The Infinite Zenith

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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.

Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie – A Review and Reflection, Looking Ahead To The Road To Berlin

“Comedy is great because there’s no overhead.” –Ron White

In the aftermath of their triumph over the Neuroi Hive, the 501st Joint Fighter Wing’s members head their separate ways, and Yoshika returns home a hero. With her magic depleted, Yoshika decides to study conventional medicine instead, although she feels that she’s become useless in the days since her return. When Mio visits and learns of Yoshika’s ambitions to pursue medicine, she passes this information to Minna, who suggests giving Yoshika a recommendation to an European medical school, thereby giving everyone an opportunity to be with Yoshika again. Sargeant Hattori Shizuka is assigned to help with escorting Yoshika over from Japan to Europe, and upon arriving in a port in Calais, Yoshika reunites with Lynette and Perrine. Meanwhile, upon hearing of Yoshika’s arrival, Charlotte, Francesca, Sanya and Eila prepare to head off to join the rest of the 501st. En route to Dijon, Yoshika and Shizuka encounter a Neuroi. They rush off to sound an evacuation of a nearby village, only to find the village deserted. When a massive Neuroi appears, the two hide under a jeep. However, having caught snippets of their communications, Minna and the others arrive to help Yoshika and Shizuka out: the Yamato also joins the group en route to the combat area. Erica and Gertrude swiftly locate the pair, and the Yamato shells the Neuroi, destroying it swiftly before Shizuka has a chance to see the famed 501st in combat. Amidst the reunion, Yoshika’s magic reawakens. She heals Charlotte and Erica after Gertrude mangled their faces in anger for having lied about Yoshika being lost to the Neuroi. With the 501st back together, Mio invites Shizuka to join them as they continue on with escorting Yoshika to applying for medical school.

Going from the summary alone, one would never have guessed that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie was a spin-off comedy of the main Strike Witches series. The film premièred in Japan in October 2019 and saw a home release on Christmas Day, acting as a continuation to the events of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!. In practise, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie is a light-hearted parody of the events seen in Strike Witches: The Movie, which similarly started out with Yoshika accepting an offer to pursue medicine overseas, reunite with the 501st and help fight off a massive Neuroi, regaining her powers in the process. Despite Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie parodying the events of Strike Witches: The Movie, it manages to inherit the original movie’s thematic elements in showing how one’s heroes aren’t always what they seem. In both films, Shizuka learns that the entire 501st aren’t exactly the stoic heroes she’d imagined them to be, but these imperfections do not diminish each Witches’ sense of duty when the moment calls for it. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie thus comes across as being particularly enjoyable because comedy is injected into every turn of the film: Yoshika laments being a freeloader while at home, Lynette’s openly aware of Yoshika’s perverted tendencies and greets her in a way to avoid being groped when she arrives in Europe, the town Yoshika and Shizuka are empty and therefore didn’t need saving, and Shizuka’s hopes of seeing Mio and the 501st in action are dashed when the Yamato one-shots the Neuroi threatening the town. Distinct character traits about each of the Witches are brought out in full force, but rather than degrading the characters, serves to make their dynamics more hilarious than in the original movie.

Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie ended up being an unexpectedly pleasant surprise with respect to its artwork: from Calais to St. Trond, and the Miyafuji Clinic, all of the backgrounds and settings in the film are rendered with a surprising amount of detail, comparable to the main series itself. While Yoshika and the others retain their distinct, flatter appearances, the artwork in this movie is improved over that of its predecessor. Despite being thirty minutes in length, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie does indeed feel like a movie, taking the Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! universe and expanding in the scale of both universe and story. The high quality of artwork suggests that the creators had fun making this series, and despite the emphasis on comedy, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! should be considered as a legitimate part of the Strike Witches universe. For a series that was meant to act as a light-hearted romp, a parody of the original Strike Witches, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! proved quite enjoyable in its own right, and the movie certainly reiterates this. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie wisely chooses not to do anything novel with the story or introducing anything new. In this way, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie succeeds in giving viewers a very brief, but enjoyable primer on what Strike Witches: The Movie had been about, leaving them in a good spot for the third season.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that today marks the twelfth anniversary of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. It’s bewildering as to how time flies, but I still remember their opening ceremony, which concluded with Li Ning igniting the cauldron by ascending into the air on wires, after a stunning four hour show of Chinese heritage and culture. To this day, no other nation has ever put on as extravagant and spectacular of a show. It’s also been more than a year since I last watched and wrote about anything to do with Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!: my original plan had actually been to write about the movie back in January, but circumstances would eventually result in my writing about the film only now. Those same circumstances have also resulted in this being the only (not just the first) talk out there on Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie – I haven’t been able to find anyone who’s seen the film or write about it anywhere else online.

  • Because there is no discussion at all on the internet surrounding Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, I’ve decided to make this post a little bigger so I can showcase more moments from the film. I feel that for a thirty minute special, it’s a bit of a stretch to count Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie as a film: this one handles more like an OVA than a movie. However, since the title is given as Strike Witches Gekijōban: 501-butai Hasshinshimasu! (げきじょうばん, Hepburn gekijiōban, means “movie of the TV series), I’ll continue to refer to it as a film rather than OVA.

  • I’m rather fond of the chibi art style used in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!; it creates an adorable feeling that gives the series the same atmosphere as something like Yuru Camp△ and GochiUsa. The original Strike Witches never evoked this feeling, being more of a thinly-veiled excuse to show off pantsu. As time wore on, Strike Witches increasingly delved into world-building and exploring the extent of the impact the Human-Neuroi War has had on everyday life.

  • Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie introduces Shizuka Hattori in the Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! style. She sports the same spirit and admiration for the 501st as she did in the original movie, but lacks the persistent belief that Yoshika should act more like a soldier. Because Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie occurs when Strike Witches: The Movie does, the timeline of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! relative to the actual series becomes much more uncertain, and it makes more sense to say that this is a full-on spin-off set in its own timeline.

