsequently relieved of command, and the 501st would go on to play an instrumental role in the Human-Neuroi War.

  • Without Neuroi appearing on a weekly basis, Luminous Witches is infinitely peaceful and has the same light-hearted tenour as World Witches: Take Off!. However, Luminous Witches isn’t driven by gag-based humour as was World Witches: Take off! – instead, the gentle atmosphere and the relative absence of a Neuroi threat allows the members of the LNAF Band to simply bounce off one another. Here, Lyudmila all but begs Grace, Éléonore and Aira to accept her into the LNAF Band during the interview process.

  • Grace had originally created posters advertising openings in the LNAF Band because she’d been moved by Virginia’s performance and sought to recruit her. However, the end result of these advertisements is that Grace receives a host of applicants who initially seem quite unqualified and unsuited for the role – everyone is a Witch who hadn’t been a good fit for their previous squadrons, and are applying for a position here so they can continue to help the war effort in whatever way they can. Éléonore, Grace and Aira are disappointed that no one seems to have any musical talent.

  • When the last applicants appear to strike out, Éléonore, Grace and Aira decide to close things off for the day and decide whether or not they want to reject all of the applicants. The outcome of this conversation is a foregone one, and while stories often create tension by suggesting the characters won’t make it, logic dictates that, were this to be the outcome, there’d be no story. Predictability has long been considered to be a detriment among anime reviewers – although moments like these are meant to create some tension and add a little weight to the process, folks may count such moments as being forced. Of course, if an anime has everyone waltz through the interview process, then the same folks might say that things were too easy or contrived.

  • For me, predictability is a non-issue in some cases: when it comes to things like setting a story up, the story doesn’t need to be too dramatic. What matters more for me is how the outcome was reached, and here, after deliberations enter the evening, the other Witches decide to whip up some dinner. Lyudmila is especially eager to have Aira try her cooking, and while Aira is hesitant to partake, she reluctantly does so after Éléonore offers to feed her. After a long day, food ends up being what brings this disparate group of Witches together, and in this moment, strangers become friends.

  • I’ve long believed that food underlies the absolute best of humanity – food is a central part of every culture, and understanding how a culture prepares and enjoys their food offers profound insight into their values, beliefs and traditions. Nothing brings people together like sharing food, and as the evening wears on, the Witches get to know one another better. Here, Manaia steals a potato from Silvie, while Maria enjoys some freshly baked bread and Joanna carries a pot of soup. One of the challenges I’ve always had with Strike Witches is learning new names, but with time, I imagine that spelling names will come more naturally.

  • After three episodes, however, I’ve no difficulty in recognising the characters and matching faces to names. Once dinner concludes, Inori admits she’d only shown up to recommend Virginia for the LNAF Band position, and, upon recalling that Virginia listens to the radio by night, she decides to fly out and see if she can’t transmit something that Virginia might hear. The other Witches decide they’d like to accompany Inori into the skies too; Inori is normally quite reserved and quiet, but it appears that where Virginia is concerned, she becomes quite fired up.

  • Determination quickly turns into apprehension – Inori’s never flown at night before, and so, Silvie and Lyudmila take her hands to help guide her. Flight acts as a bit of a metaphor for the girls, and although the LNAF Band’s members are second-rate Witches, rejects, the fact that they support one another makes things all the more endearing. This speaks to Strike Witches‘ messages of how everyone is stronger together, and I’d expect that even here in Luminous Witches, such themes will return, even if the LNAF Band’s function differs than that of the 501st, 502nd and other, conventional Witch units.

  • Back on the ground, Grace, monitors the radio and provides assistance where she can. Seeing all of the World War Two era equipment at base brings to mind memories of 2018’s Battlefield V; looking back, Battlefield V was actually a solid game that had continued in the footsteps of its predecessors, and despite a few SNAFUs in the form of inconsistent TTK behaviours and weapon balancing, as well as an opaque roadmap for content release and the total absence of iconic battles, Battlefield V had solid gunplay and atmospherics to the point where, by the Pacific Update in 2019, the game had been superbly enjoyable. Having returned to the realm of multiplayer, I might return to Battlefield V again for old times’ sake.

