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Tag Archives: Waltrud Krupinski

Big Sister and Little Sister: Brave Witches Tenth Episode Impressions and Review

“I’m forty percent back, baby!” —Bender, Futurama

Takami sets off for Petersburg after her recovery as Hikari continues to aid the 502nd in their operations. When a senior officier announces that Takami is to participate in Operation Freyja, with the aim of taking out the Neuroi hive, the 502nd misinterpret the request and assume it’s Hikari. However, when Takami arrives, her reception with Hikari proves to be a cold one; she openly disapproves of Hikari’s presence in the front lines and has arranged for her to be transferred to her original assignment in Kauhava. Gundula notices that both sisters seem unable to properly enunciate their true thoughts — Hikari is determined to prove that she’s ready to fly and fight alongside Takami, while Takami worries about Hikari’s safety. When a Neuroi previously thought to be destroyed reappears, Gundula proposes a challenge: whoever locates the core first will remain with the 502nd, while the vanquished will be reassigned to Kauhava. In a tense battle, the Witches learn that the Neuroi was able to regenerate because it had a nested core, and Takami’s experience allows her to edge out Hikari, leaving Hikari in tears at the prospect of having to leave her friends and allies. Although it may be strange to compare Brave Witches vis-à-vis Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??, this tenth episode seems to have been ready-made to depict an alternative, but plausible dynamic that might have existed between Cocoa and Mocha.

Much as how Cocoa constantly strives to achieve what Mocha can accomplish, the skill gap between Hikari and Takami become quite apparent in this episode. In both cases, the younger sibling falls behind in their capabilities, make up for it with pure spirit, and find that their friends are much more at ease when the older sibling is around. Similarly, much like how Mocha cares deeply for Cocoa and will be moved to tears if Cocoa rejects her companionship, Takami worries for Hikari’s well being, fearing that Hikari might be injured in combat. This ultimately forms the crux of the episode — Takami feels that Hikari’s resolve will override her own concern; a conventional conversation would be unlikely to yield results, she reasons. This approach merely serves to drive Hikari to push harder and show Takami she’s ready to fly with her, and in the episode’s battle, Hikari’s improvement becomes visible when she manages to find the core mere moments after Takami did. While insufficient on terms of the agreement, this does show the distance that Hikari’s come since arriving in Petersburg.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To kick things off, I am trying to fight off a growing cold right now that comes as a consequence of temperature extremities (it’s been an average of around -20°C for the daytime high where I am, but my office, being in an older building, is blazing hot thanks to an overactive centralised heater and the fact that I sit beside a window), so today, I’ve been coughing even as I continue debugging my app and considering how to implement the remaining features.

  • For now, I’ve not been coughing too much, so I’m still able to watch and write about the latest episode of Brave Witches without too much difficulty. Hikari’s growing capabilities as a Witch means she’s now able to use her Contact Eye in conjunction with plenty of teamwork from the 502nd; they destroy yet another Neuroi, and even Naoe has begun accepting Hikari as being useful for the team.

  • Shortly after their sortie, Field Marshal Manstein appears. The most senior rank in old armies, the United States military has not historically used this rank, instead creating the rank General Of the Army (a five-star General): in December 1944, George Marshall was promoted to a five-star General and so, could have been addressed as Marshal Marshall by subordinates. Back in Brave Witches, Manstein provides the briefing to the Witches’ next operation: their mission to neutralise the large Neuroi hive has been pushed forward in response to the hazard it poses to the supply lines.

  • It turns out the fleet Waltrud and the others were defending in episode eight was carrying a railway gun, probably the Schwerer Gustav. An 80 cm piece of siege artillery, it was constructed with the intent of smashing through the Maginot line during trench warfare, being one of the largest gun firing the heaviest shells ever build. Some translations yield this artillery piece as a “railgun”, but that is incorrect, since a railgun is strictly a device that consists of two parallel rails that accelerate a projectile to high speeds by means of high potential differences (contrast a coil-gun, or Gauss gun, which uses magnetic coils to accelerate a kinetic impactor). Such technology is very unlikely to be utilised in Strike Witches by conventional forces and would remain confined to the realm of magic if it existed.

  • While Hikari is delighted to see Takami once more, Takami does not return these feelings; she coldly dismisses Hikari and wonders why she’s been in Petersberg contrary to her assignment, before ordering her to return to her original post. Her response to Hikari leaves the latter in a bit of surprise, and their interactions for the remainder of the episode are not particularly cordial. The page quote is sourced from Futurama, meant to be my rather irreverent outlook on the episode’s main themes 😛

  • Despite nearly four months of inactivity, Takami’s combat skills do not appear to have deteriorated, and she fights Waltrud to a standstill during an exercise. The mock weapons in Strike Witches have always been denoted with an orange hue to indicate that they’re strictly for exercise, firing paint pellets.

  • I suddenly realise that I’ve not used a sauna for the longest time, and wish that I could spend a quarter-hour in one to help me overcome my cold; the warmth of a sauna would completely remove my body’s energy expenditure on keeping warm, and while much of the mechanisms behind how a sauna helps out remain speculation, it has been known to help in lessening cold-like symptoms. Since I don’t happen to have access to a sauna, I usually drink copious amounts of water and sleep more with the aim of recovering.

  • This moment speaks rather strongly about the gap in Takami and Hikari’s magical abilities: whereas Hikari must climb the monolith on all fours with her fullest concentration to reach the top, Takami can simply walk to the top. While it may come across as unusual that I bring Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? into this week’s Brave Witches discussion, I figured that the two episodes seemed to have quite a bit in common with its underlying portrayal of an older and younger sibling.

  • Gundula is very astute and picks up immediately the rationale behind Takami’s actions: it is only natural to be concerned about a younger sibling’s well-being and safety. As an older sibling myself, I know that feeling quite well, although I see myself as being more open-minded and trusting; I usually ask “are you sure” or equivalent, and if I get an affirmative, that’s good enough for me.

  • In stark contrast with GochiUsa‘s duel of the bakers, the stakes are much higher as both Takami and Hikari agree to a showdown: the first to locate the core leading to a kill will remain with the 502nd, while the defeated will be shipped off to Kauhava (a Finnish town with around 16000 people). Hikari’s resilience is remarkable, and even knowing how greatly Takami eclipses her, refuses to stand down. Both the Karibuchi sisters share this trait, being quite unmoving from their stances once their hearts are set on something.

  • Gundula smiles even as the emotional tenour of the room escalates: she knows that both the Karibuchi sisters will be giving it their all to demonstrate to the other the strength of their resolve and as such, also stand a better chance of besting a Neuroi that eluded even Waltrud. In light of this fact, Gundula finally steps out onto the battlefield for herself, donning a special brace to prevent her old injuries from manifesting.

  • I recall in my discussion of the first episode that time would requireed in order for me to recall the names of each Witch in the 502nd from memory, but as early as episode seven, I’ve learnt everyone’s names fully. Permit me a demonstration: besides Hikari and Takami up front, we have from left to right Edytha, Sadako, Nikka, Naoe, Gundula, Waltrud, Alexsandra and Georgette. This moment also allows me a chance to capture a screenshot of all the 502nd’s members, both fully-qualified and temporary, in a single frame.

  • Whereas the CG effects in the previous episode were particularly egregious, this tenth episode manages to improve on the quality overall: Hikari dodging laser fire from the Neuroi here is rendered in CG, and the flat geometric surfaces seen in earlier episodes appear to be smoothed out. She weaves through the fire and smoothly re-appears in a hand-drawn form.

  • The swarms of Neuroi make a return in Brave Witches, and this opponent is a tough one for the 502nd even with Takami back in combat. While Takami seemingly ends combat within the first thirty seconds, it turns out there’s a nested core inside the larger core, accounting for why the Neuroi was able to regenerate: the Neuroi seen in Brave Witches have been inventive, imaginative and provide interesting opponents for the Witches to fight each week, in contrast to the duller ones seen in Strike Witches.