  • Going just from this still of the Miyafuji Clinic alone, one would never guess that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie is a chibi spinoff of Strike Witches. The background and artwork are detailed enough to be used in Strike Witches proper. The series has come a long way in visuals; Gonzo handled the first season, and AIC would take on the second season, as well as the movie. The artistic style AIC used would carry over to Silver Link’s production of the Operation Victory Arrow series, and Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is jointly produced by acca effe and Giga Production.

  • Whereas Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s animation had been deliberately inconsistent in places, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie is much smoother and clean by comparison. Since Yoshika’s returned home, her friends in the 501st phone her on a fairly regular basis, although they tend to forget there is a bit of a time zone difference: Japan Standard Time is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, so whenever the girls call Yoshika, it’s always two in the morning for her.

  • In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Erica is a bit more mischievous than her usual self, although she’s still slovenly. Gertrude’s sisterly concern for Yoshika is even more pronounced: I remember Gertrude for her constantly striving to be a model soldier, but she also has a soft spot where Yoshika is concerned. In Strike Witches: The Movie, she dismisses a report as a rumour until Erica mentions Yoshika is in the area, which prompts her to change her mind immediately and kit up. GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza greatly resembles Gertrude, and one can’t help but feel that Rize is a stand-in for Gertrude in a fluffier environment with no warfare.

  • Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was originally based off a 4-koma manga, and as such, each episode was distinctly divided into subsections that contained a handful of strips’ worth of jokes. Running for ten minutes each, they represented a short-lived but fun experience. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie is three times the length of an ordinary episode, and has a more movie-like feeling in that transitions between scenes are a bit less abrupt and more smoothly woven together.

  • When Shizuka encounters a bear, she immediately plays dead, compliments herself on outsmarting a primitive beast and then is left to wonder what next. Most guides suggest playing dead if encountering grizzly bears, as they attack when they feel threatened. In this case, moving off slowly once it’s certain the bear is out of the area is what one should do. By comparison, black bears are more easily intimidated, and making oneself bigger, as well as vocalising loudly, is usually enough to consider these bears to run off. What Shizuka encounters is a Ursus thibetanus japonicus, the Japanese Black Bear: Japanese guides advise backing away slowly while maintaining eye contact rather than being noisy or playing dead.

  • Ever since rescuing a bear cub back in the day, Yoshika’s befriended both the cub and his mother: the bear that Shizuka encounters turned out to be the same bear that Yoshika’s friends with. He brings Yoshika to Shizuka, who assumes that the latter is dead. She decides to perform CPR on Shizuka and decides to attempt chest compression, but ultimately uses the Schafer method, where the victim is placed prone and  pressure is applied to the upper back. Designed to expel water from the lungs, the method was replaced by the mouth-to-mouth in 1959, which was found to be more effective in delivering air to the victim.

  • Despite being a comedy, the producers for Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie did indeed take the time to research smaller details to create a plausible world. Anime that include such details end up creating a richer setting for its events, increasing immersion, but there is also one small caveat – it attracts the minds who demand utmost realism in their fiction. These people have historically attempted to speculate on events within a given series using real-world statistics and facts as the basis, but because fiction has an objective (i.e. telling a specific story), such speculation has missed the mark as writers may choose to discard some aspects of reality to better accommodate the message.

  • In Japan, Yoshika is rarely seen without her best friend and classmate, Michiko Yamakawa. Michiko often brings small animals for Yoshika to heal, although in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, when she spots the bear, she also decides to play dead, saddening the bear and leading Yoshika to believe she’s in need to CPR. This time, Yoshika decides to go with the more modern route in the hope of copping a feel, but Michiko reveals she was never in any trouble to begin with.

  • With the 501st’s message delivered, Yoshika heads off to Europe with Shizuka accompanying her. Shizuka, even more so than in the movie, begins dreaming of what she would need to do to support Yoshika and quickly ventures into yuri territory. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! had taken what fans believed to be romantic subtexts in the original series and put them in the open for the sake of humour. I’ve seen folks taking yuri very seriously, and in fact, have lost a handful of readers over the years because of my decision not to venture into discussing these matters with an academic mindset – for me, yuri isn’t serious business in any way, and I’ve never felt it necessary to call in various –isms or -tives in my discussions of it.

  • En route to Europe, Yoshika decides to hit the books and ends up going through the pile of textbooks that accompanied her. One of the questions she gets involves management of a panfacial fracture. Contemporary studies suggest that the “occlusion first” approach (i.e. reconstruction starting from the mandible to restore airways) is effective, although for Yoshika, she previously used magic to rebuild damaged faces. She begins to go on a tangent about Charlotte and Francesca, who had often received such injuries from angering Gertrude. As it turns out, they’re in North Africa on reconnaissance, but are recalled when they run up a massive invoice for their “necessities”.

  • Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie‘s portrayal of Calais is solid, rivalling the movie in terms of visual quality, and the only difference is that the Amagi looks to be a little simpler, flatter, which is a part of the aesthetic seen in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!. Traditionally, Strike Witches is something I know best for its blue skies and ocean scenery. This is the one thing about Strike Witches that has remained constant despite all of the different studios working on it. Here, I note that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie is going to be trickier to find, and I believe Funimation is the only way to watch the film for folks overseas. Their copy of the movie, however, is of a far lower visual quality than the BD that I watched: besides having more compression artefacts, the Funimation version is also hard-subbed and watermarked.

  • If I had to guess, the watermarks and hard subs are present to prevent people from taking screenshots of the movie. Funimation has a history of doing dubious things that constitute gatekeeping, but that will be a topic for another time. Returning to the movie, if memory serves, Lynette flew into Yoshika from the front when they meet during Strike Witches: The MovieJoint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie has her flying in from behind – it would appear in the parodies, the other Witches are well aware of Yoshika’s fascination with mammaries and do their best to reduce the risk of Yoshika groping them. In the first season of Strike Witches, Yoshika became enamoured on the topic of mammaries after meeting Lynette and even considers groping Mio, although this trait became increasingly subtle and infrequently shown as the series wears on.