  • Back in Luminous Witches, the LNAF Band’s night flight catches Virginia sleeping. Her Familiar’s headphones activate, and Virginia herself begins to overhear the other Witches singing. While most of the Witches are adverse to performing and singing (Joanna would prefer to work behind-the-scenes, and Inori is shy in general), the Witches set aside their doubts to hail Virginia. The Witches’ efforts pay off, and Virginia rushes off to the roof. Her inability to transmit leaves her unable to respond to their song, but the other Witches spot the glow from her headphones shortly after.

  • Luminous Witches thus shows that in the world of Strike Witches, the abilities of Witches are incredibly varied and diverse. Like the Force, magical ability varies in individuals. Some Witches, like Maria, Manaia and Hikari have inconsistent and weaker powers, while others, like Yoshika, are so powerful that they’re practically on the same level as The Chosen One. This variability has led folks to extensively discuss how magic in Strike Witches works, and while the lack of official information has made things a little tricky, this was one of the joys in Strike Witches (and Brave Witches).

  • Luminous Witches‘ focus is away from how Witches fight, what weapons they use and the nature of their foes, so things like details behind the weapons, equipment and tactics will not be a substantial part of the conversation. Previously, Strike Witches had elicited spirited discussions because one could look at the real-world applications of things like the MG-42 and predict how its combat characteristics may impact a given combat encounter. Because music is the focus here, there are no guns, and this has led to quieter discussions. At Random Curiosity, for instance, Luminous Witches was marked, for the first time, as having being a series their writers had limited excitement for.

  • This makes sense, considering Strike Witches was already a series with a very niche audience – it stands to reason that a Strike Witches music spinoff would have an even smaller audience. I further concede that writing about an anime like Luminous Witches, which combines music with slice-of-life elements, can be tricky: while such series can be immensely adorable and cathartic, they do not offer much in the way of insight or discussion at first glance. However, when one takes the time to reflect on why things are unfolding the way they do, slice-of-life focused series can be superbly fun to write for, as well.

  • Back in Luminous Witches, after hearing Striker engines, Virginia jumps into the night sky, and Inori ends up catching her. According to the character profiles, Inori is supposed to fill the role of the protagonist’s shy and reserved friend. It does feel a little unusual to see Yoshika and Lynette’s roles reversed, but once Inori and Lyudmila reunite with Virginia, they are surprised to learn that she’s more than willing to join the LNAF Band.

  • The next day, Virginia bids her family farewell and prepares to join the LNAF Band – Witches are evidently respected in Strike Witches, and even though Virginia begins her journey with even less combat utility than Hikari, being a Witch and being able to participate in the war effort means that, even if she’s not on the frontlines taking down Neuroi every other week, being able to contribute in some way makes her as much of a Witch as Yoshika and Hikari are.

  • Strike Witches had the 501st operate out of several impressive-looking castles, with Road to Berlin featuring Fort Erfprins in the Den Helder, Netherlands, and Brave Witches‘ 502nd was based out of The Peter and Paul Fortress. However, befitting of the LNAF Band’s lower profile, they reside in much more modest, but still cozy and inviting, accommodations. While the others begin cleaning the country home out after moving in, Virginia’s gone off to complete her basic qualifications to enlist. Because of how little emphasis was placed into this, it stands to reason that Virginia will have no trouble with things.

  • The LNAF Band begin their first day with training exercises, breaking up into three groups. To ensure fairness, groups are determined by drawing names from a hat, and out of the gates, Grace teaches Inori and Silvie the basics of singing. Meanwhile, Éléonore drills Manaia and Joanna in stretching exercises, indicating that stamina is a vital part of performing. To Lyudmila’s great pleasure, she ends up joining Maria in training under Aira. However, Aira sends her students into the skies in training Striker units, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the sights scenery above the Britannian countryside.

