The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Sadako Shimohara

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you can’t laugh at your life, then your life is a punch line in a bad joke.” –Andrew Barger

After their successful destruction of the Neuroi in the Rhineland, the 501st part ways, with Yoshika staying behind with Minna, Gertrude and Erica at St. Trond base. Public relations forces them to shoot a movie about the 501st’s heroics, although with everyone gone, Gertrude decides to do a film around Yoshika’s exploits. Circumstance soon puts Minna in touch with the other members of the 501st, although things don’t go as smoothly as they’d like for Gertrude’s film: Perrine and Lynette are still hard at work restoring Gallia, while Charlotte and Francesca have gotten into a spot of trouble in Venezia after claiming to have blown away a Neuroi. Meanwhile, in Fuso, Hikari prepares to head over to Orussia with Takami, but when Takami accidentally spills ketchup on herself, is flown back to Fuso, leaving Hikari to join the 502nd. While the 502nd are initially hesitant, Alexsandra and Gundula conclude that having an extra Fuso Witch around could be good for publicity and help their group out with funds, which is always a problem on account of how Nikka, Naoe and Waltrud conduct themselves. Upon joining, Edytha sets about training Hikari, noting that those three are probably the most dangerous people around the base, second to only Alexsandra, who is lecturing Naoe about her actions. World Witches: Take Off! is a continuation of 2019’s Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, being a light-hearted parody of the Strike Witches series and stripping out the Human-Neuroi War in favour of what happens when the Witches are allowed to purely bounce off one another. Like its predecessor, World Witches: Take Off! episodes run for thirteen minutes at a time, and are loosely connected by a story, but otherwise, emphasises crude comedy above all else.

Insofar, World Witches: Take Off! has chosen to portray the 501st and 502nd quite separately. Every week, the focus alternates between the two Joint Fighter Wing groups; with the 501st, their antics are now well-established, and a familiar sight for anyone who’s seen Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!. The inclusion of the 502nd is what’s new to World Witches: Take Off!, but rather than dropping viewers straight into things, this series of shorts has instead chosen to re-tell the story in a more humourous light to show the more comedic side of the 502nd. Here, World Witches: Take Off! demonstrates a knack for being able to recount stories with a hilarious twist to them. In particular, the misunderstanding that causes Takami to be sent back to Fuso results from Hikari misunderstanding Takami, and after an accident involving ketchup, things seemingly become too serious to ignore. The ensuing chaos transforms Hikari into a blubbering mess, which is simultaneously piteous and adorable. Moments like this typify the Take Off! series’ ability to convey both humour and that warm, fuzzy feeling associated with small animals during its run. Halfway into World Witches: Take Off!, familiar faces come back in an all-new setting to create comedy, and for fans of Strike Witches looking for a little something to tide them over while awaiting Luminous Witches, the next big project, World Witches: Take Off! fits the bill nicely enough.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I am a little surprised that it’s been almost a full two years since 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! began airing, and as a result of the time that’s passed, a part of me felt that the art style in World Witches: Take Off! was a little different than that of its predecessor. After revisiting the old episodes, it turns out such is not the case: both series have the same art style and visual tone, a consequence of acca effe and Giga Production being at the helm of production.

  • Unlike Strike Witches and Brave Witches proper, there are no major themes covered by the Take Off! series of shorts. These are purely meant for quick-and-easy entertainment, and consequently, does not need to stand up to the usual scrutiny or discussion of the typical series. The closest equivalent I can think of would be K-On!‘s Ura-On! miniseries, which similarly placed the characters in a surreal world of humour purely to elicit a few laughs. However, whereas Ura-On! is very crudely done (resembling little more than napkin sketches with voices), the Take Off! series have been surprisingly good with respect to production quality for a work of its type.

  • In the beginning, World Witches: Take Off! has the Karlsland Witches working on a film with Yoshika at its core. While Gertrude intends on making Yoshika to be a hero of sorts, Yoshika has a bit of difficulty embracing this role. Gertrude intends on having Yoshika be the subject, but when things break down, Yoshika decides to try filming Gertrude instead, Things rapidly devolve when, enraged with Erica, Gertrude decides to give her the ol’ beatdown.

  • After her awakening, Erica suggests doing the movie in a slightly different direction; having dealt with media before, Erica prefers putting on a very soppy manner to pull on the viewers’ heart strings. While Yoshika wonders if this could come across as being dishonest, Gertrude’s direction fares hardly better: World Witches: Take Off! continues in its predecessor’s manner in presenting Gertrude as being perhaps a little too doting on Yoshika. Once the film’s direction settles a little (Gertrude and Erica both figure it’s a good idea to highlight Yoshika’s healing magic), Erica begins to wonder where the rest of the 501st went.

  • After the stunt in the movie, the other members were forced to disband, and even with Minna’s station in the Army, it takes a bit of effort to bring everyone back. Even Yoshika is set to return home when her mother asks about things, threatening the 501st further. Minna has one last play, and asks Yoshika to lie. At the very least, Yoshika is allowed to stay, and she feels that the best way to meet everyone is to go visit them with gifts and a warm thank-you.

  • Back in Fuso, Hikari lives her daily life trying to be the best Witch that she can despite lacking a strong magical potential. It’s been some four years since Brave Witches aired, so I can understand why World Witches: Take Off! would wish to ease viewers back into things and properly do a parody of what had actually happened. It speaks volume to the writing in World Witches: Take Off! that almost every moment in the original Brave Witches could be made fun of while at the same time, preserving the original story.

  • As memory serves, the original Brave Witches had Hikari participate in a competition to see who would have the chance to go over to Orussia and work directly with a front-line group of Witches. A great many stories, both anime and in other media, feature a protagonist whose strength of resolve and heart allow them to rise to whatever occasion arises. It’s a very uplifting way of looking at things, and indeed, while some folks might not be the most skilled or talented in this moment, they may possess other traits that allow them to be immensely valuable down the line. As such, it can be worthwhile to invest some effort in mentoring these folks to see what they’re truly capable of accomplishing.

  • Brave Witches had Hikari selected for the position after she saves classmate Mia from drowning during their competition, which had been to determine who was the more competent flier. However, Hikari’s actions had demonstrated that, despite her weaker skill, her heart means that she’s a better team player. In World Witches: Take Off!, however, the prospect of the Karibuchi sisters being heroes sways the villagers and judge’s decisions somewhat.

  • I initially mentioned that I would be writing about both World Witches: Take Off! and Azur Lane: Slow Ahead this season. Slow Ahead does offer enough materials to write about, but because of my current schedule, I’ve found it immensely difficult to keep up with everything as they aired. At this point in time, I’m fully caught up with World Witches: Take Off!, Yuru Camp△ 2Non Non Biyori Nonstop and Higurashi: Gou. However, I’m still only on episode one of Slow Ahead, and I’ve fallen to being two episodes behind on The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ second season.

  • I’m not too sure how my schedule looks for the near future, but I should be able to remain up to date on Yuru Camp△ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop. Since I’ve chosen to write about World Witches: Take Off! every six episodes, I do not foresee any troubles with writing about this series once it’s finished, and I still have plans to write about Slow Ahead once everything’s done. Thus, we return to World Witches: Take Off!, where it’s off to Orussia with Takami and Hikari. Knowing this series, one can safely assume that their journey will be anything but ordinary.

  • Erica suggests bringing a wooden panel of the Witches over to Gallia as a gift of sorts for Perrine and the others, but after Yoshika notices that everyone’s faces are still in, decides to rectify that by carving out holes on the board. However, since Gertrude and Erica are still discussing the logic of transporting it, they assume that Yoshika’s got something else planned out and make to stop her.

  • The page quote was chosen simply to mirror the humour that is present in World Witches: Take Off!: the series has very little in the way of themes, and instead, is purely focused on the comedic elements. Laughter is one of the more puzzling aspects about human evolution, being a core part of social interactions. In response to situations of irony and comedy, which results from ridiculous situations or situations that subvert expectations, as Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes best puts it, “if we couldn’t laugh at the things that don’t make sense, we couldn’t react to a lot of life”.

  • I’ve not featured any such screenshots for this post, but there are moments where the characters deform even more, usually while retorting to something outrageous. “Funny faces”, as I call them, are an integral part of World Witches: Take Off!, and coupled with the over-the-top voice acting, really conveys the sense that nothing happening here is meant to be taken seriously. A major part of the comedy in World Witches: Take Off! comes from the fact that since viewers have existing knowledge of the characters, watching them act in exaggerated ways (or ways that contradict their usual personalities) creates enough of a disconnect to render a situation ludicrous.