  • I’d actually just gotten around to watching Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie earlier this week: it had been a long weekend, and having spent a nontrivial portion of Sunday exploring the Blackrock Depths in World of Warcraft, I was exhausted, so on the Monday, I decided to take it easy and spent the morning doing yard work, mowing the backyard and clearing it of weeds. With an open afternoon and nothing on my itinerary, I dozed off for a bit, then sat down to watch Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie and then focused on dinner prep: the August long weekend is, after all, a time of celebration: on the menu that evening was roast beef, garlic prawns, fully-loaded mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli with red Bell peppers.

  • Temperatures topped out at 28ºC on Monday, and it was a beautiful evening that I sat down for dinner to. Over the past week, it’s remained quite warm, and this is the time of year that I enjoy the most, even if it can get quite stifling once temperatures pass 25ºC: while beautiful summer days invite going for walks under blue skies and warm weather, on the hottest of days, there’s a satisfaction in lying down somewhere cool and taking it easy. This past week, it’s been hot right up until yesterday: after reaching 32ºC on Tuesday and 30ºC on Wednesday, Thursday was a cooler 28ºC, and a morning rainfall brought the high yesterday back down to 20ºC.

  • Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, Eila and Sanya decide to head off and find Yoshika after Eila’s fortune-telling finds that Yoshika’s in danger. A practitioner of Tarot divination, Eila finds pulls “The Tower”, which is usually interpreted as sudden, unexpected change or adversity. However, some interpretations of “The Tower” read it as accepting higher education or liberation, as well. For folks versed in Tarot, then, “The Tower” that Eila draws has dual meaning, foreshadowing what lies ahead for Yoshika.

  • At the prospect of being alone with Sanya, Eila is so aroused that her common sense evaporates, and she tries unsuccessfully to get intimate with Sanya. In the end, Sanya decides to hold hands with Eila so that she doesn’t fall asleep mid-air, sending Eila into a state of pure bliss. Of everyone in Strike Witches, the relationship between Eila and Sanya is the most obvious to spot, so even in a parody like Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Eila’s actions aren’t too exaggerated (which is saying something).

  • Along the way, Eila and Sanya encounter the Yamato and consider asking for permission to use their communications array. However, they are pleasantly surprised to find Mio on board: at least, Sanya is happy. Eila is frustrated that her alone time with Sanya is over. This is a recurring joke throughout Strike Witches, but here in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, I find that Eila’s had a pretty good run compared to other series, where she gets interrupted in minutes or even seconds.

  • A tunneling Neuroi appears as Shizuka and Yoshika head towards Helvetia: a small town is right in its path, and when attempts to get in contact with nearby Witches fail, Yoshika decides to take matters into her own hands. In Strike Witches: The Movie, Yoshika and Shizka separate here, with the latter heading into the town to help with the evacuation, and Shizuka taking to the skies in an attempt to engage the Neuroi. However, when Shizuka is injured, Yoshika attempts to deal with the Neuroi herself. She is able to take down the tunneling type, but is overwhelmed when an even larger Neuroi appears.

  • By comparison, no one is in any imminent danger in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie from the Neuroi; instead, it is Yoshika’s deadly driving that Shizuka must contend with. The reason why Perrine and Lynette wanted to have Shizuka drive was because Yoshika, having learnt from Charlotte herself, doesn’t exactly demonstrate the safest of practices while on the road. Shizuka sees for herself what this means, as Yoshika takes the wheel and jumps down a cliff edge in a bid to get to the nearby town more quickly.

  • The tower type Neuroi leaves a bit of a plot hole in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, as it’s never destroyed. Still in shock from the horrors of Yoshika’s driving, Shizuka is in a deathly shade of grey and wearily remarks that she’s already dealt with the Neuroi, but Yoshika finds this a little hard to believe. As soon as this gag is over, however, it’s onto attempting to get the whole town evacuated. Transitions between moments in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie are smooth, and there are times where viewers can forget that this film has its origins in a 4-koma manga.

  • This is probably the most adorable moment in all of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie; when Yoshika and Shizuka arrive in town, they find it completely deserted. After entering some of the buildings and calling out to people, it becomes clear that all of the residents have already evacuated, saving the two the trouble of having to do it themselves and fend of Neuroi. One of the unexpected aspects about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was that it proved to be as heart-melting to watch as something like Kiniro Mosaic or GochiUsa.

  • In classic Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! fashion, after Shizuka and Yoshika ascertain that the town’s residents are likely safe, they encounter a ludicrous number of Neuroi. The look of shock on Shizuka’s face contrasts well with Yoshika’s attempts to get a door open so they may take cover from the Neuroi. Funny faces are high on my list of reasons why Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is so enjoyable to watch, and here, after Yoshika fails, the two resort to hiding under their jeep while waiting out the storm.

  • While hiding out, Shizuka begins daydreaming about what the 501st might pull off if they were all present, and Yoshika develops a minor nosebleed. As Shizuka and Yoshika share conversation, the members of the 501st manage to receive fragments of said conversation, pin down their approximate location and decide to head on over right away after assuming Yoshika’s taken a serious injury. Gertrude faints in shock, so Minna and Erica carry her into the combat area.

  • Sanya picks up Charlotte and Francesca’s signals, as well. Hearing this, Minna formulates a simple strategy: the Yamato is to engage the Neuroi while everyone else searches the town for Yoshika and Shizuka. By now, the tower-shaped Neuroi is gone, replaced by the ship-like one that spews a legion of drones into the skies before taking to the skies itself. It’s no hive, but for the Witches, still represents a considerable challenge to take down.

  • Upon arriving at the town, the 501st find the deserted jeep. When Gertrude becomes distracted by the thought of Yoshika being injured, Erica decides to convince her that in the worst case, she’d simply be able to simultaneously visit Christina and Yoshika at the same time. Gertrude flies off, leaving Erica to check the jeep, and indeed, she finds the pair hiding out here away from the Neuroi.