  • Takami plainly is the superior Witch, as evidenced by her providing covering fire and carefully computing her next course of action to complete her objective, while Hikari seems uses a much less disciplined approach and rushes the objective. While Battlefield 1 as of late has promoted the PTFO (“Play the fucking objective”, for those unfamiliar with the acronym), playing the object means assessing whether or not an objective is safe, and moving in to secure it if an enemy presence is eliminated. It does not mean rushing blindly to a capture point and dying, costing one’s team a ticket.

  • Takami’s magic lets her locate the secondary core with a high precision, and I’ve noticed that in a great number of military-themed anime (even Gundam), none of the anime ever use the military grid reference system to refer to refer to points on Earth. This is perfectly fine, since devising a proper system would require proper knowledge of how the MGRS works, and then properly translating it to space or other environs. In Brave Witches, Takami shouts the coordinates out to Gundula of the Neuroi’s true core once she spots it.
  • While Takami is locating the core, Hikari tries to close the distance between her and the Neuroi. Naoe and Nikka shout words of encouragement, and Hikari manages to touch the Neuroi’s hull, discovering the core only seconds after Takami did. In contrast with my previous Brave Witches post, this one was done entirely on my MacBook Pro, including the preparation of screenshots. Without a mouse handy, it was trickier, but I think the results worked out nicely enough.

  • I might be sick, and I might’ve only had around ten to twelve frames’ worth of time (around 0.4167 to 0.5 seconds) to have captured this moment on a MacBook Pro (whose trackpad, spacebar and screenshot mechanism aren’t well-suited for capturing screenshots), but I managed to get the frame right before Gundula takes the shot and eliminates the Neuroi. These are not bad reflexes for someone with a cold, if I may say so myself.

  • Like Waltrud, Hikari is hit with a stray Neuroi drone after its destruction, and Takami saves her, smiling warmly for the first time in the episode. The outcome of this battle is that Takami wins our by a very narrow margin, and in fact, is reminiscent of a scene from Red Cliff, where Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang agreed that if the other failed their task (respectively, collecting a hundred thousand arrows and deceive Cao Cao into disposing of his top admirals), they would be executed under military law. Both manage to complete their tasks successfully, but were ready to accept death had they failed, and while more dramatic than what happens in Brave Witches, is a curious parallel: Hikari is set to head for Kauhava.

  • I admit that it was a little painful to watch Hikari bawl her eyes out in response to the outcome: the 502nd is where she’d learnt to be a Witch and where she bonded with people who once doubted her, contributing to their operations in whatever manner she could. However, because this is Hikari’s story, I doubt things will end so soon — Strike Witches‘ first season seemed grim in its final hours after the 501st was disbanded, but they managed to come back together and defeat the Neuroi. With this week’s episode, and post, now in the books, I’m going to head off and get some proper sleep.

Consequently, while Hikari is set to pack her bags and leave the 502nd, Hikari’s progressed, coupled with her own role as Brave Witches‘ protagonist and how things generally turn out in Strike Witches, means that in the upcoming final battle between the 502nd and the Neuroi hive will doubtlessly play out with Hikari contributing alongside everyone else. This prediction should be quite easy to reach given that Brave Witches has followed the methodologies of Strike Witches to some extent, although how the aforementioned outcomes are reached differ between the two series. As such, while it’s not difficult to surmise that Hikari will be participating in the final battle in some way, what will be worth keeping an eye for is how this particular outcome is reached, as well as how the journey impacts the different characters. With only two episodes of Brave Witches left on the table, I’m looking forwards to seeing what events await in the final episodes and differentiate itself from Strike Witches, especially given how Strike Witches pushed the boundaries for what stunts the 501st could accomplish against Neuroi hives.

Break Witches: Brave Witches Impressions and Review at the ¾ Mark

“It’s the insurance damage waiver for your beautiful new car. Now, will you need collision coverage? ”
“Property destruction?”
“Personal Injury?”
“I hope not, but accidents do happen.”
“They frequently do with you.”
“Well, that takes care of the normal wear-and-tear. Is there any other protection I need?”
“Only from me 007, unless you bring that car back in pristine order.”

—Q and James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies

Naoe is punished in light of the latest damages her new Shiden Kai incur, and Alexsandra warns Hikari against developing a propensity for damaging Striker Units. Later that night, Naoe notices Hikari wandering into the hanger; despite Hikari’s insistence that she will improve, Naoe dismisses her. Gundula and Edytha brief the 502nd the next morning: there’s a Neuroi holding position over the supply lines that must be destroyed, and with Waltrud out of commission, Naoe is asked to lead the operation. The 502nd find that their adversary is capable of putting up a fierce frontal bombardment, and while Edytha learns the location of its core, Alexsandra is injured in defending Naoe from a stray beam. The next day, Naeo falters after Gundula gives Hikari authorisation to use her Contact Eye, but a surprise pep talk from Hikari leads Naoe to regain her composure. With Hikari able to locate the core, Naoe smashes her way through the Neuroi, neutralising it. Back in Japan, Takami reawakens when Yoshika revives her. Appropriately titled, this week’s episode of Brave Witches sees the failure of no fewer than four Striker Units within the course of the same episode and provides a definitive bit of insight as to why Alexsandra responds with punishment whenever a Striker Unit is damaged. Given that the 502nd are located in a relatively remote area where resupply lines are challenging to maintain, this unit’s unfortunate habit of damaging their primary means of engaging the Neuroi places strain on their provisions. Every repair means consuming supplies that might be crucial later on, and while Alexsandra is doing her best to ensure that the gear they have will last, the others’ blasé attitudes towards maintaining operational equipment is precisely what gives the 502nd their infamous moniker “Break Witches”.

The interactions between Hikari and Naoe form the focus for the ninth episode. While Naoe has shown increasing concern for Hikari as Brave Witches progressed, her opinion of Hikari as a Witch remains generally low owing to Hikari’s comparatively limited experience and abilities. Naoe is quick to dismiss Hikari at every turn, but when she begins to doubt herself following Waltrud and Alexsandra’s injuries, even she is not immune to a sense of unease. Naoe’s pride as a Witch is ultimately trumped when pitted against Hikari’s unwavering determination to contribute to the 502nd’s operations; her willingness to put herself in harm’s way, coupled with her reminders to Naoe as to what’s important, are sufficient for Naoe to come around and regain the resolve to complete their operation. In the aftermath, a lapsus linguae from Naoe leads her to count Hikari as a partner, an equal of sorts worthy of flying into combat with her. Although she vehemently denies having said so, it becomes clear that Hikari’s left an impression on Naoe. Notions of a novice having a strong positive impact on a squadron of veteran witches thus endure from Strike Witches, and similar to how Yoshika’s actions resulted in Perrine accepting her as time passed, Hikari is doing the same within the 502nd.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This week’s episode page quote is sourced from Tomorrow Never Dies, when Q walks 007 through an insurance form for his new BMW 750iL. One of the longest running jokes in the James Bond franchise is 007’s frequent disregard for Q Branch equipment — most of his cars, gadgets and tools are destroyed or lost at the end of a mission despite Q’s frequent pleas for Bond to return everything in “pristine condition”. It seemed an appropriate choice for mirroring the Break Witches’ tendency to go through an uncommonly high number of Strike Units.

  • Waltrud is still recovering from last week’s episode: remarked to be one of the more capable Witches in the 502nd, her injury prompts Gundula to consider stepping out onto the battlefield herself. Insofar, she’s not seen any combat on account of an injury from an earlier operation that damaged her back. Prior to this, she was one of the top Witches around, and despite her seemingly-serious demeanour, is actually quite friendly and good-humoured.