  • Upon arriving in Gallia, Lynette immediately denies Yoshika any opportunity to cop a feel, as it were. Gertrude is still intent on shooting footage for the film, but before they can ready the camera, Perrine notices the panel with Mio’s face cut out. Yoshika manages to stave off imminent disaster, and after explaining to Perrine what their goals were, the 501st decide to change focus and unload the supplies.

  • It becomes clear that whatever movie Gertrude had in mind is unlikely to be made in any sort of capacity: while Yoshika attempts to interview Lynette on screen, she becomes distracted when Lynette mentions one of her duties. The Yoshika of Strike Witches is less perverted than her Take Off! counterpart, and this is often employed as a joke. In turn, Lynette in Take Off! is more versed with dodging Yoshika and evading any attempts Yoshika may make.

  • Back in St. Petersburg, Alexsandra is despondent about how, thanks to Naoe and Nikka’s tendency to destroy gear during training and in combat, the costs of shipping in replacement parts and equipment have left the 502nd destitute. Nikka’s bad luck is something of a recurring joke in Brave Witches, and for better or worse, she continues to wreck everything she sets her hands on. Because Takami had been set to arrive, headquarters had given the 502nd a boost to their budget to accommodate a hero of Fuso and a junior Witch. The prospect of a budget boost excites Alexsandra, but it turns out she’d come to speak with Naoe and Nikka for another reason.

  • There’s a spare room on base, and Alexsandra indicates the time has come to properly clean the room out. It is striking that Nikka’s bad luck in World Witches: Take Off! is only somewhat worse than it was in Brave Witches, and if Naoe is to believed, Nikka can even fall through a perfectly safe and solid floor. In Brave Witches, the St. Petersberg base always came across as a little run-down compared to the facilities the 501st operated out of, but thanks to Georgette, things continue to run smoothly. In this first half of World Witches: Take Off!, we’ve not had a chance to see Georgette much as of yet.

  • Naoe had been somewhat of an unpleasant character at the beginning of Brave Witches, but as Hikari got to know her better, the two would get along on better terms. World Witches: Take Off! has Naoe at odds with everyone, especially Waltrud: during the course of Brave Witches, Waltrud was presented as a bit of a womaniser, but was otherwise a competent Witch in the air. Because World Witches: Take Off! exists to exaggerate certain traits about every Witch, Waltrud here becomes insufferable; she shocks Nikka, who shoves the window out of its frame.

  • Cleaning with these three turns out to be more of a disaster than expect ed, and ultimately, Naoe’s patience runs out. She’s able to render the room spotless. Unfortunately for her, Nikka and Waltrud have both spotted Naoe while she was in a good mood, and things quickly sour. Like Gertrude, Naoe is quick to resort to physical violence in World Witches: Take Off!, even more so than her counterpart in Brave Witches.

  • I don’t recall that Alexsandra was ever this quick to tears in the original Brave Witches, and it suddenly strikes me that, with the four years that have passed since Brave Witches, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details in that series. I do remember Brave Witches as having an immensely likeable set of characters and dialing back on the pantsu in favour of world-building. When the series ended, I was very happy with it. I get that Strike Witches originally built its reputation on a lack of pants, but over the years, the series has taken numerous strides to develop its story and characters further.

  • It turns out that Hikari had been worried about keeping up with Takami, and during lunch, Takami is deep in thought trying to work out something. She decides to test Hikari’s ability to handle the unexpected, using ketchup to mimic an old wound being opened. This completely backfires, and insofar, watching Hikari trying to blubber out an explanation of what’s happened to another Fuso Witch was adorable beyond words. No one believes that Takami is fine, and as a result of this, she’s sent back to Fuso to recover.

  • Hikari is understandably devastated as Takami is flown back to Fuso for a full checkup despite the “injury” being minor; as Takami explains things to Gundula and Alexsandra, the latter becomes gloomy about what will happen to their supplementary funding. Absolutely outrageous situations are par the course in World Witches: Take Off!, and admittedly, it is refreshing to see a series poke fun at itself. I believe Gundam 00 also did this briefly with a pair of trailers for its second season, and curiously enough, a handful of the predictions in this parody turned out true: aliens did end up attacking and Setsuna did end up becoming Gundam by the events of Awakening of the Trailblazer.

  • Once Yoshika visits Perrine and Lynette, next on the list is Charlotte and Francesca in Venezia, who appear to be in a spot of bother. It turns out they’re desperate to be extracted and reactivated, having told a fib about their achievements that snowballed into something out of control. With guilt getting the better of them, the pair attempt to worm their way out of an event of sorts, counting on the 501st’s arrival as an excuse to leave town.

  • Because of the lack of pants in Strike Witches, whenever the characters grovel on the ground in the dogeza position (土下座), viewers are treated to a bit of scenery. The act of dogeza is usually reserved for situations demanding higher deference than even a deep bow, and anime are especially fond of using this when characters are begging for forgiveness. The equivalent in Cantonese is 叩頭 (jyutping kau3 tau4), and originally, like in Japan, was used to show deep respect to someone. While rarely used today, it is still a common practise in martial arts circles. The word eventually made its way into English as “kowtow”, which presently means “to be overly submissive”. When I see people do this, however, thanks to my weak command of some aspects of Cantonese, I idiosyncratically call it 拜神 (jyutping baai3 san4, literally “worshipping a deity”).

  • Charlotte ends up being torn about leaving town, hoping to stay and enjoy the beer for another day, but now that they’ve found her, Gertrude is pretty gung-ho about getting Charlotte and Francesca back with the 501st – she offers to carry Charlotte and her motorcycle back single-handedly, but when this proves cumbersome, Yoshika steps in to help out. The real Yoshika is ever quick to help out, but World Witches: Take Off! supposes that Yoshika has ulterior motives beyond doing something altruistically.

  • With Charlotte, it’s easy to guess why Yoshika is so quick on the uptake – after being denied by Lynette earlier, one can see this as Yoshika’s perversions manifesting yet again in World Witches: Take Off!. While such mannerisms can become tiresome very quickly, this has never been a problem in the Take Off! series because viewers are well aware of the fact that this is a parody of Strike Witches, and as such, greatly exaggerated mannerisms are understood as poking fun at every characters’ worst traits in the name of a few good laughs.

  • When Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! finished airing, I recall reading somewhere that I had one of the few reviews around on the series shorts, and more unusually, of these few reviews, mine was the only one that was positive. The reason why I enjoyed Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! (and are currently enjoying World Witches: Take Off!) is simply because it is pure frivolity. There are no messages, no themes and no learnings; while I don’t have enough material to write my usual discussions for something like World Witches: Take Off!, the series still has enough materials to cover (e.g. what made it funny for me, and why the humour works).

  • One of the things that World Witches: Take Off! does well is bringing back elements from Brave Witches and turning them into things that viewers certainly thought of doing. When Edytha suggests that Hikari climb the obelisk to retrieve a hat as part of her exercise and demonstrates it, Waltrud shows up and tries to sneak a peek of Edytha’s pantsu, prompting Edytha to drop down on Waltrud. I imagine that a handful of viewers would camp the obelisk for the same reasons as Waltrud, hence the joke being amusing. Waltrud does indeed exhibit such tendencies in Brave Witches, and official artwork implies that the pair are involved in a romantic manner.

  • Later, Nikka falls to the ground after birds interrupt her climb, and while her face is initially too mangled to show to human eyes, her healing factor leaves her good to go moments later.  As it turns out, the real exercise was to help Hikari identify the troublesome members of the 502nd. Whether or not this holds true is irrelevant: what it does suggest is that Hikari is in for a bit of turbulence in St. Petersburg as she acclimatises to life with the 502nd, and unlike Brave Witches, which saw Hikari improve as a Witch owing to her field experience, days of watching the Witches clash with one another will likely leave Hikari wondering what on earth happens up here.

  • Alexsandra’s biggest gripe in Brave Witches had been broken resupply lines making it difficult to secure the materials needed to maintain and repair Striker Units. Her constant worry about the budget in World Witches: Take Off! is a callback to this, and here, she yells at Naoe for having wrecked more equipment. With this, we’re halfway through the second Strike Witches parody, and while there’s no sign of it happening yet, I remain hopeful that the 501st and 502nd could meet up properly for the first time; if the opening sequence is to be believed, Eila will get the short end of the stick should this happen.