  • Unaware that Shizuka and Yoshika are nearby, Erica brings her Striker unit close to the ground, kicking up dust that forces the pair out. Erica and Charlotte decides to pull a fast one on Gertrude: from her dialogue, it would appear that Yoshika had succumbed to her wounds. However, while the phrasing might be dubious, Erica’s not wrong: Yoshika only has a minor nosebleed that clears up in no time at all, and she isn’t in any need of healing as a result.

  • Of course, when Gertrude finds out the truth, she goes ballistic and beats the living daylights out both Charlotte and Erica before hugging Yoshika in relief. During said physical beating, Yoshika attempts to avert Shizuka’s eyes, since in the latter’s mind, the 501st are a tight-knit group who care for one another; the reality is quite different, and the 501st as seen in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! are a motley bunch who grate on one another and only keep together because of Yoshika’s cooking.

  • With the Neuroi still a threat, the 501st require all of their Witches in fighting shape, and Yoshika is asked to heal them. Since her magic’s gone, Yoshika falls back on conventional medicine and estimates it’ll be about twelve years before she’s ready – Minna decides it’s worth risking Yoshika’s magic anyways. Strike Witches: The Movie had portrayed Yoshika’s magic as being completely depleted, and so, when it was restored, some viewers were quick to call it out for being implausible, drawn from thin air and magic reserves in a Witch were finite, explaining why active-duty Witches weren’t ever older than twenty.

  • An old nemesis, Akeiko Sumeragi, counter-argued that a Witch’s magical output was analogous to a battery’s voltage, so it was plausible that Yoshika’s magic could return. While seeing a Witch’s magic reserves as a battery is reasonable, Sumeragi plainly didn’t understand how batteries work – his definitions do not line up with definitions used in electrodynamics. Rather than Sumeragi’s definitions, we take voltage to be a function of resistance and current; the voltage of a battery can be thought of as the rate of current flowing through it at a given time. It is thus appropriate to describe a Witch’s output as current (the amount of charge flowing through a point at a given time). In the context of Strike Witches, a high “voltage” moment would be Yoshika using Reppumaru, which pulled magic out of her very quickly, while current refers to the Witch’s ability channel the magic that powers their flight, shield and other abilities.

  • Visually, if voltage is how fast a river is flowing, then current can be described by the volume of water flowing through the river. From here, the capacity of a Witch can be described as Amp hours (how much charge outputted for how long). As Witches age, one might say that current decreases as a function of resistance increasing and voltage decreasing, although in most batteries, voltage doesn’t drop as quickly as resistance increases – Sumeragi’s explanation therefore fails even if the analogy was on the right track. This is one of those things I’m weary about in anime where science is applicable to some extent; there’s always someone who thinks they know the science, but then butchers definitions and terms. If said individual is insistent they’re correct, then cyclic conversations that detract from more fruitful discussions will result.

  • I don’t believe Yoshika ever meets Heidemarie in person during the course of Strike Witches, but in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, it appears that Heidemarie is somewhat aware of Yoshika’s reputation and prefers to hide behind Mio’s aircraft for their greeting. When Yoshika sees her body, her nosebleed immediately resumes.

  • Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie appears to be finished, but there’s still the matter of the Neuroi. The vast number of drones it deployed doesn’t seem to trouble the others, but Minna notes it’s still important to deal with it before it can wreck havoc elsewhere. Mio asks Shizuka to help out with the combat, and Shizuka is excited, feeling the time has finally come to see the 501st work their magic.

  • Before anyone can get up into the air, the Yamato fires its 18-inch guns and annihilates the Neuroi threat. Battleship guns have been shown to be effective against standard Neuroi – in the second of the Operation Victory Arrow episodes, Charlotte and Francesca help extract a serpent-like Neuroi by means of a cable, allowing a fleet of battleships to fire on it and destroy its core. For the most part, it would appear that Neuroi can be defeated by conventional weapons, but owing to their own durability, mobility and firepower, the Witches are required to quickly reach the core. Modern day weapons would fare a little better: cruise missiles could be shot down by the Neuroi’s beams, but highly accurate artillery fire using APFSDS rounds could conceivably punch through their armour and pierce the core.

  • For her contributions, Shizuka is promptly relieved of her current mission and reassigned. However, the illusion fails here: Shizuka learns the truth behind the legend, and it is admittedly disappointing. However, Lynette steps in at the last second with a save. This puts Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie in line with Strike Witches: The Movie as far as the timeline goes, and Erica here announces her future plans to open a hospital. Erica’s lifelong ambition is to follow her father’s footsteps as a doctor, and to this end, studies conventional medicine. She invites Yoshika and the remainder of the 501st to join her, which sounds like a happy ending by any definition.

  • With this, my Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie post finally comes to an end, and like Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I enjoyed the movie to a much greater extent than I had coming in, even though the movie is really just a parody of Strike Witches: The Movie. I am glad to have watched this film, and can therefore enter The Road to Berlin fully caught up with the Strike Witches series. Despite Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie being a tougher movie to find, it is quite worthwhile for Strike Witches fans looking for a final few laughs before we enter season three. In the meantime, I will be looking to write about Houkago Teibou Nisshi again in the near future as we near the halfway point, and two nights ago, the Calgary Flames prevailed 4-0 over the Winnipeg Jets to secure a playoff spot, winning the qualifier round three games to one, so I am looking forwards to seeing if the Flames can put up a good showing this year during the Stanley Cup run.