  • One could make a case that Naoe is tsundere towards Hikari, at once finding it difficult to accept her and making it a point to reinforce this while her actions seem to suggest otherwise. Fixated on improving herself, Naoe counts progress solely in terms of number of Neuroi shot down, whereas Hikari counts progress as how much support she is able to offer the others on each operation. I tend to play Battlefield with Hikari’s mindset: so as long as my team wins and I get points for revives, heals and resupplies, I count it a success even if my KD ratio is negative.

  • In fact, some matches, I’ve been asked how I make the top three of scoreboards despite having a KD ratio below 1.0. Back in Brave Witches, the 502nd’s first attempt on a new Neuroi ends when Alexsandra is shot down while deflecting beam fire from Naoe, who’s become careless and charges the Neuroi. Its unusual firing pattern leads Edytha to deduce that its other sections are not as heavily protected, and she quickly finds the core, but are unable to eliminate it once Alexsandra is shot down.

  • Injuries are par the course in Strike Witches, and Georgette does her best to stablise Alexsandra here. After a tense few moments, the doctors remark that Alexsandra will be okay. In spite of this, Naoe grows pensive, blaming herself for Alexsandra’s injury.

  • In spite of her harsh outlooks on anyone who damages their Striker Units, Alexsandra cares deeply for her teammates and expresses relief that Naoe is alright following their first failed attempt on the Neuroi. Having flown into combat with Naoe for a long period of time, Alexsandra notes that she’s well aware of Naoe’s preferred fighting style and hence, it was her limited covering fire that resulted in this accident, rather than anything on Naoe’s part.

  • In spite of two excellent pilots out of commission, the threat posed to the 502nd’s supply line necessitates another attempt on the Neuroi. The map behind Gundula and Edytha show major Neuroi positions: a long time ago, I recall reading that the Neuroi utilise a substance known as miasma (“μίασμα”, Greek for “pollution” and used in reference to a foul or offensive odor) that dissolves the land, which the Neuroi utilise to power their weapons and replication. This is why Neuroi cannot traverse oceans.

  • Following the arrival of the fan-type Neuroi, the landscape around the Petersburg area is blanketed in snow, and winter has set in fully. On my side, the weather has likewise become quite cold, averaging around -20°C over the next few days. With windchill, things will feel much colder, between -25°C and -30°C, although I feel that proper December weather has been long overdue: November was remarkably mild. With this being said, I’ve become okay with cold days, both because I have the proper clothing to keep warm, and because after a cold spell, days where it’s -15°C feel balmy by comparison.

  • Nikka, Hikari and Naoe fly over taiga en route to their target: the landscapes below reminds me of the ninth Ace Combat: Assault Horizon mission, set in Russian Taiga by winter as the player must provide air cover for allied transports carrying medical provisions. It’s been two-and-a-half years since I last flew a plane in Ace Combat, and during that time, I was also watching Wake Up, Girls!. Their latest movies, Shadow of Youth and Beyond The Bottom have finally become accessible, and at some point in the near future, I will be watching and writing about them.

  • Opponents whose patterns are well-established, though welcome to fight for reducing the danger, would offer very little excitement for viewers. On the other hand, Brave Witches seems to portray the Neuroi in a distinct manner even compared to Strike Witche: the Neuroi in Brave Witches seem to be much more intimidating in their capabilities, employing strategic actions or revealing surprise tactics that leave the Witches in surprise. This week’s Neuroi is capable of splitting up, promptly nullifying the 502nd’s original plan of striking its undefended core.

  • By focusing tributary beams into one concentrated blast, the Neuroi is able to put serious amounts of firepower downstream. What was supposed to be a straightforward (if challenging) mission becomes much more difficult after the Neuroi splits, and realising that they have no chance of hitting the core owing to the Neuroi’s further ability to alter its structure, Hikari requests permission to use her Contact Eye in order to quickly locate the core.

  • Gundula agrees and orders Naoe to proceed, much to Edytha’s horror. However, Naoe folds under the pressure, fearing that her actions may result in yet another injury. She falters and tries to call off the operation, but is stopped by Hikari, who reprimands her, saying that this isn’t the Naoe that she knows. With tears in her eyes, Hikari wishes to at least give this seemingly suicidal plan a shot before deciding whether or not it will work.

  • Hikari’s words seem to have the desired effect, and Naoe headbutts Hikari to briefly break her speech. Her confidence restored by Hikaris determination, Naoe quickly issues orders, outlining a plan to get Hikari closer to the Neuroi. I suddenly realise that I’ve not talked to any real extent about what I’ve been up to as of late, but today, I returned to campus to pick up two hardcover copies of my thesis paper, one for the department and one for keeps. This trip comes as I return to sit through an iOS class for prospective hires, and amidst a very busy season as I work to complete an iOS app prototype for my work.

  • While Hikari may not have any kills to her name, her actions have contributed in some form towards the other members of the 502nd succeeding in taking out Neuroi. The importance of this support role, assisting the other Witches, cannot be understated, and it is for this reason that assists are counted in hockey in addition to goals: without players setting one another up for goals, it would make the game that much more difficult. Success comes from a team effort, and getting into position to help a teammate score is just as important as getting the goal itself. Hikari’s role thus brings to mind the San José Sharks’ Joe Thornton, who has topped the leaderboards for many years on account of having the most assists in the NHL over the past decade.

  • After coming into contact with the Neuroi, Hikari opens fire on its surface, eventually revealing the core and giving Naoe a clear shot at it. She prepares her signature move, focusing her shield onto a small spot and charging at the core, delivering enough force to crack it. The destruction of the core is confirmed when the other Neuroi units begin disintegrating. Having successfully neutralised yet another Neuroi, Naoe is lost in the moment and acknowledges off-hand that Hikari is a worthy partner, only to rescind it in embarrassment.

  • Neuroi leave behind glittering fragments whenever they are totally destroyed: having recalled that Neuroi consume land (primarily silicates with some metals and minerals), and an earlier post where I postulated that the Neuroi seem to have ceramic-like properties, I conclude that the non-core elements in a Neuroi are composed of a refined silicon-metal composite, undergoing refinement and treating in an unknown process to form the Neuroi’s body. The core, on the other hand, would probably be an organic crystal of unknown make-up.

  • Unintentional or not, Naoe’s subsequent remarks notwithstanding, it is clear that she is appreciative of Hikari’s efforts and role in helping her overcome her own fears. However, as the air is now filled with fine Neuroi particulates, Hikari, Naoe and Nikka’s Striker engines become less effectual: assuming that Neuroi and volcanic ash are somewhat similar, the crystals would freeze and become affixed to the turbines. This reduces the airflow through the engine, in turn decreasing the air pressure, causing gas to flow out in the reverse direction to cause a flame out. This is probably the mechanic for why all three Striker Units go down, bringing Nikka’s damaged Striker count for Brave Witches up to five.

  • That number is actually a little below my predictions, since I anticipated Nikka breaking at least another Striker in this week’s episode. Being counted as a Break Witch causes Hikari much happiness, as it implies she’s now an accepted member of the 502nd. Alexsandra is less pleased, and with Waltrud on the mend from her injuries, she is ordered to kneel in punishment for having lost a Striker unit in the previous episode.

  • It turns out that Yoshika’s magic is sufficiently powerful to revive Takami. Her appearance in Brave Witches was met with a mixed reception, and I’m in the camp who welcomes Yoshika’s cameo. Looking back, I rather enjoyed her character: not a soldier by training, she brings a different perspective to the 501st that left a noticeable impact, and I argue that were it not for Yoshika, the 501st would’ve been quite different and perhaps, unable to take out the first of the Neuroi hives.

