The Infinite Zenith

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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.

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.

Wonderful World: Luminous Witches First Episode Impressions

“The best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

Grace Maitland Steward provides cover for the the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1941, while Virginia Robertson comes into contact with a falling star. Four years later, Virginia decides to travel to London, where she hopes to return Moffy, her Familiar. Here, she runs into Lyudmila Andreyevna Ruslanova, a Orussian Witch who’s trying to find Albert Hall, and Inori Shibuya, a Fuso Witch that Lyudmila’s Familiar drags along with him. Their chance meeting leads the three to travel around London and learn more about one another – Virginia hails from Scotland and is completely unfamiliar with Witches, while Lyudmila is a terrible shot, and Shibyua is planning on leaving the armed forces. All three manage to catch a glimpse of Aira Paivikki Linnamaa, an ace Witch turned singer: it turns out Lyudmila had went to London to see Aira prior to leaving the service. Meanwhile, Grace exits a meeting where she had tried to persuade the command of implementing a dedicated unit for raising morale, arguing that songs can save people just as effectively as bullets do. Although she’s unsuccessful, she catches the eye of Felicia Louisa Gresley, who agrees with Grace’s plan. Later, while riding a bus, Grace spots Virginia singing and hastens to catch up to her, but by the time she can disembark, Virginia has left with Lyudmila and Inori for the Royal Britannia Museum, where Inori believes they might be able to learn more about Virginia’s Familiar. Grace eventually comes up with the idea of the League of Nations Air Forces Aviation Magic Band (LNAF Band for brevity), and these ads catch the eye of various misfit Witches who are not combat-effective, but wish to contribute to the war effort in their own way. With this, Luminous Witches‘ first episode is now in the books, and the events surrounding how the LNAF Band (informally referred to as the Music Squadron) would come to be and provide morale-boosting concerts in a time when humanity most desperately needed support in a brutal fight against the Neuroi.

Right out of the gates, Luminous Witches establishes that the LNAF Band’s members are not active soldiers; Virginia herself is a Witch with no training whatsoever, and lacks any understanding of what Witches around the world do. Instead, she’s an optimistic and friendly girl with a great love for music, using her magic to tap into music from great distances and sing to her heart’s content. Lyudmila and Inori, on the other hand, are soldiers who do not feel they can serve well alongside other Witches; Inori’s shortcoming has not yet been shown, but Lyudmila is such a poor shot she can hit everything except her target. Other Witches, which viewers gain brief glimpses of, are similarly lacking; Maria Magdalene Dietrich has trouble waking up in the morning and misses training extensively, while Silvie Cariello constantly is sidelined despite being a hard worker with a good record in training. The remainder of who will become the LNAF Band’s members are similarly unfortunate and all possess traits that render them unable to participate in combat despite their desire to do good. As such, assembling the LNAF Band means initially taking a misfit group of, for the lack of a better word, losers, and giving them a chance to make a contribution to the war effort in another way. Through Grace and the LNAF Band, then, Luminous Witches is setting the stage for a familiar, but reassuring message – people can still contribute in their own way so long as their hearts are in the right place. Such a message is par the course for a Strike Witches series, and while Luminous Witches may not deal with the Neuroi directly, once the LNAF Band get to know one another and gain momentum, they will earn their place in the history books alongside the likes of Hikari Karibuchi and Yoshika Miyafuji.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In 2017, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk began screening in local cinemas, portraying the incredible sense of tension present during the Dunkirk Evacuation from land, sea and air. Luminous Witches opens with the Dunkirk Evacuation, portraying Grace as doing what she can; what she witnesses here contribute to her decision to start the LNAF Band later on, but this is about as serious as things get. When Luminous Witches was first announced, it was July 2018, and beyond the premise, as well as the fact that SHAFT was working on Luminous Witches, not much more was known.

  • Things remained quiet right through 2020, when Road to Berlin aired, and last year, a short preview video was released, depicting the LNAF Band as they prepared for a photo shoot that goes awry when everyone’s Familiars make a sudden appearance. At the heart of Luminous Witches is Virginia, a Witch from the rural Britannia. Although she’s technically a Night Witch (any Witch with the ability to control and manipulate magical waves akin to EMR), she does not appear to have any aversions to light and starts her journey with a trip to London, where she hopes to reunite her Familiar with others of its kind.

