Strike Witches Review
In 1939 a mysterious life form called Neuroi appeared around the world.
The Neuroi slowly, but surely, destroyed human cities and armies, creating their own nests in the skies above the ruined lands. Humanity has come together under the flag of defeating the Neuroi threat, but even with armies around the world fighting at earnest the Neuroi remained unbeatable. However, the invention of the Striker Unit changed that reality. The Striker Unit, when worn by girls with strong magical attributes, can grant the wearer the abilities they need to fight the Neuroi. The girls who fight the Neuroi with Striker Units have come to be known as Witches. One day a young girl named Miyafuji Yoshika who lives in the island country of Fuso is visited by the military major Sakamoto Mio. Sakamoto tells Yoshika that she has the potential to be a great Witch and should join her squad. Having lost her father in the war Yoshika turns down Sakamoto’s proposal, but a change of heart eventually leads her to join Sakamoto’s squad – the Strike Witches. Together with other girls with magical powers who have gathered from around the world Yoshika will fight as part of the Strike Witches to liberate the world from the Neuroi
Watching Strike Witches can be an awkward experience at first. The series takes place in a world in which women do not wear pants and naturally walk around all day in their underwear. The awkwardness only intensifies as you watch a woman in her underwear taking part in a military meeting in which she and other important key figures discuss issues vital to the survival of mankind. Suffice to say a lot of the fanservice in Strike Witches is derived from the lack of pants. This is a fanservice-heavy series so expect to see a lot of panties, boobs and butts on screen. That said Strike Witches is far from being you typical fanservice show. The series feature a wealth of interesting characters and the plot builds up in a fairly satisfying pace. We watch Yoshika as she arrives to the Strike Witches base in Gallia (more on country names later) and meet the other girls assigned to the base. Most of these girls have unique characteristics and interesting histories to tell, and indeed most of the first season is used to introduce them. This is a good thing, because through their personalities and history we learn more about the world and the trials humanity has come to face. We also slowly get to know the girls, all of which are very different from one another. Strike Witches has a bunch of genuinely great characters that you’ll enjoy to watch. Yoshika is the usual strong-willed girl with a valiant cause, but she also has some perverted qualities that keep her from being a boring heroine. Major Sakamoto, with her manly manners and warm heart, is unlike any woman stereotype found in anime. The other girls all have habits or hobbies that differentiate them and makes fresh. However I did find the tsuntsun Perrine and the obsessive Eila to be annoying as they tend to be persistent in reprimanding all those around them.
One of the most commendable things about Strike Witches is the attention to details and the inclusion of those details in the first place. The setting for the war with the Neuroi is a pre WW2 world with the countries having different names than in our universe. Japan is Fuso, the USA is Liberion, France is Gallia, Germany is Karlsland and so on. The girls’ different nationalities are expressed in their cloths (in Karlsland you wear uniforms, in Fuso you wear sailor suits), their Striker Units (each unit is modeled after a real battle plane from said country), their animal ears and tail, difference in hair type and skin color. Major Sakamoto looks like she came from Fuso (Japan) because she has Japanese hair, slanted eyes and pale white skin. Shirley looks like an American because she has an outgoing and friendly nature, bunny ears and a big bust. These features appear to be stereotypical, but can be excused as they help us remember who came from which country. Each part of the series is finely tuned to appeal to certain fetishes. You have your general fanservice fans, army fans, furry fans, school mizugi fans and the list goes on. However you choose to interpret it the series does go the extra mile to make the characters look authentic and the setting more realistic, and that’s a commendable thing. These little bits of authenticity also lead to some very surreal scenes. I myself have served in the military for some time and frankly Strike Witches’ depiction of military life comes closer to reality more than most anime series do. The girls have set schedules they must attend, they must train every day, they have to clean their own rooms, they take shifts patrolling the skies for enemies and occasionally they make their own food. Strike Witches is the only anime I’ve ever seen in which soldiers sit to the table with a can of spam. It’s authentic, it’s well thought of and it’s totally awesome!
Another commendable thing about Strike Witches are the battles against the Neuroi. When the girls are not training or resting they are called to duty and must defend their territory against the Neuroi. The Neuroi’s true nature remains unknown. They seem to be inorganic beings that don’t communicate and have no conscience, but as the series progresses some strange evidence suggest they are more complex than one might think at first. They take several shapes and attempt to infiltrate the Strike Witches’ territory in various ways, from frontal attacks to stealth and blitz attacks. The battles are mostly fought in a traditional way with the girls using seemingly regular guns to kill Neuroi by destroying their cores (basically their life source). Despite the battles being fought in a rather straightforward way they still look great. The animation during battles is very smooth, the music is moody and fits very well to the situation and the way the girls maneuver through the skies (either alone or in formation) is pure eye candy.
In all the terms that matter the Blu-ray version of Strike Witches is the best thus far. The Blu-ray is an “SD remaster”, which means the source was SD but has been touched to look better on HD televisions. As a result it looks much better than past releases. Images look sharper and more detailed. The CG that is used during aerial battles and fairly stood out and looked out of place in the DVD version blends seamlessly into the series in the Blu-ray version. The audio has been upgraded to Dolby TrueHD 2.0 for the Japanese dub and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 for the English dub. Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions found in this bundle are uncensored, so you won’t be seeing any disturbing beams of light hiding all those bosoms and behinds. However episode 7 (“Nice and Breezy”) is still censored. Looks like FUNimation isn’t yet ready to show an uncensored episode featuring full frontal images of the female sex organ.
Since this is a combo pack you get the entire series on two Blu-ray discs and two DVDs. To be honest I don’t understand why FUNimation even created this combo pack, considering two DVD versions of Strike Witches are already available separately on the market, while the Blu-ray is unique to this pack. The differences between the Blu-ray and the DVD versions are baffling. The DVD looks blurry, has grain, the colors look a little smudged and for some reason the subtitles appear to be a little jagged. The DVD is also inferior in the sound department – offering simple stereo for the Japanese dub and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound for the English dub. These inferior stats could have been problematic if you were buying this set for the DVD release, but it’s probably safe to assume you will only be watching the Blu-ray copy anyway as the Blu-ray version of Strike Witches is the definitive way to watch the series. The English dub is lacking. The English voice actresses just don’t make the cut. Yoshika’s soft Japanese voice sounds too whiney in the English version, while Sakamoto’s aggressive Japanese voice becomes a shrill shout in English. It just isn’t half as good as in the Japanese version. The subtitles are spot on and you should stick to them and the Japanese dub on this title. Although the Blu-ray and DVD versions have different menus they have the same extras: textless opening, textless ending and a commentary of episode 12 (by the FUNimation English dub director and voice actresses).
So how does Strike witches amount overall as a series? It certainly appeals to the fetishes of certain crowds and does contain a juicy amount of fanservice. That aside it is also a remarkably well crafted series with lovable characters, an evolving and satisfying plot and nice action scenes. Most importantly it’s just really fun to watch and always leaves you with a taste for more. Strike Witches may have questionable panty shots and a weird dress code but it certainly makes up for it by being entertaining, unique and somewhat addictive.
- Looks better than ever on Blu-ray.
- Charming characters with lots of appeal.
- Great battle scenes.
- Episode 7 is censored.
- English dub is lacking.
Final Score: 8/10 (Very Good)
Product Information: Strike Witches – Complete First Season (Blu-ray/DVD Combo). Published by FUNimation Entertainment. Release Date: July 31, 2012.
Review Equipment: an LG Electronics Japan HD LED passive 3D 27 inch PC monitor (D2770P-PN) connected to a PS3 using a ver. 1.4 HDMI cable.