“For good or for ill, air mastery is today the supreme expression of military power and fleets and armies, however vital and important, must accept a subordinate rank.” – Winston Churchill
The year is 1939. A mysterious ship suddenly appears out of a strange purple cloud in the sky and starts to lay waste to most of Europe with its advanced weaponry. This powerful alien force is named as the Neuroi. It is then that scientists around the world work together to create a tool that can grant the user magical abilities to defeat this unknown presence; these users are known as the Strike Witches.
The Strike Witches (also known as the 501st Joint Fighter division) are a team of different nationalities who use leg propellers (called the Striker Unit) to take flight while using their magical powers and regular weaponry. The strange thing is that all of them are young girls and when summoning their powers, they grow different animal ears and tails – plus their uniform consists of them wearing pants.
The plot starts with our main character Yoshika Miyafuji; a bright student who is currently studying at middle school; she currently has a hatred for this on-going war since her father died working as a scientist for the war effort. However, this sparked interest for the leader of the Strike Witches, Mio Sakamoto, since she knew her father. After watching Yoshika deal with an incident that shows her using healing magic, Mio invites her to join the Strike Witches division.
The first episodes give us a glimpse of Yoshika and Mio’s motivations and how much a threat the Neuroi are. Right from the start the series attempts to show how terrifying war can be and that casualties can happen. However, when we reach Episode 3, we are introduced to the whole Strike Witch team. Where the series becomes more light-hearted (given that it’s set in wartime) it becomes more episodic, focusing on characters from the group. Some are really great, giving us a tragic look into their pasts but characters like Perrine, who basically serves as Mio’s lapdog, become increasingly annoying and the lack of a backstory makes her difficult to care about.Thankfully most of the group are likeable and provide support for each other.
Watching girls in flight with plenty of panty shots was a bit unnerving and funny at first but as you progress you start to appreciate the girls’ battles against the Neuroi. The Strike Witches really do work as a team for the most part and apply smart tactics like any other military unit, making this is one of the show’s biggest strengths, with thrilling battles sequences, especially in the final episode.
Fan service is huge in this anime with a huge amount of girl panty shots and nudity but it all comes off as harmless. If you’re not alright with this, then I suggest you think twice before picking this up.
The world of Strike Witches was, I felt, rarely explained, considering that this is an alternate history for World War Two. But on the other hand, the strict nature of the military is still there, plus the military technology, and the beautiful design and location of Britannia make up for the lack of explanation. Nor do we learn what the Neuroi are and why they came to this world; there is a certain plot point that reveals a bit more information but it’s never gone into in any depth, which is a disappointment.
The presentation is all over the place. As I said earlier, the animation in the battles is excellent and the moe characteristics for the girls feel strangely suitable for this series. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but notice some poorly drawn character models every now and then. The English voice acting was a bit of a disappointment as well; it sounded bland at times and because of this, I didn’t feel as emotionally invested as I should have been.
The Opening “Strike Witches – Watashi ni Dekiru Koto” by Yoko Ishida is a standard upbeat offering introducing us to the 501st Joint Fighter division and giving us a fluid fight scene. The Closing has that similar J-pop sweetness with “Bukkumaaku A Heddo” and shows Yoshika just running past all the other characters. Neither song is really my cup of tea but some may find some charm in them.
The extras on disc 2 provide a lively commentary on Episode 12, including ADR Director Scott Sager and voice actors for Yoshika (Cherami Leigh) and Lynette (Kate Bristol) offering us a discussion on the series, their first thoughts on Strike Witches and a discussion on fan service, resulting in a very entertaining talk which I enjoyed. The usual Textless Openings and Closings are also offered.
Issues aside, Strike Witches does well at providing a fun, action-packed anime that I enjoyed enough to give it a thumbs up.