INS1: 「Sweet Duet (New Version)」 by 大橋歩夕＆門脇舞以 (Oohashi Ayuru & Kadowaki Mai)
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「空より高く」 (Sora yori Takaku)
“Higher than the Sky”
After all my talk about propulsion and escape velocity back in episode four, it was pretty awesome to see those concepts put into effect against an orbital elevator-like Neuroi. With signs of jealousy from Eila and a duet insert song to make up with Sanya, this is easily one of my favorite episodes of the new season too. Eila and Sanya always had a pretty close relationship, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise that it verges upon “knight in shining armor” levels. It was however, very cute to see Eila jealous of Yoshika for being assigned to protect Sanya in their rocket booster-equipped operation to climb 33 kilometers into the Earth’s stratosphere. The two of them looked like they were fighting like a married couple at times, with Eila being the husband of sorts that caused the problem of course (she does wear the pants in the relationship after all). In addition to Perrine and Erica, Eila’s tomboyish personality also made her a favorite of mine during season one.
She only went on to reiterate that here, with how she got on Yoshika’s nerves by gloating about never using a shield in actual combat up until now (something I never noticed back in season one) and going on to try to enlist Perrine’s help to scheme against Yoshika — both of which reeked of stupid behavior I’d expect from guys. This also includes her not taking her shield training seriously when Perrine was the one she’s supposed to protect, leaving the latter freaking out like crazy when she started dodging Lynne’s rounds. While I realize that Strike Witches has never really been about profound character development, it’s little things like this seen in Eila that make me enjoy the series a lot more. There are also a lot of ideas borrowed from history and portrayed as homages to it, plus some real science involved that work really well with the cute characters who bring it all together. Naturally, they slip in the fan-service now and then, which from an underwear perspective hasn’t been nearly as frivolous as the splash made in the premiere.
Instead, we’ve started drifting towards the periodic sauna and bath scene, where the moonlight works its magic and takes streaking to a whole new meaning. Compared to the “interesting” camera angles in combat, this is probably the more accepted way of slipping in some fan-service. As I mentioned before, I’d watch this series all the same if all of the fluff was taken out and everyone wore pants in this alternate universe though. All the characters are plenty interesting on their own with their cute designs, various nuances, and cast of seiyuu, so it’d be akin to So-Ra-No-Wo-To in terms of young girls at war. The fact that there is this renowned element of fan-service on top is purely bonus in my eyes. For example, I just love the more comedic side seen when the girls were trying out Lynne’s ginger tea, and the utter awesomeness of the screenplay during their operation — neither of which are fan-service-related. Hearing Mio explain the operation from a prior briefing while it was actually happening added a nice touch, whereas seeing the girls break off in stages and their rocket boosters kicking in was so cool with the music played during it all. Who needs pantsu when you have rockets!
The finish was really sweet as well, with Yoshika giving up her shield duty for Sanya and letting Eila be with her instead. I wasn’t expecting a duet insert song to be added, but it made a lot of sense since sound travel without the air found in the Earth’s atmosphere. (Yay, more science.) The first shield used by Eila in combat and a volley from Sanya’s Fliegerhammer sealed the deal without too much difficulty, but I still couldn’t get the Yoshika’s smile off my mind after she handed off Eila to Sanya. Hats off to Yoshika for being the better person, especially after Eila was out to get her. On a separate note, I actually don’t mind AIC Spirits’ use of 3-D rendered characters in the more distant shots, since they do a pretty good job blending them with animated ones. I actually thought the opening scene with Eila flying circles around Yoshika and keeping the conifer branch away from her was pretty well done in 3-D. Anyway, a Neuroi bug infiltrates the base next time and gets into the girls’ clothes. Judging from the preview, it looks like it’s going to be a bit more fan-service involving Minna as well.