  • With Takami on the mend thanks to Yoshika, this week’s episode draws to a close, and I am looking forwards to watching things between Takami and Hikari play out. It’s a little surprising as to how quickly even December is proceeding, and I believe that this is my first anime-related post for this month, having pushed quickly to get the remainder of the Battlefield 1 campaign posts out so I could return to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Having moved past the three-quarters mark now, Brave Witches continues to follow life at the Petersburg base as Hikari grows more familiar with the 502nd. Traditionally, Strike Witches spent a majority of its seasons doing this, culminating in an over-the-top finale involving battle with uncommonly challenging Neuroi at its finale. Given Brave Witches‘ current progression, it stands to reason that the next episode will be the final calm before the storm: three months have elapsed since Hikari joined the 502nd in lieu of Takami, and with her having reawakened thanks to Yoshika, she’s is now set to return and see for herself the place that Hikari has earned amongst the 502nd. Going from the previews, Takami is likely to find it difficult to accept Hikari putting herself in danger, and this will be a conflict that must be resolved before the whole of the 502nd take on their final enemy for this season. In particular, given that Takami has returned, the final fight will doubtlessly be a grueling one that will rival the final battles of Strike Witches in terms of intensity, being a thrilling battle that will keep suspense high even if the outcome is already known — this is the magic of Strike Witches that Brave Witches has done a fantastic job of improving upon.

Grape Juice For Your Eyes!: Brave Witches Eighth Episode Impressions and Review

“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one.” —Jacques Roumain

When Waltrud is made commander of a mission to escort a fleet of ships carrying high-value materials after discovering intel hidden away in some macarons from Sanya and Eila, she decides to assign Hikari, Nikka and Naoe to aid her in this mission. She grows enamoured with the Britannian Witch already escorting the surface vessels. They make the thousand-kilometer journey to rendezvous with the fleet, with Naoe and Waltrud receiving upgraded Striker Units en route. However, on the eve of the mission, Waltrud succumbs to the temptation of alcohol and wakes up on the morning of their assignment with a hangover. Despite seemingly unfit for combat, she recovers upon learning the Britannian Witch has been shot down by the Neuroi, a large type capable of generating numerous drones. In the midst of battle, Waltrud sends Hikari to assist Nikka and Naoe, but Hikari convinces her to take the FP-45 Liberator before leaving. Waltrud activates her own magic and destroys the Neuroi with a rifle grenade, but is impacted by one of the remaining drones. The hit turns out to be non-lethal, as the Liberator in her chest pocket has deflected the impact’s severity, and in the episode’s final moments, Waltrud’s injuries allow her a chance to interact with the Britannian Witch. Hence, in response to the question that Edytha poses, pertaining to why she picked Hikari, Nikka and Naoe for the task, it would appear that Waltrud seems quite attuned to individuals’ personalities and selecting the role most appropriate for them — this decision ultimately saves her life.

Waltrud’s laidback and ever-optimistic mannerisms make her the most easygoing of all the 502nd: she is fond of indulging herself, as evidenced by her alcohol consumption, and has a propensity to lie to her juniors, informing Hikari that the Liberator is a good luck charm rather than a miniature weapon. Although her nonchalant attitude leads her to frequently run afoul of Edytha and Naoe, this belies her capabilities as a Witch. Favouring high risk, high reward combat approaches, she’s able to engage the eighth episode’s Neuroi independently to both defend the fleet. Waltrud is therefore an excellent example of someone who counts on high spirits and (poor) jokes in order to overcome adversity: her seemingly flippant behaviours have the effect of keeping Nikka and Naoe from worrying too much about the presence of uncommonly dangerous Neuroi, and with these two focussed on the mission, Hikari is likewise able to follow suit. It is very likely that this is the reason why Waltrud remains a critical member of the 502nd despite irritating Edytha and Naoe; her antics, though a nuisance at times, also serve to shift the other Witches’ focus away from the ceaseless threat posed by the Neuroi towards something more commonplace, in turn lessening their fear somewhat.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hikari marvels at the FP-45 Liberator, a single-shot pistol firing a .45 ACP round that was intended for use by resistance forces, but never saw widespread action. While small, with a short range of roughly 1-4 meters, the Liberator does not hold the title for smallest pistol of all time — this position belongs to the 2mm Kolibri, which was introduced in 1914 and fires exceptionally weak bullets. It’s the level ten unlock for a class in Battlefield 1 and was probably meant to be a joke weapon, since it deals only five damage per shot.

  • Edytha presents the mission while the 502nd sit down for reindeer stew, courtesy of the supplies that Eila and Sanya brought during the previous episode. Their flight path takes them high into the arctic near Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a frigid region rich in natural resources. For this reason, the region is highly polluted as a result of intensive mining: the town of Norilsk and its nickel mines accounts for one percent of the world’s entire sulfur dioxide emissions. In Brave Witches, however, this would be before any industrialisation of the area, so the Kola Peninsula of Orussia would remain relatively pristine.

  • Edytha and Waltrud’s interactions are always quite interesting to watch when the two are bouncing off one another, but the two also can share some insightful conversations. These aspect leads me to my remarks in this episode’s discussions, and in general, while I’m not quite so keen on indulgence as Waltrud, I definitely believe in the significance of good morale: when things get busy or stressful, I tend to crack particularly lame jokes about what I’m working on. Most folks won’t have an opportunity to see this unless they work with me in person.

  • Waltrud’s entire willingness to accept the mission stems from the fact that she’s a womaniser to the same extent as Sean Connery’s James Bond. Curiously enough, the last time I saw someone fall for a girl in a photograph, it was in From Russia With Love (1963). The old James Bond films were amazing, although I was introduced to James Bond through Moonraker (1979), which features Roger Moore as James Bond and sees a plot to eliminate the world’s population from space.

  • Even while on break, the Britannian Witch’s photograph is never too far from Waltrud’s hand. Naoe is quite displeased with the arrangements, although Nikka seems to be taking things in stride. After eight episodes, it’s quite clear that Hikari, Nikka and Naoe are Brave Witches‘ equivalent of Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. Owing to the tremendous length of their journey, the Witches’ travels are broken up into different legs.

  • The distances involved, coupled with Nikka’s tendency for poor luck means that her Striker begins to malfunction shortly before they reach their next pitstop. Because Nikka flies Waltrud’s Striker unit later on, it’s safe to say that her old unit has bitten the dust, bringing the total of failed Strikers that Nikka has seen in Brave Witches up to a grand total of four. The next episode is titled “Break Witches”, so that total will likely rise further.

  • Up until now, the Ground Striker Units have not been seen, but a few frames depict some Ground Witches being briefed before cutting away to Waltrud ogling them. These units are the land-based equivalents and propel their users on the ground at great speeds, and owing to the decreased emphasis on air mobility, Ground Witches appear to be equipped with heavier-calibre, slower-firing cannons that likely are useful against armour. It would be fantastic to see a series about Ground Witches, and even better would be a series where the two kinds of Witches collaborate to defeat their foes.

  • I believe the acquisition of upgrades mid-season is known amongst audiences as “mid-season upgrades”. Naoe is ecstatic at finally being able to pilot a Shiden Kai herself, marvelling at its increased performance specifications. Being someone who pushes their gear to its limits, I’m also fond of upgrading the equipment I use, and readers who’ve read my Planetarian post will note that I’m now rocking the EVGA GTX 1060 SC 6 GB edition: since I’ve acquired it, I’ve been enjoying the latest games at a buttery smooth 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution, and remark that this particular GPU is still on backorder at Memory Express for my store. It was only with a reservation that I was able to pick mine up back in August.

  • I’ve reiterated this point in other posts previously, but delving into literature further, it seems that I’m not deficient on enzymes for breaking down alcohol. Instead, I have an overexpression of alcohol dehydrogenase, which causes me to decompose alcohol much more quickly than usual, and in turn, I grow sick quickly. Prolonged exposure to alcohol can increase my susceptibility to disease, so this is why I don’t drink, much less with Waltrud’s speed. Brave Witches calls wine “grape juice”, which is technically acceptable: wine really is just rotten grape juice. With that being said, the episode’s title is rather curious — I wouldn’t want ethanol anywhere near my ocular systems.