The biggest element that’s been missing so far from World Witches: Take Off! is the actual meeting of the 501st and the 502nd. The opening sequence suggested that World Witches: Take Off! would be about the wild adventures and zany antics that could only come from such a large, varied cast coming together and bouncing off one another. Things like watching Eila suffer as Sanya speaks with more people, or Waltrud messing with members of the 501st presents an opportunity to create humour that is unparalleled. However, at the halfway point, World Witches: Take Off! shows no sign of having the 501st and 502nd meet. Time will tell as to whether or not a meet-up between the 501st and 502nd become a reality; I imagine that many viewers, myself included, would be quite keen to see this because it represents a chance to take the characters in a hitherto unseen direction and create new humour that is only possible with everyone and their unique characteristics. Having said this, World Witches: Take Off! has done a reasonable job of creating laughs insofar, and this series, while certainly not for anyone just entering the Strike Witches world (or have an aversion for bad jokes), is similar to Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! in that it provides outrageous moments of hilarity for the viewer, while at the same time, providing a glimpse into what life is like for Witches when they’re not training or sortieing to deal with the Neuroi threat.

The Great Petersburg Strategy: Brave Witches OVA Review and Reflections

“I’m an unlucky charm…don’t go anywhere with me.” –Sophie Turner

After their arrival at the Petersburg base, Eila and Sanya find themselves kicked out of bed by Georgette, whose heart is intent on doing winter cleaning. Longing to visit the deserted streets of Petersburg with Sanya, Eila’s plans are dashed when Sanya is requested to discuss intelligence on the fronts. The next day, Eila runs into Waltrud and upon learning that Waltrud has set out to win Sanya’s heart, tries to stop her, only to burst into Sanya’s room while she’s changing. Alexsandra appears and defuses the situation, hauling Waltrud and Eila off so the latter can provide instruction for the other 502nd Witches. Sanya and Eila encounter Sadako on the third day while sneaking about base, trying to sneak out undetected to have a date together; Sadako acts in a manner contrary to her usual self and cuddles with Sanya while Eila tries in vain to stop her. As New Year’s Eve approaches, the girls begin preparing a special Russian dinner to celebrate. Learning that watching fireworks with someone special will bring them closer together, Eila decides to add fireworks to their celebration with the hope of becoming closer to Sanya, but Gundula denies Eila’s request for fireworks. Mid-dinner, a Neuroi attack prompts a section of the 502nd to sortie. Eila helps Hikari stabilise in flight before she, Sanya, Edytha engage the Neuroi in combat. They learn quickly that this Neuroi has tougher armour than bog-standard Neuroi, and despite their efforts the Neuroi breaks through their ranks. Owing to Eila’s precognition magic, she is able to foresee this and breaks off to intercept the Neuroi, destroying it. The resulting ceramic shards from the Neuroi give the impression of fireworks, allowing Eila to share a tender moment with Sanya. This is the gist of the Brave Witches OVA’s events, whose focus is predominantly on Sanya and Eila.

After the end of Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow, audiences were disappointed that Sanya and Eila were not given their own OVA – Operation Victory Arrow‘s final instalment dealt with Lynette and Perrine. While enjoyable, viewers were hoping to see more of the dynamics between Eila and Sanya, whose relationship has been of great interest to fans of Strike Witches. With this in mind, the Brave Witches OVA delivers this in spades: the OVA’s emphasis is on humour, providing a highly entertaining story about Eila’s efforts to spend time with Sanya, and despite her frequent failures, it is after the battle that Eila’s wish to watch fireworks with Sanya comes true, in manner of speaking. One of the great ironies of Strike Witches is that despite Eila’s powers for precognition, she’s unable to really find the opportunity to get closer to Sanya, being bested time and time again by the machinations of bad luck. However, like Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects Us, Eila is able to be there with Sanya in the most tender of moments, offsetting her usual bad luck and the comical situations she finds herself in while in pursuit of Sanya’s heart. The combination of hilarity and heart-warming moments in Eila’s efforts to court Sanya is what that makes their moments so enjoyable to watch: between Eila’s exasperation at how many of the 502nd is seemingly vying with her for Sanya’s attention and the lengths she is willing to go in order to do the same, the Brave Witches OVA ultimately ends up being the Eila and Sanya OVA that Strike Witches fans were looking for, being well worth the wait.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My considerable prowess for Google-fu has not yielded any results, so I am very confident in saying that this is the internet’s first and only review of the Brave Witches OVA. As is the typical modus operandi, this post will feature thirty screenshots and a bit of a surprise that leads me to note that, if you’re at a workplace or place of learning, please do not scroll any further. I will open the post with Georgette brusquely awakening Eila and Sanya, declaring her intention to clean their room. Her enthusiasm brings to mind Yūna’s energy from Yūki Yūna is a Hero: she’s a far cry from her quiet, shy self seen in Brave Witches proper.

  • This is not particularly surprising a comparison; both Yūna and Georgette are voiced by Haruka Terui. The Brave Witches OVA is set in between the seventh and eighth episode, following the Christmas party that Nikka tries to prepare for Hikari, and before Eila and Sanya depart early during the eighth episode. For folks familiar with Strike Witches: The Sky That Connects us, the OVA is very similar to Eila and Sanya’s chapter in terms of composition.

  • Unlike the installations that Yoshika and the 501st reside in during Strike Witches and its second season, the Petersburg base is a little older and less well-maintained. Cracks are visible in the walls, and there’s a distinctly minimal personal effects or clutter in the girls’ rooms. Here, the play of light suggests an early morning, and Eila’s plans to bring Sanya out on a walk of the nearby city are promptly done away with when Edytha and Gundula ask Sanya to debrief them on the situation in other regions.

  • While the OVA’s only been available since August 25, there were theatrical screenings that preceded the release of the BD volumes containing the OVA back in May. I’ve seen at least one individual fly to Japan for the singular goal of watching the OVA. For me, that is an unreasonable use of money, since the cost of a flight would set me back by an average of 1300 CAD (and cheaper flights start at around 800 CAD). Even for folks situated in other parts of the world more conducive for travelling to Japan on short notice (e.g. from Manila, a flight starts at 400 CAD on average), it’s more economical to simply import the BDs even if the wait is longer.

  • While this OVA might deal predominantly with Sanya and Eila, there are other moments worth mentioning, including Georgette’s unexpected decision to use force in vacating Naoe from her spot to continue with her cleaning. Even if the feat itself is not particularly impressive considering what Witches can do when drawing upon their powers fully, when Georgette Hulks out and tosses Naoe from her spot, bed and all, the moment leads to all sorts of comedy.

  • While the original televised run of Brave Witches was marred by obvious CG elements, the BDs represent a considerable leap in visual quality. The OVA continues on with the quality present in the BDs, and here, a small book unearthed when Georgette moves Naoe’s bed is visible. It turns out to be titled “The Little Princess”, and Georgette remarks it’s a cute book uncharacteristic of the fare that Naoe is typically seen reading. I have a very diverse interest in books, ranging from the political thrillers of Tom Clancy to Steven Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”.

  • Naoe’s ensuing reaction was a bloody riot, and second only to Eila, Naoe’s funny face moments in the OVA alone make it worth watching. Here, I will admit that the Brave Witches OVA arrived much sooner than expected, just in time for the long weekend. I also learned that Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar DLC will become available to premium players on the fifth of September, which coincides with the conclusion of the Labor Day Long Weekend and when I did a talk for the Battlefield 1 beta last year.

  • The latest DLC is Russian-themed, and so, is a perfect opportunity to experience Brave Witches in the Frostbite Engine. I’ll be doing a few talks as I experience the DLC, but for the present, we return to Brave Witches, which pits Waltrud and Eila in a one-on-one. Both are formidable Witches when in the air, but on the ground away from their duties, their actions belie their prowess in the skies. After Eila runs into Waltrud, she quickly takes off to protect Sanya from Waltrud’s plans.

  • Eila and Waltrud burst into Sanya’s room, only to be surprised at the sight awaiting them. One must wonder where Waltrud got the bouquet of flowers from; such commodities cannot be inexpensive, and it is unlikely that the 502nd have a flower garden at their base. Even if this were the case, the Russian winter would preclude anything from growing. Having said this, the presence of fresh flowers is not a big deal, providing a bit of visual humour.

  • Earlier, I remarked that this post has images that are ill-suited for viewing at a workplace. This particular screenshot is not the pair I’m referring to; after initial surprise at having unexpected guests, Sanya’s reaction turns to one of embarrassment. I don’t think I’ve seen Sanya sport such an expression previously, and therein lies one of the joys of OVAs, allowing characters to demonstrate a side of their characters that would otherwise not be seen or feel out of place in the narrative proper.

  • When Alexsandra passes by, she manages to separate Eila and Waltrud, before turning to Sanya and noting that Sanya’s got a very pleasant presence that Alexsandra can relate to. This is hardly surprising, considering that both are from Orussia. After a short conversation, Alexsandra’s come to borrow Eila to help provide instruction for the 502nd’s other Witches, and knowing that Waltrud is likely to capitalise in Eila’s absence, hauls her away, as well.

