「ストライクウィッチーズ」 (Sutoraiku Uicchiizu)
Episode at a Glance:
With the Akagi sinking, Yoshika takes to the skies in Mio’s Striker Unit to buy some time for everyone to escape. Spotting Yoshika’s battle from afar, Shirley and Francesca decide to come and help, but realize that they don’t have any weapons. Meanwhile, Minna, Gertrud, and Erica take over Maloney’s command center and discover that he’s been plotting to replace the Witches by using Neuroi technology. Realizing that Yoshika’s contact with the Neuroi caused him to blunder, Gertrud wishes they believed Yoshika earlier. The three of them then notice Yoshika fighting the Warlock outside in Mio’s Striker Unit, so they head to the hanger to retrieve their own units. In the skies, Yoshika hesitates to fire on the Warlock, which even attempts to deceive her by revealing its core, but soon realizes that this isn’t the same unhostile Neuroi she met before. With the Warlock attacking the sinking Akagi further, Mio and Perrine find themselves in quite a pinch, but luckily Shirley and Francesca swoop by in the nick of time to save them both.
Back at the base, Gertrud and the others find Sanya and Eila already there, with Lynne arriving shortly afterwards. Together they head out to help Yoshika and bring her Striker Unit along so that Mio can have hers back. After Lynne lands a direct hit on the Warlock sending it crashing into the Akagi, the battle looks over, but the battleship emerges from the ocean after being fused with the Neuroi-ridden Warlock. Having located the core, Mio volunteers to go inside to destroy it, but Yoshika, Lynne, and Perrine undertake the task instead, thus commencing their counterattack. With the other witches giving them an opening to break through, Yoshika and her team make their way to the engine room where they discover the massive Neuroi core. Having lost all their weapons while breaking in, Yoshika decides to destroy the core with her Striker Unit. Following its destruction, the witches are surprised to see the Neuroi hive over Gallia disappear as well. With the Gallia region free, the Strike Witches are officially disbanded and sent home.
Some time later back in Fuso, Yoshika looks back on the photograph mysteriously sent by her father, thinking that everything started with it. After helping Micchan heal a wounded bird, they run into Suwa Amaki outside, who claims to be member of the Army Air Force’s 47th Squadron and delivers a new letter to Yoshika from her father.
You’ll have to bear with me here while I go through some initial reactions to this finale. Don’t take this as me hating the series though, as I really do love it. I promise.
First off, what the hell kind of cop out ending was that? I would’ve been content with just the defeat of the Neuroi-possessed Warlock and leaving the war ongoing, but they decided to magically have the hive disappear afterwards too… FOR NO APPARENT REASON. It was basically, “Oh hey look, we won the war too. Woohoo!” They might as well have flashed the following across the screen while they were at it:
“You have defeated the last boss. All the enemies have died along with him. The world is safe again. Congratulations.”
Granted, one could assume that the Warlock transported the hive core over to the Akagi after fusing with it, but even if that were the case, it comes off as awfully convenient. Anyway, what’s even more questionable is that instead of leaving the issue with the Neuroi understandably open-ended, GONZO decided to reveal to us that Yoshika’s father is still alive. Given how the war just magically ended, I doubt they’ll make a sequel solely based on Yoshika’s pursuit of the truth behind her father, so I can’t really see what the point of revealing that he’s still alive at the end was for. If all they were going for was the “OMG” reaction, fair enough, but it prompted a “WTF, why even bother mentioning this now?” kind of reaction from me.
My last “complaint” (if you will), is that they choose to have the girls explaining the reasons behind Maloney’s action to each other in layman’s terms. While I’m grateful that the writers decided to clear things up for us so that there’s no confusion, I couldn’t help but feel that my intelligence was belittled there and that there must’ve been a better way to get that information across. In fact, Erica’s reaction to Gertrud’s explanation pretty much sums up my thoughts on this.