  • In London, Lyudmila meets Inori for the first time; the former is interested in getting to Albert Hall but keeps losing her direction. Strike Witches has always excelled with their casts: having everyone hail from a different nation and allowing everyone to bounce off one another is what keeps this series light-hearted and fun even when times look tough. An Orussian Witch, Lyudmila finds herself unsuited for combat owing to her poor accuracy, and had hoped to catch a glimpse of Aira before heading home. Inori, on the other hand, is planning on transferring out for her own reasons, and out of the gates, she’s become my favourite of the LNAF Band members, if only for the fact that she resembles Uma Musume‘s Special Week and Mizuki from This Art Club Has a Problem!.

  • Strike Witches is serious when it needs to be, but for the most part, comedic mishaps are inevitable when one places a bunch of youth together for extended periods of time. Outside of the battlefield, Witches are ordinary girls and act as such, so moments like these, resulting from Virginia’s Familiar causing unforeseen trouble, aren’t too out of place in Luminous Witches. Seeing SHAFT’s portrayal of London affirms that from a visual perspective, Luminous Witches is going to be of a satisfactory quality: after the preview video became available, it became clear that said video was little more than a short vignette providing little more than a glimpse into life as a music Witch.

  • While a preview video hinted that the televised series would become available soon, all news of Luminous Witches had ceased, leaving me to wonder whether or not this anime would be released. As it turns out, challenges with production led the release date to be pushed back: officially, the reason stated was “unforeseen difficulties”, but some fans have speculated that some of the voice actresses who were involved in the project had taken ill, so more time was needed for everyone to recover such that they could finish recording all of their lines. If this first episode is anything to go by, the wait was worth it – I had become worried that preview video might be all viewers would get of the Music Squadron, but fortunately, this is not the case.

  • In the beginning, a handful of Witches do indeed transition over to music: Aira is surprised to find that Eleonore has not changed in preparation of greeting their guests prior to the evening’s show. Aira is an excellent singer, and while Eleonore performs with her as a supporting vocalist, the latter appears to see singing as a secondary duty. Luminous Witches, at first glance, is little more than a variant of Love Live! or The Idolmaster set in the Strike Witches universe, but in reality, singers were very much a part of World War Two, and every Witch in the LNAF Band has a real-world equivalent.

  • I imagine that Luminous Witches was green-lit after the Strike Witches franchise saw a resurgence through Brave Witches and Road to Berlin: the original Strike Witches had been an exercise in fanservice, but as the series continued, it became a fantastic story about bravery and fighting to protect what is dear to oneself in a world that is vividly written. Idols and concerts in Strike Witches may seem out of place, but between the fact that music was indeed a part of morale boosting during the Second World War, and the fact that idol anime can drive music sales, Luminous Witches is a logical addition to Strike Witches. However, while Grace has been trying to push this point to command, she’s having trouble conveying this to grizzled brass whose priority is winning the Human-Neuroi War.

  • Luminous Witches marks the first time I’ve seen Familiars in Strike Witches: although written media indicates that all Witches have one, Strike Witches and Brave Witches never portrayed them (presumably on time constraints). Lyudmila and Inori explain to Virginia that the Familiars are spirits that manifest in a form that only Witches can see. Despite the plethora of details in the Strike Witches world, I’ve always found that every series has done a good job of Familiarising viewers with things through the perspective of a newcomer. Virginia fulfils this role in Luminous Witches, and in a series where combat is not the emphasis, it is logical to finally introduce the Familiars.

  • While Grace was unsuccessful in convincing the top brass of her plan’s viability, the idea of a Witch band intrigues Felicia, an older lady who appears to carry some clout. She agrees that morale is vital, and as they share a conversation, the pair pass by some “To Victory” posters. Posters were also a major part of the Allied propaganda engine – although propaganda is defined as misinformation deliberately tailored to influence people’s opinions and is a major reason why our understanding of foreign nations is so diminished, in the opposite direction, propaganda can also be used to rally morale and encourage people to tough things out.

  • The British were apt at this: the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters is such an example of the British Government looking to keep people focused on survival and defeating the Axis forces. However, in the present day, propaganda of this sort is ineffective because of increasing stratification in society. For instance, when governments announced “We’re all in this together” during the early days of the global health crisis, they failed to account for the most vulnerable groups, and this created cynicism in how well authorities were managing things. At the opposite end of the spectrum, propaganda rooted in the hatred and untruth remains effective because it shifts blame and foists responsibility onto a scapegoat, a low-effort endeavour.

  • This is a consequence of the fact that the human brain reacts more strongly to negative stimulus, but while negativity is easier, constant cynicism is taxing on mental health. As such, things that can be done to lift people’s spirits become important, and in the context of Luminous Witches, in a society that already is galvanised towards beating the Neuroi, having something to look forwards to (such as Witch concerts) would be valuable. Grace may lack the ability to put these thoughts down into words, but her intentions are clear, and given Luminous Witches‘ premise, the creation of a Music Squadron is expected.

  • While Lyudmila and Inori’s Familiars spar with Moffy as everyone heads towards Albert Hall, I note here that everyone’s outfitted in a very conventional fashion; Virginia, Lyudmila and Inori are all wearing skirts. Strike Witches was known for its emphasis on pantsu, and while this had drawn fans to the series initially, writers soon realised that Strike Witches was sufficiently engaging so that they could reduce the now-infamous crotch shots and still have people watch the series on the merits of world-building and character growth. The end result is that Luminous Witches is probably going to be the most family-friendly of the Strike Witches instalments.

  • Of everyone, Lyudmila is the most versed with the musical witches, and she melts in happiness after seeing Aira passing by in a car. Characters are not typically introduced without reason, so every Witch that was seen in Luminous Witches‘ first episode will be important later down the line. Seeing glimpses of the other Witches’ lives provides viewers with a modicum of insight into why everyone joins the LNAF Band – as Lyudmila states, while all Witches have magic, not everyone can utilise these abilities in a way that is directly useful for repelling the Neuroi.

  • As such, it would be quite unreasonable to expect that Virginia and her newfound friends will end up taking to the skies and downing a Neuroi Hive as the 501st and 502nd have done. However, the worth of having Witches tour the European theatre and sing for soldiers cannot be understated – Witches understand what other Witches are up to, and musical Witches therefore have the unique ability communicate successes to audiences. Coming from a Witch, messages of Human perseverance and endurance would take on additional meaning.

  • Because Virginia hasn’t even gone through basic training, her magic manifests in a form that suits her innate traits: when her powers are active, she projects a pair of headphones. Up until now, she’s only used this power to tune in to other broadcasts and sing along with them, becoming a skilled singer in the process. Although these abilities aren’t likely to bring down a Neuroi, it leaves Virginia perfectly suited for the central role she’s set to play in Luminous Witches.

  • Virginia is modelled on Jeannie Robertson, a Scottish folk singer who had learnt to sing thanks to her mother. In 1953, Jeannie met Hamish Henderson – he’d been interested in learning about Scottish ballads. There are variants of what happened next, but all of them end with Hamish becoming impressed with Jeannie’s singing, resulting in her music becoming recorded. I’m not sure how closely Luminous Witches will follow reality, but hints of Jeannie’s history are present in Virginia; both are from Scotland and have an innate interest in music that would later gain them recognition.

  • Lyudmila is modelled on Lidia Ruslanova, a Russian folk singer who sang at a factory while working and was sent to music school when coworkers recognised her talent. Although lacking strengths in music theory, she loved music and would go on numerous tours, singing for soldiers on the front. Inori, on the other hand, is Luminous Witches‘ Noriko Awaya – hailing from a poor family, she graduated from music school and began her career in singing classical songs, but later moved on to singing popular songs and produced several hits, although she would also come to disapprove of later Japanese artists like Seiko Matsuda. Here, after Virginia explains why she’s in London, Inori suggests that they hit the Britannian Museum to see if they can learn anything about Familiars.

  • In the real world, the British Museum is home to exhibits on art, history and culture. Founded in 1753, the building today was designed by Sir Robert Smirk in the Greek Revival style and began in 1833. True to its real-life counterpart, the museum seen in Luminous Witches is closed for repairs after sustaining damage in an airstrike. The real museum was hit with several bombs during the Blitz, and some parts of the museum were not fully repaired until the 1960s.

  • While Virginia spends a full day with Inori and Lyudmila, Grace had spent her afternoon trying to track down Virginia after hearing her singing, to no avail. Back in her office, she struggles to come up with a proposal for her project, but later will design the posters that advertise the LNAF Band. Becasue of the presence of a Music Squadron for Witches who aren’t combat effective, the promise that Virginia, Lyudmila and Inori share, to meet again one day, will shortly be realised.

  • Luminous Witches is off to a solid start – the idea of a Music Squadron in the LNAF Band is actually quite appropriate from a story perspective and would help with further expanding the Strike Witches universe in ways that a story dedicated to the frontlines cannot, and from a financial perspective, can also produce excellent music. In upcoming episodes, more characters are going to be introduced, and I’m ready to meet the other members of the LNAF Band as everyone sets about practising for their performances and, potentially, even travel around Europe to lift the spirits of soldiers fighting against the Neuroi.

Despite being set in the same universe as Strike Witches and Brave Witches, Luminous Witches‘ focus means that this series will inevitably feel more like Wake Up, Girls!, Love Live! or The Idolmaster rather than Strike Witches; the emphasis here is on musical theory, vocals, instrumentation and dance choreography over weapons handling, combat strategies and daily training. The premise means that, by definition, Luminous Witches will lack the same emotional tenour as previous Strike Witches. However, because the stakes are not as severe, this gives Luminous Witches a chance to let Witches bounce off one another as they practise and train for their roles, too. Previously, Strike Witches and Brave Witches both needed to strike a balance between advancing the story in the Human-Neuroi War, and while episodes could do substantial world-building, time also needed to be spent on combat operations and the requisite character growth needed for the squadrons to succeed. By comparison, because the LNAF Band are intended to travel around and sing for civilians to boost morale, this represents a chance to further explore the world that Strike Witches had established. Between the reduced emphasis on combat, and the fact that the LNAF Band will be composed of a raggedy-ass bunch of misfits, it becomes clear that Luminous Witches represents a departure from tradition, but will remain a series that is worth following for fans of Strike Witches who’ve been curious about further world-building, as well as fans of the military moé who possess a modicum of interest in idols and music. Beyond this, since we’re only one episode into Luminous Witches, it’s tricky to say where this anime is headed, but a solid start means I’m looking forwards to see how Virginia and the others will handle meeting their fellow band members; there might be no guns, but I imagine that for the first little while, there will be bumps and bruises as everyone gets accustomed to one another before turning their attention towards the shared goal of helping out in the Human-Neuroi War in their own way, even if they’re no longer soaring through the skies as their counterparts typically would.

Running and Inviting: Revisiting the Beginning of Tari Tari a Decade Later and the Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club’s Influence On a Journal Publication

“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” –Joshua Marine

When Tari Tari was announced, beyond a key visual of three characters who greatly resembled their counterparts from Hanasaku Iroha, there had been very little information surrounding what this series would deal with. After the first episode concluded, it became clear enough that Tari Tari would be musically themed; viewers are introduced to Konatsu Matsumoto, a disgraced member of the choir club who wants to sing for her own enjoyment and Wakana Sakai, who is transferring out of the music program in a bid to move on after her mother’s passing. Tari Tari would ultimately detail how these two conflicting paths would reconcile, and how seeing Konatsu’s earnest efforts towards pursuing an interest would remind Wakana of how her own mother had approached music, as well. This would lead Wakana to come to terms with her past and in doing so, help Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro create something meaningful as their school sends off their final cohort of graduates ahead of a redevelopment project. Uplifting and inspiring, Tari Tari indicates that when people stumble, it is support from others that help them to find their way again. Unlike other series, Tari Tari has a very intense pacing: Wakana comes to terms with her mother’s death mid-series, and uses her newfound enjoyment of music to both help Konatsu leave a legacy behind as their school closes, as well as Sawa to find her way again when she begins to lose hope after being rejected from an equestrian program. Much as how Sawa and Konatsu had tried to help Wakana, Wakana is able to grow and return the favour to her friends in a big way. The first episode of Tari Tari, however, betrays none of this to viewers: at the end of the first episode, viewers were only introduced to the characters, creating a sense of intrigue as to how the series would unfold. First impressions in anime are important, and Tari Tari certainly captured my interest during a time when, having finished my physics course, I became wholly focused on preparing for the MCAT. Each and every week, I had a new episode of Tari Tari to look forwards to, and seeing how the series showed a group of individuals putting in the effort to make something bigger than themselves would have another, unforeseen impact on what I ended up doing after the MCAT concluded.

A half-year before Tari Tari began airing, one of my colleagues had suggested the idea of submitting a paper to an undergraduate journal about the versatility of our lab’s in-house game engine in visualising and interacting with biological processes. After classes ended, we would spend time drafting notes on what the paper would deal with in the student lounge on the medical campus. Halfway into the winter term, however, the coursework began picking up – I was struggling with biochemistry and needed to keep up with cell and molecular biology, while my friends similarly became busy with their own studies. The paper became forgotten as a result. When my MCAT finished, I had three weeks left in the summer left to me. By this point in time, Sawa had recovered her own determination after overhearing her father vouching for her while on the phone with an admissions officer from the equestrian institute she’d applied to. Together with encouragement from Wakana, Konatsu, Taichi and Atsuhiro, Sawa returns to school to help her friends convince the music instructor they should be allowed to perform at the culture festival. In the last hour, everyone had pulled through and set the groundwork for realising their wish of doing something together. Although three weeks was not a lot of time, my summer schedule had been quite open. I therefore approached two of my other colleagues who’d been interested in the paper, and they readily agreed to continue with the paper, being more than happy to refine their notes into passages. In the space of two weeks, I worked on the paper and transformed a set of notes into a full-fledged publication. My peers were pleased, but to my surprise, my supervisor was also impressed. A few revisions later, we had a complete first draft ready for submission. Both my colleagues had suggested that I take the first author position, having spearheaded the paper; while I am not one for ceremony, it suddenly dawned on me that a desire to do more with my summer beyond just the MCAT had left me with an experience not unlike that of Tari Tari. Having now written our first-ever publications in a journal, I became curious to see how Tari Tari would conclude, and the ending, which aired as my undergraduate thesis project was under way, was every bit as heartwarming and satisfying to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tari Tari caught my eye because I had greatly enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha: at the time, I would’ve still been a novice to anime, and had picked my series based on their similarities to shows I’d previously watched. At first glance, the character designs in Tari Tari were very familiar and had clear counterparts in Hanasaku Iroha: Wakana is Minko, Konatsu is Ohana and Sawa is Nako. However, while there are some overlaps in terms of personality, I would quickly find that Sawa is more confident and foward, while Wakana lacks Minko’s bite. Konatsu, while energetic, lacks the same stubbornness seen in Ohana.

  • The music in Tari Tari is top-tier: Shirō Hamaguchi is the composer for the anime’s soundtrack, and the series’ leitmotif, Kokoro no Senritsu, was such an iconic song that I felt compelled to watch this series on the virtue of listening to the music alone. As it turns out, Hamaguchi has a very extensive resume to his name, having previously composed the music to Ah! My Goddess, and later, would score the soundtracks for Shirobako and Girls und Panzer. Hints of Ah! My Goddess and Girls und Panzer can indeed be heard in Shirobako‘s music. However, Hamaguchi is a versatile composer, unlike Kenji Kawai or Hiroyuki Sawanoo, whose style makes them immediately recognisable.

  • In its opening moments, Tari Tari gives all of the main characters some shine time so their personalities can be established; unlike Hanasaku Iroha, which had two cours of time to work with, Tari Tari only has thirteen episodes. This meant that there is a lot less time to develop nuances, and I found that compared to the previous anime I watched, such as Ah! My GoddessAzumanga DaiohGundam 00 and Real Drive, things were a lot more condensed. The early 2010s were a time when anime studios were transitioning away from two cour series so they could work on a wider range of projects, and today, one cour series are more common than they had previously been.

  • On his first day of classes, Atsuhiro transferred into the same class as Sawa, Konatsu, Wakana and Taichi. Atsuhiro’s commonly known as “Wein” because he’s from Vienna, and while he’s unfamiliar with Japanese customs, speaks Japanese well enough. Tari Tari chooses to have him framed in a way as to face the school by morning to reinforce the idea that he’s new around these parts, and while originally, I had the least to say about Atsuhiro, it turns out he fulfills an important role: he acts as a surrogate for the viewer, who’s effectively dropped into things. Atsuhiro, like viewers, are unfamiliar with everything that’s going on around in Tari Tari, but over time, would come to get to know Wakana and her group better.

  • Even today, the visual details in Tari Tari are impressive: True Tears had been unremarkable, but from Angel Beats! onward, P.A. Work directed a great deal of effort into their lighting effects. Scenes end up becoming much more vibrant, and reflections are used to great effect. Here, one can see subtle reflections in the gymnasium’s wooden floor, and throughout the remainder of Tari Tari, reflections are utilised to make environments pop more. In giving spaces a shiny and reflective character, P.A. Works’ locations convey a sense of cleanliness.