The greatest point of contention that Strike Witches: The Movie had left behind was the fact that at its conclusion, Yoshika had unexpectedly recovered her magical powers after having depleted them following the events of the second season. Viewers counted this as unwarranted deus ex machina, a shortcut that rendered Yoshika able to fly with the 501st once more. However, Strike Witches: The Movie had hinted that Yoshika’s magic potential had been unparalleled, and using Reppumaru to stop the Neuroi-Yamato in the second season had depleted her magical reserves at that point in time. By Strike Witches: The Movie, her powers had recharged but remained dormant – it is only when her life is in imminent danger, and she realises what’s at stake with her friends, that Yoshika regains access to her magic. This is a story-motivated decision that shows her commitment to her friends, but it’s also one with a modicum of reasoning behind it. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie, on the other hand, Yoshika’s powers are simply diminished and remain unfocused rather than depleted: she only seems to be able to restore hair for most of the movie. It isn’t until a hug from Lynette that helps her to focus and apply healing magic to fix Charlotte and Erica – Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie jokingly suggests that it’s the power of friendship that helps Yoshika regain access to her magic, but the fact that Yoshika’s power is simply reduced, rather than absent, indicates that it was not so outrageous for her to regain access to them in Strike Witches: The Movie. In this way, by painting the serious events of Strike Witches: The Movie in a lighter tone, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! The Movie acts as a gentle re-treading of the movie, a chance to provide the characters of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing to bounce off one another one more time, before things turn serious again for Strike Witches‘ third season, The Road To Berlin. Some thirteen months after I’d last wrote about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I continue to stand by my assertion that, given the sheer comedy derived from Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I anticipate that The Road To Berlin is going to be much more serious in nature, and more focused, compared to its predecessors.

Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – Whole series review and reflection

“As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.” –Thanos, Avengers: Endgame

Everyday life at base continues for the 501st, with the Witches butchering their celebrations for Halloween, do their best to give Mio a proper haircut, attempt to fix Francesca’s toothache, explore different ways to relax and prepare for their night duties. The Witches also attempt to stay cool under the hot summer weather, and even begin picking up basic first aid skills from Erica, but fail when they become distracted by their mannequins. When Mio’s execution of the reppuzan levels the base, the Witches are taken to a desert island while the navy engages the Neuroi hive. A stray blast from Mio’s sword destroys the distant hive, and Yoshika loses all of her magic attempting to absorb the reppuzan when Mio’s sword goes out of control. The Witches are forced to disband now that the Neuroi threat has been neutralised, and from the fact they have no base to return to. This brings the only anime I actively followed during the spring season to a close, and I imagine that readers would be surprised that I return to wrap up my thoughts about it, especially considering that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was a series of shorts of similar length to Yama no Susume, but unlike Yama no Susume, has no coherent theme to speak of.

While Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! may lack a central message, character growth and even serviceable artwork and animation, the series proved to be surprisingly entertaining by accentuating the outrageous interactions amongst the characters and placing them in ridiculous situations. In the near-total absence of a Neuroi threat, if the girls are allowed to come and go as they please, complete chaos reigns as a result of everyone’s different cultural backgrounds and personalities. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! suggests that without the Neuroi unifying everyone’s efforts towards defending their countries and protecting what’s dear to them, the Witches themselves are simply ordinary people who may not always see eye-to-eye, creating moments of hilarity that far exceed initial expectations for a show of its type. It then stands to reason that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to show how extraordinary circumstances brought about by war really forces individuals to rise to the occasion and do what is necessary to protect their homelands and their people. As such, while appearing quite irrelevant and irreverent, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! actually sets the stage for what one can reasonably expect from Strike Witches: Road to Berlin – having provided viewers with an overt display of humour, it appears that the mood looks to darken as Strike Witches returns in 2020.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the time since my initial discussion for Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, very few have actively chosen to follow through with this short series which is certainly not known for being a logical or particularly useful addition to the Strike Witches world. One of the main challenges I had with Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! was figuring out how it fit in the Strike Witches chronology. Ultimately, seeing the Witches’ base as being the one shown in the second season suggests that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is set during the events of Strike Witches 2. The manga The Sky That Connects Us acted as a bridge between the first and second seasons: while the second season was essentially a copy of the first, it began developing a more meaningful story.

  • The page quote is actually sourced from my more recent thoughts about the old anime community: a decade ago, shows like Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! would have been subject to all sorts of criticisms simply because viewers of that time period had a stronger need to find meaning in their works and saw shows like Strike Witches as being pointless, taking away from a studio’s ability to produce more “intellectually stimulating” works. I’ve long argued that the worth of a particular piece of fiction is not judged by its social relevance or how many obscure philosophical references it possesses, but rather, by its ability to immerse or amuse.

  • One adjective that I was not expecting to characterise Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! as was “adorable” – the character dynamics actually come across as being fairly endearing even though they are, from a more rational standpoint, more mischievous than what is tolerated in a normal setting. Here, the girls use a trap to try and catch Francesca so they can pull her tooth, but manage to ensnare Sanya instead. Continuing from earlier, the page quote is also applicable to recent events: I noticed an unusual trend of inbound traffic from Anime News Network this morning and was not able to find any referral links.

  • After looking around, it appears that anyone caught linking to my blog at Anime News Network’s forums, or commenting about this blog in a positive light, will immediately have their posts deleted and may even risk a ban. I knew ANN was rather intolerant of alternate perspectives, especially with respect to their actions of late, but this really hits home as to how adverse they are to any brand of thought contrary to their own. For my readers, I recommend being more cautious about how trustworthy certain articles from ANN are, and note that it’s a good idea to always exercise one’s own judgement before reaching a conclusion; while ANN might be well-known, their authority remains questionable, and their claims are not always factual. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, after finding a way to enjoy the months-old mochi from home with the others, Yoshika prepares to write a thank you letter for her family.

  • Mio remarks that onsen are best piping hot to the point of pain, and Perrine agrees even though it causes her discomfort, when Gertrude comments on the heat. I’m particularly fond of this moment: Mio’s characteristic laugh makes a brief return, and the facial expression on Gertrude reminds me somewhat of Harukana Receive‘s Haruka. Gertrude ended up being my favourite character from Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! because of her uncommon affection towards Yoshika: here, she’s far more supportive and concerned about Yoshika than anywhere else in Strike Witches.