  • Despite her precognition magic giving her a unique edge in battle by offering her a glimpse into the immediate future, not unlike that of a Newtype, Eila’s technical ability of a Witch is lacking: she’s very dependent on her ability to keep ahead of enemies in battle and therefore has had little incentive to develop teamwork and her mastery of shield projection. Consequently, she finds it very difficult to explain her tactics during combat: it somewhat brings to mind Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer”, a very clever book that explains how things work using the thousand most common English words – one of my favourites includes “tall road” for “bridge” and “up goer 5” for “Saturn V Rocket”.

  • Eila’s explanations leave the others befuddled; Hikari seems to derive the idea that combat is explosive and high paced, while Naoe is frustrated. Meanwhile, Waltrud does not even seem to care, enamoured by Eila herself. Alexsandra is disappointed at this turn of events, exasperated that Eila’s not of more help. I’ve not been a TA for quite some time now, but I imagine that I used to be reasonably clear as a TA. Beyond being known helping students, both in and outside of my own section on short notice, one of my favourite remarks from students is “speaks fluent English”.

  • Georgette, meanwhile, continues on her cleaning spree. It is largely through her efforts that the Petersburg base remain quite clean and inviting even in spite of its aging facilities. It’s actually a very nice touch to see chipped paint in walls exposing the brick underneath, giving the base a much older, worn feeling to it. However, older and having seen better days does not correspond with being a dank, unfriendly place to be: good lighting and cleanliness does wonders for making older buildings a cozy place to be.

  • Eila’s quest to take Sanya on a date in Petersburg fails completely even when she employs her magic to evade other members of the 502nd. In Brave Witches proper, Sadako is quite reserved – it’s an unexpected aspect of her character that audiences see in the OVA, as she hugs Sanya tightly, to Eila’s great displeasure. Her efforts to extricate Sanya from Sadako end in failure. It is here that some of Eila’s best “funny face” moments come to be.

  • Naoe and Edytha watch on as Sadako continues cuddling with Sanya in the presence of a highly riled-up Eila, implying in their conversation that Sadako’s done that to everyone else in the 502nd. As nearly eleven months have passed since I watched Brave Witches, I cannot quite remember of Sadako does something similar to Hikari: in the anime proper, I remember her as a capable cook who doubted her abilities as a Witch.

  • Not even the 502nd’s captains are safe from Georgette’s Need to Clean. After Georgette evicts them from Gundula’s office, Alexsandra and Gundula are left to enjoy their tea in peace, but in the cool of the hallway. While I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say I’d welcome a Russian winter right now, the temperature where I am hit a maximum of 32ºC. It’s quite the contrast from last year, where the weather was grey and overcast when I visited Drumheller.

  • Georgette expresses her gratitude to Sanya for having helped her catch a mouse that was getting into their provisions, leading a jealous Sadako to remark that it’s taking her full self-restraint to not hug Sanya again. While Sanya might be a character in Strike Witches, for folks in China, Sanya (三亚) is the name of Heinan’s southernmost city. With a population of 685000, the city is known as China’s Florida, being a popular destination for its warm weather and pleasant beaches.

  • Sadako praises Sanya for her knowledge of Orussian cuisines; for their New Year’s Eve party, borscht (борщ-суп, a sour soup made from beets), pirozhki (пирожки, a fried bread with beef and vegetable filling), Olivier salad (Russian salad with potatoes, a variety of vegetables, apples and chicken), pelmeni (пельме́ни, dumplings with a meat or fish filling) and a dish known colloquially as “Herring under a fur coat” (Селёдка под шубой, or “dressed herring”) are on the menu. Dressed herring is very popular as a New Year’s Eve dish in Russia, being made of pickled herring topped with layers of layers of grated boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beet roots), chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had Russian cuisine before.

  • When Edytha gives Sanya permission to use her caviar collection to make something for the New Year’s Eve party, Waltrud appears out of the blue and wantonly wastes it, this time by eating it directly, earning herself yet another beating from Edytha. This is a returning joke from Brave Witches, where Waltrud had previously destroyed Edytha’s caviar stock when supplies were running low amidst a fierce snowstorm. Enraged by the other’s efforts in stealing Sanya from her, Eila suddenly loses steam and decides to go with Nikka to the sauna on base.

  • In The Sky That Connects Us, Eila, Sanya and Nikka relax in a sauna, but they’re wearing towels: the OVA has them without any sort of clothing, and the last post I have an open screenshot of papilla mammaria was for Yosuha no Sora, which was not too long ago. After groping everyone, including Nikka, and remarking that she’s bored, Eila resigns herself to the fact that she might not get to spend any time with Sanya while they’re in Petersburg. However, Nikka notes that watching fireworks in the company of a special someone might push things along, re-energising Eila.

  • Steam certainly does not work this way in reality: Eila stands up and hops off, with the steam following her as she moves. However, if Brave Witches had dared to go the whole nine yards in this moment, I would have not featured the screenshot at all. While Nikka and Naoe watch Eila leave to make the proposal of including fireworks in the evening celebrations to Gundula, Hikari basks in a memory of her watching fireworks with Takami.

  • While a day trip out of town would be nice, the hotter temperatures today meant such a trip would be somewhat uncomfortable. In lieu of this, I figured it would be appropriate to visit the area mall instead: I’ve been looking to buy new running shoes to replace a pair from two years ago, as well as a new bag (my old backpack has been around since I was an undergraduate). This particular mall is a relatively new one and quite popular; it’s very busy during the Labour Day long weekend, and after enjoying New York Fries’ Premium Dog (which I added relish, onions, mustard, ketchup and hot sauce to) and their latest Beef Lovers’ poutine, I picked up the items I was looking to buy. After a day’s shopping, we then went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which featured a chicken stir-fry, sa lai gwut (which I finally figured out the hanji for, being “沙拉骨”), crispy shrimps and vegetables.

  • It’s now evening, and although the weather is cooling down, a thick smoke is covering the area again. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd settle down to dinner after Gundula gives a short New Year’s toast, resolving to work towards ending the Human-Neuroi War. The foods mentioned earlier are present, but as the girls begin to enjoy things, an alarm signals the arrival of a Neuroi. This turn of events is hardly unexpected: every Strike Witches episode and OVA previous feature Neuroi combat. Thus, it’s time to take off into the night and deal with the enemy.

  • Sanya’s magic allows her to project radio waves and act as a human AWACS, detecting hostile elements in the air even under the cover of darkness. With Hikari in tow, Sanya is reminded of Yoshika and their first night battle together, suggesting that they hold hands to avoid getting separated. Carrying the Fliegerhammer MRL into combat, Sanya provides heavy firepower useful for punching through the ceramic exterior of a Neuroi. This weapon is likely the logical development for the Fliegerfaust (“pilot fist”), a prototype German multi-barrel rocket launcher that was intended to act as a MANPAD, and shares similarity in appearance to the American M202 FLASH, a multiple-tube rocket launcher for firing incendiary projectiles.

  • The low light conditions of night combat causes Hikari to lose orientation and enter a spin, but Eila, who’d been surprisingly incapable of providing useful advice earlier, helps Hikari return to a stable flight pattern here. When the Witches begin engaging the Neuroi, they find its armour uncommonly tough, requiring multiple direct hits from Edytha and Sanya to begin even cracking the armour. Even after they expose the core, the Neuroi’s quick regeneration and subsequent boost of speed surprises the Witches – it punches through their lines on a beeline to their base.

  • However, this turns out to have been the distraction Eila needed: she was able to foresee this and already positioned herself to destroy the Neuroi. With several well-placed shots from her MG-42, the Neuroi disappears into a shower of luminescent crystals, filling the sky with a calm glow evocative of a single, impressive firework.

  • While Eila is disappointed that her wish of spending some time with Sanya while in Petersburg was seemingly not realised (she never does have the chance to explore the deserted city adjacent to their base during the time the two spend in Petersburg), and that there were no fireworks to speak of, Sanya notes that the Neuroi shards resemble fireworks, which suggests to Eila that she did get her wish after all. The two usher in a New Year hand-in-hand subsequently.

  • With the Neuroi threat eliminated, the OVA draws to a close and reminds audiences that the narrative resumes in episode eight. This also coincides to the near-end of this post: I was not expecting to finish the Brave Witches OVA this quickly, but all the same, it’s nice to get this talk out of the gates. I am, however, surprised at the lack of discussion (or even reaction) from the folks who’ve been long waiting for a Sanya and Eila OVA since Operation Victory Arrow ended with Arnhem Bridge two years ago  – that we did end up getting a Sanya and Eila OVA through Brave Witches is most certainly welcome.