With that said, there was a lot to like about this finale, with the beginning feeling like the climax of a movie after Yoshika took off. With the music playing to pump you up and Mio directing all of Yoshika’s valiant actions, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps there. GO STRIKE WITCHES! Also, I feel they worked in the reassembling of the witches well, since it gave off that sense of hope that protagonists should exude, without coming off as overly cheesy. On that note, I found it a bit strange how they “sealed” the Strike Witches hanger with a wall of I-beams, but it was amusing watching Gertrud dislodge one with her brute strength. Quite befitting of the tsundere in her.
As for the battle itself, I found it suspenseful even though the whole fusion thing with the Akagi was admittedly random. I guess this is why I couldn’t help but make the “last boss” comment above, since the Neuroi-ridden Akagi really did look like one you’d see in a shooting game. Watching the black battleship ascend above the clouds and coast along the in skies proved to be an awesome setting for the final battle though. Inside the ship, I found it silly how Perrine’s gun couldn’t even destroy a hatch, making you wonder what kind of damage it’s supposed to do to a Neuroi, but very appropriate for Yoshika to destroy the core with her Striker Unit—the device that her father invented to battle them in the first place.
Lastly, they included the all witches version of “Bookmark Ahead” that I was hoping for a while back, so I was quite happy to see them play that version during the credits scroll.
While this series has been met with the obvious harsh criticisms due to its young-looking character designs and pantless dress code world, it has never bothered me in the least. In fact, I love the character designs in STRIKE WITCHES and find them absolutely adorable with all their little nuances. This includes Yoshika’s persistent nature, Mio’s semi-fake laugh, Minna’s assertiveness, Lynne’s big breasts, Erica’s nonchalant attitude with the occasional “well done!” (yaru na!) comment, Gertrud’s dishonest tsundere personality, Francesca’s fiestiness, Charlotte’s fiestiness AND big breasts, Sanya’s sleepyhead self, and Eila’s “saying it like it is” sarcasm. Throw in an all-star cast to play all these cute girls, good animation quality (something that GONZO used to be attributed for on a regular basis), mecha action, and the usual fan-service, and you have a recipe that’s perfect for me.
In retrospect, I found this series more enjoyable than Sky Girls, which I liked a lot as well. Being only twelve episodes long, it didn’t feel nearly as stretched out as Sky Girls either; however, I wish they left things open for a sequel instead of ending it the way they did. That way, I could’ve possibly got a dose of STRIKE WITCHES again some time later when it’s a distant but not forgotten memory. Regardless, the series does work well as a standalone production in spite of my qualms with its sudden conclusion, so it’s been fun watching and covering it.
– 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)
– Lynette Bishop (リネット・ビショップ) / Nadzuka Kaori (名塚 佳織)
– Erica Hartmann (エーリカ・ハルトマン) / Nogawa Sakura (野川 さくら)
– Gertrud Barkhorn (ゲルトルート・バルクホルン) / Sonozaki Mie (園崎 未恵)
– 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)
– Sanya V. Litvyak (サーニャ・V・リトヴャク) / Kadowaki Mai (門脇 舞以)
– Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen (エイラ・イルマタル・ユーティライネン) / Nakai Erika (仲井 絵里香)
– General Maloney (マロニー大将) / Akimoto Yousuke (秋元 羊介)
– Adjutant (副官) / Uo Ken (魚 建)
– Captain Sugita (杉田艦長) / Mugihito (麦人)
– Micchan (みっちゃん) / Satou Arise (佐藤 有世)
– Suwa Amaki (諏訪 天姫) / Hanazawa Kana (花澤 香菜)
– Announcer (アナウンス) / Oobayashi Youhei (大林 洋平)
– Driver (運転手) / Ichinowatari Hiroaki (一ノ渡 宏昭)
– Soldier (兵士) / Kobayashi Kousuke (小林 康介)
– Soldier (兵士) / Kamino Yuuki (神野 祐希)
– Soldier (兵士) / Seki Kouji (関 幸司)