  • One of the few grievances I have about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is that Lynette’s role was diminished. I vaguely recall mentioning this in my talk at the three episode mark, and I would hazard a guess that the reason for this is because Lynette is, compared to the other Witches, less remarkable in personality. Her main defining characteristic is to act as a peer for Yoshika, having somewhat more experience with the 501st while simultaneously being someone Yoshika could easily speak with. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertrude fulfills this role, and Lynette is rarely seen.

  • In Strike Witches‘ first season, Yoshika is depicted as having an uncommon fixation on the members of the 501st with a more substantial bust, but over time, this aspect to her character vanished. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Yoshika’s perversions are back, being presented as a minor part of the series’ comedy. However, even this is dialed back: Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s comedy comes from situational irony rather than anything lewd.

  • Gertrude is seen whipping up some coffee for Charlotte and Erica, who find the concoction surprisingly bitter. While I’ve mentioned my preference for tea over coffee previously, the reality is that practicality, rather than taste, is the primary consideration. In my coffee, I prefer adding milk and sugar, which transforms it into a Café au lait. My favourite coffee beverage, however, is mocha: essentially espresso mixed into hot chocolate, it is sweet and packs a small wallop.

  • Hanna-Justina Marseille makes an appearance in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, showing up as a part of a publicity stunt. Like her Strike Witches incarnation, Hanna is bold and confident, but is shocked that no one even recognises her. What’s more, Erica has now perfected the art of sleeping with her eyes open, and fails to see their guest. Later, while Hanna is conversing with Charlotte about tricks performed during combat, Charlotte refers to the time when Minna destroyed a Neuroi with her backside, earning her a beat down from Minna.

  • While Hanna refuses to do autographs, this is actually a ploy: she is flattered when Gertrude asks her for one such that she may give it to Chris, her younger sister. The observant reader will note that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! makes extensive use of characters in the background to accentuate the impact of the humour.

  • Mio’s use of a towel in Kanpu masatsu is a Japanese custom that is said to ward off disease and promote health. By rubbing oneself with a dry towel and using the friction to produce heat, the exercise has been found to have mildly beneficial impacts. I first learnt about this custom in Chibi Maruko-chan, and was quite surprised by this, since folk from Hong Kong, who are used to hot climates, have not developed an equivalent exercise for keeping warm.

  • Gertude is normally quite disciplined and stuffy about the rules, but when she accidentally renders their vehicle inoperable on an outing, she’s forced to employ the same trick that Erica used during Strike Witches with the hope of hitching a ride. To her mortification, the vehicle that pulls up when she uses this stunt happens to be operated by Erica.

  • In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertude is even more physical in expressing her displeasure for the the antics of others. She throws Charlotte and Francesca out a window for dressing inappropriately when the weather turns hot, and the two end up writhing on the beach. Much of the humour in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! may come from ludicrous moments, but there are also points where things are funny because they are non sequiturs.

  • Eventually, to beat the heat, Charlotte and Francesca suggest lighting a hundred candles and telling ghost stories, extinguishing the candles one by one until a hundred stories are told. No one else participates, and Charlotte realises that the only reason this even works is because the candles themselves heat the room up, therefore, by blowing them out, the apparent temperature is lowered. Eyeballing the problem, a hundred candles could conceivably increase the temperature of a room to a noticeable extent.

  • One aspect of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! that proved unexpectedly funny was how open Eila was about her feelings towards Sanya. While this was always more implicit in Strike Witches, the manga was a bit more forward about this. Sanya, on the other hand, defies expectations by being a bit more violent about things. Despite appearing calm and quiet in earlier iterations, the Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! version of Sanya has no reservations about slapping Eila, such as here, when she makes a dummy of Sanya for medical training purposes.

  • Despite her efforts to train the others in basic first aid, and having studied diligently for her own future, Erica ultimately comes up short when everyone deviates from their original assignments. Perrine ends up making a dummy in Mio’s likeness, and when Lynette shoots “Mio”, Perrine loses her composure, with the assignment completely forgotten. Upon seeing this, Mio assumes that she’s a ghost now and speaks to Minna, who is shocked. The Mio of Strike Witches would never succumb to such capers, hence the amusement.

  • If I failed to provide context for this moment, one would be forgiven for thinking that Perrine and Yoshika were somehow responsible for Mio’s “death”. However, this is thankfully not the case, and a few laughs arise from how outrageous things are. Moments like these are why Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! ended up exceeding expectations: I entered with the expectation that the series would be almost entirely slice-of-life driven, was a little dissuaded by the art style, but then warmed up to the hilarity the series bought to the table.

  • The Witches end up being dropped off on a desert island for some rest and relaxation after Mio accidentally destroys half the base with the reppuzan. During their excursion, Mio manages to unintentionally stop a Neuroi hive on her own when her sword loses control, and it takes Yoshika’s intervention to save Mio. On the topic of excursions, my past weekend was no less exciting than the trip to the Okanagan, and with the Calgary Stampede in town, I had a chance to try some outrageous midway foods of my own. Last Friday, I visited the Calgary Stampede after work and opened dinner with a corndog poutine that was savoury and also was topped with a flavourful honey mustard. I also ended up having a grilled lobster roll, which was very tasty and together with the corndog poutine, constituted the evening meal.

  • Besides poutine and a lobster roll, I also had the chance to check out one of the more exotic offerings of the year. Dubbed the Flamin’ Frog Legs, this midway cuisine consists of seasoned and marinated frog legs breaded with hot Cheetos. The combination worked surprisingly well, and I loved the sweet, slightly-fishy taste and chicken-like texture of the frog meat. I declined to play any of the midway games, but I did end up seeing the fireworks from the cable car ride on the fairway grounds. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Minna announces the dissolution of the 501st now that the Neuroi have been halted and their base destroyed.

