「ストライクウィッチーズ 劇場版」 (Sutoraiku Wicchīzu Gekijouban)
“STRIKE WITCHES The Movie”
STRIKE WITCHES is surprisingly high up on my list of thoroughly enjoyable anime series which always makes it rather depressing to see how many people dismiss it with but a single glance. The general levels of fanservice seem to be something of a deterrent to many of the people to whom it might appeal – the people who are incapable of seeing beyond the panty shots and (admittedly frequent) nudity throughout the first two seasons. While the movie may continue in the STRIKE WITCHES tradition for the former, it’s somehow completely devoid of the latter. Whether that means more people will be interested in watching the movie, I don’t know… but we can hope!
Takamura Kazuhiro, I would argue, is damn good at his job. It never ceases to amaze (and amuse) me just how natural he manages to make the pant-less look seem – just look at the upcoming Vividred Operation for more of the same. On the whole, the first two seasons of STRIKE WITCHES had excellent art and animation, so it should come as no surprise that the movie would keep up that trend. My only issues in that department were the semi-frequent occasions where some of the CG looked a little bit out of place – it’s possible it could’ve been handled better. But on the whole, it was a visual treat. And I’m not just referring to the compromising angles!
I’ve always felt that the Neuroi were perfect representations of the ultimate terrifying foe. They have all the characteristics required to be extremely demoralising to those who have to face them. Their inhuman appearances (including spiders at the start of the movie!) coupled with their otherworldly shrieking make for a good base, but the true fear comes from their regeneration and seemingly endless numbers. There are few things more demoralising than a foe that cannot be reasoned with, attacks in large numbers, and gets up every time you knock it down. Few things inspire more fear than an adversary you can repeatedly riddle with holes only for the damage to be regenerated in seconds. It’s something that plays a large part in horror movies where zombies keep advancing, showing no signs of pain or fatigue. When you add to this their ability to adopt new tactics and adapt to different situations, it’s hard to imagine that humanity would have managed to put up a fight were it not for the Witches.
And thus we’re back with our beloved Witches as a new threat – a new type of Neuroi – emerges. I’ve always liked the characters of STRIKE WITCHES – they’re all interesting individuals with their own quirks, hopes and dreams. As you would expect from the movie, all members of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing make their return, though some have far less screen-time than others. Lynette (Nazuka Kaori) and Perrine (Sawashiro Miyuki) are the same as ever, the former working hard to support her friend’s dreams and the latter working tirelessly to restore Gallia to its former glory by way of her own estate. Barkhorn (Sonozaki Mie) and Erica (Nogawa Sakura) continue their brilliant dynamic, a hardworking and strict Flight Lieutenant contrasting with the lazy and reckless Flying Officer. Lucchini (Saito Chiwa) and Charlotte (Koshimizu Ami) haven’t changed either – Lucchini is still as hyperactive as ever and Charlotte has certainly not lost her love for speed. Of course, we can’t forget about the duo who give off the most yuri vibes: Eila (Ohashi Ayuru) and Sanya (Kadowaki Mai). These two seem to have the least screen-time of the duos, only eclipsed by Mio (Seto Saori) who gets barely any screen-time at all. Minna (Tanaka Rie) is still around too, remataining her position as a high ranking officer. And then, of course, we have Yoshika (Fukuen Misato.)
When we left at the end of the second season, Yoshika had ostensibly burnt out her magic and was no longer a Witch. Of all the returning characters, she seems to be the one to have changed the most. She may have gone from saving the world to rescuing trapped puppies, but it’s amazing how accepting she is of the whole situation – how much she’s grown since we last saw her. There’s no hesitancy whatsoever. She may still be a little ditzy, but she’s more sure of herself and still willing to do whatever it takes to save others. Around her is built one of the biggest themes present through both series and once again in this movie: strength in the face of adversity and never giving up hope. They’re basic themes, but ones that appeal to something in all of us who have ever struggled for anything. STRIKE WITCHES uses the themes well, from Yoshika’s rescue of the trapped crewmember, to her willingness to face off against a Neuroi with no magic or support. All in all, she manages to be pretty fucking badass.
In addition to the Witches we’re familiar with, the movie adds something I’ve wanted for a long time – inter-squad rivalries and a slew of other Witches. Most of these are nothing more than short cameos, but it was still highly enjoyable to meet the members of the 504th: Luciana Mazzei (Hirohashi Ryou), Martina Crespi (Mizuhashi Kaori), and Fernandia Malvezzi (Morinaga Rika). Watching them race against the Charlotte/Lucchini duo and later use their own special combo against a Neuroi was a lot of fun! There were other cameos too, including Heinrike Prinzessin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (Kawasumi Ayako), Amelie Planchard (Yahagi Sayuri), and Nikka Edvardine Katajainen (Takamori Natsumi) to name a few.
Of these new Witches, two had greater importance to the story: Heidemarie W. Schnaufer (Ueda Kana) and Hattori Shizuka (Uchida Aya.) The former seems to have taken up a role alongside Minna while the latter acts as a foil to Yoshika for the duration of the movie. Were it not for the fact that we’ve had two series before this movie, I would consider Hattori the window through which we look in on the rest of the cast and learn more about them. It’s a little funny to see her treat Yoshika as a role model and war hero only to be ultimately disappointed. She’s the polar opposite of her idol – always following orders and acting on logic where Yoshika will dive in to save people no matter what. When the squad begins to come back together, she’s the one who’s left on the outskirts – the one who doesn’t quite seem to fit in. Watching her develop over the course of the movie, watching her begin to accept Yoshika’s way of doing things, growing as a person through meeting the other members of the 501st, and discovering the value of human life over protocol… it’s an amazing experience.
One of the things I always enjoy is watching the Witches fight. There’s a beauty in the small details – the flying shells, the collateral damage, the quick changes in equipment. Their co-ordination, their fleetness and the freedom they exercise in flight are all enjoyable to behold. This experience was only slightly marred by the frequent use of CG I mentioned earlier. It was not all bad, but some of the CG just seemed poorly implemented at times.
Overall, it was fairly standard fare for an anime movie – the reintroduction of all the characters, the harks back to the original series, and the final send off… or so it seemed for the majority of the movie. I was always a little worried about Yoshika getting her magic back – STRIKE WITCHES previously emphasised how there are no free resets and no easy fixes. Things happen, you deal with them, and you move on. There were many ways they could have handled it, including leaving her powerless, but I feel a little disappointed with the route they chose to take. As much as I enjoyed the whole ‘cast gathered for the final climax‘ move, I feel as though it was a bit of a cop-out to give her back her magic based on ‘the power of friendship‘. It’s an extremely simplistic theme from an anime that has proven its ability to handle something more mature in the past. This aside, it was an enjoyable movie, with the promise of a new beginning. That ‘To Be Continued’ had better signify plans for a third season!
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – The cast and themes return for another round. Here’s to hoping for a third season! #StrikeWitches
- There may be no nudity this round, but the camera angles certainly haven’t changed!
- As always, the music was awesome, managing to capture the mood and the climaxes perfectly.
- Barkhorn has the best reactions!
- I never doubted for even a minute that Charlotte would win against the 504th. No-one can defeat her when it comes to speed!
- Burrowing Neuroi were an interesting concept – they must’ve been wreaking havoc on the land though!
ED: 「約束の空へ ～私のいた場所～」 (Yakusoku no Sora e ~Watashi no Ita Basho~) by 田燿子＆第501統合戦闘航空団 (Ishida Youko & 501st Joint Fighter Wing)