  • Strike Witches and Brave Witches both followed a very well-defined approach – the second episodes to each have Yoshika and Hikari meeting the other Witches, and then the third episode formally introduces all of the Witches. Luminous Witches has kept to tradition in its third episode, with the obvious distinction that there is no emergency sortie that presses the protagonists into combat later on. I am curious to see how later episodes unfold; if Luminous Witches proceeds as its predecessors did, then from a thematic perspective, things will likely still deal with teamwork and trusting one another.

  • During flight practise, Maria suddenly faints – she’s been shown to be quite lethargic in the mornings, and is even worse than Erica Hartmann, who finds herself constantly on the receiving end of Gertrude’s lectures for not acting more like a proper Karlsland soldier. Whereas Erica is merely lazy, it appears that Maria’s magic is inconsistent and may peter out mid-flight. When this happens, Aira is forced to save her, and in the aftermath, Aira begins to feel guilty at having pushed Maria without having gained a better measure of Maria’s abilities. As it turns out, Aira had been a capable Witch at one point, but as she grew older, her powers began diminishing, and her pushing the trainees here is her way of convincing herself that she’s still able to be useful.

  • A potential story element in Luminous Witches, then, would see Aira realise that there are indeed other ways of being useful. Whether or not this happens will be left as something for future episodes, and back in the present, Virginia returns to base to announce she’s passed basic training and is now formally a part of the LNAF Band. The mood is heavy as Aira sulks about, but Éléonore suggests that, to keep everyone busy and give Aira some time to regroup, they head into town to practise choreography in front of others. Éléonore reasons that since the LNAF Band is expected to perform in front of an audience, everyone should get accustomed to being in public.

  • It would appear that the Witches’ outfits are standard-issue uniforms: now that Virginia’s formally a member of the Britannian forces, she’s rocking the same outfit as Lynette, with the key difference being that she’s wearing a skirt. For longtime Strike Witches fans, this can come across as jarring: Strike Witches had originally made its name by having characters running around without any sort of skirt or pants, and Lynette herself not worn the same green skirt Virginia is seen with. Similarly, the iconic pantsu shots of Strike Witches are completely absent here in Luminous Witches.

  • It therefore speaks volumes to how Strike Witches has matured over the years: the series was originally an exercise in pantsu, but gradually become increasingly well-written and began focusing on world-building over the pantsu. For some Witches, like Lyudmila, Inori and Joanna, this seems like an overwhelmingly unreasonable ask, but for Virginia and Manaia, their outgoing personalities mean that they have no qualms about jazzing things up. Manaia is especially fond of dancing, and when she’s powered up, she can be quite hard to keep up with.

  • The village children find the LNAF Band’s performance to be quite amusing, and very quickly come to develop respect for the Witches. Although Virginia and the others are not officially performing yet, the fact that they are able to bring smiles to children is significant: when the children are happy, the adults will similarly feel at ease, and this helps to raise morale. Children are very attuned to the tenour in their surroundings, but can also influence the emotions of those around them, so having this small, but tangible outcome shows that Grace’s idea of the LNAF Band has merits.

  • The next day, things between Aira and Lyudmila become awkward after what happens to Maria, so to take her mind off things, Aira decides to invite Virginia to come to town to check in on things. Torn between giving Aira space and being with her, Lyudmila eventually decides to accompany the two. However, things remain tricky, and being quite unaware of what had happened earlier, Virginia tries to strike up a conversation with Aira.

  • This results in probably the best funny face I’ve seen in Strike Witches since I began watching the series back in 2011. We’ve seen some funny faces previously – Eila provides most of them, grossly overreacting whenever anyone is perceived as getting too close to Sanya. I remember one especially memorable scene in Strike Witches 2 where Yoshika ends up with a face-full of Eila when she accepts an assignment to accompany Sanya in destroying a kilometres-high Neuroi. In Brave Witches, funny faces are rarer, but I vividly recall Naoe sporting a hilarious expression as she rides a sled with Hikari and Nikka on a frigid winter’s day.