  • I’ll close this post off with a screenshot of Sanya smiling, and looking into the future, the next post on the horizon will deal with Kantai Collection: The Movie. With Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of The Tsar not releasing until after the long weekend is over, I will take advantage of this time to watch the movie and write about it. The alternative is forgetting about this film after the DLC releases, and quite truthfully, that would result in certain death for any Kantai Collection: The Movie discussion that I would have otherwise have planned; DICE was not joking around when they said the In The Name of The Tsar DLC would be the biggest Battlefield update of all time. Besides the new maps, weapons and game modes, DICE has also made sweeping changes to the way LMGs, SMGs and self-loading rifles handle, as well as to conquest ticket bleed. The end results, which can be experienced in CTE, make Battlefield 1 feel a lot more similar to Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3 in handling.

Overall, the Brave Witches OVA ended up being a romp through the chaos at the 502nd headquarters that emphasised humour, bringing to mind the setup for Strike Witches‘ second season. Brave Witches ended up being a more focused, narrative-driven presentation of the Strike Witches universe that demonstrated the franchise could cover ground beyond gratuitous pantsu moments: the narrative was squarely centred around Hikari’s journey towards becoming a full-fledged member of the 502nd, showcasing Neuroi that were legitimate threats in their operation and firepower. The TV series proper succeeded in doing so, spinning a much more focused story that allowed the characters to grow and shine. Consequently, the decision to return back to the comedy and lighter-hearted tones in an OVA was a well-made one, allowing the characters to be seen behaving in entertaining ways without compromising the emotional tenour of the TV series proper. I’ve not seen or heard any news about a continuation of Brave Witches, or if there will be focus on a new group of Witches in any sequels. Even with three seasons in total in addition to a film, the world of Strike Witches remains one that is rife with opportunity for exploration, and as such, any continued exploration of this world would be most welcome in my books.

Shining with Light: Brave Witches Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“We just blew up that fucking ultimate weapon of theirs. P.S. Invasion cancelled, sir.” —George Gordon Haggard Jr., Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Despite Takami’s efforts with her Absolute Eye, the Neuroi Hive manages to repel the 502nd’s attack long enough to regenerate its cloud cover, deflecting the last of the heavy penetrator shells in the process. Hikari manages to arrive as the others land, wondering whether or not the hive can be defeated. She thanks the others for looking after Takami, and after the 502nd discover the remains of the shell’s core, a new plan is concocted: Naoe is to punch out the core after Hikari locates it. It turns out that, while Takami’s magic allows her to locate cores faster, Hikari’s Contact Eye is much more precise, and so, the 502nd take to the skies once more to deliver their payload. Gundula makes use of a magical shard to dissipate some of the clouds en route to the center, and once clear of the Neuroi fire, Hikari locates the core. Naoe is able to deal damage, but her magic is depleted in the process, leaving Hikari to kill the Hive with the Liberator. In the aftermath, Hikari is made a full member of the 502nd, parting ways with Takami on a high note. This is the ending that Brave Witches delivers, an expected and welcome one for its viewers. Remaining much more character-driven than Strike Witches‘ gimmick-laden final battles, Brave Witches manages to succeed in continuing the new trends that Operation Victory Arrow initiated, and with the season now over, I no longer will have Brave Witches to look forwards to on my Wednesday evenings. However, before that can happen, there is still a whole season’s worth of material to look over, alongside a verdict for the latest instalment in the Strike Witches franchise.

Hikari’s persistence and ceaseless determination may initially appear to be the primary theme in Brave Witches, but upon closer inspection, the actual thematic elements are much more intricate than Brave Witches otherwise conveys: through Hikari’s experiences with the 502nd, Brave Witches demonstrates that success is not solely determined by effort alone, but rather, as the sum of one’s experiences, whether these be a willingness to learn and adapt, a resolute eye for seeking out new solutions to a problem or supporting one’s allies within one’s means. Hikari might not be the fastest, strongest or tactically-minded Witch, but in her missions, she uses the resources available to her to the best of her capability, giving her teammates the support they require to neutralise the Neuroi threat, as well as being mindful of what she’s learned from Edytha to remain operational. Thus, while Hikari has a minimal number of Neuroi kills to her name (whereas Yoshika scores a few kills during the course of Strike Witches), her support role cannot be underestimated. While Hikari’s personality is a very driven one, her success as a Witch of the 502nd ultimately comes from her demonstrating an exemplary understanding of her own abilities to help those around her, whether it be giving Waltrud the Liberator or motivating Naoe into supporting her plan to destroy a Neuroi before the 502nd’s supply lines are crippled: by the finale, she’s evidently matured, taking the initiative to defeat an overwhelming enemy even when all seems lost and ultimately, earns the most substantial kill of the season in taking out the Neuroi with a Liberator, of all weapons.

Entering Brave Witches, my main interest was to see whether or not the spin-off could take the concepts from Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and apply them into a new group of Witches in a manner that would emphasise character growth and world-building over pantsu, making use of Neuroi battles to help characters mature. The Operation Victory Arrow OVAs had succeeded, and with the full season of Brave Witches complete, it is quite plain that Brave Witches has, as well: world-building is in abundance as characters explain the logistics of fighting Neuroi and delve into life as a Witch well beyond what was explored in the original Strike Witches. Moreover, whereas the Neuroi of the original Strike Witches were relatively lacking with respect to their intimidation factor, Operation Victory Arrow introduced new challenging aspects that made each battle a much more compelling one to behold. Brave Witches takes this one step further, allowing the Neuroi strategic capabilities, whether it be making use of a spotter-gunner pair to accurately target the 502nd’s provisions or manipulating the regional weather to facilitate easier movements. The Neuroi of Brave Witches represent a considerable threat to the Witches, but in keeping with the anime’s themes, a sufficient combination of teamwork, in conjunction with Hikari’s support, allows for the Neuroi to be repelled, leaving audiences with the impression that the 502nd has earned their victory over the Gregori Hive in spades.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the finale post to Brave Witches, I’m keeping in line with the tradition of having thirty screenshots and figure captions for this post, which should supply ample opportunity to cover most of the areas that are noteworthy. While stymied by production issues, and therefore should have ended last week, Brave Witches nonetheless represents a solid journey that I enjoyed every Wednesday of this season; looking back, it’s amazing as to how quickly these past three months have flown by, and now, it’s very nearly 2017.

  • Takami flies towards the Neuroi Hive with the aim of taking it out. In a solid summarisation of what the entirety of Brave Witches is about, the finale reinforces ceaselessly the theme that teamwork is the key to success. Takami is probably used to shouldering a great deal of responsibility as a consequence of her own role as an older sister, and consequently, is quite accustomed to solving her problems independently.

  • While a virtue, being independent also has its shortcomings: Takami is very nearly shot down before she manages to locate the core, and this time, it is with the support of the remainder of the 502nd that she pushes forwards.  With her fellow Witches repelling laser fire with every picogram of their strength, Takami manages to find the true core and relays its true coordinates to ground fire control, who prepare their 800 mm cannon for firing. However, Takami is downed a second time: lacking the energy to raise a shield, she’s shot down, and Georgette promptly makes to limit the damage.

  • Despite Hikari’s concerns, it appears that the Absolute Eye’s true danger is in diverting the user’s magic entirely away from defense, leaving them totally exposed. Moreover, Takami fell into a coma because medical attention was delayed early in Brave Witches. Hence, when Georgette is on station to support Takami, her condition does not deteriorate, and avoids the same sort of complications that were seen during the second episode. Such a moment here also gives me an opening to capture Georgette’s backside, but as far as fanservice goes, Brave Witches is remarkably tame.

  • The 502nd watch as the reserve shell is fired. This post comes a mere three days after Christmas; Christmas 2016 proved to be a superbly enjoyable one. Owing to scheduling, I had Christmas dinner with extended family a week before Christmas itself; on the menu was prime rib au jus, roasted crayfish topped with garlic and herbs and a unique, homemade sticky rice-stuffed turkey. This past week was Christmas proper: I remained at home thanks to heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve, where I had a turkey-and-ham dinner with the family. The weather cleared by Christmas Day: and after spending the morning playing through Sim City 4, I had a delicious turkey congee (where, as per tradition, I spent a quarter-hour picking the meat off the turkey bones used in the congee itself). Subsequently, I took a hike under the blue winter skies.

