June 05, 2012

Strike Witches

Strike Witches is a very...unique anime, not so much in its story as in the fact that it's so over-the-top moe that I was never quite sure if it was parody or serious. Whichever of the two, it's definitely an anime produced to cater to guys; but it was an enjoyable show, so into the blog it goes! (Plus, everyone needs to know about the awesomeness that is Major Sakamoto.)

Strike Witches is a military series, set on the coast of England in the WWII era, with one distinction--in this universe, just before the war began in earnest, an alien invasion arrived. The alien Neuroi reacted with hostility when the first exploration/attack was launched on them, and humanity banded together in response as the two sides began a long-running, if patternized, war: the Neuroi always attacked at certain intervals, like clockwork, though (of course) when we join the story everything's starting to change. So, military scifi, basically. Oh, and in the fight against the Neuroi, the military has begun using witches--and does so by creating individual flying units similar to boots that the girls can power with their magic.

I'm not going to lie, I watched this solely because it was recommended by a friend whose taste I consider good. I don't think anything else would have overcome my skepticism of the--well, everything I just listed above.

The main character is Miyafuji, a witch with healing powers whose father created the Striker units (the aforementioned boots), and who joined the 501st Joint Fighter Wing (the Strike Witches) despite her pretty ferocious initial pacifism in order to try and find him. She remains with the unit even after learning he was killed in a raid, though she never really lets go of the pacifism.

It's this pacifism that enables Miyafuji to interact with a lone Neuroi when it doesn't attack on sight. Her efforts to communicate with an enemy combatant, when discovered, predictably have negative consequences in a system consumed with a warfare mindset--especially because there've been efforts within the military to eliminate the strike witches and replace them with a more traditional fighter unit, and Miyafuji's actions gave them the 'legitimate' argument to do so. But the consequences don't stop there, and the last few episodes are really tense as the disbanded 501st races to protect Europe from the fallout of the military's mecha (Japan's go-to term for a mechanized robot) that was supposed to replace the witches and, well, spoilers. But you can make a guess how that played out.

The Strike Witches series is one of those expansive ones with a huge universe spanning several mediums, like Baccano! (another series I haven't covered yet! unbelievable) or Higurashi. There's the original light novel series that's still ongoing and then another that wrapped up in 2009, multiple manga series, and an OVA in addition to the two anime series and the film! Only the anime have been translated, though; both are 12 episodes long and were licensed for English by Funimation. The series I described was the first one, which is available on Netflix and on Hulu Plus (though some episodes can be watched on the free, regular Hulu).


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