  • In the end, Gertrude was the true MVP of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, acting as an elder-sister figure for Yoshika and looking after her, shielding her from the wackier personalities of the 501st. Overall, I ended up enjoying Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! much more than I thought I would, attesting to the value of keeping an open mind. With Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! now in the books, I proceed to the summer anime, and remark that I will be blogging about two series for the summer.

In light of what Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! has succeeded in doing, my impressions of this series overall are that it proved much more entertaining and amusing than I had initially thought. Coupled with creating a dichotomy of sorts for Road to Berlin, it appears that Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to be a calm before the storm, providing viewers with a rambunctious and exuberant portrayal of what the Witches are like outside of their duties to remind them of how everyone would be were it not for conflict. Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! presents the Witches as caricatures of their typical selves, exaggerating all aspects to leave audiences with a stronger impression of what everyone is like. I ultimately found Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! to be a superb comedy, but I cannot recommend this series to anyone save the most dedicated Strike Witches fans simply because the series does require some requisite knowledge of what Yoshika and the others are like, as well as for the fact that the premise and art style demand acceptance that this is not Strike Witches as we would normally know. With this short comedy in the books, the path is set for 2020’s Road to Berlin, during which I am certain that the stakes will be considerably higher than anything we’d seen previously.

Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – Review and Impressions After Three

“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” –Morty Smith, Rick and Morty

Strike Witches: Road to Berlin is coming out in 2020, and then Luminous Witches will air in 2021, it looks like the Strike Witches franchise has returned in full after a slow start in 2007 with its OVA – this series has been polarising for seemingly being an excuse to showcase female soldiers running around without any pants, but as the series progressed, it also matured deeply, showing that elements of world building can indeed far outweigh initial impressions that the series is merely for visual charm. Themes of camaraderie, trust and a determination to protect what one holds dear, plus minor themes about technological advancement, understanding and open-mindedness began making their way into a series to give characters credible growth. Strike Witches‘ 2013 movie, Operation Victory Arrow and Brave Witches represent a maturing series that began focusing more on the human side of the Human-Neuroi War, and of late, Strike Witches has become much more than being a flimsy excuse to fill a screen with crotches. It’s now been some two years since Brave Witches, and four years since Operation Victory Arrow; with new Strike Witches on the horizon, it stands to reason that fans have definitely earned something in the meantime to re-light their interest in the series.

Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! (Strike Witches: 501-butai Hasshinshimasu!) appears to be this “something”: on the surface, it deals with everyday life amongst the 501st. From Yoshika taking up cooking for everyone owing to their incapacity to cook (Minna, in particular, manages to harm her fellow soldiers more than the Neuroi do), to Gertrude’s determination to have Erica maintain a clean room, from Charlotte’s terrifying driving to Eila’s inability to properly express her feelings for Sanya, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s comical portrayal of the 501st marks a far cry from the series’ typical features. In fact, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!‘s approach is so unexpectedly different that one would be forgiven if they were to mistake this for a bad joke: the animation and artwork appear as though it was produced by an algorithm that was designed to produce animation on its own, but was overfitted to a poor training data set. The insane premises and events suggest improvisation the same way Rick and Morty improvised the Interdimensional Cable skits. While inherently flawed, Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! also seems to express different relationships amongst the characters: Gertrude acts as a mentor of sorts for Yoshika, while the slovenly Erica seems to be more at home with the lazy Charlotte and Francesca. The dynamics result in odd moments that show the members of the 501st in a caricature form of themselves, and this produces a unique brand of humour that is as outlandish as Interdimensional Cable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There is no discussion out there on Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! – I don’t mean that discussions are scant, or that they are light, because there simply is no one else talking about this series. This is unsurprising, given that this Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is meant to be a bit of a practical joke. The artwork is of a much lower quality than what I usually watch, although the vast blue skies of Strike Witches remain.

  • After becoming a part of the 501st, Yoshika is assigned to cooking duties because she’s apparently the only person on the team who can make anything edible. Gertrude feels badly for her and decides to help out. In Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Gertrude has a much closer friendship with Yoshika: she was initially distant, feeling Yoshika to resemble her younger sister, but the two get along quite well in Strike Witches proper.

  • Minna is the commander of the 501st, and while she’s normally gentle and kind, there are some conditions where her personality will harden, usually in regards to everyone’s safety. This will not manifest in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, and instead, Minna is presented as being a bit ditzy, as well as having a terrible sense of taste. Her cooking is as lethal as a M829 APFSDS, putting everyone on the floor: when she suggests cooking in place of Yoshika, everyone vehemently objects.

  • The events of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! are not so clearly determined: while everyone is located at the Britannian base see in the first season, Mio and Minna mention an infamous scene where Minna, concerned for Mio’s safety, holds her at gunpoint and demands that Mio stand down from active duty. This occurred later in season one, and the 501st leave the Britannian base after the season ends. The Sky That Connects Us shows that everyone is scattered around the globe, so Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! might not be really a formal part of the Strike Witches timeline.

  • Charlotte and Erica are perhaps two of the scummiest members of the 501st, if Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is anything to go by. When assigned to patrol duty, they simply lounge around in swimwear and suggest that Yoshika do the same. It’s a callback to the first episode when Charlotte is seen chilling, but unlike the series proper, the low level of detail means that contours and the like are rendered with a much lower fidelity.

  • Whereas Gertrude usually is content to deliver a verbal tongue-lashing in response to Erica’s slovenly ways, in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, she resorts to physical beatings that put everyone on the floor. Yoshika is made to suffer when she decides to do patrol duty properly and is given a heavy jacket that gives her heat stroke. With Yoshika out of commission, Minna cooks for everyone and manages to harm the 501st in ways that even the Neuroi do not.

  • When Gertrude’s patience with Erica’s mess reaches its limits, she enlists Yoshika to help her in clearing out a mess that would defeat even the Konmari Method™: Marie Kondo’s approach to reducing clutter is to use a simple metric in deciding what to keep and what to chuck. If something creates happiness or has sentimental value, it can be kept, and otherwise, it is to be discarded. My parents’ method is simpler and more effective – if something is actively being used, then it should be kept.