  • On Boxing Day, I spent a majority of the day at a mall, capitalising on the ridiculously good sales to pick up a new three-piece suit, tie, sport jacket and informal pants. Unlike last year, no hardcover books caught my eye (and I had already received some books for Christmas, including Makoto Shinkai’s The Sky Longing For Memories), so I passed on that. Because yesterday was a bank holiday, my company had the day off, and I took advantage of that: after stopping for some fish and chips with one of my friends, we watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s been a while since I had fish and chips: this time, I rolled with Alaskan Pollock, and the fish itself was fried nicely. There’s a savouriness to the batter, while the fish itself was flakey and tender. I was also impressed with the fries: seasoned well and thick-cut, they remind me a little of the fries a pub near my old junior high used to sell.

  • Now that I’ve seen Rogue One, I can say that Brave Witches shares commonalities with the latest Star Wars story. In the case of Rogue One, the combination of a darker story that nonetheless exudes hope with fantastic visual elements and Donnie Yen’s skill in martial arts made it a fantastic movie that is worked exceptionally well into the Star Wars universe. With the right balance of humour and introspection, this movie was remarkably fun to watch. Brave Witches does something similar for the Strike Witches franchise, and that I find the fact that I can even draw comparisons between Brave Witches and Rogue One to be a solid indicator that I greatly enjoyed Brave Witches.

  • The regeneration of cloud cover surrounding the Neuroi results in the destruction of the reserve shell, and with Takami out of the game, it seems as through all is lost: command has ordered the 502nd to retreat, as their entire arsenal has now been disabled or depleted. The 502nd themselves are dejected, wondering what other options they have left. However, Hikari is immensely relieved that Takami’s suffered no lasting harm, and her spirits are sufficient to overcome the grim mood settling over the 502nd.

  • Hikari makes another gamble on her Contact Eye, reasoning that like the Neuroi seen in the tenth episode, if the true core can be destroyed, the hive will follow. It’s a one-two combo that she’s now confident in delivering, and hearing this, Naoe is regains her resolve, stating that she’s still ready to punch out the Neuroi. Soon after, Gundula begins feeling a tingling in her old wounds: she’s found the remnants of the magical core from the destroyed shell.

  • Thus, a plan is born: using some of the shards to infuse Naoe’s gloves with magic, the Witches transform Naoe’s right fist into an impromptu shell. The plan seems viable until Naoe realises she’d given her gloves to Hikari, but Hikari has them on hand, allowing the plan to proceed. It is these subtle elements that mark Hikari as an invaluable support member of the 502nd: she’s always ready to lend a hand in whatever manner possible.

  • Meanwhile, Gundula locates a fragment of the shell that had punched through the Neuroi’s clouds earlier and mounts it to her rifle’s underbarrel grenade launcher. The plan is now prepared: after punching an opening through the clouds, the 502nd is to enter the hive and provide Hikari with all the covering fire they can muster. Hikari is then to use her Contact Eye to locate the core, and Naoe can subsequently disable the Neuroi.

  • While the plan sounds far-fetched on paper, in execution, Brave Witches presents the 502nd’s final attempt to destroy the Gregori Hive as one of courageous daring and bold resolve. With no Neuroi assimilation of human technology, this final battle is a show that Witches can best even a Hive on virtue of their own resourcefulness and an unfaltering sense of camaraderie amongst the Witches.

  • As a result, the Brave Witches finale solidly shows just how far Strike Witches has come: gone are the days of using the Witches as a paper-thin justification for showing pantsu, and instead, writers have made a serious effort to create plausible characters in a world rich in lore as a consequence of its unique premise.

  • Georgette stays behind to look after Takami while the remainder of the 502nd take flight and once again, do battle with a challenging foe. The notion of regenerating Neuroi brings to mind the Cyberdemon of DOOM: an incredibly thrilling but difficult battle, players felling it for the first time will be shocked as the Cyberdemon regenerates its health during teleportation to Hell, requiring a second fight to defeat it.

  • I recall that last year, for the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? finale, I was out on Boxing Day shopping when the episode released; when I got home, I was exhausted and could not summon up the motivation to watch the episode, much less write about it. I published the post out three days later. This year, the Brave Witches finale falls on a Wednesday, and I’ve grown acclimatised towards writing out posts on Wednesday evenings now. While this season’s episodic blogging of Brave Witches has been enjoyable, and demonstrates that I can keep up with an anime in an episodic fashion even in spite of my new routine, I think that in the long run, I will not likely be doing episodic posts for a large number of series.

  • Because this blog was not around when Strike Witches‘ first and second seasons were airing (in fact, I was a first-year undergraduate student at the time, going into my second year), I’ve never actually shown the interior of a hive. Armed with flexible arms, the Gregori hive is no pushover, driving the Witches to utilise all of their magical abilities and cunning in order to push through to its main body.

  • Hikari provides excellent covering fire for Naoe, who openly remarks that Hikari has improved substantially. At last, they reach the surface, and upon coming into contact with the Neuroi, Hikari is able to pinpoint the true core’s location, slamming her machine gun into the surface to mark the coordinates for Naoe. Looking back on this season, I recall saying that I would try to push posts out on Saturdays, but as the season wore on, posts came out increasingly early until I managed to work out a schedule that allowed me to publish on the same day as the episode released.

  • For me, Brave Witches also ended up being an exercise to determine whether or not it was possible for me to blog about a series in the episodic format, in a timely fashion. I suppose that the answer now is a resounding “yes”, although whether or not I choose to do so in 2017 will remain largely up to how interested I am in a show and how much time I’ve got. Back in Brave Witches, Naoe is able to expose the core with her strike, causing fractures along the hive’s surface. However, this effort is insufficient: despite Hikari’s words of encouragement, Naoe’s magical power has been exhausted, and she begins falling.

  • Hikari makes to save Naoe even when faced with the prospect of the true core shifting again, and as she positions herself to acquire a solid grip on Naoe, a familiar article falls from her pockets. It’s the FP-45 Liberator pistol, a literal Chekov’s Gun. Because folks from Tango-Victor-Tango seem to have their own definitions for literary terms, I’ll quickly define it here to be a dramatic principle that, once shown on screen, must be necessary to the narrative in some way. In short, if something is there, it must serve a purpose, otherwise, an author should remove it.

  • The term comes from Anton Chekov, who stated: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”. Brave Witches has executed this concept rather well: Hikari is given a Liberator pistol she becomes fond of, and counts as a good luck charm. In the original Strike Witches, the pistol would have likely been forgotten, never to be revisited. In Brave Witches, it returns twice to fulfil important roles in the story, in saving Waltrud from certain death, and giving Hikari the means to neutralise the hive.

  • Hikari humiliates the Neuroi by finishing it off with the Kolibri Liberator pistol. I do not believe there is an achievement in Battlefield 1 for killing an opponent with the Kolibri pistol, but there ought to be, since the weapon’s extremely low damage makes it seemingly a joke. However, as Matimi0 demonstrates, there is actually a way of making the Kolibri pistol work: used in conjunction with the Martini-Henri, it can be used to finish opponents, and the weapon’s high rate of fire can also be used to finish off camping snipers with well-placed headshots. I remarked in a comment somewhere that it would be hilarious if Hikari did wind up using the Liberator to finish the Neuroi, and with that prediction coming to pass, I am reasonably amused.

  • Takami and Georgette watch as the Neuroi hive collapses in a shower of sparkling ceramic. The end of the Neuroi hive is what prompts this page quote: sourced from Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Haggard makes this quip after informing a higher-up that Bad Company had just destroyed the Russian Scalar weapon to avert a war, but in Bad Company 2, it turns out the Russians are invading through Alaska. There is no such surprise in Brave Witches: the Gregori hive is gone for good.

  • Takami and Hikari reconcile properly after Hikari comes back from the assault unharmed, putting an end to the cooler interactions between the two sisters. One aspect that continued to be a point of contention is whether or not Takami’s behaviours during the tenth episode were justified, and being wise like the Mithrandir, I chose not to participate. If and when I’m asked for my position for the matter, I oppose the viewpoint that Takami’s behaviour was “written out of character”. Kind people are not incapable of surprisingly cold acts, especially when they lack the means to properly express it. The actual flow of events was that Hikari was already assigned for the transfer following Takami’s recovery, but Gundula offered Hikari a chance to replace Takami. Had she succeeded, Gundula would have moved to retain Hikari in the 502nd and accept full responsibility for the outcome of the operation against the Neuroi hive.

