An anime from the summer 2008 season, Strike Witches was one of the anime that I had dropped after the first episode, disregarding it as pure fanservice with no redeeming qualities. After all, the main selling point was that none of the girls wear pants. Recently (several months ago), I was persuaded into giving it a second chance. Considering how popular it was and the fact that it was the only thing keeping Gonzo afloat, I figured that it couldn’t hurt.
After watching all 12 episodes, I have to say my feelings are mixed, sort of like when I was persuaded into watching Kodomo no Jikan. Let’s start with the plot. In a parallel WWII-like world, aliens called Neuroi have invaded and occupied Europe except for Britain. Young girls called witches, with magical powers, are brought in from around the continent to form the 501st Joint Fighter Wing in order to fight the Neuroi. Whenever these witches use their powers, they gain animal ears and a tail. For some reason, they are necessary in order to use a striker unit, which is basically just a pair of propellers strapped onto their legs. A more detailed summary can be found at MAL.
The setting allows for a great war story, but Strike Witches was far from being serious at times. Although they do cover some struggles like adjusting to a new environment and the loss of family and friends, the fanservice comedy simply took away from that serious drama feeling. As an example, it’s hard to relate to how Yoshika is feeling about joining the military and fighting the Neuroi when you get an entire episode dedicated to the girls stealing each other’s panties.
The only part of the series that I thought actually conveyed some emotion was the sixth episode when they covered Sanya’s backstory. She is by far the most mysterious of the girls due to her shy personality and appearing only at night and during meetings. It was heartbreaking to learn that she might never hear from her family again, despite sending out radio signals every night. The whole episode was just beautiful.
Unfortunately, the ending was nowhere near as impressive. The “real” enemy is revealed seemingly out of nowhere and getting rid of them was no harder than simply gathering the squadron members and disobeying orders. It was all very anti-climactic.
While the plot left more to be desired, at least the action scenes were good (when Yoshika wasn’t wasting her time trying to figure out how to do something or talk to people). I doubt that girls with propellers strapped to their legs would have the same aerodynamics as an aircraft, but it was nice to see them use the same tactics and strategies used by real WWII fighter pilots.
Of course, good action scenes need good animation and music to back them up. Considering Gonzo’s lack of quality in other titles, I was rather impressed with how well Strike Witches looked. I didn’t notice any lazily drawn faces or deformed body parts; it all flowed very well together.
So in the end, would I recommend Strike Witches? That depends. I did not find it to be as deep or engaging as others have made it out to be (with the exception of episode 6), but it would be a good series for someone who likes cute anime girls and WWII-styled dog fights. As for me, I don’t think I will be continuing with the second season.
For anyone wondering, my favourites were: Sanya, Lynette, and Erica.