  • Because of an intolerance for alcohol, I’m no fun at parties, but fortunately, my friends and colleagues are accepting of this, and will usually laugh off my preferences for ginger ale or root beer. With that being said, I will drink on some occasions, usually preferring a good rum of sorts. Waltrud’s carelessness seems to hit a new low when she sorties into battle despite her hangover, and in any other setting, this would be unacceptable. However, in Brave Witches, the Witches’ magic might be assumed to help them overcome any effects of the aforementioned hangover.

  • With the battle against the Neuroi under way, I found myself impressed at the sheer number of Neuroi present on screen in this battle. Such numbers, however, is not a first for the Strike Witches franchise — during the first season, the 501st engage cube-like Neuroi in large numbers in their eighth episode as well, but that one ended with Minna expressing concern over Mio’s declining magic. While Strike Witches was more heavy-handed with its infamous pantsu moments, they explored themes about team dynamics as well. Consequently, it might be worthwhile to go back and watch both seasons again once Brave Witches draws to a close.

  • The page quote comes from Waltrud’s fixation on grape juice, but could easily refer to the nature of the Neuroi the Witches encounter this episode. If and when I’m asked, I do posts with paragraphs of discussion and figure captions as “reactions”: anime discussion and blogs usually come in two varieties, with some folks taking a hybrid approach as I’ve done. While I enjoy drawing elements together to discuss their importance in the bigger picture, I also enjoy responding to individual events on screen. In general, however, I find that individuals who do reaction-type discussions usually leave very little in the way of context. This is perfectly acceptable, but for my readers, I’m not about to let them hunt down the precise moments that I refer to in order to follow them, hence my extensive use of imagery.

  • This scene captures the sheer intensity of the battle taking place in the skies above, with particle effects all over the place as the Witches shoot down the smaller drones to clear a path and neutralise the mothership. In the chaos, friendly vessels begin sustaining damage, even with Waltrud, Naoe, Nikka and Hikari’s efforts. Hikari is ordered to provide fire support for the others, but before she takes off, she gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”.

  • The Liberator would probably be effective against Neuroi the same way the Kolibri pistol is effective against other players in Battlefield 1, and should Brave Witches ever be a video game, there should be an achievement for defeating a Neuroi with the Liberator. However, as Hikari is still under the impression that the Liberator is a good luck charm, she passes it to Waltrud, who confidently states that she’ll be invincible with it.

  • Waltrud’s magic seems to be a booster that greatly increases her speed in combat at the expense of her Striker Unit. She utilises this boost to destroy multiple drones before engaging the larger Neuroi at closer range: in combat, she typically wields an MG 42 or the STG 44 (MP 44), the forerunner of modern assault rifles.

  • After Hikari and the others take out one half of the Neuroi, they learn that the core is residing in the remaining half that Waltrud is fighting. Her skill as a Witch is apparent here, and despite her normally lax demenour, Waltrud is one of the top operators in the 502nd, second only to Gundula in terms of kill count. She manages to locate the core and destroys it with what appears to be an under-barrel grenade launcher, before she is swatted from the air by a stray Neuroi drone. My inner weapons historian than asks: were there really under-barrel weapons in this age for the STG 44?

  • It turns out there is: even though under-barrel grenade launchers only became widespread after the development of the M203 and Soviet BG-15 in the late 1960s and previous grenade launchers were either carried as standalone weapons like the M79, or else took the form of rifle grenades, the weapon in Brave Witches is authentic. Waltrud is seen here after firing a Sturmpistole, a modified flare gun designed to fire anti-tank projectile. Not particularly effective against even light tanks, the idea was soon discarded, but historically, Sturmpistoles could be mounted as under-barrel attachments for the STG 44.

  • In frustration that Waltrud is able to pull off stunts such as those, Naoe states that she’d like to punch out Waltrud’s lights. A viewer with a keen ear and keener sense of memory will note that tracks from Strike Witches and Strike Witches: The Movie also make a return in this episode. The return of familiar music serves to remind audiences that while being about a different group of Witches and their stories, this nonetheless remains Strike Witches.

  • Despite injuries sustained after falling into the ocean, Waltrud is in fine spirits and enjoying the Britannian Witch’s company. As it turns out, Waltrud is a surprisingly good judge of character: she answers Edytha’s remarks about choosing Hikari, explaining that Hikari’s phenomenal in the support role. Right before she takes off to engage the Neuroi, Hikari gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”, and it is this action that saves Waltrud: ironically, rather than being misleading about the Liberator’s purpose, her misinformation and Hikari’s reactions turned out to be beneficial.

  • If Waltrud had been flying a new-model Striker in this battle, and the Neuroi are able to both regenerate, as well as incorporate the Striker’s circuitry into its workings, the next Neuroi the 502nd encounter could be quite fearsome. The episode preview betrays nothing about what is to happen, so with this week’s episode in the books, it’s time for me to conclude this post. This is the fastest I’ve been all season with respect to getting a Brave Witches post out, and this episode’s talk comes on the same day as the episode. It is a consequence of unique scheduling, so next week, I imagine I’ll be back to finishing the ninth episode’s discussion on Thursday. Until then, it’s back to iOS programming as deadlines loom at work, and playing Battlefield 1 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided when I’m off work.

Nearing the three-quarters mark, and with new model Striker Units introduced, as well as a foreboding scene where the Neuroi is shown to be regenerating and integrates Striker technology into its operation, Brave Witches is beginning to gear up for its final quarter. Strike Witches has typically taken this direction as the season progressed: unlike the Neuroi in earlier segments of their respective seasons, Neuroi appearing towards the end were not to be trifled with, forcing the Witches to work together in full in order to accomplish victory. As Waltrud mentions en route to their destination, the final enemy the 502nd will face in Brave Witches is the large hive in their AO. This is sure to be a thrilling fight, and one wonders how the 502nd will take down their foe (Strike Witches‘ main theme means that the final episode’s outcome is more noteworthy for how it reached its conclusion, rather than what the outcome itself is going to be), but until then, the remaining few episodes will deal with any characters who’ve not had much exposition yet: Gundula and Naoe come to mind, and once their stories are presented, it’ll be time for the 502nd to take on the hive as a full-fledged team, as the 501st had done before them.

On a Holy Night: Brave Witches Seventh Episode Impressions and Review

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” —Freya Stark

Hikari falls ill after riding on a sled in the frigid winter air of Petersburg and becomes bed-ridden. Meanwhile, the 502nd discover that their supplies have fallen critically low as a result of earlier Neuroi attacks on their warehouses. Consequently, Gundula decides to cancel this year’s Saturnus Festival, much to Nikka’s dismay. Recalling that it was the Saturnus Festival that led her to feel more welcome as a member of the 502nd, she resolves to try and push a scaled-back variant for Hikari: she, Alexsandra and Naoe carve Matryoshka dolls for Hikari while Waltrud is out hunting for a pine tree as punishment after inadvertently insulting Edytha. Waltrud accidentally reveals to Hikari their plans for a Saturnus Festival and is further penalised, sent out to find some edible mushrooms. However, these mushrooms induce uncontrollable laughter, and so, when a Neuroi appears in the area, it’s up to Nikka to defeat it. Her bad luck seemingly prevails midcombat, when her weapons jam, but Eila and Sanya of the 501st arrive to defeat the Neuroi, before dropping off enough provisions that allow the 502nd to have a Saturnus Festival for Hikari that Nikka fondly recalls. This seventh episode of Brave Witches follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, being one that is rather more relaxed in nature, but, ever-mindful of differentiating itself from Strike Witches, Brave Witches capitalises on their episode to tell a meaningful story about how meaningful the Saturnus Festival is for Nikka, and her desire to make Hikari feel at home amongst the other Witches of the 502nd.