  • As such, whether or not Takami’s actions are “correct” are irrelevant: folks seem to be fixated on the misconception that Takami herself is directly responsible for Hikari’s reassignment, and while yes, Takami does come across as being quite unfriendly, the call ultimately was never hers to make. Her cold reception of Hikari is merely a front, trying to distance herself from what would otherwise be a difficult farewell and focus on the impending operation with minimal distractions. Hence, the back-and-forth about whether or not Takami’s actions are correct or necessary is about a completely different matter, resulting from misunderstanding the dialogues amongst the characters.

  • Back on the ground, Nikka smothers Naoe in relief that she’d made it back safely, promoting Naoe to say that this hurts more than anything the Neuroi could deal. She calls out to Georgette to be healed, but Georgette smiles and replies that she’s out of magic, as well. Because we’re so close to the Winter 2017 anime season, I note offhand that there aren’t any shows that catch my eye, so for the present, I’ll keep an open mind and in the meantime, look forwards to a season where I can spend my evenings on different things

  • The soundtrack in Brave Witches is something that I’ve mentioned with some frequency in earlier posts, primarily for its excellent role in creating a very specific emotional tenour in the anime. It released last week, and my copy’s arrived now — being able to listen to the songs closely, it is very obvious that the different pieces are meant to evoke memories of the music from the original Strike Witches, while at the same time, show that Brave Witches is distinct, unique from Strike Witches.

  • Of the slice-of-life pieces, my favourite tracks include 佐世保の魔法少女 (The Magical Girls of Sasebo), 孝美への想い (Her thoughts of Takami), 別離 (Separation) and 絆 (Bonds), while the combat-oriented tracks, such as 訓練の日々 (Daily Training), 試験飛行 (Test Flight), 502の戦い (502nd’s Battle) and グリゴーリ出現 (Gregori Appears) are of a quality that would not sound out of place in something like Battlefield 1. My favourite tracks overall on the soundtrack are 出発 (Departure), which resembles “500 Overs” from Strike Witches‘ second season soundtrack, and 別離 for evoking an image of a vast grass field under an unending blue sky, similar to Strike Witches‘ 再会 (Reunion) in atmospherics.

  • Throughout my episodic reviews of Brave Witches, I’ve made callbacks to other works, including Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka??, Futurama, James Bond, Battlefield 1 and even Dark Water. In addition, I’ve brought up concepts, such as thermal shock and structural properties of ceramics, as well as the distribution of mushrooms and some of Les Stroud’s Survivorman techniques: this plethora of topics demonstrates that there is no shortage of conversations that can be had from something like Brave Witches.

  • With Hikari becoming a permanent member of the 502nd, I think that Takami is transferred into the 508th, which also happens to be the course number of my undergraduate honours thesis course, MDSC 508. An official announcement accompanying the episode was that, in 2017, with the release of the Blu-Ray volumes, there will be a thirteenth episode included. The special edition is set to come out on August 25, 2017, which is a long ways into the future, and the artwork for the episode suggests that it will be about Eila and Sanya, which will be quite welcome (especially amongst the fans who felt shafted after Operation Victory Arrow did not depict their stories to any great detail). Naturally, I will be watching and writing about the OVA when the time comes. I would definitely love to see a continuation of Brave Witches, or a series following the (mis)adventures of another Joint Fighter Wing, such as the Africa or Karlsland Witches. With this being said, the next Strike Witches will be the forth instalment, and while I would be both enthralled and disappointed if Strike Witches 4: Modern Warfare becomes a thing, more Strike Witches is always welcome in my book.

  • The short verdict for Brave Witches is that the anime earns an A- (8.5 on a 10-point scale, as per my old Health Science grading rubric). Despite its rough production and derivative story, Brave Witches successfully applies the best concepts of Strike Witches and focuses them into a cohesive story about Hikari and the Strike Witches world, counting on Hikari’s development and interactions with the 502nd to maintain interest in the series, showing that Strike Witches can definitely be a series that stands solidly on its merits (especially in world-building) well beyond pantsu shots alone. This brings my Brave Witches discussions to an end for the present, and it’s been one hell of a ride — I greatly enjoyed watching and writing about Brave Witches, and will miss writing about it.

The ultimate question that remains for Brave Witches is a simple one: is it worth watching? This is not a particularly easy one to answer straight off the bat, even for a self-professed fan of the War on Pants. The primary reason for this is because audiences are a diverse clientele, each with their own preferences and interests, so the answer I can decisively offer is that “it depends”. Brave Witches takes many of the elements from Strike Witches and hones them, creating a set of new characters that add flair to the universe without being derivatives of the 501st Witches. By choosing to focus on the character interactions and presenting the Neuroi as a more credible threat, their world becomes much more intricate, illustrating just how much of an impact the Neuroi have on the world’s inhabitants, as well as the lengths humanity is willing to go to defend its survival. The cumulative effect is that Brave Witches‘ thematic aspect becomes much stronger than in previous Strike Witches, demonstrating that despite the seemingly-ludicrous notion of watching girls flying around the skies sans pants, the universe offers more than enough to tell a noteworthy story about humanity’s quest for survival. Technically, Brave Witches is mid-tier: the artwork is solid for the most part, but production shortcomings were visible in some episodes. Although somewhat distracting in places, overt CG does not detract too substantially from the overall experience. The soundtrack is of a generally high quality, combining the motifs and moods of classic Strike Witches songs with new melodies to emphasise that Brave Witches is simultaneously similar to and different than Strike Witches. The sum of all these points allows for a clearer conclusion to be reached — Brave Witches earns a strong recommendation for existing Strike Witches fans who have appreciated the direction that the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs were heading (and perhaps, doubly so for those who were dissatisfied with Yoshika’s vast latent magical powers). Despite its predictability, there are enough surprises to keep the veteran viewers guessing. For general audiences, Brave Witches earns a recommendation; Brave Witches might prima facie be about girls flying around with their pantsu for the entire world to check out, but notions of teamwork, persistence and adaptability, coupled with a well-developed alternate universe means that there is much more to the anime than is initially apparent.

We Won’t Know Until We Try!: Brave Witches Eleventh Episode Impressions and Review

“Without vision you don’t see, and without practicality the bills don’t get paid.” —Paul Engle

Hikari sets off from the 502nd’s Petersburg base in fine spirits, after sharing a conversation with Naoe about how she’s glad to have had the opportunity to help everyone out to the best of her ability and giving the others a farewell. She meets Sanya and Eila at the train station, and they head off towards Sumous. Meanwhile, the 502nd are briefed on their assignment: they are to defend a pair of Schwerer Gustav 800 mm railway guns that have been equipped with special-purpose ammunition dedicated to take out the Neuroi hive. The operation proceeds nominally after the Witches fend off Neuroi waves, allowing the first gun to fire a HE round that strips away the clouds surrounding the hive. However, the hive responds with a fierce counter-attack, destroying the second gun. Takami tries to remove the shell from the damaged cannon and deliver it, but it is with the 502nd’s full efforts that the second shell is airlifted and dropped over the Neuroi hive. Despite seemingly succeeding, the Hive begins to regenerate; Takami learns that there is a second core that manages to elude her magic. Back on the ground, Hikari leaves the train with the goal of stopping Takami from executing her ability again. While previous battles against Neuroi hives in Strike Witches have always pushed the bounds for plausibility, Brave Witches‘ hive battle has proceeded in the absence of moments that defy known logic, and everything that has been seen this episode has been established firmly as being possible. With the mind no longer wandering about trying to make sense of everything, it leaves audiences free to enjoy the start of Brave Witches‘ final battle.

While the events the of penultimate episode of Brave Witches were predictable, the path taken to reach a particular outcome remain distinct from those seen in Strike Witches; Brave Witches continues to differentiate itself from its predecessor by making use of new tricks in a familiar environment, all the while striving to maintain a fine balance between continuity and viewer engagement. The magic-assisted Schwerer Gustav 800 mm railway guns utilised strategically to assault the Neuroi are indicative of the lessons learnt from the 501st’s misadventures with the Warlock, an artificial weapon using a Neuroi core to power its weapons. In spite of its overwhelming power, its operators lost control of it and were on the cusp of precipitating an even larger crisis. Hence, other military forces have learnt not to make extensive use of Neuroi technology, instead, falling back in weapons that have been tested to work. Practicality notwithstanding, conventional weapons nonetheless remain ineffective against a Neuroi with a mobile core, and in keeping with this episode’s title, it would appear that the eleventh episode is suggesting that in the face of extraordinary circumstances, innovation (in the form of trying something different) is a necessity to overcome challenging odds.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hikari seems to be in high spirits even after the events of the previous episode: she bids farewell to the 502nd, receiving some food and drink from the others, as well as the damaged liberator back from Waltrud. Today’s post comes a bit slower than usual because WordPress decided it was a good idea to change up the user interface, conveniently discarding features I’ve grown used to for pushing a post out.

