Strike Witches Season 1 Collection
In an alternate 1939, the world is fighting against an entirely different enemy. Strange life forms called Neuroi have begun attacking earth leaving most of it in ruin. The only effective means that humans have developed to fight back is a team of teenage girls capable of using magic. Sent into the skies with propeller powered personal leg units, these girls fight the enemy in close range aerial combat. The name of this unit is the 501th Airborne, also known as the Strike Witches.
The series opens on a young girl named Yoshika who uses healing magic. When a brash military officer named Mio comes to recruit her into the war, Yoshika initially refuses but after learning that she might be able to learn more about her missing father she finally agrees to accompany Mio. Still completely oblivious to being manipulated into fighting the war, Yoshika arrives at the base and meets various other girls from around the world also recruited to fight with her and find her place amongst the unit.
Good and the Bad
I’ve had Strike Witches on my radar for months. I always knew I was going to watch it, I was just never in a hurry to get to it. Finally setting aside some time, I stuck it in and instantly found myself wanting more. This is a series that is not only better than I ever thought it would be, this is a series that is better than it has any right to be.
To put it out there, if you’ve heard anything about this series already it’s probably true. It is a military loli series about girls with guns and no pants. It’s also a series capable completely disarming even the most cynical members of the audience with its capable and moving stories of friendship and loss. At first, watching Strike Witches can be almost disconcerting. The panty shots are quite random but impossible to miss as many come in the form of close ups or flybys. It’s never hidden from the audience and animation studio Gonzo never attempts to be coy with how often they appear. If you don’t believe me, watch the breezy episode in the second half.
Generally when a series gets that kind of description, you’ve pretty much hit the limit for finding any real depth. What makes Strike Witches special is that once you get past the shiny loli surface, there are deeper layers. Layers that pull the audience in with an emotional story about girls fighting together and finding new families after losing their own in the war that they’re trying to end.
As the girls bond closer and Yoshika finds her place among the witches, it becomes easy to forget about everything else. Amongst the girls, there are a variety of characters all featuring their own unique looks and personalities. No matter what character type you might like, there will be someone amongst the witches to catch your attention. For the record, Mina, Charlotte, Francesca and, to some extent, Lynne ended up being my moe switches. Even if there are some amongst the troop that irritate you to no end (looking at you Yoshika and Perrine), there will always be someone else to make up for it.
What hits me as the most impressive fact about Strike Witches is the amazing amount of detail put in by the staff. Even if you wanted to just pass this off as ‘just another moe’ series, no one can deny the fact that it is at least ‘just another moe’ series that has done some serious homework. While it is never directly talked about all of the various names used are references to real life counterparts (i.e. the Akagi was a real ship used in the Japanese navy in this era). Even the various strike units the girls use are modeled after real planes of the era while the girls themselves are all named after real pilots (some of which are still living; wonder if any of them have watched this?).Music
Before catching this series, I had no idea that the same man who composed the scores for two series I consider beloved, El Hazard and Petite Princess Yucie, did this one as well. But after 12 episodes, I should’ve figured it out. Another category with completely unexpected quality, the score composed by Hagaoka does a wonderful job of adding an extra layer of emotional weight behind the scenes. In the brighter and darker moments, soft melodies are always present to support all of the characters in their moments of happiness, sadness and fear. Constantly using soft duets, heavier moments are captured by a soft harp and string melody. When Mina looks out the window at night in a moment of weakness (which she likes to do because she’s deliciously angsty), this theme shares her burden and carries an emotional weight of its own.
Dub vs. Sub
While switching between the Japanese and English tracks, I noticed that in some cases that were like night and day with both casts containing performances that made me wish I were listening to the other track. In the English track, for instance, Kira Vincent-Davis delivers a completely flat performance for Mio. Every word is delivered in the same low tone and that rarely has inflection beyond ‘loud’ and ‘louder’. But then again, in the Japanese cast Kaori Nazuka performs Lynne in a constantly high pitched, annoying whine that is the mirror opposite to Kate Bristol’s gentle, sweet and quiet voice that fits the character much more naturally. No matter how many episodes I watched however, I always found myself happier when I was listening to the Japanese track. While not every voice was dazzling, the performances always sounded much clearer and more natural to the ear.
Cast commentary featuring ADR Director Scott Sager, Kate Bristol (Lynne) and Cherami Leigh (Yoshika) and clean animations on disc 2.
I cannot emphasize enough just how much Strike Witches caught me off guard just by being good. In 12 episodes, this series tells a solid stories at a pace that makes hours just completely fly by. Not everyone is going to sit down and see this series as a sweetly told emotional story about girls coming together as a unit but if that’s what you’re looking for I really believe that most anime fans won’t be steered wrong with this one. If you enjoy moe or girls with guns, you owe it to yourself to give this one a chance. This is easily one of the best DVDs of the year and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.