Episode seven of Brave Witches is in effect a Christmas episode, depicting a celebration of Christmas at the front lines and how even if the traditional elements of Christmas are absent, it is the spirit and togetherness that makes this season a magical one. The Saturnus Festival is derived off the Roman holiday Saturnalia — during winter months, to appease the Sun God, Saturn, human sacrifices were made to bring back the sun, and Roman law would select an enemy who would be permitted to indulge in sins. At the end of the festival, this individual would be executed. During the festivities, law was not be in effect, so people could party and give gifts. Numerous winter festivals developed independently of the Roman Saturnalia and Jesus Christ’s birth, and in modernity, Christmas is the main winter festival that people observe. A time for togetherness and gift-giving, there’s a magic about Christmas that Nikka experienced during her first year as a 502nd witch, and speaking to its impact, she tries her best to ensure that the 502nd’s latest addition, Hikari, can also experience thus to feel more included as a 502nd Witch. In keeping with the notion of a Christmas miracle, Eila and Sanya arrive, allowing the Saturnus Festival to truly be magical for both Hikari and Nikka, who is given an opportunity to see her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Winter has now set in over Petersburg, and being from Suomus, Nikka hardly notices the frigid air, whereas Hikari and Naoe find the air surprisingly brisk. I can understand Nikka’s remarks; lifetime of living in Canada means that I’m mentally prepared to handle cold weather. For me, a day where it’s -15°C is considered comfortable, especially considering how the more frigid winter days can drop temperatures down to -40°C with windchill.

  • The seventh episode of Brave Witches holds the season record thus far for “most funny faces”, and I’ve decided to include some in this here episode discussion. What is less amusing for Naoe and Nikka is what happens subsequently, when Hikari pushes the sled and trips, leaving no one to steer it and causing it to drive over thin ice. In the ensuing cold, Hikari develops a cold of her own.

  • Dwindling provisions leaves Sadako with increasingly fewer options for preparing meals; she creates a dumpling soup that each respective Witch attempts to identify as a cuisine from their own homeland, and Naoe names it as suiton (すいとん) soup. Having nothing to do with the spell in Final Fantasy or one of Gundam‘s most infamous online presences, the soup is said to be hearty and filling when properly prepared. Here, it’s stated that Witches falling ill are uncommon owing to their healing factors, although Hikari’s weak magical ability is leveraged to created a specific situation that drives the remainder of the episode.

  • Fortunately for the rest of the world, Suiton629 is a name that no longer plagues most online discussion venues, and so, there will be no further mention of this individual. Back in Brave Witches, Hikari is left to rest and recover from her cold. That Nikka and Naoe are looking after her suggest that they’ve grown the closest since Hikari joined the 502nd. I’m still finding it difficult to believe that Naoe shares a voice actor with Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?‘s Megu Natsu.

  • While Gundula has made it clear that there is to be no preparations for any sort of festival, Nikka nonetheless begins trying to bring in even small tokens, and Alexsandra contributes her own Christmas experiences, having received a Matryoshka from her parents as a child. Known more commonly as Russian Dolls, these nesting dolls are a relatively recent invention, being crafted in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin.

  • It may strike some as an unusual contradiction — whereas I greatly enjoy reading ghost stories on paper or hearing about them, I am not particularly keen on horror movies in general. The last and only horror movie I’ve seen is Dark Water (Japanese title: Honogurai Mizu no soko kara); my fear and unsettlement came from the implications of the familial dynamics in the movie, as well as pity for the ghost, and I realised that I fear that part of people capable of neglecting or even bringing harm onto others, rather than anything a ghost can or cannot do to the corporeal world.

  • To see Edytha show up just as Nikka and Naoe take off after Waltrud’s “ghost” story was bloody hilarious: while normally of a quiet and reserved demeanour, seeing any emotion from Edytha contrary to her normal self evokes a sense of amusement. What she does to Waltrud for telling the story is not shown, but the aural cues themselves do a fantastic job of suggesting that for Waltrud, things were not particularly pleasant.

  • Nikka, Alexsandra and Naoe begin carving the Matryoshka dolls for Hikari, and although they’re off to a strong start, with Naoe carving an intricate dog that is mistaken to be a cat, Hikari awakens and wonder what’s going on. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is Waltrud appearing with an evergreen tree and loudly announcing that she’s hoping Hikari will enjoy their efforts at a Saturnus festival. The secret out, Waltrud is sent on a second punishment assignment.

  • Waltrud and Edytha stumble on some mushrooms while hunting for ingredients such that Sadako can cook a reasonable Christmas dinner. Continuing with unique facial expressions from Edytha, who is typically capable of maintaining a neutral expression under most circumstances, it is pleasant and amusing to see her expressing her feelings, and here, she sports a soppy expression following their find.

  • I’m not a mycologist and therefore, I cannot immediately recognise species of fungi on sight alone. Here, Edytha reacts to the consumption of the mushrooms she and Waltrud have found earlier: they’re remarked to be “laughing mushrooms”, specifically, Gymnopilus junonius. This identification is based purely on the mushroom’s geographical range: unlike other mushrooms with these properties, which are found in more temperate climates, G. junonius‘ distribution includes Russia). These mushrooms contain a compound known as psilocybin, which is metabolised in the body to form psilocin. This chemical induces euphoria, leading the characters to laugh uncontrollably. Although the science is not mentioned explicitly in Brave Witches, it is impressive that the writers have taken the effort to get these details correct.

  • Psilocybin is the compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are consumed recreationally by some, and the results leave individuals in no fit state to operate machinery. Thus, with everyone on base in hysterics from the mushrooms, and Hikari still on the mend from her cold, it’s up to Nikka to deploy and engage a Neuroi that has seemingly appeared from the blue. Remaining on the ground, Hikari’s observations lead Nikka to the conclusion that the Neuroi has active camouflage, which enabled it to evade observers until it was in close proximity to the base.

  • The MG 42 that Nikka wields in combat is one of the top machine guns that German produced during the Second World War, coupling a high reliability and durability with an impressive fire rate of 1200 to 1500 rounds per minute that resulted in a unique report. A solid all-around weapon, that it jams in Nikka’s hands is meant to illustrate the misfortunes that befall her in combat, and without any other combat options, it’s all Nikka can do to remain in the air after her weapon fails to continue operating. However, Nikka’s luck is not totally poor: in this screenshot, a rocket can be seen entering the frame, and moments later, a burst of machine gun fire destroys the Neuroi.

  • These shots are fired from the 501st’s very own Sanya Litvyak and Eila Juutilainen: whereas Yoshika and Mio only made cameo appearances in a newspaper clipping during the first episode, this episode marks the first time 501st Witches are given dialogue on-screen. In the aftermath of Strike Witches‘ first season, Sanya and Eila return to the Sumous area and spend time with Nikka; The Sky That Connects Us depicts Sanya singing for both Eila and Nikka.

  • I purchased The Sky That Connects Us more than two years ago, and it never ceases to amaze me just how quickly time has elapsed. Here, Hikari and Nikka admire a miniature Christmas tree that accompanies the supplies that Sanya and Eila have shipped in. With American Thanksgiving being today, and Black Friday tomorrow, the next major holiday on the table is Christmas. This year, Christmas will be a quiet event with nuclear family: with no Master Grade to build this year, I foresee that I will spend most of the day reading books and playing Battlefield 1 (or Mankind Divided).

