「魔法少女」 (Mahou Shoujo)
Introduction / Summary:
For those of you who have seen Sky Girls, STRIKE WITCHES should seem quite familiar to you as they’re both created by Shimada Humikane. (There’s even an “MV Sword” like Sky Girls.) Evidently, Shimada-san has some sort of fetish with young mecha-girls who fight strange or unknown forces that are attacking the Earth. In Sky Girls, it was the WORMs; here it’s the Neuroi, which also look somewhat biological in nature. To counter these forces, mankind invented a weapon that augments magical power, the Striker Unit, which acts as a “magical broom” for magic users known as “witches”. The elite task force assembled to fight the Neuroi is The 501st Joint Fight Wing, which gathered witches from all around the world. To the public though, they’re known as the “Strike Witches”.
Our heroine, Miyafuji Yoshika, played by Fukuen Misato (Eve from Black Cat, Konjiki no Yami from To LOVE-Ru), is a girl from a small town who gets scouted to join the Strike Witches because of her latent magical powers. While Yoshika opposes war and only wants to take over her family’s clinic, an old picture of Major Sakamoto Mio and Yoshika’s late father suddenly arrives in the mail. Seeing this, Yoshika goes to see Mio again, hoping she’ll take her to Britannia, the focal point of attack by the Neuroi and the place where her father supposedly passed away. (Funny how there’s a Geass-looking ability and Britannia is the country being subdued here.) Willing to take her there even though she doesn’t want to join the army, Mio eventually shows Yoshika the Striker Unit, a device that her father helped engineer to combat the Neuroi. Seeing how awesome it is to fly around like that, Yoshika is interested, but still decides not to join as she doesn’t like war; however, their fleet of battleships is suddenly attacked by a Neuroi.
「私にできること」 (Watashi ni Dekiru Koto)
“To Do What I Can”
The show’s concept doesn’t bother me at all as I quite enjoyed Sky Girls in its own, somewhat inexplicable way. Now before you all jump in screaming “lolicon“, I’ll say it was more because of the cast and the fact that it was pretty much an anime based loosely on the premise of one of Konami‘s classic games—Gradius. Also, not all the characters in Sky Girls or STRIKE WITCHES are flat-chested and have the underage-look like Micchan does, as we have the likes of one Charlotte E Yaeger (full-length shot courtesy of myself), who is played by the amazingly awesome Koshimizu Ami in what appears to be yet another tsundere role. “Yet another” is not to say that I’m complaining or anything though, as we could always use more characters like Kallen Stadtfelt, who the producers of CODE GEASS are absolutely milking the fan-service out of this season. (I can already picture all the new Kallen doujinshi now.) Sakamoto Mio, played by the “now married, but can still be a seiyuu after marriage because I have the best (seemingly) fake laugh ever” Chiba Saeko, is also quite well “endowed“. (To our female readers, I apologize in advance if this is starting to sound like an impression about bust sizes. >_>) Anyway, I digress, but the point is, you probably shouldn’t be labeling this series as “loli” or “not loli” and deciding whether or not to watch it for that reason. Now the real concern is, why do the girls in this world not wear pants?
For meaningless anime argument sake though, if they’re comfortable wearing a school swimsuit under a sailor shirt as their school uniform, who am I to tell them they can’t do that? If these so-called Strike Witches like flying around in the air, feeling the cool breeze running through their legs while fighting some aliens, hey, that’s their prerogative. I mean, there are girls that dress conservatively after all, so it’s not like anybody’s forcing these girls to not wear pants. (Note: This wasn’t me jumping on a sexual harassment opportunity, but simply stating that, yeah, no pants is okay here… *cough*) As for the cat/dog ears and tails, I can’t see them serving any other purpose other than appealing to fetishes, so I’m just going to attribute that to yet another one of Shimada-san’s “tastes”.
Regardless of all these obvious “appeals” to the series (which will undoubtedly turn some people away), I actually like the character designs, animation, and story based on what I’ve seen in the first episode. Furthermore, the cast is ridiculously stacked with female talent, with the likes of Tanaka Rie (Lacus Clyne in Gundam SEED, Suigintou in Rozen Maiden), Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku in Rozen Maiden, Kanzato Jun/Yuki in PERSONA -trinity soul-), Saitou Chiwa (Aika S. Granzchesta in ARIA), Kadowaki Mai (Illya in Fate/stay night, Hakase Satomi in Negima!), Nazuka Kaori (Yuasa Hiromi in true tears, Nakatsukasa Tsubaki in SOUL EATER), Nogawa Sakura (Asakura Nemu in D.C. ~Da Capo~, Hinaichigo in Rozen Maiden) in addition to the aforementioned seiyuus. I’m a fan of all these seiyuus (with Chiba Saeko, Koshimizu Ami, and Tanaka Rie being some of my all-time favourites), but really enjoyed Miyuki’s role as Perrine here. Her prissy attitude is exactly like Houjou Reika’s in Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, which I haven’t heard in a while now. I just love watching her character being the target of jokes/scrutiny and seeing how see reacts to them.
At a slated twelve episode run (much like GONZO’s recently finished work on The Tower of Druaga ~the Aegis of URUK~), STRIKE WITCHES is just about the right length I’d like for a series with such a premse. While Sky Girls ran a full two seasons (i.e. 26 episodes), it felt somewhat long in retrospect. I just hope that Tamai Tsuyoshi and his crew has planned this well enough to make the most out of each episode, otherwise it runs the risk of coming off as just another anime people are soon to forget. Given Tamai-san’s previous work on Chobits, Rozen Maiden, and this season’s Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu though, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. As I mentioned above, Sky Girls wasn’t great, but I enjoyed it in its own unique way, so I’m hoping to find a similar appeal in STRIKE WITCHES. If you felt the same way about Shimada Humikane’s other mecha-girl series, then this should be right up your alley as well. If you’re a bit of a seiyuu-otaku, it’s a bit hard to ignore a series such as this.
Finally, note that this is yet another series GONZO is posting on online streaming sites such as YouTube and crunchyroll along with official English subtitles the day it airs in Japan, except this time, they’ve opted to make it a “time-limited” feature. By this, it means the video will only be available for about 10 hours before it is taken down (making it feel like a TV broadcast I suspect). Should you want to download a higher quality version copy of the episodes though, they’re available via a small $3-5 USD donation.
– Miyafuji Yoshika (宮藤 芳佳) / Fukuen Misato (福圓 美里)
– Sakamoto Mio (坂本 美緒) / Chiba Saeko (千葉 紗子)
– Minna-Dietlinde Wilke (ミーナ・ディートリンデ・ヴィルケ) / Tanaka Rie (田中 理恵)
– Perrine-H. Clostermann (ぺリーヌ・クロステルマン) / Sawashiro Miyuki (沢城 みゆき)
– Francesca Lucchini (フランチェスカ・ルッキーニ) / Saitou Chiwa (斎藤 千和)
– Charlotte E Yeager (シャーロット・E・イェーガー) / Koshimizu Ami (小清水 亜美)
– Mother Miyafuji (宮藤母) / Amano Yuri (天野 由梨)
– Grandmother Miyafuji (宮藤祖母) / Midori Junko (翠 準子)
– Micchan (みっちゃん) / Satou Arise (佐藤 有世)
– Old man (おじいちゃん) / Shiroyama Ken (城山 堅)
– Hijikata (土方) / Hino Satoshi (日野 聡)
– Professor Miyafuji (宮藤博士) & Narration (ナレーション) / Gouda Hodzumi (郷田 ほづみ)