Strike Witches – Season 1 (2008)
With a little magic and a whole lot of leg, the girls of the 501st are winning the war on pants, and aliens!
Originally created by Humikane Shimada as a series of magazine illustration columns, Strike Witches tells the story of 14-year-old Yoshika Miyafuji as she joins the 501st Joint Fighter Wing and, with a combination of magic and technology, helps aid other Striker Pilots defend and protect their world from an enigmatic alien threat known as the Neuroi, who, mostly taking form similar to that of aircraft, began an invasion of unprecedented scale on mankind in the year 1939. The first season of Strike Witches is set in the Channel between Gallia, France, and Britannia, The United Kingdom, and is somewhat of a parallel to the Second World War Battle of Britain which took place during the summer and autumn of 1940. Set in an alternative Earth, Strike Witches is to some degree, a fictional recreation of events occurring in World War II, with military forces around the globe banding together to overcome this eminent alien menace.
Aged between 12 to 19, the Strike Witches, also known as Striker Pilots, are young girls with superior magical capability, who are enlisted into military groups around the globe to help oppose the emerging Neuroi threat. In order to bring out their potential in battle, each Witch equips a unique machine, called a Striker Unit, onto their legs, hence the name Strike Witches. With the Striker Unit outfitted, the girls magically sprout animal ears and tails, and gain the ability to fly and channel their tapped magical ability which gives them the strength to use weaponry normally too heavy or powerful for a regular person. A defensive field can also be created which helps protect the witches from the unique Neuroi attacks, as well as other physical weaponry, making them humanity’s trump card in the enduring war. The peculiar thing is that these Striker Pilots do not have standard issue uniforms, as the Witches do not wear pants; yes, you read correctly, they do not wear pants. Bizarrely enough, this style of ‘uniform’ is considered normal in this fictitious recreation of Earth. These revealing outfits may take some getting used to; particularly in some of the airborne action sequences as the camera often ventures into places that may make the ultraconservative feel quite uncomfortable.
The story of Strike Witches, set in the year 1944, centers around the 501st Joint Fighter Wing which consists of eleven distinctly unique Witches: Yoshika Miyafuji who has the ability to heal, the nocturnal Sanya V. Litvyak, the wealthy and proper Perrine Clostermann, Sub-Commander Mio Sakamoto, Commander Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke, native Britannian Lynette Bishop, the quiet and resourceful Gertrud Barkhorn, immature and self-indulgent Francesca Lucchini, the ‘ultra ace’ slacker Erica Hartmann, fortune teller Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen and thrill-seeker Charlotte E. Yeager. The first half of the season focuses on meeting, and getting to know the Witches on a personal level, with each new episode centering on the multi-layered back-story of one of these heroines. The second half of the season focuses more on the girl’s relationships with one another, their struggle with the Neuroi force and their attempt at discovering more about this mysterious alien foe.
Scattered throughout the series is a whole lot of fan-service, as the Witches, completely in the nude, often bath together and have some serious narrative revelations when either semi-nude or relaxing in the hot-spa. There are also many sexual references peppered throughout the anime, as girls often get envious of other’s breast sizes or jealous over infatuations relationships other Witches have with one another. A perfect example of this silliness is episode 7, titled Nice N’ Breezy, which centers around the cute and lazy Erica Hartmann unknowingly taking another Witches’ panties in the morning; what follows is a handful of laughable, yet quite amusing scenes that are designed to get our heroines in the nude.
Mainly conventional hand-drawn, the animation of Strike Witches is extremely detailed, fluent and vibrant; although heavy computer animation is used throughout the series, particularly in the aerial battle scenes as the Neuroi themselves are almost always computer generated. There are some amazing action sequences on display here, particularly toward the end of the season where a Neuroi morphs into a Battleship and takes flight. The camera often finds itself travelling through these fierce aerial battles, capturing impressive visuals that are almost impossible to shoot in live-action form.
All-in-all there is a lot of fun to have with Strike Witches season 1, as the anime doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet is entertaining enough to keep viewers interested and engaged. The characters are all very unique and likeable, the action set pieces are exciting and visually stunning and the animation is top notch. While definitely not for everyone, particularly those easily offended, the first season of Strike Witches is certainly worth your time especially if you’re a fan of Magical Girl anime. Finishing off with an electrifying new story revelation at the conclusion of episode 12 and leading into exciting prospects for season 2, spending 12 episodes with these darlings of the great blue yonder is very worth your while.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by S-Littner
Strike Witches – Season 1 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia