The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Road to Berlin

They Go Boing-Boing- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Seventh Episode Impressions and Review

If pla-ket-ket – that pla-ket-ket
When I shoot you in your neck
The noise go pla-ket-ket-ket
And you know I will shoot you in your eye
Just so I can hear the pla-ket

– “100 Miles”, Skinbone

After Yoshika’s magic fails during a routine sortie, Lynette sets off to search for herbs in the nearby woods in the hope that something might help Yoshika. Instead, she stumbles upon an artefact of some sort, containing an ancient figurine that augments a Witch’s bust. The figurine also possesses Francesca and begins cursing the other Witches on the base. It turns out this figurine was used by earlier Witches as a means of praying for a successful harvest. After Eila and Sanya fall under the curse’s influence, Yoshika and the others attempt to destroy the figurine. Eventually, Yoshika herself is taken as a sacrifice for the ancient ritual, leaving Lynette to save her. With a well-placed round from her Boys AT Rifle, Lynette destroys the statue, returning everyone to normal. In the debriefing, Yoshika decides to ask Lynette for another shot to feel her up, as they’d been interrupted earlier: it appears that groping someone is inexplicably related to Yoshika’s ability to recharge her magic. Standing in sharp contrast with the sixth episode, Road to Berlin‘s seventh episode is an entirely light-hearted, almost meaningless romp that ventures into the realm of the supernatural: the only reason that an ancient figurine can plausibly cause a curse and possess Witches without drawing much ire is because the entire Strike Witches universe is built on the premise of magic, so it stands to reason that rogue magic could potentially manifest in an object and take on a life of its own. As it stands, the seventh episode offers crude laughs at the expense of advancing the story in Road to Berlin, perhaps even more uncivilised manner than its predecessors had done during earlier seasons.

While unremarkable on its own, Road to Berlin‘s seventh episode does offer one curious parallel to modelling the spread of infectious agents in a closed environment – for Lynette, after the figurine’s effects are known, the Witches aware of what’s going on are sent into a desperate attempt to escape those who become cursed, and those unaware (such as Minna) simply succumb without resistance. In a matter of hours, almost all of the Witches fall under the curse’s influence: while this curse is not self-limiting, it does have clear adverse effects on the Witches and a mode of transmission, allowing it to be seen as being similar to an infectious agent. The seventh episode thus suggests at the Witches’ vulnerability to things like curses (we suppose that normal bacterial and viral infections can be trivially dealt with using healing magic) because of their general lact of exposure and familiarity with magical curses. At a more general level, this episode can indicate how once an infectious agent is introduced to a relatively closed environment, its spread is bewilderingly quick. As such, while viewers may share a laugh at what happens in Road to Berlin‘s fanservice episode as a result of the curse unearthed, the events of said episode might also be a reminder to be careful in dealing with the current health crisis: unlike the Witches, who can simply end the figurine’s curse with a .55 round, we must continue to be diligent and do what’s necessary to avoid unnecessary exposure until such a time when a vaccine becomes available.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Lynette has not been getting anywhere nearly enough love in Road to Berlin, and this seventh episode has her as the only beacon of light in an otherwise hectic, chaotic frenzy. Soft-spoken and shy, Lynette has been counted as one of the most unremarkable of the 501st: she lacks any distinct traits and prefers to help out on base with the everyday housework over taking to the skies. Yoshika helped Lynette to gain confidence ever since they’d met, and for the most part, the two are inseparable. With Shizuka’s arrival in the 501st, however, Lynette’s gotten less screen-time.

  • When Lynette finds a mysterious vase and returns it to base, an accident results in the vase being opened, revealing a mysterious figurine inside. My knowledge of archeology is extremely limited: the dogū here is an earthen statue that is likely ancient. Such statues date back to the Jōmon period, and the Shakōki-dogū (goggle-eyed dogū) are well known for their distinct appearance. The closest parallel that I can think of are the “Venus” figurines, Palaeolithic sculptures that are found in Europe. Anthropologists suggest that their consistent portrayal of a full-figured woman indicates they represent a deity of sorts, perhaps signifying fertility. However, without any written records from that era, the actual meaning that these sculptures have is lost to time, and we can only infer their meaning at present. It is very curious that separate civilisations in geographically separate regions ended up creating similar figurines, and I’m sure archeologists would find this a very curious topic to delve into. However, as I am neither an archeologist by trade, and this is a Road to Berlin post, I should return the focus back to the Witches’ antics.

  • After Francesca picks up the figurine and begins playing with it to annoy Perrine, she undergoes an unexpected change in her figure and begins speaking in a strange manner before running off. After groping her, Yoshika’s magic appears to return momentarily: the episode did explain that a Witch can be thought of as a reservoir for magic, using their powers to control it for work (such as flight, shield projection, healing, etc.). Yoshika’s appeared to have resolved her ability to channel her magic when she has sufficient reserves of it, and the problem seems to be being able to regenerate her reserves efficiently now. The anime uses an excellent visual to represent how Witches work at a high level, which indicates that Witches can be seen as analogous to a battery. However, back in the day, AnimeSuki’s Sumeragi described a Witch’s raw output as “voltage”, but this is false, since voltage refers to potential difference. A Witch’s output correctly described as as the current, specifically, how much magic a Witch can channel. I’ve already covered this in my post about 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, so I won’t revisit that in two much detail.

  • While Sanya and Eila are sharing a quiet moment together, tending to the base’s flowers, the possessed Francesca gropes Sanya, breaking the peace. Sanya is one of the last characters one would expect something like this would happen to, and her look of embarrassment here is a rare sight. For this week’s post, I’ve reverted back to the twenty screenshot format: brevity is a virtue, and shorter posts are generally easier to write for when it comes to TV series: films usually offer a lot more to consider, whereas episodic reviews only require that I consider what that particular episode contributes to the story overall.

  • After Sanya becomes cursed, she begins speaking in tongues, gropes Eila and curses her in the process, as well. The strange speech patterns is what motivates the page quote: they’re lyrics from a parody of Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles, completely redone in a hilarious manner in a remix called 100 Miles. When speaking, the speech is rendered in a Madoka Magica-like font at the bottom of the screen, but all viewers will hear from anyone who isn’t Francesca is Pla-ket-ket-ket-ket-ket-ket. I first heard the 100 Miles parody at a raclette party two years ago, and spent the entire evening laughing along with friends as we listened to various bad music on YouTube whilst roasting sausages and shrimps.

  • Lynette, Shizuka, Perrine, Yoshika and Charlotte react in horror after Eila succumbs to the curse. The seventh episode, for all its ludicrousness, did remind me of some of the work I studied during my time in graduate school, where I used NetLogo to mimic transmission of infectious diseases in a population. Despite its low skill ceiling, NetLogo is immensely powerful and allows for curious models to be developed based upon multi-agent interactions, reducing the need for complex mathematical systems to be implemented.

  • Multi-agent systems excel in modelling highly stochastic systems where interactions can be thought of as rules rather than relationships, and consequently, agent-based models have the advantage in being able to describe immensely complex interactions. However, I’ve found them to be computationally expensive at large scales: they are ineffective for modelling things at a coarse granularity. Of course, neither mathematical or agent-based modelling can describe what happens in Road to Berlin: the precise mechanism of a figurine able to utilise magic and possess a Witch to impose its will while simultaneously floating in the air unsupported is unknown, and one can only imagine that the figurine must have enough magic in it to sustain its actions.

  • After Charlotte scarifies herself to allow Yoshika a chance to destroy the figurine, Yoshika quickly learns that the figurine seems impervious to damage: she destroys a frying pan in the process of trying to break the figurine. Of all the Witches, Charlotte’s bust is the most substantial, so when she succumbs to the curse’s effects, her shirt’s buttons suffer a structural failure (whereas everyone else’s clothing seem to accommodate the new volume without too much trouble). The effects appear quite uncomfortable on those affected, and if I had to guess, I would imagine the magic involved here accelerates mammary growth. Considering that healing magic can accelerate repair of tissues, it is not inconceivable that misapplications of magic could have such effects on the Witches’ bust.

  • When considering the effects (and limitations) of magic, my mind inevitably wanders over to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, a set of laws that are supposed limit what is possible with magic, otherwise, in the words of the Other Minister, wizards and witches would be able to sort out anything. That magic has its limitations is a bit of a reassurance in this episode, otherwise, the effects on the Witches would be devastating. When Perrine finds herself chased by the possessed Eila and Sanya, she rams them in frustration after recalling a conversation she had with Lynette.

  • Coming into contact with the two means that Perrine gets cursed, and Shizuka stays behind to keep Perrine distracted. This is all for naught, however. During the episode, a part of me wondered if there was an alternate measure towards ending the curse that didn’t involve destroying the statue: in Hai-Furi, for instance, exposure to salt water inactivated the Totalitarian virus by an unknown mechanism, and for a brief moment, I wondered if touching a potato might cure Perrine. There’s no such luck here, and in moments, Shizuka herself is also cursed.

  • Meanwhile, Minna is taken out after Charlotte and Eila find her while she’s showering. It suddenly strikes me that, despite ostensibly being a light-hearted fanservice episode, Road to Berlin makes extensive use of dark lighting, yellow and violet hues during the course of the episode, creating a distinctly horror-like atmosphere. Viewers only can laugh as the Witches succumb to the curse one-by-one, but the choice of palette manages to subtly convey the abject terror that the Witches face when confronted with this unknown.

  • While Gertrude and Erica sit around waiting for dinner, they’re unaware of what’s gone down until Minna shows up. Erica is promptly taken out, and Gertrude escapes. She manages to find Yoshika and Lynette, and it isn’t until she tries punching the figurine out that viewers are made aware of the gravity of the situation: at this point, it becomes clear that the only way to do any appreciable damage to the figurine would probably be with a firearm of some sort.

  • The figurine’s magic clearly has not impeded the other Witches’ judgement: Gertrude decides to seek help by radioing a nearby base, and for a moment, my spirits soared at the thought of seeing new Witches, but it turns out the communication lines have been cut. Against my will, I am reminded of an old classic: the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Pranks a Lot”, where ahead of messing with Mr. Krabs, Patrick and SpongeBob glue the door shut, replace the glass with rubber and clog the toilers to the Krusty Krab in order to keep Mr. Krabs from escaping. While I have a distaste for SpongeBob memes when they’re taken out of the context, the old show did have its merits and moments where it genuinely shined: the first three seasons were excellent and innovative.

  • Gertrude decides to fly out herself in search of help, but the others are a step ahead of her: they completely disable her Striker Unit, and Gertrude succumbs to the curse, leaving Lynette and Yoshika to wonder on the best course of action. Yoshika feels that if the curse is anything like magic, then she might be able to use her healing magic to dispel the curse. However, her magic power has degraded. Recalling that her magic briefly came back after groping Francesca earlier, Yoshika asks Lynette if it is possible for her to recover her magic in this manner. It is not lost on me that 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! did something precisely like this: being pressed against Lynette’s chest allowed Yoshika to channel enough magic for her to safely heal Erica and Charlotte.

  • It was rather surprising to see elements from 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! make their way into Road to Berlin, and suddenly, I’m glad to have checked out that spin-off. Back in Road to Berlin, in the absence of any context, this screenshot would almost certainly raise alarms amongst readers, since my modus operandi is precisely not to showcase such moments if I can help it. With this being said, while Lynette is shy, her friends’ needs outweighs her sense of modesty, and she reluctantly allows Yoshika to grope her if it may give Yoshika the magic needed to save her friends.

  • Before anything can happen, the others arrive and whisk Yoshika away for some ancient ceremony. At this point in the episode, I was conflicted: on one hand, stopping the ceremony makes the most sense from a thematic perspective, but on the other, I was curious to see what would happen had the ceremony actually succeeded. Strike Witches is only as serious as it needs to be, and there are some outrageous moments in the series that only serve to embarrass the characters at worst. However, Lynette has no intention of finding out; considering how much trouble the figurine and its powers have caused, she’s intent on destroying it.

  • Having grabbed her Boys AT Rifle, Lynette’s followed the others to the shrine where she’d found the figurine and manages to snipe the rope holding Yoshika in place. Yoshika subsequently escapes and attempts to use her magic in an attempt to stop the others, but is unsuccessful. It boils down to Lynette and her sharp-shooting to save the day: she puts a round that passes precisely through a gap in the Witches’ shields and destroys the figurine, bringing this nightmare to an end. Here, I will note that the episode has absolutely nothing to do with the online magazine of the same name, which has a history of writing falsified articles and backing people on the wrong side of history for views.

  • The seventh episode of Road to Berlin marks the first episode of the season where no Neuroi is present, and as tempting as it might be to suggest that the figurine is a Neuroi (it would be, after all, an unexpected twist were it the case that Neuroi could manipulate magic in this manner), the lack of a core when Lynette shoots down the figurine is enough for me to conclude that the figurine, however evil it might be, is not of Neuroi origin. In the aftermath, Minna explains what the figurine was about, wrapping up any loose ends.

  • I’ll admit that it was nice to have an episode dedicated to Lynette: although it might’ve been her fault that she’d retrieve the figurine to begin with, she also finishes the fight and cleans up after her own mess. As the sun rises, the other Witches come to, recalling the night’s unusual experiences and save Francesca, are pleased that things are normal once more. Francesca, on the other hand, wishes she was able to keep her augmented bust the curse provided.

  • Yoshika feels shafted that she never got to grope Lynette and asks for another go at things as the episode draws to a close. I don’t mind admitting that this week’s episode was a bit tricky to write for, since fanservice hardly is conducive for interesting discussions, and I instead, opted to voice some thoughts on current events as they tied in with the episode. With the seventh episode in the books, I’m much more confident about next week’s episode, and in the meantime, I’m glad this post is now in the books.

Fanservice episodes have been a staple of Strike Witches since the first season, and while Brave Witches opted for a more meaningful story that contributed to world-building in place of lowbrow jokes, Road to Berlin appears to have returned to the serie’s roots – simultaneously being more faithful to the originals and being a step down from the direction introduced in Brave Witches, Road to Berlin likely aims to suggest to viewers that, while the series has advanced from its origins, it remains respectful to what had originally made the series stand apart from its contemporaries. In this episode, Yoshika’s old traits returned in full force: her fascination with her peers’ mammaries had been absent from the film, leading me to wonder if Yoshika had moved away from that stage of her life, but it appears this tendency is retrained, only to be overshadowed by her desire to protect and fight for those important to her. I suppose this serves to humanise Yoshika’s character and show that she does have her eccentricities outside of her reputation in the armed forces. Outside of this seventh episode, Road to Berlin has been a thrill, so I imagine that this episode’s events are not an indicator of what Road to Berlin is about; while there was a possibility of spending twenty minutes to world-build further here, fanservice romps in Strike Witches will continue to offer some amusement, and this is the route the writers have taken. Next week’s episode should see a return to the norm: the focus is on Sanya and Eila as Christmas rolls in, and as long as Road to Berlin continues to stay focused with its other episodes, I won’t hold this outlier against the series in any way.

The Hounds of Vengeance- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” –George Bernard Shaw

General Patton arrives at the Witches’ base with General Bradley and Mio, with the announcement that the port in Kiel has been determined to be a suitable point for resupplying Allied forces. The site is operational, but occupied by Neuroi. Minna sends Gertrude and Erica to carry out reconnaissance to see what they’re up against, but en route to Kiel, Erica is shot down by an extraordinarily fast Neuroi. Yoshika and Shizuka manage to bring Gertrude back, and Minna begins to work on the details for a rescue operation, but Gertrude falls into a depression, blaming herself for not making a faster decision sooner regarding their drop tanks during combat. She fears that Erica’s odds of survival are not particularly good. The next day, Minna sends Charlotte out to engage the Neuroi and help retrieve Erica, but this is unsuccessful; the Neuroi’s ability to turn on a dime overwhelms even her. Upon seeing this, Gertrude turns to Charlotte for help: she’d been training aggressively over the past two days in an attempt to lose weight without sacrificing performance, and with Charlotte’s mechanical skill, is able to modify her Striker unit to maximise performance while reducing its weight. Minna approves the rescue operation, and to ensure Gertrude is in top shape when she reaches the danger zone, Yoshika and Shizuka carry her there. Gertrude overpowers the Neuroi and destroys it, but spots Erica’s remains on the ground. She loses hope and declares that the any victory would be pointless in a world without Erica. As a second Neuroi enters the skies, Gertrude learns that this “corpse” had been a decoy Erica had laid out to deceive the Neuroi. After she spots a signal from Erica, she immediately meets up with her, physically stopping the second Neuroi, allowing Erica to damage its exterior and expose the core. With the revolver she’d received from Charlotte, Gertrude destroys the second Neuroi and heads home with the others, ecstatic that Erica is okay. We’ve now reached the halfway point of Road to Berlin, and in this sixth episode, expectations were defied time and time again as the focus turns towards the Karlsland Witches, whose stories have, historically, been among the most engaging within the Strike Witches series.

Here in episode six, Road to Berlin begins to suggest at the sort of foes that the 501st will be facing as they prepare for a massive offensive at Berlin: the Neuroi in the sixth episode far surpass foes seen previously and manage to accomplish a feat that few Neuroi have, in shooting down Erica, disabling Gertrude and even forcing Charlotte to retreat. Whereas the previous episode had seen a weaker Neuroi be destroyed with a combination of lightning and a common gardening hoe, this episode indicates to viewers that as Road to Berlin pushes closer to the operation, things will only get tougher for the Witches. Beyond accentuating the gravity of the situation, the sixth episode also gives Gertrude time to shine. Long frustrated at Erica’s slovenly lifestyle, which encompasses a lack of discipline and concern for her living quarters, Gertrude traditionally finds herself fighting a losing battle in an attempt to better Erica’s personal life. However, when the chips are down, Gertrude regards Erica as close as family; she feels personally responsible for Erica’s being shot down and is willing to go to any lengths to bring her back, cooperating with Charlotte (whom she only nominally gets along with on a day-to-day basis) to devise a strategy to best the Neuroi. Similarly, when she spots the decoy Erica face-down on the forest floor, Gertrude loses all composure and admits that a part of why she’s fighting so hard is precisely because it’s for Erica, as well: Erica had been by her side throughout the entire war and made it feel that victory would be possible as long as they had one another to count on. Through this episode, it becomes clear that despite her strict mannerisms, Gertrude genuinely cares for those around her, and fights not for the sake of fighting, but like Yoshika, to protect what is most dear to her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve always had a fondness for the Karlsland Witches, and so, this Road to Berlin post will uncharacteristically be fifty percent larger than the typical episodic post. Having an extra ten screenshots will allow me to more thoroughly explore the events of this episode, which opens with Gertrude attempting to wake Erica up. As with the seasons before, Gertrude’s established a Siegfried Line of sorts to keep her side of the room from being a disaster. This does nothing to dissuade Erica from being a nightmare to room with: her side of the room is a disaster.

  • In The Sky That Connects Us, a manga set between the first and second season, it was established that Erica sleeps commando style, and occasionally wanders the base without any pantsu, to the embarrassment of those around her. It appears that this trait returns in Road to Berlin, and for her troubles, Gertrude beats up Erica. These small details typify the usual antics between the pair, but unlike 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, which employed the characters’ worst traits for the sake of comedy, Road to Berlin presents these less-serious conflicts amongst the characters to accentuate the fact that at heart, everyone cares for one another.

  • Patton is pleased to communicate the news that the offensive on Berlin can continue sooner than expected thanks to Kiel proving to be a viable alternative: repairs at Antwerpen are still ongoing, and having a port means the preparations for Berlin can begin. In reality, Kiel was a major naval city in Germany, being home to shipyards and U-boat pens alike. The Allies would bomb the city into rubble during their strategic air campaigns owing to its importance, levelling over eighty percent of the city over the course of almost a hundred air raids over a four year period.

  • The Nazis were well aware that Kiel would be a high-priority target for the Allies, and deployed barrage balloons along with anti-air guns to dissuade Allied bombers. Since Road to Berlin has not shown viewers of what’s going on in Kiel beyond explaining it is under Neuroi occupation, one can surmise that a campaign for Kiel would be similarly tricky. Erica and Gertrude are sent to recon the area ahead of any actual attack, and in the beginning, find nothing of note; in a scene reminiscent of Strike Witches: The Movie, Erica becomes hungry, and Gertrude hands her some chocolate. By this point in time, it is safe to assume that despite her complaints about Erica’s sloppiness, she does care for her and knows her well enough to always have some chocolate on hand.

  • While the skies seem fairly quiet, save for weaker Neuroi, the 501st’s two top Witches find themselves under fire from a Neuroi whose performance far exceeds anything seen previously. Besides acceleration and mobility that renders it nearly impossible to keep up with, the Neuroi also boasts exceptional firepower. Even with their skill and experience, Erica and Gertrude are unable to keep up with the Neuroi and deal meaningful damage; the two are only just able to defend against its attacks, but by the time they get a bead on it, the Neuroi’s already evaded their bullets.

  • The Neuroi’s manoeuvrability means that combat sequences in this episode surpass those of the earlier Road to Berlin episodes, being more fluid, high paced and thrilling. Unlike Brave Witches, whose televised run was characterised by low-polygon models being visibly seen during dogfights, Road to Berlin has done a better job of smoothing things out wherever 3D models of the characters are used. While a keen eye can still discern when CG is used over hand-drawn characters, it is nowhere nearly as jarring or disruptive, creating a smoother, more consistent experience.

  • The Neuroi that Erica and Gertrude are fighting resembles the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut in appearance, with its distinct swept wings, front wings and twin engines. This experimental aircraft was intended to test the viability of forward-swept wings, and had exceptional manoeuvrability even at supersonic speeds as a result of the forward-swept wings. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, funding towards the Su-47 programme disappeared, and as such, only one Su-47 was ever built. While the Su-47 programme was cancelled, technologies developed for the Su-47 would make their way into the Su-35 and Su-57. The unusual forward-swept wings on the Neuroi accounts for its overwhelming combat performance: Erica is shot down, and Gertrude’s Striker Unit is damaged.

  • Despite Gertrude’s protests, Yoshika and Shizuka forces a tactical withdrawal, leaving Erica behind. This marks the first time I’ve seen Erica shot down, and as one of Karlsland’s super-aces, with over three hundred kills to her name, this moment really served to reinforce just how challenging the Neuroi have become. Previous Neuroi typically employed overwhelming firepower and superior defense to shrug off attacks, so by switching strategies and producing faster, more agile Neuroi that can outmanoeuvre Witches, even veterans like Erica and Gertrude are taken by surprise.

  • Gertrude’s lost all sense of space and time in the aftermath of Erica being shot down, taking to spending long periods in the base’s sauna while commiserating. Gertrude’s weakness is a fixation on her mistakes: she rarely fails during combat, and holds herself to a very high standard, so when things fail, she’s mentally unprepared to handle it. Minna reminds Gertrude that the way to take responsibility for one’s actions isn’t to ruminate endlessly over what went wrong, but rather, to act in a way to rectify or mitigate whatever the mistake had cost. However, pushing forwards now would only worsen Gertrude’s sense of guilt, and so, Minna decides to assemble a small team to go and recover Erica for the next day.

  • While it is clear that the Neuroi are no joke and have managed to develop units that are more than a match for individual Witches, one cannot help but wonder if the battle would have gone differently with more experienced Witches around to help out: Witches are quite powerful individually and an immense asset in the Human-Neuroi War, but it is when an entire squadron is working together that everyone’s at their best. For the time being, however, Gertrude is preoccupied and even stops eating against her usual stance that eating well is an essential part of being a good soldier.

  • To work off excess energy, and also foreshadowing her preparations, Gertrude begins training with vigour for her eventual rematch with the Neuroi, pushing her body to its limits with one-armed pull-ups. However, at this point in time, Minna’s decided that Gertrude’s mental state is such that she is in no condition to fight: for the rescue operation, Charlotte is sent in on the assumption that having a speedier Witch in the air would allow for the Neuroi to be shot down.

  • Shot down and behind enemy lines, Erica turns to her SERE training to survive and evade the Neuroi: with her Striker unit out of commission, she cleverly creates a decoy of herself pinned down under a fallen tree, and when the Neuroi senses this, it leaves, satisfied it’s done its job. Erica might not be a model soldier with her lazy mannerisms, but when the moment calls for it, she is resourceful and astute. After the Neuroi leaves, she sets about trying to repair her Striker Unit and rations the chocolate she’d received from Gertrude earlier.

  • While the assignment had been ostensibly a test of speed, even Charlotte and her P-51H is completely unprepared to handle the Neuroi. Charlotte excels in situations where she is able to build up a head of steam and catch up to (or overtake) Neuroi over long distances, but the Su-47-like Neuroi doesn’t just have speed going for it. By being able to turn on a dime and get behind Witches quickly, its biggest strength is its mobility, being able to start and stop instantly for surprise attacks. Gertrude had predicted Charlotte would be unsuccessful for this reason, and although it is never explained directly to viewers what Gertrude’s rationale was, things are clear enough for one to put two and two together.

  • Gertrude’s frustration at the Neuroi’s capabilities and what she feels to be her own inability manifests physically as damage to the sauna’s wooden paneling: she punches out sections of the wall in anger. Although Gertrude’s magic enhances her physical strength, I imagine that since she’s not using any magic here, Gertrude is intrinsically strong even without use of her magic. This further suggests to me that Gertrude is the model for GochiUsa‘s Rize, but I note that since GochiUsa is all about fluffiness, it is unlikely viewers will see Rize in a towering temper.

  • Gertrude and Charlotte have never really been exactly best mates: Charlotte finds Gertrude to be too uptight, and Gertrude sees Charlotte as being excessively lax. However, when unified by a mutual hatred of the Neuroi, the two get along well enough to create a custom solution for the fight at hand. Charlotte bears no small grudge against the Neuroi whose speed surpasses hers, and so, she’s more than willing to help Gertrude modify her Striker Unit to produce a setup that allows Gertrude the greatest amount of speed and mobility possible while still fighting to her strengths.

  • I imagine that some viewers will be crapping bricks after seeing how jacked Gertrude is. While Charlotte’s been tuning her Striker Unit, she’d been aggressively pushing herself towards a physique that allows her to get the most out of her Striker Unit while in the air. Owing to level of detail constraints, Gertrude’s impressive build is only visible when the artists deliberately choose to render it, and here, as the camera pulls back, the results of Gertrude’s training are no longer obvious. To help Gertrude out, Charlotte also lends her a revolver.

  • While the others are fearing the worst for Erica, it turns out that, aside from a lack of food, she’s doing fine. Besides being unharmed after the crash, Erica is also in great spirits; fixing up her Striker Unit in the hopes of getting it to be able to fly again, has kept her mind busy. Being focused on something, whether it be building a shelter or finding food, is critical in a survival situation. Les Stroud has noted that the act of working towards something keeps the mind from wandering towards thinking of potential worst-case situations, allowing one to maintain their morale. From what Road to Berlin presents, Erica’s actually been having a better time than Gertrude has after she was shot down.

  • In the director’s commentary of Survivorman, Stroud also mentions that in a survival situation, fresh water is high on the list of priorities. Erica’s got a clean stream running nearby, so she’s covered for water, and while a lot of folks worry about developing Giardiasis as a result of ingesting the parasite Giardia duodenalis. While it is true that water sources near populated areas are probably not safe to consume, fresh water sources in remote areas are better, and moreover, Stroud also feels that risking Giardiasis to stay hydrated is actually an acceptable risk to take, since nitroimidazole medications can be used to handle infections (if they do not resolve on their own); the alternate to not being hydrated is death.

  • Yoshika begins to suffer from fatigue as a result of helping to carry Gertrude, but once they arrive at the combat area, Gertrude lights her engines and begins her rematch with the Neuroi. Unencumbered by any extra weight, Gertrude manages to keep up with the Neuroi: while Shizuka has trouble getting a fix on the Neuroi, Gertrude’s able to properly manoeuvre now, and begin dealing some damage. The second season and Operation Victory Arrow had presented Jet Strikers as being a replacement for the piston-powered Striker Units Witches currently wield: the increased output of a Jet Striker mirrors the earlier jet fighters and would’ve allowed an individual Witch to carry increasingly powerful loadouts into the air.

  • While early jet fighters (and their corresponding Jet Strikers) did not have the best agility, advances made to jets during the Cold War, especially through the F86 Sabre and MiG-17 meant that within two decades, jets had largely superseded propeller-powered aircraft in most roles. Depending on the scope and scale of Strike Witches, it would not be surprising as Jet Strikers reach limited production at some point in the future. For this episode of Road to Berlin, however, the question is not a matter of technology, but resolve, so the series has elected to keep Gertrude on a propeller Striker Unit with the aim of showing what Erica means to her.

  • After an intense dogfight, Gertrude cracks the Neuroi’s casing and annihilates the core. However, her moment of triumph soon fades when she spots Erica, seemingly face-down on the ground. Joy turns to sorrow, and to compound things, a second Neuroi appears. While Yoshika and Shizuka keeps the beams from the second Neuroi fighter at bay, Gertrude laments at having failed, and she voices that Erica is someone very precious to her. What this is precisely, viewers don’t get to hear, but given the precedence that other Witches have set (e.g. Eila and Sanya), it’s relatively easy to guess what this is.

  • Gertrude, however, has spoken too soon: Erica notices the combat above, and using the candy wrapper as a mirror, sends a signal which Gertrude receives. Reinvigorated upon realising Erica is alive and well, Gertrude discards her weapons and prepares to fight the Neuroi with her bare hands after it purges additional layers in a move reminiscent of the ADF-11. Viewers get a closeup of the Neuroi’s engines, which resemble the conic engines seen in Gundam 00‘s Ptolemaios.

  • In the end, Gertrude manages to grab ahold of the Neuroi and keep it in place while Erica uses her Sturm, punching a hole in its hull. It appears that Neuroi cores are relatively resistant to melee attacks, but vulnerable to firearms and magic. While Gertrude may have discarded her MG-42s earlier, she still has one ace-in-the-hole: Charlotte had given her a revolver earlier. Strike Witches has been particularly good with conforming with Chekhov’s Gun, a principle which states that anything introduced in a story should be there for a reason. In this episode, the revolver that Charlotte gives to Gertrude fulfills the role of being a Chekhov’s Gun.

  • Like Dirty Harry, Gertrude offers a badass one-liner before firing on the Neuroi’s core, destroying the second of the two Su-47-type Neuroi. I can’t readily identify the revolver that Gertrude is using, but if I had to guess, it looks like a Colt Single-Action Army first generation (chambered for the .45 ACP round), owing to the sight post and barrel’s shape. It’s one of the most famous of American revolvers, and seems like an appropriate weapon for Charlotte to have on her person. Folks who’ve used the Colt SAA report it to be a reliable sidearm that packs a kick, and while its accuracy is not the best in the world, it remains a solid choice for its stopping power.

  • With the Neuroi finally defeated, and Erica safe, the sixth episode of Road to Berlin can begin winding down. As noted earlier, this post is a bit of a larger one, and besides the Karlsland Witches usually offering me more to discuss, today is also Remembrance Day: besides paying respects to the soldiers who gave their lives in the line of duty to fight for freedom and liberty, it also meant a day off, which conferred additional time to write. The return to standard time means that for me, Road to Berlin episodes come out early, and I finished today’s episode before sitting down to a piping hot bowl of homemade ramen topped with spam, fried egg and Romaine lettuce: the high today was a brisk -8ºC, and it looks like whether I like it or not, winter is setting in.

  • It speaks to Erica’s skill that she’s able to get airborne with only a single Striker Unit equipped, although being hastily (and inexpertly) repaired, it fails soon after. Fortunately, Gertrude is around to catch her, and with this, Gertrude is finally at peace. Granted, Erica might come across as someone who seems quite unable to look after themselves, hence Gertrude’s worry, but a large part of this episode was showing how different Witches handle adversity. In this regard, Erica looks to be okay even in tougher situations because of her easygoing attitude, while during a crisis, Gertrude needs people in her corner.

  • The episode ultimately does live up to its title, “Hounds of Vengeance” – while revenge usually is presented as a negative trait, the drive to get even with the Neuroi and save Erica is what propels Gertrude to new heights in this episode. It is conceivable that Gertrude could’ve done something foolish earlier on, but with Charlotte’s help, and support from Yoshika, Shizuka and Minna, Gertrude appears to have regrouped: rather than being blinded by rage and anger, Gertrude returns to face the Neuroi with a desire to save Erica in her heart.

  • It turns out that besides carrying a revolver, Gertrude had also been carrying some chocolate with her, indicating that she had been quite prepared to find Erica. Viewers had previously seen Gertrude consoling Francesca and offer her some advice, and when she’s not consumed with thoughts of regret and anger, Gertrude is a fantastic Witch to have in one’s corner, both on the ground and in the air.

  • As the girls fly back home, Yoshika wonders if Erica’s radio had been working earlier: Gertrude had said some things that were rather uncharacteristic of her, and while dramatic irony exists because the viewers are aware that Erica’s radio could receive, Erica chooses to preserve Gertrude’s dignity by saying her radio was completely busted. Embarrassed Gertrude brings to mind embarrassed Rize, and it is a rather heart-warming moment that the two share en route back to base.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with the Witches flying into the sunset. This post was uncharacteristically long, and with next week’s episode, I will be returning to the shorter format. Over the next few days, I’ve got a few more posts on the horizon: tomorrow marks the eighth anniversary to the day that I saw Skyfall in theatres, and having recently re-watched the movie, I feel that there are a few points worth revisiting. As well, I’ve crossed the finish line for Hai-Furi: The Movie and will be aiming to get a post out for that on short order.

At the halfway point in Road to Berlin, we’ve now been reminded of what drives most of the Witches’ will to fight, and the fact that the Neuroi are very much a clear and present danger; even though the Witches are constantly improving as a team and individually, the Neuroi continue to adapt to the Witches, forming increasingly deadly constructs as they strive for (presumably) world domination. However, assuming Road to Berlin to retain its predecessor’s themes, this means that as the Witches close in on the operation to liberate Berlin, viewers can be assured of a thrilling final fight, as the Neuroi does its worst against the Witches, and more importantly, how teamwork amongst the Witches will carry the day. Besides driving the thematic elements, Yoshika’s magic remains a point of discussion at the six episode mark; although she’s now managed to fly again, it appears that extended operations will cause her to tire easily, and thus, Yoshika must still be mindful of her magic reserves during combat. Similarly, Shizuka’s becoming a more integral part of the 501st, and while she’s yet to get any kills of her own, her support has proven instrumental during these secondary operations. I expect that towards the end of the series, Shizuka will come to improve as a Witch because of her support for Yoshika, while Yoshika will continue spurring Shizuka along. With this being said, character growth and world-building appears to be taking a back seat in the next episode: previous Strike Witches seasons deliberately set the seventh episode aside for a light-hearted fan-service driven romp, and Road to Berlin appears to be no different. Between the preview and the episode title, I suspect that next week’s episode could prove to be more challenging to write for.

The Queen of Nederland- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

“Flowers grow back, even after they are stepped on. So will I.” –Unknown

After making little progress in stablising her magic, Yoshika takes a short break with Shizuka. While showering, Perrine deliberately lowers the water temperature to a much cooler 20°C, shocking Yoshika into the main bath and drawing her attention: it turns out that Perrine had been assigned to visit the Queen of Nederland to help with morale in the country, with the hope of bolstering the citizen’s spirits and spurring them to contribute to the effort needed to liberate Berlin. Perrine had agreed to the assignment and specifically request that Yoshika be allowed to accompany her. Shortly after arriving, Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka meets the Queen of Nederland, who answers a comment that Perrine had about the blue tulips in a painting being an uncommon sight: it turns out that these flowers had not bloomed in Nederland since the Human-Neuroi war started, despite her gardeners’ best efforts to revive the flower. After visiting the greenhouses, Perrine gets into a bit of a disagreement with the one of the gardeners about the blue tulips and hears about an earlier Witch had been present to help out. The next day, after Yoshika jumps head-first into helping the gardeners out, Perrine learns that they had an old M4 Sherman lying around. That evening, the girls visit the greenhouses, which are being warmed by an old boiler to maintain a temperature of precisely 20°C to keep the tulips happy. When the boiler explodes and fails, the gardeners hook up a backup power source: an old Striker Unit. Yoshika offers to power it, and in the process, begins to stablise her own magic. Perrine and Shizuka continue helping in the fields while Yoshika rests during the day, and when night falls, Yoshika resumes her duties. When Shizuka fetches water, she comes across a Neuroi, which subsequently destroys the greenhouse and most of the tulips. Yoshika takes to the skies with a hoe and embeds it in the Neuroi, allowing Perrine to finish it off. In the aftermath, it turns out that Perrine’s Tonnerre was the catalyst, and the previous Witch had been, in fact, her grandmother. Having been able to witness the blue tuplips blossom again, the Queen of Nederland feels that morale will be restored to their country and thanks Perrine.

Perrine represents one of Strike Witches‘ most interesting characters: she began her journey openly hostile towards Yoshika, dropping insults whenever they’d crossed paths, and even sabotaging Yoshika’s Striker Unit at one point. However, over time, Perrine was revealed to be purely dedicated on Gallia’s recovery, and she believes that an efficient group of Witches is the fastest way to accomplish this. As Perrine spent more time fighting alongside Yoshika, hostility would be displaced by a begrudging respect, and eventually, respect became friendship. By the events of Strike Witches: The Movie and Operation Victory Arrow, Perrine’s become a much more sympathetic character: she represents how character growth can be so critical towards making a series compelling. Road to Berlin shows precisely how far Perrine’s come since those early days; she is concerned for Yoshika’s well-being, respects her choices and also openly trusts her (as demonstrated when she asks Minna to allow Yoshika to come with her to Nederland). However, this gradual set of change has not impacted Perrine’s overall personality: hailing from nobility, Perrine is disciplined, well-mannered and conducts herself with grace. This is evident in her speech, which has a more formal tone than that of other characters. Furthermore, Perrine still retains her pride, as seen when she challenges the gardeners and declares she’ll out-do any Witch that had previously made the blue tulips bloom. By playing both of Perrine’s traits this episode, viewers are reminded of how far Perrine has come since the earliest episodes, and how despite the trouble Yoshika’s caused her previously, Perrine’s come to deeply appreciate everyone, including Yoshika, who is able to help in the Human-Neuroi War. However, she still retains her noblesse oblige mannerisms, and when the moment calls for it, Perrine is more than capable of getting things done, especially when she accepts help from those around her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Yoshika’s inconsistent magical output had become a secondary issue, but Road to Berlin continues to keep this on viewer’s minds. Yoshika is someone who gives everything her all, and even when she is unable to fight, trains tirelessly. Optimism is also one of Yoshika’s strong suits; she always attempts to do what she can, and so, while she may not be the most skillful of the 501st Witches, she certainly can be seen as being the most dangerous owing to the lengths she will go in order to accomplish her goals and protect those around her.

  • While 20°C might be a comfortable air temperature, water at 20°C feels downright cold owing to its higher thermal conductivity and density compared to air: it pulls heat away from the body at a much higher rate, and while Yoshika initially feels that Perrine is screwing with her, it turns out that Perrine’s shown up to remind Yoshika to not overdo things, as well as explain that there’s a special assignment for them to handle. Thus, Perrine’s act of lowering the shower temperature down to 20°C is not an act of malice, but a more entertaining way to get Yoshika’s attention: Perrine’s clearly succeeded, and Yoshika does resemble her nickname, Mamefuji, as she sulks in the heated bath in the aftermath.

  • Perrine explains to Shizuka and Yoshika the details of this excursion: Yoshika briefly loses control of her Striker Unit for a moment, but support from Shizuka allows her to stablise on short order. This is why Shizuka was also summoned to help out: this is a relatively low-risk assignment that will allow Shizuka to practise flying with other Witches, and also look after Yoshika while she’s in the air. Mid-flight, Yoshika begins to wonder if she’ll be able to pick herbs from the flower gardens below for medicinal uses.

  • Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka travel to the Kasteel de Haar (de Haar Castle), located near Utrecht. The site’s been home to structures of some sort since the 13th century, but the castle occupying the site today began construction in 1892: Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar had inherited the ruins from his grandfather and set about transforming the castle into a proper home. It took some fifteen years to build it, and the castle was furnished with modern conveniences, such as electric lights and centralised heating. Today, the castle is open to the public. de Haar Castle is located some 94 kilometres from Fort Erfprins, a relatively short flight for Perrine, Yoshika and Shizuka.

  • True to its real-world counterpart, de Haar Castle is shown with ornate woodcrafting that was inspired by designs from the church. While Perrine is undoubtedly accustomed to ornately-furnished accommodations and palatial countryside homes, such a site is rarer for Yoshika and Shizuka, who are in awe at how beautiful everything is. At the centre of the room is a massive painting, portraying a full field of blue tulips blooming just outside in the gardens.

  • One of the interesting points in this episode is that the Queen of Nederland can refer to the monarch ruling the country, as well as the blue tulips that the Dutch are fond of. The Netherlands did indeed have a monarch: from 1890 to 1948, Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria was the Queen of the Netherlands. After World War Two began, she reluctantly accepted the British help and set up a government-in-exile after the Nazis invaded, speaking frequently on the radio to motivate her countrymen, and returned to the Netherlands after the Allies liberated it with new ideas about how to run the Netherlands. Owing to poor health, she abdicated and turned the throne over to her daughter, Julianna.

  • After learning of the blue tulips, the Witches visit the greenhouses, who are tended to by scruffy-looking gardeners with kind hearts and a love for things that grow. Perrine’s initial magic does nothing to help the tulips blossom, and her pride bent, Perrine gets into a shouting match with the gardeners, promising that she’ll do anything to make the tulips bloom. The tulips’ natural range is in Europe, and technically, tulips bloom in all colours except blue: “blue” tulips are technically a very deep shade of violet that can appear blue under certain lighting conditions. For Strike Witches, such tulips are exceedingly rare, and require a bit of magic to grow.

  • Throughout my previous Strike Witches posts, I’ve featured pantsu from virtually every other Witch, so to round things out for Road to Berlin, I’ve decided the time is appropriate to showcase Perrine’s derrière as she works in the fields. At this point in time, I believe only Eila and Sanya are left, and truth be told, given the community’s stance on those two characters, I feel like I’d be overstepping certain boundaries if I choose to go in that direction. On the other hand, because I am covering Road to Berlin in an episodic fashion, and it is my blog, I both have the space to occasionally feature such screenshots and in the end, I have the final say in what screenshots I feature.

  • The next morning, after Yoshika goes on a run, sees the gardeners preparing a field and decides to help out, Shizuka joins, and Perrine is roped into helping. Despite being no stranger to manual labour, Perrine is still quite unaccustomed to things – whereas Yoshika grew up on a farm and has used a hoe before to help grab yams, Perrine’s technique is less than stellar, prompting some laughs from the gardeners. Never one to be outdone, Perrine asks if they have any machinery, and quickly repairs an old M4 Sherman back to operating condition so that she can do more for less.

  • One of the gardeners is especially distant towards the Witches, bringing to mind the young boy that was seen in Operation Victory Arrow in Perrine and Lynette’s episode. While Yoshika’s made a delicious dinner that the others enjoy, this gardener quickly finishes his meal and heads back out to the greenhouses. It turns out that the tulips need an ambient temperature of 20ºC to grow in, and to this end, the gardeners take turns stoking the boiler’s fires to maintain this temperature during the night. However, the old boiler has reached the end of its operational lifespan and explodes. With the tulips under threat, the gardeners quickly hook up a makeshift boiler using a Striker Unit as the power source.

  • Perrine initially offers to power the Striker Unit, but Yoshika insists that she be the one to do it – if she’s not capable of fighting alongside the Neuroi, then she should be lending her power to a different scenario. This sentiment is admirable: in an older time, Perrine would’ve likely said no outright, but having come to understand Yoshika’s way of thinking, Perrine agrees to allow Yoshika to power the old Striker Unit, which is modelled after the French Nieuport 10 biplane. The original Nieuport 10 fulfilled a variety of roles: the base version was a reconnaissance aircraft, but once a Vickers Machine Gun or Lewis Gun was bolted onto it, it became a fighter.

  • The old Nieuport 10 Striker Unit even resembles the old biplane, having a flimsier-looking construction compared to the sleeker, contemporary Striker Units. The Unit’s lower output is less demanding on Yoshika than her Shinden Kai: despite having some initial trouble controlling her output, causing the room temperature to drop and then rise uncontrollably, after Yoshika remembers the ideal temperature as being the same feeling as when Perrine changed the water temperature back at base, she takes a deep breath, calms herself and focuses. Hours of sustaining this concentration allows Yoshika to feel more confident in channeling her magic.

  • With the Witches helping out, things for the gardeners progress very smoothly: through sheer force of will and determination, Yoshika manages to keep the Striker Unit going for an entire night, earning herself the respect of the Gardeners, even the fellow who had been hostile towards the Witches earlier. Here, Shizuka and Perrine work in the fields with the gardeners while Yoshika sleeps: the M4 has drawn some attention amongst viewers, and admittedly, while perhaps not as sharp as the M4s seen in Girls und Panzer, still looks authentic and powerful despite being relegated to an agricultural role. It suddenly hits me that a Strike Witches-Girls und Panzer crossover could be quite nice: despite being produced by different studios, the character designs in both are similar enough so seeing Miho and her Panzer IV alongside Yoshika and the 501st would not be too jarring.

  • The Neuroi that Shizuka unearths is a smaller one, but it still goes on a small rampage: Perrine, Shizuka and Yoshika completely lack the weapons to stop it, and resort to making do with what they’ve got: Shizuka attempts to slow it down using the shield, and Perrine intervenes with the M4: despite lacking any weaponry, the armoured vehicle still offers some resistance against the Neuroi. The Neuroi ends up flipping the tank and destroys the greenhouse after Perrine hits it with her Tonnerre, seemingly with no effect on target. Only a single tulip survives the onslaught, and Yoshika ends up joining the fray herself after asking Shizuka to look after the gardeners. While she looks like she’s about to fail yet again, Yoshika successfully Yoshika stablises her Striker Unit and takes off, hoe in hand.

  • With the practise she’s had in concentration, Yoshika appears to be able to fly again. However, on her own, Yoshika would have had no chance in defeating the Neuroi without weapons, but Strike Witches constantly reminds viewers that the Witches are so powerful because their teamwork, in conjunction with a bit of magic, is what allows them to deal with an enemy that has survived conventional weapons. She draws fire off Perrine and embeds the hoe’s head into the Neuroi’s body without doing any real damage. However, despite losing her weapon, it’s not over yet: Perrine intends on using her Tonnerre to finish it off, and the hoe’s metal head makes it the perfect conductor.

  • Perrine’s Tonnerre tears into the Neuroi and destroys the core, eliminating the threat just in time for sunrise. Amidst the rubble and what’s left of the greenhouse, a faint blue glow is seen. As it turns out, the surviving blue tulip had indeed blossomed, and here, it is revealed that it was precisely the lightning magic of a Clostermann Witch that had allowed the blue tulips to bloom previously. That Perrine happened to take this assignment can be thought of as fate, and acts as a nice reminder to viewers that, at least in Strike Witches, the world is in good hands, and the current generation of Witches are both capable of defending and rebuilding civilisation .

  • While Perrine is smug about having done precisely what she’d set out to do with magic unique to her family, the realisation that it had been, in fact, her grandmother who first stopped in this side of Nederland and created a small miracle humbles her: the Witch she’d so boldly proclaimed to surpass was family, and now, for the Nederland citizens, knowing that the Clostermann’s magic will allow the elusive blue tulip to bloom is a rather clever bit of a metaphor for the fact that, as long as there are Witches, things like miracles are indeed possible.

  • When the Queen of Nederland thanks Perrine for her work and how the blue tulip’s return will kindle hope, Perrine returns the gratitude: this assignment has allowed her to connect with her family in a very unusual, but heartwarming fashion. For their efforts, the Nederland gardeners give the Witches herbs for their trouble, and it appears that Yoshika is able to fly again without difficulty: Shizuka’s remarks all but clear things up, and Yoshika thanks Perrine: it turns out something as simple as a move to grab her attention ultimately led her to discover how to best control her magic anew.

  • With this no longer a concern, I imagine that once the next several episodes finish depicting the remainder of the 501st and give them some screen-time, all attention can be directed towards dealing with the matter of liberating Berlin. With this post in the books, I am looking to wrap up a post on Warlords of Sigrdrifa after three episodes: I am caught up with the series, but I did not decide to write about it until recently. For this one, I have two posts planned for it in total, and besides the “after three” post, I’ll also be returning to do a whole-series review. Finally, the Halo 4 flighting is drawing to a close this Friday. I have no plans to write about it: the campaign was excellent, but the multiplayer remains quite unplayable on account of how unbalanced controller aim-assist is. Until input-based matchmaking allows me to play exclusively with other mouse-and-keyboard players, I imagine that anything related to the Halo multiplayer experience could be quite frustrating.

This episode’s focus on tulips is seemingly trivial, but it also gives Perrine a chance to interact with common folks and understand their situation: the small things Witches do on the ground might not be as visceral as destroying Neuroi, but even these simpler actions can help a population to regroup. While Perrine might be of a privileged background, she shows concern for the well-being of people in all stations, indicating to viewers that despite her rough start with Yoshika, she’s a kind person at heart and an integral part of the 501st. These slice-of-life episodes, with their emphasis on everyday life in the Strike Witches universe and reduced combat, serve an important function in the series despite appearing to be frivolous: understanding how people conduct themselves out of combat also can give insight into how they conduct themselves when under stress or while carrying out their duties. For Shizuka, seeing the 501st in moments outside of fighting Neuroi will help her to appreciate how each of the Witches prefers to fight, and complement their fighting style accordingly. Moreover, for the viewer, seeing common, everyday moments and how the Witches handle conflict, adversity and disagreement gives the confidence that, when the chips are down, the Witches can be counted upon to work together as as team and achieve a shared goal, no matter how challenging it may be. With the fifth episode in the books, we are rapidly approaching Road to Berlin‘s halfway point, and the sixth episode appears to be centred around the Karlsland Witches. While the delays in repairs to Antwerpen’s port frustrate the Witches to no end, and even viewers are beginning to wonder when the 501st will have a chance to head for Berlin, I imagine that we’ll likely have a few more character-oriented episodes before the Battle of Berlin can begin; until then, besides the Karlsland Witches, I feel that Eila and Sanya will have an episode to themselves, and hopefully, Lynette (who has been shafted from a screen time perspective) will also get an episode of her own.

Beyond Two Hundred Miles Per Hour- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Fourth Episode Impressions and Review

“Rules are made for people who aren’t willing to make up their own.” –Chuck Yeager

When Charlotte learns that someone had defeated her old speed record by a margin of 3.2 kilometres per hour, she is incensed and immediately sets about trying to reclaim it. She brings her old bike, the Rapid, out of storage and begins working to upgrade it, even ordering specialty parts to do so. After replacing the muffler and tuning the engine, Charlotte manages to best the record but feels dissatisfied, wondering if she’d be able to reach a land speed of 320 kilometres per hour on a 1000 cc motorbike. Her thoughts are interrupted when a Neuroi appears and damages the hangar with bombs before retreating. The damage is minor nontrivial, and so, the 501st manage to secure the provisions to conduct repairs on their base. Among the equipment is a new P-51H Striker Unit: with superior acceleration to Charlotte’s P-51D, Minna assigns the unit to Charlotte and promises to turn a blind eye to her side project using military funds. Longing to help out, Francesca modifies Charlotte’s Rapid by bolting on propellers, resulting in an argument. An irate Francesca storms out, and Gertrude speaks with Francesca, convincing her to reconcile with Charlotte. Charlotte apologises for her words, and makes up with Francesca, bringing the Rapid to its original glory and then some. The next morning, the Neuroi has returned, and Francesca sorties in the P-51H, hoping to swiftly destroy the Neuroi so Charlotte can attempt to set a new land speed record. However, she’s unaccustomed to the P-51H and falls; before any harm comes to her, Charlotte saves her, using the tuned-up Rapid to build enough speed to catch Francesca. The Rapid is destroyed, and Charlotte reminds Francesca that their friendship matters more than anything else. She dons the P-51H Striker Unit and dispatches the Neuroi before reuniting with the 501st. Underwater, amidst the Rapid’s wreckage, the speedometer has remained intact and indicates Charlotte had reached 320 kilometres per hour.

This fourth episode of Road to Berlin continues in the season’s trend of finding novel ways to retreading familiar ground, and I believe for the first time in Strike Witches‘ animated incarnation, Francesca fights with Charlotte. This moment is significant because it is an indicator of how close the two really are: Francesca sees Charlotte as a role model and is keen to help her achieve her dreams, but in previous seasons, this had never really been shown. The extent of this admiration and desire to be helpful is, not surprisingly, when Francesca takes it on herself to modify the Rapid for Charlotte; while the results were questionable, the intention was genuine, and Charlotte soon comes to realise this. Francesca, on the other hand, understandably becomes angry, since her efforts went up in smoke, and this also creates a chance for Gertrude to step in and help Francesca to see things from Charlotte’s perspective, appreciating the desire to set a record on her terms. Gertrude has rarely been seen interacting with the Witches from outside of Karlsland, and typically, said interactions are terse, focusing more on discipline and combat. However, having established that Gertrude deeply loves her younger sister, Chris, and that she sees Yoshika as a bit of an analogue for Chris, it was nice to see Gertrude showing viewers this side of her character by supporting and providing advice to Francesca; upon seeing her sand spheres’ smoothness as how Charlotte views the Rapid, she immediately realises she has to apologise for not having fully understood why Charlotte had been intent on setting the land speed record on her terms. Seeing these moments in Strike Witches show that outside of their usual circles, the Witches can certainly get along with one another. These frivolous slice-of-life style episodes in Strike Witches thus serve one important purpose: to remind viewers that the teamwork Witches display in the air come from having spent so much time living and training together that the Witches all understand one another well enough to work as a single cohesive unit during combat against the Neuroi.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since this episode deals with land speed records, it’s worth mentioning that John Cobb of England set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1938, by reaching a maximum speed of 595.04 km/h (371.9 mph) in a custom vehicle known as the Railton Special. This far outstrips the 296 km/h (185 mph) that Charlotte was beaten by in Strike Witches, and so, it prima facie looks like Charlotte might’ve been chasing a pipe dream if her goal had been to beat an all-time record. However, Charlotte reiterates that she’s in the 1000 cc motorcycle category, and back during the 1940s, motorcycles with a 1000 cc displacement could only reach around 180 km/h, so Charlotte’s achievement would be something noteworthy, worth pursuing.

  • For this post, I’ve deliberately stuck with metric units for the sake of familiarity. As a Canadian, I deal with both metric and Imperial units: for heights and weights of people, feet-inches and pounds makes sense, while for distances, I prefer kilometres. Similarly, for referring to air temperature, I am accustomed to Celsius, while for cooking, Fahrenheit makes more sense for me. It’s a bit of a strange detail, which is why even though Charlotte measures speed in miles per hour, I’ve converted everything to kilometres per hour because it’s more familiar for me.

  • After ordering new mufflers and optimising the engine, Charlotte manages to break the speed record by a meagre 4.8 km/h, with Francesca as her witness, but the accomplishment leaves her feeling a bit hollow: Charlotte comes across as being someone who’s fond of pushing her limits, and this episode had her act as a child being given permission to buy anything of her choosing in a candy store. It’s a reminder that despite their accomplishments and capabilities, the Witches are still young, and admittedly, it was fun to see Charlotte in such a manner.

  • This week’s episode provides an aerial view of the base, and the four-point star forming the moat is visible from this elevation. From up here, the shape is reminiscent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) logo, itself styled after the four point compass, representing an organisation that would keep its member nations travelling along a peaceful path. Of course, at this point in the real world, NATO would not be formed for another nine years: it was originally established to formally defend Western European nations in the event of a Soviet attack, although NATO never saw any active combat during the Cold War.

  • It wasn’t until after the fall of the Berlin Wall where NATO, now reorganised to participate in operations with a larger humanitarian piece, saw its first military interventions: in 1992, NATO stepped in and intervened in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Bosnian War. Of course, this is well outside the scope of Strike Witches: returning to Road to Berlin, the Neuroi that hits the 501st’s base ends up immediately leaving the airspace after delivering its payload, which causes damage to the main hangar. Its strike is surprisingly precise, and the Neuroi have definitely appeared to have improved their game since the film: as of Brave Witches, the Neuroi are capable of acting in surprising ways.

  • This leads me to wonder if the Neuroi may have deliberately targetted the 501st’s Striker Units, while leaving the base largely intact, either as a mode of distraction or to test their responsiveness ahead of some larger operation. Throughout this episode, Yoshika’s been relegated to a background role, doing her best to try and control her magic in a more reliable manner. Their training with brooms is a callback to Strike Witches 2, where Mio had sent Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine to train with an elderly Witch, whose traditional methods helped the girls to really understand their magic. At this point in time, Lynette has no trouble flying on a broom, and even Shizuka is able to fly well enough. Yoshika, however, is a bit of a rogue element: although she has the skill to ride a broom, her magical output is inconsistent.

  • While Charlotte’s grown fond of her P-51D, she agrees to fly the newer P-51H after Minna offers her a deal: if Charlotte accepts the new unit and makes the most of it, she’ll be pardoned for tinkering around with her motorcycle on company time. The venerable P-51D saw extensive use during World War Two as one of the best American fighter planes of the war: capable of reaching a top speed of 700 km/h and possessing a 12800 metre flight ceiling, the P-51D was also armed with six 50-calibre machine guns and had a maximum range of 1600 kilometres on internal tanks, making it capable of escorting B-17 bombers deep into German skies. By comparison, the P-51H was considerably lighter than the P-51H and sported a new engine, allowing it to accelerate faster and reach a top speed of 760 km/h.

  • The P-51H was originally intended to participate in the invasion of Japan, although none saw any actual service during World War Two. Instead, designs from the P-51H were used to design the F-86. In Strike Witches, Charlotte’s initial reluctance to fly the P-51H is understandable: although an improvement over the P-51D in terms of performance, at this time, its characteristics were not widely known, so one can forgive Charlotte for wanting to stick to her older, but tried-and-true P-51D. This episode helped me become more fond of Charlotte: she does have a bit more of a childish side to her whenever speed is concerned, and here, I’m guessing she’s as excited about being let off the hook as she is about having a new toy to try out.

  • When Francesca decides to surprise Charlotte by modifying the Rapid, Charlotte is less than happy. This shows that she’s very much a purist for speed, and more specifically, her unwillingness to use different means of propulsion shows a more honourable side to her character: if she is to break a speed record, then she’ll do it within the constraints of whatever platform she’s using. Things quickly break down, and after slinging a few insults, Francesca runs off.

  • Hints of Yoshika’s frustration at not being able to properly channel her magic begin manifesting here: she decides to try the Adam Richman diet in the hopes that perhaps giving her body as much nutrition as possible might somehow unplug whatever is slowing her magic down. Because Yoshika’s condition is completely unknown, there is no precedence in-universe (and no suitable analogues out-of-universe) to act as a yardstick for whether or not Yoshika’s tricks might work. For now, all viewers can do is cheer for Yoshika from the sidelines while the other Witches have their stories told. Charlotte is noticeably absent from the proceedings here, working her hardest to restore the Rapid back to its original state.

  • When Gertrude finds Francesca sculpting spheres out of the sand, she sits down with her and asks, whether or not the spheres would still be perfectly formed if they were modified. Francesca replies that at that point, they’d fail to be spheres, and it suddenly hits her as to why Charlotte had been so touchy about the Rapid. With her maturity, she is able to help Francesca understand how Charlotte feels. This is a natural part of Gertrude’s growth as a Witch: she and Charlotte had a pretty strong rivalry in Strike Witches 2, and it speaks volumes to how Gertrude is becoming more compassionate and caring for those around her.

  • Despite being a strict, by-the-book soldier with no tolerance for lethargy or sloppiness, Gertrude does have a more tender side to her character. Now that I think about it, GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza greatly resembles Gertrude in manner and appearance: save the fact that Gertrude’s got brown hair and brown eyes, as well as shorter twintails, the two are very similar in personalities. Because Strike Witches predates GochiUsa by around four years, one cannot help but wonder if Koi drew inspiration from Gertrude while writing Rize’s character.

  • After they’ve had a chance to cool off, both Charlotte and Francesca make up, apologising to one another, and then set off to improve the Rapid for Charlotte’s quest to punch past the 320 km/h barrier that gives this episode its name. After a full day’s work, the Rapid is ready, and both are looking forwards to exploring hitherto uncharted grounds. Earlier, Francesca had perused Charlotte’s book and noted that no one had successfully pushed past 320 km/h before on a 1000 cc bike. Charlotte, however, in channelling her namesake’s spirit, believes that this speed limit was simply meant to be broken.

  • With his bold personality, Yeager was a flying ace who would also go on to break aviation records, becoming the first man to ever exceed the speed of sound in the Bell X-1. In this way, Yeager certainly lived up to the philosophy outlined in the page quote, and Charlotte has that exact same spirit. It’s rare that viewers get to see Charlotte so excited about something, and this gives her a lot more defining character: while Charlotte has always been known for her speed magic, viewers typically know her better for having the largest bust of anyone in the 501st.

  • On the morning of the attempt to set a new world record, the same Neuroi unexpectedly appears. Francesca sorties in the P-51H, hoping its speed will allow her to quickly destroy the Neuroi and allow Charlotte to proceed as planned. Despite her mannerisms, Francesca is uncommonly talented at flying, being able to use her small size as an asset while in the air. However, as the youngest of all the Witches in the 501st, Francesca has a tendency to rush into things without thinking it through: in exchange for its speed, the P-51H Striker Unit is also far lighter and therefore, less stable than her Ferotto G.55S.

  • Francesca loses control and falls into the ocean after blocking several hits from the Neuroi. In a bid to save her, Charlotte pushes the Rapid to the limits, catching Francesca just in time before she is impaled by the Neuroi. The Neuroi subsequently fires a shot that decimates the Rapid, but for Charlotte, this matters little: when the chips are down, Francesca’s safety matters more than anything in the world. Gertrude ends up stepping in and grabs a hold of Charlotte to prevent both from plummeting into the waters below.

  • Overall, while this fourth episode may have been predominantly about Charlotte and Francesca, I felt that small differences in how Gertrude regards Charlotte here means that the episode also gave viewers a fair amount of insight into the former, as well: she’s come to respect Charlotte for what she brings to the table. Of course, the girls still have yet to deal with the Neuroi that’s still in the air: Charlotte dons the P-51H, borrows an MG-42 from Minna and catches up to the Neuroi, declaring that this kill is for Francesca before destroying it.

  • The attention to details in Road to Berlin is impressive: Gertrude had handed Erica her MG-42s before catching Charlotte, and later, Minna can be seen carrying Francesca, indicating that the MG-42 must’ve come from here. It took me a few moments to realise this, since things happened rather quickly, but once I caught on, it was one of those things that furthered my enjoyment of this week’s episode.

  • It is not lost on me that I’m here writing about Road to Berlin, and Hai-Furi: The Movie just released to BDs yesterday. In a similar turn of events four-and-a-half years earlier, I was writing about Hai-Furi on an episodic basis, and back then, I also had Girls und Panzer: Der Film to look at. I remember how it felt a little anti-climatic to go from Der Film back to Hai-Furi, and at present, I am curious to see this film for myself now. With a nine month, ten day gap between the theatrical première in Japan and home release, the wait was two months longer than the average, but still considerably shorter than the likes of Your Name, Weathering With You and Saekano Fine, which required an eleven month long wait. I have plans to write about Hai-Furi: The Movie in full once I sit down and watch the film, and before then, there’s plenty to be getting on with: readers have expressed an interest in me writing about the new Higurashi series, along with Warlords of Sigrdrifa.

  • I am confident about Warlords of Sigrdrifa, but Higurashi Gou could prove a little trickier because of its structure, so I won’t be writing about it immediately. On the other hand, Kamisama ni Natta hi has proven immensely difficult to write for, and I feel like it could become Glasslip, 2020 style, so I do not plan on writing about it. On top this is the second half of my YU-NO collaboration with Dewbond: it’s busy times ahead for this blog. With that being said, I’ve now settled into writing for both Road to Berlin and GochiUsa BLOOM, so I imagine that I’ll be able to occasionally write about other stuff aside from these two series. Finally, it looks like Random Curiosity will continue to write for Road to Berlin, per their latest schedule: supposedly, the series is, in their words, “not particularly deep, but it’s easy to talk about”. This translates to a more casual post, which is fine, but given our vast differences in style, I can safely say that for all esoteric World War Two references, I’ve got that covered off, on top of bringing a more interesting conversation surrounding the characters.

Road to Berlin suggests that it will be a ways yet before the port of Antwerpen is repaired and fully operational, meaning that at least, for the next several episodes, the series will follow on in the footsteps of its predecessor. Strike Witches 2 had Francesca meeting with Maria, the princess of Romagna, and here in Road to Berlin, it looks like Perrine will have a chance to shine next episode, when she, Yoshika and Shizuka visit the Queen of Nederland. It suddenly strikes me that this third Strike Witches season is aptly named: for the Witches and how the franchise portrays them, the Road to Berlin isn’t just about the horrors of combat and sacrifices needed for victory, but it’s also about the path the Witches take together. Small, subtle things like what each Witch likes and dislikes, as well as what everyone is fighting for, is as important as being able to fly and shoot well. Thus, the path to Berlin can also be taken to mean the everyday adventures the girls have with one another prior to dropping in on the Berlin hive; assuming this to be the case, it means that this season of Strike Witches will remain quite light-hearted and optimistic, as its predecessors had done. While the initial key visuals suggested a grimmer season was at hand, a third of the way in, there hasn’t been much to suggest that Road to Berlin will be considerably more serious than its predecessors. Series that had unnecessarily driven its narrative in a darker direction have not always benefited from doing so, and in Road to Berlin‘s case, I personally would prefer the series to continue playing to Strike Witches‘ strengths rather than employing tragedy and drama for shock value: the series has been constantly improving in subtle ways since the movie, and there’s really no reason to begin deviating too greatly from what has worked so well for Strike Witches.

What the Two of Us Can Do- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin Third Episode Impressions and Review

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —George S. Patton

General Patton is furious to learn that the operation to retake Berlin is to be delayed on account of the damages to Antwerpen’s port. Meanwhile, Yoshika reunites with the 501st, and Shizuka is introduced to the others. Despite an embarrassing start, Yoshika reassures her and accompanies Lynette to take Shizuka on a tour of their latest base. During training, Shizuka finds herself unable to keep up with Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. Yoshika bails her out during a mock combat drill, but unexpectedly loses all magical power. A physician explains that Yoshika’s having trouble channelling her magic, leaving her unfit for combat. When a Neuroi suddenly appears and splits into three entities, Yoshika implores Minna to allow her to deploy: the remainder of the 501st have been diverted in fighting the other two Neuroi units, leaving the base vulnerable. Seeing Yoshika’s determination inspires Shizuka, and Minna relents, allowing the two to sortie. Yoshika uses her shields to cover Shizuka, who concentrates on flying and shooting. Together, they succeed in locating and destroying the Neuroi’s core. In the aftermath, Yoshika comments that working as a pair might not be so bad if she’s not concentrating on flying, but when Shizuka realises why Yoshika’s content to be flown around, she demands that Yoshika work harder so that she can fly for herself. Traditionally, Strike Witches‘ third episode had always focused on a team-building exercise, and Road to Berlin has opted not to deviate from this trend, as Shizuka strives to keep up with the veteran Witches of the 501st while coming to terms with the fact that she can’t always rely on Yoshika to support her. Having Shizuka do what she can for Yoshika, including channelling Yoshika’s admirable, and insatiable desire to do good by others, Shizuka finds her own way of helping Yoshika, and the 501st out, despite still having spots as a Witch.

While Shizuka’s addition to the 501st was undoubtedly the heart of the episode, Yoshika’s inability to consistently channel magic, and the limitations it imposes on her, was a clever addition that serves to ensure that Yoshika will not be soloing Neuroi any time soon. The implications of such a condition are that Yoshika’s going to be operating in a reduced capacity in the foreseeable future. Consequently, rather than lending her raw power into a combat situation, Yoshika will likely continue to mentor and support Shizuka, who will similarly feel compelled to return the favour and do her best for Yoshika. This dynamic is likely to result in Shizuka maturing and become increasingly confident in her own ability as a Witch. This give-and-take will be interesting to see, as Shizuka’s worship of Yoshika speaks to the former’s immaturity, which could have an detrimental impact of her if left unchecked; by forcing Yoshika to take a reduced combat role, she will likely look for new ways to help out, and this inevitably includes providing Shizuka with the help she needs to become a better Witch. This is a very refreshing and novel way of addressing Yoshika’s power in manner appropriate for what Strike Witches has established; besides retaining consistency with how Witches are stated to work in the series, it also provides an excellent opportunity for Yoshika to really mentor Shizuka. This is something that was absent from the movie, resulting in Shizuka developing an incorrect impression of Yoshika, and at present, while the Allied leadership work out a solution to restore their supply lines to support a Berlin operation, there will be some time left for Shizuka and Yoshika to properly become familiar with one another.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Road to Berlin manages to capture an abstraction of George S. Patton and Omar Bradley’s personalities in its opening: in history, Patton was known for his gruff manner and skill, but he was also prone to speaking his mind in a controversial way. Bradley, on the other hand, was much more reserved and polite, even though he was very much a competent general who was as disciplined and tough as the more flamboyant personalities of World War Two. In Road to Berlin, Bradley is seen trying to reign back Patton, who is absolutely furious at the prospect of being forced to delay a major offensive. This delay, resulting from damages to the Antwerpen docks, also creates time for Road to Berlin to ease viewers back into things.

  • First introduced as a Fuso Witch during the events of Strike Witches: The Movie, Shizuka is voiced by Aya Uchida (Vividred Operation‘s Himawari Shinomiya, Kaede Furutani of Yuru Yuri and Magia Record‘s Tsukasa Amane). Standing in for Mio, Shizuka is a disciplined and spirited, but remains relatively untrained, having only fought in battle on a handful of occasions. Shizuka knows of the 501st, but only briefly met them during the movie, having spent most of her journey accompanying Yoshika to Europe. Here, I will make a brief aside: it looks like I’ve been issued an IP ban from MyAnimeList. I was trying to view the site for a community event and was met with a full-spectrum block, so I can’t view the site even while signed out. I suspect it might be related to the Koisuru Asteroid rebuttal I wrote a few months ago. I am not current on whatever drama has occurred, but that negative review is still gaining traction even now. Fortunately, I might’ve come upon a solution; I’d been looking out at the skyline during a break at work to a grey, snowy sort of skyline earlier this week when an idea crossed my mind.

  • I’ll share more details in the future where appropriate, but my goal now is to see if I can get that Koisuru Asteroid review stricken from MyAnimeList outright. For now, all I’ll say is that I might be able to leverage the review rules in some way. If successful, this individual will have their reviews deleted, and with it, all of their ill-gotten upvotes. This will also remove the context behind the praise they’d undeservedly received. Back in Road to Berlin, while making her formal introduction to the other Witches, Shizuka chokes and trips, landing upside down and giving viewers a glimpse of what had been so common in earlier instalments of Strike Witches. The resulting moment is so unexpected, that the other Witches struggle to keep a straight face: even the ever-serious Gertrude is seen doing her best to fight back laughter, and Sanya is seen asking Eila to stop laughing. Fortunately, Perrine is on hand to reprimand the others, and the laughter swiftly dies down when Yoshika takes Shizuka’s hand and assures her that things will be fine.

  • Previously, when Yoshika had been the greenhorn of the 501st, Mio had asked Lynette to show her around and also was on hand to train Yoshika personally. Unlike Yoshika, who had no military background to speak of (she turns down a sidearm that Minna offered her), Shizuka has prior experience and is less of a liability than Yoshika had been in her earlier days. The choice to bring Shizuka into the 501st was done so Mio would have a suitable replacement, accommodate a “starting out” journey into Road to Berlin and simultaneously accelerate character growth so the main event, the strike against the Berlin hive, could be done. Assuming this to be true, Road to Berlin would be a very ambitious project, and given the progression Strike Witches had gone through over the past decade, it is within the realm of possibility for Road to Berlin to pull off a story featuring all of these elements in a satisfactory manner.

  • During the tour of their latest base, Shizuka sees firsthand just how close Yoshika and Lynette are. Unlike the Peter and Paul Fortress of Brave Witches, this base is in solid condition: from the firing range to the onsen on-site, and even the bedrooms, the base has a very well-cared for feel to it. Conversely, back in the Brave Witches days, the Peter and Paul Fortress was decidedly more worn: cracks in the walls, grimy windows and chipped paint can be seen. The differences are night and day – this base has a much warmer feeling to it.

  • Yoshika is immediately impressed with how well-appointed the kitchen is: fresh fruits can be seen on the table, the cookwares look very clean, and there’s even a wood-fired oven that looks rather suited for baking pizzas, which I’m sure Charlotte and Francesca will appreciate. Unlike the Britannia base, however, it would appear that the 501st are moving in for the first time and still getting used to where everything is. Feeling at home, Yoshika instinctively makes to prepare something. Lynette has something else in mind; it’s time for afternoon tea. During the tour, placement of the characters give the sense that, while Shizuka’s been welcomed into the 501st, she still feels like an outsider, especially seeing how close Lynette and Yoshika are.

  • All of the Witches in the 501st are unique in their own right, but of everyone, I’m the most fond of Lynette. Throughout Strike Witches, she’s always been around to support Yoshika, even during the darkest of times, and the two have an especially close friendship. In combat, Yoshika has helped Lynette gain confidence in herself: Lynette had previously been distracted by flying and was unable to use her stablisation magic to aim her Boys AT Rifle during combat, so at a few key junctures, Yoshika would fly for her, allowing Lynette to focus on shooting. As time went on, Lynette became more confident and could fire more accurately without any help.

  • In Strike Witches 2‘ third episode, Yoshika was sent to participate in special training alongside Perrine and Lynette, once Mio and Minna determined the three to have gone out of practise owing to how much time they’d spent away from the front lines. Over the course of that episode, the girls learn to master their magic and fly as Witches once did: using a broomstick. The girls ultimately learnt teamwork together, and it was here that Perrine began warming up to Yoshika. Road to Berlin has Yoshika, Perrine and Lynette train with Shizuka, and the gap in their skill level is a reminder of how far these three have come since the second season. Unlike the others, Shizuka is less confident about her abilities, initially depending on Yoshika for help.

  • During their mock battle, Perrine manages to flank Shizuka, but ultimately, loses thanks to Yoshika’s mastery of shield magic. Perrine remarks that Yoshika’s power is almost like cheating. Earlier, Perrine had noted that Shizuka should do her best to keep up, in the name of Mio and Fuso; however, it becomes apparent that this is simply her way of doing things: she’s very strict and critical, similar to Gertrude, but she has no ill-will towards Shizuka. Instead, I imagine that Perrine has come to hold Fuso Witches in very high regard, having seen what Mio was capable of and coming to respect Yoshika for her contributions to the 501st.

  • When Yoshika’s Striker Unit suddenly fails, causing her to plummet towards the ocean, Lynette and Perrine rescue her just in time. I was rather surprised to see this moment and for a moment, wondered if it was Yoshika simply overloading her Striker Unit as she did previously. However, this Striker Unit, a Shinden-kai, came straight from the factory and is therefore, in top condition. A faulty Striker Unit cannot be the cause of Yoshika’s problems alone, so something more ominous is at work.

  • A physician pins down the cause of Yoshika’s mysterious loss of power: while her magic had returned against all odds, it looks like her flux is inconsistent, resulting in occasional bursts of extraordinary magic, and at other times, her magic simply ceases to be. At this point in time, I’m glad no one’s taken to reintroducing the mathematical definition of flux or re-deriving its SI units; most discussion seems to be focused on how this is a good thing for the story. I’ve already stated my reasons as to why I am enjoying this: it fits the narrative and allows for new directions to be explored.

  • With this being said, I firmly believe that there is a difference between balancing a story out and a story being realistic. A common misconception (especially evident in something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica discussions) is that “realism” is the act of having characters incur a cost for their actions. This isn’t true: something is “realistic” if it adheres to constraints that are visibly felt in real life (e.g. physics), and in the case of magic (or causality), there is no real-world yardstick to reliably compare it to for making the claim that a certain occurrence is more (or less) realistic. Viewers are mixing up realism with balance in writing; the latter of which can be used to describe the tradeoffs that characters must make in exchange for certain decisions or outcomes.

  • Hence, in Road to Berlin, it is unknowable as to whether or not Yoshika’s magic fluctuating is “realistic”, but we can decisively say it’s a mark of good writing, since it throttles back Yoshika’s power and drives the story in a novel direction to keep things exciting. In a similar vein, Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s presentation of cause and effect cannot be said to be realistic, since there is no real-world precedence for whether or not making a wish will always come at a cost, but we can say that the suffering Magical Girls go through (and their subsequent transformation into Witches as a result of their experiences) is a satisfactory portrayal of the idea, “be careful what you wish for”.

  • Inspection of the star-shaped moat surrounding the 501st’s base indicate that the location was modelled after Fort Erfprins in the Den Helder, Netherlands. Built in the 1807 as a part of the Den Helder Defense Line, the site was a part of the Atlantic Wall during World War Two: the Germans added four 105 mm SK C/32 naval guns to the site in the 1940s, and since 1973, Fort Erfprins became a national monument. The Dutch Navy continues to use the site as a training ground, and inspection of the area will find no equivalent of the castle, which appears to be of a fictional design. The Lange Jaap (Long Jeep) lighthouse can be seen in the background. Construction on this lighthouse began in 1882, and it entered service in 1872. With a height of 63.45 metres, it was the tallest lighthouse in the Netherlands until the Maasvlakte Light in Rotterdamn was built.

  • When a Neuroi appears and threatens the base, Minna initially refuses to allow Yoshika and Shizuka to sortie. However, seeing Yoshika’s spirit inspires Shizuka, and the two somehow manages to convince Minna that, if they’re really just half a Witch, then together, they’re a full Witch. Speaking to the blasé approach Minna’s taken towards command, she approves of their idea. The 501st and their propensity to disregard basic protocol would make them a liability in reality, but here, it accommodates the story’s goals – the third episode is all about trust in a team member.

  • The other Witches had found the Neuroi’s patterns unusual: rather than engaging the Witches head on, the two Neuroi that appeared seemed more intent on evasive manoeuvres rather than direct combat. While considerably weaker than the iceberg-type Neuroi, this Neuroi is clever in its patterns, seeking to disperse the Witches’ attention long enough to hit their base. However, it wasn’t counting on the unusual approach that Yoshika and Shizuka take: resembling the trick that Yoshika and Lynette and used during Strike Witches and its sequel, Yoshika has Shizuka fly and fire while she provides the shield. Minna manages to draw the Neuroi’s attention and opens a hole to expose its core, leaving the two to finish it off.

  • The unorthodox methods that Yoshika devises to offset her limitations is what prompts the page quote: being a rather colourful character, one cannot deny General Patton’s efficacy even if some of his methods were sometimes questionable. I respect him for being someone who gets things done. Patton was absolutely instrumental in Allied victories, and I greatly enjoyed George C. Scott’s portrayal of him in Patton. While Road to Berlin may not have as faithful of a Patton as the 1970 war film did, it was nice to see him in anime form, although I feel that his portrayal here was less flattering than it was in Patton.

  • The decision of wasting one of my twenty screenshots of Yoshika taking it easy at the end of this third episode may prove tricky to justify, but I’m not sure how many opportunities there will be to do this in upcoming episodes, so I’d figure now would be a good time as any. I’ve frequently mentioned that Yoshika’s been trending away from her fixation of everyone else’s mammaries in recent posts: this moment suggests that Yoshika’s probably not improved, but at the very least, the series did appear to be spending less time on this side of Yoshika, so I hope that trend persists. Shizuka, of course, is less impressed, and she immediately states that Yoshika must get her flight capabilities back up so such moments can be avoided.

  • This was an enjoyable episode, and it feels like Road to Berlin is settling into its stride a quarter of the way into its run. With this, I’ve done my weekly talk on Road to Berlin, and not a moment too soon: yesterday, 343 Industries announced that their flighting for Halo 4 had begun. Invitations have begun making their way to Halo Insider members, and I’ve already downloaded the client. Tonight, focus on the Road to Berlin post means I spent precisely zero minutes playing around with Halo 4, but I do intend on giving things a go as soon as convenient.

The first quarter of Road to Berlin is now in the books, and with this third episode, I am particularly impressed with how the writers have managed to keep things fresh and engaging, while simultaneously retaining the precise aesthetic and atmosphere that defines Strike Witches. It is evident here, beyond any doubt, that Road to Berlin will very much follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. The third episode of previous seasons have all been about training and orientation at a new base, as well as about the importance of having faith in one’s teammates and training to keep up with the team. However, like Brave Witches, Road to Berlin will almost certainly continue introducing new elements to keep the story exciting and further build out the Strike Witches world. The balance between old and new means that for the fourth episode, I can be reasonably confident that the story will deal with Gertrude and Charlotte in some way: previous seasons had Charlotte attempting to break new speed records, and the previews have Charlotte as the prominent character. Furthermore, given her not-so-subtle indications of concern for Yoshika this episode, Gertrude will likely be a major player as well, as Yoshika’s lack of magic renders her vulnerable (and sparking Gertrude’s protective instincts). I imagine that Shizuka stepping up will help assuage Gertrude’s fears, and it will be the case as the 501st acclimatise to fighting alongside one another, we’ll likely see a few more of these episodic, monster-of-the-week style episodes right up until the Berlin operation is ready to roll. I am hoping that Road to Berlin breaks with tradition and starts the party earlier than its predecessors did, as it would really serve to accentuate scope of the Neuroi threat, but time will tell whether or not Road to Berlin will dare to be different.