  • While Wakana might not be friends with Sawa and Konatsu per se at the beginning of Tari Tari, everyone does appear to know one another well enough to share a conversation. Wakana is voiced by Ayahi Takagaki, whom I know best as Gundam 00‘s Feldt Grace, True Tears‘ Noe Isurugi and Honoka Ishikawa of Non Non Biyori. Now that I think about it, Wakana has the same voice as Honoka, so I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t notice this earlier. There’s a slightly childish trait about Takagaki’s voice in portraying Wakana and Honoka that makes both characters quite endearing. I’m not too familiar with Asami Seto’s roles, but I know Saori Hayami (Sawa) best as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, Yuzuki Shiraishi of A Place Further Than The Universe and Oregairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita. Hayami is playing Ruby Rose in RWBY: Ice Queendom, as well.

  • Instructor Tomoko Takahashi is set to go on maternity leave at Tari Tari‘s beginning: this decision was made to emphasise to viewers that they are dropped into the story at a time of great change. Tari Tari would ultimately convey many themes, but at the heart of this anime is the idea that people always have the chance to count on one another and overcome obstacles that are too great for one to handle individually. This theme is a very popular one because it mirrors human society: our greatest achievements come as a consequence of teamwork and collaboration.

  • At Tari Tari‘s beginning, Konatsu struggles with music. She loves singing greatly, but ever since an incident which saw her fail spectacularly, she was demoted from an active role. She tries to convince the Vice Principal to reconsider reinstating her, but she is unsuccessful: the Vice Principal, Naoko Takakura, believes that one must approach music with finesse and precision. This behaviour foreshadows her own past friendship with Wakana’s mother, who had been very free-spirited and felt the best music came when people were free to be themselves. To dull the pain of Wakana’s mother’s passing, Naoko takes a very serious and no-nonsense approach to music.

  • Since the Hanasaku Iroha days, P.A. Works has been very fond of adding what I call “funny faces” to their anime. Said funny faces are usually a particularly strong reaction to something, and while some folks felt they break immersion, I’ve always found that funny faces really show how characters are feeling in ways that words and actions alone cannot. Funny faces reached their height in Shirobako, where Aoi Miyamori would sport a myriad of expressions in response to frustrations she encounters while on the job. Subsequent works, like The World In Colours, dispensed with this completely, but more recently, The Aquatope on White Sand brought funny faces back.

  • P.A. Works has gone through a lot over the past decade, and while they don’t always produce works I’m interested in watching, I’ve found that their coming-of-age and workplace are their strongest series, telling a very convincing and authentic tale of growth and self-discovery. This is a matter of personal preference: I happen to enjoy anime set in the real world, dealing with people and their problems. With this in mind, not every individual will share this perspective, and this is perfectly fine. However, over the past ten years, I’ve noticed people hating on P.A. Works to an unnecessary extent: AnimeSuki even has their own dedicated thread for criticising and tearing down the studio for everything they’ve produced after Hanasaku Iroha.

  • Things eventually reached a point where people regard True Tears and Shirobako as the only works of note P.A. Works has produced, with every else being an abject failure. After taking a closer look, it turns out some of AnimeSuki’s members, especially one Pocari Sweat, popularised the intense vitriol that arises whenever the name Mari Okada comes up. It is one thing to watch an anime all the way through and then do a reasoned breakdown of why it failed for an individual, but it is quite another to broadly dismiss a work simply because Mari Okada’s name appears as the series’ director.

  • Although I get that people have certain directors they dislike (Pocari Sweat’s hatred of Mari Okada is equivalent to people who do not watch Michael Bay films because of their hectic cutting and emphasis on special effects over substance), to have maintained this level of hatred for over a decade is unhealthy. I personally assess series based purely on its own merits and generally couldn’t care less about who’s directing it. While directors do have a signature style (e.g. Christopher Nolan’s films are very contemplative) that impact how a story unfolds, the worth of a work is based on how themes come together with other things like acting, visuals and flow.

  • Tari Tari was directed by Masakazu Hashimoto, who had previously worked on storyboards for Hanasaku Iroha and Angel Beats!, and as such, has a more subtle feel about it (whereas Mari Okada would’ve been a little more blunt about things). In a series about finding one’s path, this approach ends up being a ways more appropriate – there is some drama in Tari Tari, on account of the series being a coming-of-age story towards the end of secondary school, but things are resolved in a satisfying and conclusive manner.