  • As a consequence giving everyone an unwanted high from the ‘shrooms and very nearly bringing about the destruction of the Petersburg base, Waltrud is made to kneel in a corner, bearing the sign “I committed sabotage”. While seemingly harmless, Waltrud’s actions incapacitated the 502nd’s ability to defend against hostile actors and, were it not for Nikka, could have spelled certain doom for the 502nd. Her punishment therefore comes across as being quite light in nature, although strictly speaking, her punishment for accidentally revealing the 502nd’s plans for a Saturnus festival was also unnecessary.

  • Under the candlelight, Alexsandra, Naoe and Nikka present Hikari with her gift. Hikari mis-identifies Naoe’s carving as a pig when it’s supposed to be a dog, but Naoe’s reaction to this mistake is decidedly more benign. While outwardly expressing a seeming lack of concern about Hikari, subtle changes in Naoe have been expressed through her actions, which plainly show an abundance of concern for Hikari’s well-being.

  • Gundula confiscates some champaign from Waltrud, and proceeds to open the bottle. While writing this, I suddenly recall that, in the wake of my thesis defense, I was given one voucher to a bottle of champaign at the Last Defense Lounge on campus. I still have the voucher with me, and originally, I intended to stop by the Last Defense Lounge to lay claim to some complementary champaign after my convocation. I’ve yet to actually do so, but the voucher is good for quite some time, so I’ve a bit of a window to capitalise. Despite my low tolerance against the effects of beer, I can drink other alcohols in moderation without too many ill effects.

  • The reflection of candlesticks among the droplets of champagne in the episode’s final moments are impressive and magical, worthy of the sort of magic that Nikka describes the Saturnus festival as having. I now go briefly off mission to explain why this post comes out with only a few minutes left on the 24th: one of my friends was back in town after a clerkship out East, and we decided to go watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them after work ended today.

  • I rather enjoyed the movie, which is set in New York during the roaring twenties: it allows for magical communities outside of Britain to be explored, and despite having numerous layers in its narrative, the story told is rather solid. In many ways, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is similar to Brave Witches in that both spinoffs have enough uniquely identifying elements to stand apart from their predecessors, while at the same time, have enough familiar elements to remind viewers that they’re in the same world. Prior to the movie, I dropped by Kilkenny’s Irish Pub for a fantastic dinner: a medium-rare double steak sandwich with onion rings and a large helping of sea-salted fries. Aside from the tender and tasty steaks, the best part is that the sandwich was thirty percent off, being the Thursday special.

  • I’ll wrap up this post with a screenshot of Eila and Sanya in Yuletide attire. It was most pleasant to see them again, and while they might not have appeared in the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs, their being given some screentime here is much welcomed. With the Christmas episode of Brave Witches concluded, and a mere quarter hour before Black Friday, I need to sign off and get some sleep. My upcoming posts in the near future with deal with Battlefield 1‘s campaign mission “Friends in High Places”, and perhaps something on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided once I finish the Prague by night missions. In addition, Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days was released a week ago, and once the episode becomes available, I will be giving that a reflection, as well.

Given that this is Brave Witches‘ idea of a “fanservice” episode, it is quite apparent that Brave Witches stands exceptionally well on its own and quite apart from its predecessor. The inclusion of meaningful character development and world building (here, depiction of what Christmas is like in the Strike Witches universe) provides a chance to begin exploring the extensive and hitherto uncharted world that is the Strike Witches universe. The world that Humikane Shimada created extends well beyond the pantsu elements that Strike Witches was once known for; audiences have wondered what life in such a world could be like and with Brave Witches beginning to present various facets of life in such a universe, this alternate reality becomes more life-like, more plausible and more welcoming: the seventh episode of Brave Witches drives this world building through character interactions, giving additional insight into Nikka’s personality and beliefs. In this manner, the Witches themselves become more complex, believable characters that, despite perhaps lacking the same glitz as their counterparts in the 501st, nonetheless are a thrill to watch.

Good luck: Brave Witches Impressions and Review At The Halfway Point

“The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.” —Douglas MacArthur

When an artillery-spotter Neuroi pair begin shelling facilities close to the Petersburg base, Alexsandra, Nikka and Hikari are sent to locate the spotter unit. While flying through the city streets, Alexsandra experiences flashbacks of the city’s layout despite firmly asserting that she was not familiar with the town. The next day, the 502nd separate into two teams: one to take out the artillery unit, and the other to neutralise the spotter, which presents the additional challenge of being a shape-shifting type. While pursing the Neuroi, Alexsandra realises that she suppressed her memories of the area, worrying about being discriminated against when she revealed that she was a Witch to save her friends during her childhood. Unlocking her memories, she is able to identify where the spotter is hiding and dispatch it. It is able to send out one final signal before it is destroyed, and in parallel, Edytha and the others successfully destroy the artillery-type right after it fires another round. Feeling that Alexsandra does care about Petersburg, Nikka is able to stop the shell from razing their area but damages her Striker unit yet again. Atearful Alexsandra learns that the ladybug Nikka had drawn in her Striker unit is meant as a sign of luck, bringing the sixth episode to a close.

We’re now sitting at the halfway point in Brave Witches, during which Alexsandra and Nikka’s relationship is explored in greater detail. Earlier episodes had primarily depicted Alexsandra as eternally frustrated at Nikka’s tendency to total Striker units, leaving her with a great deal of extra work, but the sixth episode also shows that the two also have a strong friendship, as evidenced when Nikka capitalises on her regeneration factor to tank a Neuroi artillery round. The focus of this episode is primarily on Alexsandra’s own inner struggles: she overcomes her fears and doubts independently of external help, accepting her existence as a Witch and making use of her powers to help the 502nd in neutralising a particularly tricky opponent. This episode thus stands in contrast with earlier episodes, where the different Witches worked together in order to overcome adversity — here, it is shown that the higher-ranked Witches can also count on their own resolve to rectify their issues, affirming them as highly valuable leaders to their subordinates.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although Hikari’s improved since her arrival in Petersburg, she continues to train under Edytha’s eye in order to ensure that she remains minimally ready for combat against the Neuroi. While working on her balance, Nikka runs into the hanger, being chased by an irate Alexsandra. It turns out that Nikka’s wrecked a Striker unit, bringing her total of damaged units up to two at this point.

  • Alexsandra’s primary ability is magic-assisted eidetic memory, allowing her to recall layouts and concepts with unerring accuracy. She makes use of this to repair Nikka’s Striker unit, and Edytha laments that Alexsandra could be doing so much more than looking after Nikka. Nikka’s magic is also given here: she has the capacity to self-heal, which has been said to contribute to her tendency to crash or damage Striker units.

  • After a Neuroi shell leaves flaming wreckage where a warehouse was, Gundula sends the 502nd to investigate the source of the damage. I’ve begun making my way through the Battlefield 1 campaign by this point in time, and the heavily-shelled landscapes of World War One are faithfully depicted in the game. It is absolutely astounding that DICE managed to capture these details so effectively, and I will be posting about the first mission, “Through Mud and Blood”, in short order.

  • Initially, Edytha, Hikari and Alexsandra fly out to see if they cannot locate the Neuroi, but their search turns out unsuccessful. Splitting up to increase their search area, Alexsandra manages to locate the Neuroi and opens fire on it, but it retreats underground before she can deal any serious damage to it.

  • The 502nd learn that the Neuroi’s precision is targeting installations critical to the their operations is a consequence of a spotter unit designating targets for the larger artillery unit; Gundula has the Witches disperse into two groups such that both can be taken out. In Brave Witches, the Witches refer to this spotter as a “marker”, although this is technically incorrect. A marker is used for indicating a point, so if the Neuroi were fulfilling this role, it would need to broadcast a signal at that point until the shell landed. Instead, it appears to be designating targets while disguised as ordinary objects, hence my choice to refer to it as a spotter (similar to the spotters in a two-man sniper team).