  • After speaking with two of the town’s residents, Aira sees for herself what the LNAF Band could potentially accomplish: it turns out that after they’d shown up in town, the children had been expressing excitement at the prospect of seeing them performing again. Since the Human-Neuroi war had been quite grim, the residents note that it’s been a while since they’ve seen the children so happy, and this in turn has warmed their hearts, too.

  • To avoid disappointing the children, Aira arranges for an impromptu performance that ends up inspiring her fellow LNAF Band members do a fly-over while Aira, Virginia and Lyudmila sing. Luminous Witches gives the impression that it will combine Love Live! and IdolMaster elements into things, but so far, the two songs seen in the series have been ballads, which convey a completely different aesthetic than do the upbeat pop songs that idols usually sing. With this being said, having a diverse range of music in an idol anime makes for a more dynamic and immersive soundscape: in Wake Up, Girls!, one of the songs on the album is Tina Kobayakawa’s DATTE, which is a cover of Sen Masao’s Kita Kuni no Haru (Northern Spring).

  • During their fly-over, Manaia collides with Silvie, and this causes a minor malfunction that causes the training Striker units to spit out magic rings in the colours of a rainbow. Traditionally, magic circles are blue, and I imagine that this is a property of the Witches’ powers: a blue colour indicates consistently high energy levels and short wavelengths. The fluctuating colours are probably a sign of having weaker or poor magical control, manifesting as magic rings with different colours, but this works in favour of the LNAF Band, who appear to be putting on a light show for their audience, as well.

  • Back at headquarters, the other Witches marvel at Virginia’s unusual Familiar before passing it around like a volleyball – Virginia’s already fitting in to life with this group of Witches, and while challenges will face even this merry band, I imagine that the days upcoming will be filled with discoveries and laughter. Meanwhile, back in the village, children decide to dub the LNAF Band the Luminous Witches for their sparkling character, giving the series its name. With three episodes in the books now, I can say with confidence that Luminous Witches is a series I will continue to look forwards to every week. While this series isn’t one that can be easily written for at on episodic basis (at least, if I want to bring something fresh and meaningful to the table for readers), I do have the confidence in returning every three episodes to share my thoughts on where things are for Luminous Witches.

The near-total absence of Neuroi in Luminous Witches hasn’t stopped the series from giving the characters a chance to fly. Even though Virginia and the others might not carry a machine gun into the skies with them, they’re still afforded the opportunity to use training Striker Units and soar in the skies above the English countryside. The military aspects of Strike Witches have been fun, but one aspect of the series I’ve always enjoyed are the slice-of-life pieces, showing Witches as they train and relax outside of combat operations. Such moments are inevitably disrupted in Strike Witches itself, since repelling the Neuroi is an integral part of the series, and World Witches: Take Off! might not represent the most faithful portrayal of things, since it has the characters engage in things that are truly outrageous. Conversely, Luminous Witches‘ premise means that the LNAF Band will likely spend most of their time practising on base or in Britannian villages. However, because Luminous Witches is not a rowdy comedy, there is an opportunity to see more of the world. Luminous Witches has not disappointed insofar – London is a bustling city, and the Britannian countryside is immensely tranquil. The atmosphere contributes greatly to the themes in Luminous Witches, assuring viewers that the events of this series will be peaceful and calm; this represents a welcome change of pacing to things, and since I’ve long wished for a more laid-back spin-off set in the Strike Witches universe, it appears that Luminous Witches will fulfil this wish. Such series will not appeal to all viewers, but for longtime fans of Strike Witches, Luminous Witches will have its own charms. It should be evident that Luminous Witches is more than a mere attempt at cashing on the idol industry’s successes – typically, music-oriented anime have the potential to sell albums, and while there is little doubt that Luminous Witches was likely greenlit because of this potential, the series has done a wonderful job of showcasing the other aspects of the Strike Witches universe insofar, and if the music in Luminous Witches turns out to be as enjoyable as we’ve seen so far, it would not take a stretch of the imagination to suppose that albums for Luminous Witches would perform well.