  • The experience is akin to being switched off a bolt-action rifle I’ve been using for five years, with optics that must be manually zeroed but work between 0 and 1000 meters. The replacement rifle would be a semi-automatic weapon with self-zeroing optics that I have no control over, and can only be zeroed between 0 and 500 meters. There are features that I plainly miss from the old WordPress editor, namely, the ability to copy and paste tags from old posts, the ability to edit posts in bulk and the ability to copy images from my hosts without waiting for an upload, then center them in the page. Back in Brave Witches, once Hikari sets off, and Nikka tearfully waves her goodbye, the 502nd return to their briefing room and are given their assignment.

  • These new “updates” to WordPress impede my speed, and is doubly frustrating because of a long day at work spent trying to figure out Apple’s nonexistent Swift 3.0 documentation. As it stands, seeing Eila and Sanya back in Brave Witches was precisely what I needed to relax this evening; they await Hikari at the train station and are set to accompany her to Kuahava via train.

  • After Eila offers Hikari some salmiakki, the intense flavours in what is essentially salted liquorice overwhelm her, resulting in another “funny face” moment that I’m almost certain resulted in my prompt punishment through the new WordPress interface. The salt is not common table salt (sodium chloride), but the more potent ammonium chloride that can numb the tongue or even induce a stinging sensation. Like stinky tofu, durians and lutefisk, the description of salmiakki means that it is an acquired taste.

  • Back in the air with a skilful partner, Naoe and Takami resolve to blow the Neuroi hive out of the skies as they fly towards their objective. Naoe has plainly grown to care for Hikari, but she remains most familiar with Takami; once the battle begins in earnest, the two take on a forward role in dealing with any Neuroi posing a threat to their escorts. Lacking any of the banter she and Hikari shared, it’s all business for Naoe.

  • Large number of anti-air cannons and tanks participate in the battle, alongside conventional aircraft. Although capable of putting out a large volume of sustained fire, the Neuroi begin their own counter-attack, driving friendly casualties up to thirty percent in a matter of moments. However, in keeping the Neuroi occupied, this reduces the amount of fire directed against the railway artillery cannons.

  • Large number of particles fill the sky as projectiles begin punching through Neuroi. Fantastic for depicting transient objects, such as smoke, flame and ice crystals, particles are graphic objects used in rendering fuzzy phenomenon. They are used to great effect in contemporary games, and in my thesis, were used to fill biomolecular spaces with moving objects to give a sense of activity. Even though modern GPUs can render millions of particles in each frame, biomolecular spaces are yet more complex, being filled with billions of moving proteins and molecules.

  • Having recovered from the saltiness of Eila’s liquorice, Hikari listens to radio transmissions from a receiver that Eila’s brought with them. Throughout the battle, Sanya uses her magic to listen in on her surroundings. Listening to the combat dialogue on a radio can be quite harrowing, since one can’t readily see what’s going on, and I suddenly recall that I’ve not listened to a Flames game on the FAN 960 AM radio channel for quite some time — it was quite difficult to follow a game. Typically, the only actions really easy to visualise were goals and saves.

  • The first shell is fired as per the battle plan: here, Witches of the 502nd defend it from Neuroi attack, harmlessly deflecting the attack. The Schwerer Gustav guns were capable of putting 7.1 tonne shells 38 kilometers downrange and originally planned to be utilised to punch through heavily fortified positions on the Maginot Line, although the weapons were not used with any frequency — the Gustav saw combat use in a few battles, while the Dora was used in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 but is thought to have never been fired. Towards the end of World War II, Germany destroyed the weapons to prevent the advancing Red Army from capturing them.

  • The first HE round is successful: after leaving the barrel, it imparts a large shock wave that jostles nearby Witches around and dispels the clouds surrounding the hive. However, heavy fire penetrates a shield that Nikka and Georgette have projecting, destroying the barrel on one of the Schwerer Gustav cannons and rendering it inoperational. Ground command immediately orders their remaining Gustav cannons to chamber the anti-Neuroi shell, but the twenty minute wait becomes unacceptable owing to how quickly the battle is moving.

  • This is the first time that I’ve seen a Neuroi Hive without its clouds, and the structure  of the Gregori hive resembles a large shipyard similar to the Tharsis Shipyard from in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: it’s a large pillar with two large rings surrounding it, and Edytha discovers that it is impervious to conventional weaponry, necessitating the rounds from the Schwerer Gustav to destroy properly. The hive offers one additional challenge: flexible appendages that can independently target fast-moving targets such as the Witches.

  • Determination and a refusal to give up is a trait the Karibuchi sisters share; Takami tries to single-handedly lift the anti-Neuroi shell to its destination. Alexsandra mentions that the shell’s mass is around one ton, but even assuming it is one metric ton (1000 kilograms) as opposed to one US ton (roughly 907.18474 kilograms), the shell would still be much lighter than the Schwerer Gustav’s high-explosive round, which was the lighter of the two shells the weapon could fire and had a mass of 4.8 metric tons.

  • In a titanic effort from all of the 502nd’s Witches, the shell is finally moved and airlifted to its destination, where gravity is counted on to do the rest, allowing the shell to punch through the Neuroi’s core and destroy it. In its original specifications, the shell is stated to have the equivalent of a hundred Witches’ worth of magic, in turn leading me to wonder where the magical energy is extracted from.

  • Going purely from aesthetics alone, Georgette and Nikka probably remain my favourite Witches of the 502nd, although I could be swayed to be more receptive of Takami after this screenshot. The reason why this image was included in lieu of a moment featuring the 502nd in combat was primarily because Brave Witches proved to be very disciplined with respect to the number of infamous pantsu moments that appeared throughout much of its run. However, there are some moments such as these, and so, I include Takami’s assets to accentuate the fact that crotch-shots are rare in Brave Witches, if they only appear once every two to four posts.

  • The Neuroi hive shatters immediately after impact, and the 502nd believe their operation has completed successfully, but given that it is only the eleventh episode, it was not surprising to see the Neuroi begin reassembling itself, with the Witches learning that it had a second movable core. Ordinarily, this would be counted as a contrived means of extending the battle, but because Brave Witches has made it clear that Neuroi are capable of such a feat, I chalk things up to clever writing that plainly establish what is and is not possible within the Brave Witches universe.

  • I’ve read that some viewers were looking for a bit of time spent giving Gundula some background (namely, how she came about her injury and what her story was) in animated form, but this penultimate episode offers none of that; apparently, the story was covered in supplementary material. She is a phenomenal Witch who suffered a serious back injury after having her sight obstructed by Neuroi debris, and while usually choosing desk work, she will fly into battle if the need is great. I found that Gundula resembles Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s Elisabeth in appearances alone.

  • A break in Neuroi jamming allows Hikari to learn that the Neuroi has regenerated, and that Takami is planning to utilise her trump card to stop it. In light of Takami’s falling into a coma the last time this ability was used, Hikari feels that it’s up to her to stop Takami. She leaps off the train to Eila and Sanya’s surprise and begins making her way to her Striker unit, and one wonders if Eila and Sanya may also participate in next week’s showdown with the Neuroi hive.

  • Now that things have cooled off a bit, I conclude that, if I can just figure out how to copy tags between posts and determine what’s needed to properly format images so there is not a large gap between the image and figure caption, I could probably grow accustomed to the new interface. Similarly, there might be a means, albeit a roundabout one, of solving the Swift 3.0 problem I’ve got at work. I won’t know until I try for either, and with that being said, this week’s post comes to a full end.

Hikari’s concern for her sister is what leads her to jump train and make her way back to an operational Striker Unit: having solidly established that Hikari cares deeply for Takami, it is quite fitting that it is this concern that prompts her to come back. With Hikari looking to join the battle against the Hive, the upcoming finale is shaping up to be a climatic sequence that will likely see the two sisters see eye-to-eye about Hikari’s desire to fight alongside the 502nd as a Witch. There’s only one episode to Brave Witches left by this point, and it should be quite apparent that Brave Witches has done a fantastic job this season in both standing out from Strike Witches while simultaneously incorporating the best elements from its predecessor. It will be quite exciting to see how Brave Witches chooses to send the audiences off in its finale. In keeping with how I handle finales for episodic reviews, next week’s post on the last episode will be a bit larger than the average post, detailing my thoughts on the series as a whole, and unless Brave Witches manages to do something completely outrageous (equivalent to an NHL team blowing a 6-0 lead with five minutes left in the third period), I am reasonably confident that my assessment of Brave Witches will be a predominantly positive one.