  • I would imagine that my parents’ approach, which I’ve adopted, would make for a much more boring approach. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, the Konmari Method™ eventually results in a series of accidents that allow Erica’s mess to be cleared, but also causes her to lose a medal. While trying to find the medal, Erica reintroduces the mess, undoing everyone’s efforts. One wonder how such a mess is even possible.

  • I actually had no intentions of writing about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, but the combination of wanting to give myself a challenge and the fact that there’s no other blogs talking about this series means a unique opportunity for me to see if there’s anything noteworthy I could say about what essentially amounts to a shoddily-prepared show for something like Interdimensional Cable: the events of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! are outlandish and zany enough so that they could fit within the realm of what is shown in the multi-verse.

  • Fanservice in is much lighter in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! than anywhere else in Strike Witches, which started out shoving everyone’s pantsu into the viewers’ faces. AS the series progressed, while such moments were still present, they became secondary to character growth. Here, Erica and Charlotte apologise after Minna kicks their asses for making fun of her dress.

  • The Interdimensional Cable atmosphere of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! is why I’ve opted to go with one of the more famous quotes from Rick and Morty, where Morty presents a very bleak view of the universe to Summer and suggests that things are what they are, so one might as well enjoy themselves with the time and plane of existence they do have. This is one way of saying that folks should not be so invested into minutiae surrounding their entertainment and take things a little less seriously.

  • After Minna and Mio are invited to a party for officiers, Gertrude and Yoshika overlook duties at the base. They ren’t enough to rein in the undisciplined antics of Erica, Francesca and Charlotte, but it turns out that, in the absence of standards, Erica, Francesca and Charlotte actually have no goofing off to do. They decide to explore the rooms of their squadron mates, but find things that disturb them.

  • Francesca, Charlotte and Erica’s reactions mirror my reaction to the weather yesterday: we’re only a stone’s throw from May, but Winter evidently wasn’t through with us yet and dropped 15 centimetres of snow on the city, bringing everything to a halt. Back in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, Yoshika and Gertude explained that nothing special occurred, while the lipstick marks on Mio and blood on Minna imply that something hilarious went down behind the scenes.

  • After Yoshika accepts her paycheque, which features a bonus because her cooking is single-handedly keeping everyone’s spirits up, Yoshika decides to go shopping for new cooking implements. Gertrude decides to accompany her, along with Lynette, but when Charlotte offers to drive, the mere suggestion is enough to strike fear into the hearts of all those who know of her driving. As far as I can tell, Charlotte was not that bad a driver in Strike Witches, and I don’t ever recall a moment where she’s driven anyone anywhere.

  • A part of the humour in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! stems from implicit moments, as well: leaving audiences to work out what occurred can be as funny as seeing things for oneself. While I’ve not very much to say about things in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, I can say that watching the incredible antics of the 501st does bring a smile to my face. One of the genuine criticisms I have of Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! so far is that Lynette hasn’t had much screen time yet. Of the Witches, I’m rather fond of her character.

  • Back at base, Minna decides to make lunch, and Eila somehow gets pulled into things, reasoning that fermented stuff akin to the Japanese-style cooking Yoshika’s been doing must taste better. They whip up pickled herring and decide to add ammonia to it (which, incidentally, is toxic), scaring the living daylights out of Erica. She runs off to find Mio, in the hopes of putting an end to this nightmare. When Mio manages to cut the containers open, their noxious gases incapacitates her, reducing her to a trembling wreck. In any other series, this would be a pretty big deal, but in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, all injuries are temporary, and all damage sustained is quickly repaired. Hence, viewers may enjoy a laugh at Mio’s expense.

  • Later, Eila succumbs to a cold and is bed ridden: while Yoshika accompanies Sanya on a night mission, Gertude and Erica look after her. Eila’s feelings for Sanya have formed the basis for many a joke in-series: Sanya is near oblivious to Eila’s feelings even where everyone else is aware of them.

  • I’ve heard that summoning circles are all the rage on social media these days, and after leaving some of the Sanya cutouts so Eila won’t be lonely, the others allow her to rest. These props actually glow in the dark by some unknown mechanism, and actually look quite intimidating. When Sanya returns from her patrol and sees these, she’s a little put off, and once Eila recovers, she immediately hunts down Erica for the trouble.

  • If folks were looking for a proper slice-of-life with the 501st, then Operation Victory Arrow and the manga, The Sky That Connects Us, do a solid job of presenting what goes down between Neuroi attacks. I will be returning to write about Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! towards the end of the season: while nothing substantial, it is something that is fun in its own right. We are at the end of April now, and now is a good time as any to mention that, after a day of delayed flights, I am now in San José, California, where I will be attending Facebook’s Developer Conference, F8. I may work on a few posts here and there, but I expect to be quite busy until my return early May.

While Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! has numerous flaws and very little in the way of themes, its unusual brand of humour brings out the worst of all the characters and gives audiences something to laugh at – I imagine that this is a deliberate design choice to keep audiences busy, and presumably, to lower their guard ahead of Road to Berlin‘s release. Since Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! comes across as weak, Road of Berlin will stand in stark contrast and be more consistent with the increasingly detailed and mature themes that Strike Witches has trended towards. Fans of Strike Witches won’t gain much more than a few cheap laughs out of the characters’ misfortune in Joint Fighter Wing Take Off!, but it does act as somewhat of a reminder that each of Yoshika, Lynette, Perrine, Mio, Charlotte, Francesca, Gertrude, Erica, Minna, Eila and Sanya have come a long way since their initial appearances in 2008’s Strike Witches. The series is no longer dominated by needless pantsu, and there is a deeper, more enjoyable theme to the 501st’ exploits – if Road to Berlin is going to be more moody and reflective than the second season, then for the time being, viewers might as well watch everyone in unusual and strange conditions that exaggerate their characters far more than a proper season would.