  • As memory serves, I actually didn’t watch Tari Tari on its original airing date: a decade earlier, I’d been enjoying a day out in the mountains on a well-deserved break from studying for the MCAT, and ended up writing about the first episode on the second of July. Fast forward ten years, and the mountains have now become a very crowded destination owing to the fact that National Parks having free admissions on Canada Day is now common knowledge. This year, I ended up taking the family out over to the Badlands to check out the Atlas Coal Mine, after making a promise to my parents that we’d do a mine tour some five years earlier.

  • Tari Tari is a series I consider to be underappreciated in the anime community; despite its short length, this was a series that captured, with full sincerity, what it feels like to take the initiative and make the most of something. Although perhaps seen as annoying those around her, Konatsu’s spirit means that she’s ultimately able to bring Wakana out of her shell, and in doing so, Konatsu indirectly helps Sawa out, as well. Tari Tari betrays none of this in its first episode, but the combination of likeable characters and visually appealing visuals meant that I had no trouble becoming invested in Tari Tari as my summer wore on.

  • From here on out, my focus was singularly directed towards the MCAT. Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect gave me something to look forward to weekly, while my day-to-day schedule was spent studying extensively in mornings and afternoons. On days where I had my MCAT preparation course, I would usually linger on campus until around two in the afternoon before returning home. After five, I would put the brakes on studying and kicked back by spending most of my time in Team Fortress 2. My friend also introduced me to MicroVolts, which proved to be a fun third person arena shooter until the servers shut down

  • Without a physics course to also focus on, my days developed a pattern, and over the course of the summer, my practises MCAT scores climbed. From a score of 14 on my first-ever full length, I would rise to a 27 by the time Tari Tari reached its third episode, and by the time Wakana’s love of music returns to her at Tari Tari‘s halfway point, I scored a 33 on my last full-length practise exam. Emboldened, I finally felt ready to square off against the MCAT, and in the aftermath of the exam, I saw myself with nearly three full weeks of break left. Seeing the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club work tirelessly to put something together for their school festival inspired me to pick up the journal publication, which my colleagues had started but left unfinished.

  • Much as how Konatsu was able to start things with her spirit and have the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club send their school off in a bang, my efforts were met with a successful publication. I entered my undergraduate thesis year filled to the brim with confidence, and while the MCAT score would remain little more than a curious topic for dinner conversation, the learnings that I picked up from the summer of a decade earlier have remained relevant right up to the present. Similarly, Tari Tari has aged very gracefully: despite being ten years old, the anime’s themes are still applicable, and the artwork itself looks gorgeous. It’s certainly worth a watch, representing a very optimistic tale of how great things can manifest when one opens their heart to those around them.

Although I was effectively four months behind on my undergraduate thesis work (I effectively spent the entire summer at my desk studying for various exams while my peers were laying down the foundations to their thesis project), working on the paper led me to realise that, because of how modular and flexible the game engine was, I already had my project. Within the space of two weeks, I had drafted out a complete proposal of what my own undergraduate thesis would be, and after my first week of term ended, I finished building a prototype proof-of-concept as a part of my proposal; in effect, I made up for three month’s worth of time lost in the space of a week. This was made possible by the fact that I’d known the game engine so well, as well as seeing what is possible when one is sufficiently motivated through Tari Tari. In Tari Tari, the narrative progresses very rapidly because the characters don’t dawdle: they either know exactly what their goals are and will not hesitate to act in a way as to pursue them, or, when they do stumble, people in their corner help to pick them back up. I would ultimately give my proposal presentation in front of my entire graduating class, and the project was given approval to proceed, right as Wakana and her friends put on a successful final musical performance before their school closed. In this way, Tari Tari would become a masterpiece for me. I would encounter some difficulty in finding the right words for praising this series, but in subsequent years, it would become clear that Tari Tari was a series that left a nontrivial impact on my life. While the series did receive an OVA with its ultimate collector’s addition, along with a sequel novel set ten years after everyone graduated, Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s futures generally remain unknown to overseas fans of the series. However, if my outcomes are a reasonable precedence, it would be reasonable to suggest that, while the path may not have been the smoothest, everyone’s found their way as adults – this is an encouraging thought, but a part of me wishes to read the novel for myself because, despite Tari Tari having concluded in a very decisive manner, I’ve long wondered if Taichi ever was able to pursue a relationship with Sawa.