  • I am tempted to run with the Lewis Gun in Battlefield 1 to emulate Alexsandra’s loadout: she enters battle with the Russian Degtyaryov DP-28 machine gun. The only commonality the two weapons share is their top-mounted pan magazine, but they look similar enough so that the loadout might fly. After the first major Battlefield 1 patch, which was a 2 GB download taking some 10 minutes to finish completely, LMGs have been improved to be more accurate, which means I should give the support class a shot now (I’ve been occupied with levelling the assault and medic classes insofar).

  • The streets of Petersburg are rendered in excellent detail, although being quite devoid of life: the city was evacuated in the face of the Neuroi advance, hence the lack of people. Alexsandra demonstrates a strong dislike for the city early in the episode, insisting that her duty is to destroy the Neuroi rather than preserve the city, on the basis that there are few lives in the city left to defend. This manner hints at her own story, so it is not particularly surprising that her recollections foreshadow the episode’s events.

  • Brave Witches is predictable to the point where once a few elements are presented within an episode, it becomes possible to accurately predict the events that unfold in the remain. However, while predictability is something that audiences ordinarily hold against a work (implying that it is derivative or unoriginal), Brave Witches‘ charm lies in its portrayal of the same events from a much more serious, narrative-driven manner.

  • The Neuroi in Brave Witches also have become more tactical in nature compared to their Strike Witches counterparts; here, their application of weather-altering Neuroi to modify the surface conditions and facilitate their movements, as well as working in coordinated pairs, as with the artillery and spotter units, present much more difficult opponents for the Witches to defeat. This tactical element adds a sense of urgency to the Witches’ operations, giving the Human-Neuroi war a greater sense of impact than was previously portrayed in Strike Witches.

  • While I’m not ordinarily able to notice CG elements in an anime compared to their hand-drawn counterparts, there are places in this episode where the CG is conspicuous. I remark that the Alexsandra, Nikka and Hikari resemble the characters in RWBY whenever they are rendered in CG. It’s a relatively minor element that does not detract from the episode’s enjoyment factor, and here at the halfway point, I’m rather enjoying what Brave Witches has presented thus far.

  • Nikka’s regen factor allows her to tank impacts that would knock out other Witches, and here, her carelessness results in her colliding with a street lamp. She earlier collides a sign on a storefront, causing both her and Hikari to crash into the ground: between Hikari’s lesser skill and Nikka’s bad luck, it seems to be a bad idea to pair these two together in an operation. Alexsandra must deal with the consequences and enters pursuit of the spotter Neuroi alone.

  • Hikari only winds up in a slightly better position than Nikka. A great deal of discussions out there tend to use the character’s nicknames rather than their given names for brevity’s sake, but here, I prefer to use everyone’s given name, since it’s easier to recall a nickname attached to a given name, rather than the other way around. Alexsandra is known as “Sasha”, and Nikka is “Nipa”. I used to go by a variety of nicknames, ranging from a shortened form of my name to something as ostentatious as “The Oracle”. When dealing with people, I inform them that I am perfectly happy go with either my full or shortened name, and remark that only more formal or professional settings require the use of my name’s full variant.

  • I included this screenshot to highlight just how chaotic aerial battles can be in Brave Witches: the screen is aglow with laser fire and spent cartridges. Movement dominates the screen, and motion blur means that images tend to be quite fuzzy. In looking around for some information related to this post, I learned only now that Naoe is voiced by Rie Murakawa, the same Rie Murakawa who voices Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?‘s Megu Natsu and Non Non Biyori‘s Hotaru Ichijou. What a world-breaker this news is: Naoe’s voice is so different from that of Megu’s that I find myself impressed at Murakawa’s voice-acting skill.

  • Alexsandra’s story is that she once lived in Petersburg and enjoyed life here with her friends, but after a near-accident that revealed her powers as a Witch, she feared the associated stigma. A capable mechanic and tactician, she’s a valuable asset to the 502nd and serves to counter out the more laid-back personalities of Nikka and Waltrud. Given that Alexsandra’s concerns had arisen before the Neuroi attack on Europe, they imply that Witches were once despised: Witches are seen as heroes in Strike Witches who are admired, rather than feared.

  • Magic-assisted eidetic memory is something that is unattainable for present-day humanity, and although some science fiction works have suggested the use of external devices to help us store memories (in a similar manner as the Pensieves of Harry Potter), the main challenge in implementing such devices in reality would be the interface between the brain and said storage medium, as well as how to parse neural impulses, then translate those into a format that can be stored and retrieved. Dealing with brain-related topics is always a thrill, but in this Brave Witches talk, I’ve opted to keep that to a minimum since such a topic could easily encompass the entire scope of the discussion.

  • Setting aside her personal doubts and allowing herself to make full use of her memories, Alexsandra is able to determine an aberration in the Petersburg skyline indicative of the Neuroi’s position. It is promptly eliminated, but not before sending off one last set of coordinates for the artillery-type. I remark that the Neuroi in the past two Brave Witches episodes appear to have been written to fit with the characters’ abilities, creating challenges for them to defeat using their innate abilities.

  • While Alexsandra is content to evacuate the area as the last Neuroi shell drops from the sky, Nikka decides that this order does not stand. She breaks away from the group and projects a shield with the aim of stopping the projectile. Her efforts are successful, although that results in her damaging her Striker unit once again. This brings the total number of Striker units Nikka’s damaged up to three in Brave Witches.

  • On the whole, the sixth episode featured some fantastic artwork of St. Petersburg under a fresh snowfall and blue skies: its plot line offers a chance to explore the streets of Petersburg and see some of its surroundings; earlier, Nikka collides with the Neuroi’s impersonation of the Bronze Horseman, and other landmarks are also replicated faithfully. I wonder what it would be like to visit Russia during the winter and see cities such as St. Petersburg or Moscow under a fresh snowfall.

  • I would visit Russia in winter for the atmosphere rather than to experience the climate: while I often joke that the weak Canadian winter no match for Real Soviet Winter™, it’s actually the case that my home city has a lower average low temperature than Moscow and St. Petersburg for the months of December and January, as well as getting more snow overall. In other words, Canadian winters can match a Russian winter in terms of intensity. However, being a newer city with much less history, there is a certain magic about Russian cities that my own town cannot quite capture.

  • The page quote is from General Douglas MacArthur, one of my favourite figures from World War Two, and I believe that people do their best when they use their skill to create opportunity. Of course, there is a bit of luck that comes from the outside, but for the most part, I prefer counting on luck made from within as much as possible. The words that Alexsandra inscribes into Nikka’s Striker, удачи (pronounced “udachi”) translates to “good luck”, lending itself to the episode title. With this post at its conclusion, upcoming posts will deal with the Battlefield 1 mission “Through Mud and Blood” and the finale to Gundam: The Origin.

Similar to how Strike Witches‘ sixth episodes for both seasons focussed on Sanya and Eila, Brave Witches adopts a parallel approach in delving into interactions amongst the Orussian and Suomus Witches. Their dynamics have proven to be quite entertaining to watch, being rather more reserved than those of the Karlsland or Fuso Witches. At the halfway yardstick, Brave Witches has given screentime for Naoe, Georgette, Sadako, Nikka and Alexsandra; this leaves Waltrud, Gundula and Edytha’s tribulations as remaining to be explored. Traditionally, Strike Witches utilises its seventh episode for some serious fanservice: in the first season, the episode follows Erica’s misadventures after she commandeers pantsu from Francesca, while in the second season, a small insect-sized Neuroi embarrasses the Witches by lodging in their pantsu. After the seventh episode, the tone invariably became more serious as the Witches prepare for battle with increasingly deadly Neuroi. While Brave Witches has reduced this sort of thing, it seems logical to suppose that the seventh episode of Brave Witches will be more relaxed in nature, before the narrative shifts gears in preparation for the 502nd’s own task to defeat a nearby hive.