「第502統合戦闘航空団」 (Dai Gou-maru-ni Tougou Sentou Koukuu-dan)
“The 502nd Joint Fighter Wing”
To no one’s surprise Brave Witches this week was entirely developmental, with the 502nd team finally revealed and character personalities given. Although only the bare basics were provided, it’s enough to form a general idea. Gundula Rall is the grizzled, expert commander while fellow mates Edytha Rossmann and Aleksandra Pokryshkin serve as Rall’s pragmatic and blunt assistants. Waltrud is the comedic womanizer (haughty voice plus short hair tells all), Nipa our clumsy tomboy, Georgette the shy introvert, and Sadako the mother to them all (you explain that love of cooking then).
Of course though the most interesting character remains Naoe, who clearly has a hatred towards Hikari originating from Hikari’s lack of training and skill, and perceived use of name to wiggle onto the squad. Thankfully however, Naoe does not look like a mirror copy of Perrine. Naoe certainly is aggressive and likes to win, but more importantly wants to maintain her strength and safety of her friends—there is no superficial jealousy or hate just for drama here. That running scene shows this best, where Naoe’s “loss” implies (to herself) that she lacks the same thing she called Hikari out on, driving her to correct that fault. Although Naoe obviously detests Hikari, she still rescues Hikari from Hikari’s own mistake without a second thought. Naoe even maintains the abrasive (if now wounded) attitude at the end, giving her a consistent personality the throwaway Misumi in episode 1 sorely lacked. This provides Naoe all the components necessary for serious development, buffered especially by that inkling of a future friendship between her and Hikari. Not a bad bit of interpersonal conflict all things considered.
Speaking of Hikari, her attitude and its fight with reality was impressive this week. I am really starting to enjoy Hikari’s struggle to improve. She has intermediate training at best, next to no magic capability (stark difference to Yoshika), and is easily beaten by common enemies. Probably the most important bit though is that Hikari’s special ability is not easily controlled. Hikari cannot use it at a whim (yet) and has Rall/Rossmann/Pokryshkin even questioning whether she possesses it at all. It’s the perfect—if predicable—underdog tale and gives Brave Witches a good foundation for character growth, a noticeable improvement from Strike Witches which already had Yoshika more or less the prodigy from day one. All Hikari has going for her is that stamina and strive to improve against the odds, which she manages in the face of it all to leverage into continued survival. I’m not often interested in this style of story, but Brave Witches’ setup and the synergistic effect of each piece definitely has me intrigued. How Hikari comes into her own and forges a unique spot in the 502nd is very likely to be the defining theme of the entire show.
Although all about the characters here, we did get a bit on the background conflict this episode also. Three Neuroi nests in the vicinity, with the first target that brand new one in the White Sea. The slog will be arduous and not assisted by the refusal of the 501 to share that strategy for nest elimination. You just know a big fight is coming, one with casualties, and one which will likely test Hikari exceptionally hard. I’m quite looking forward to it.
Although I haven’t mentioned the animation at all, the CGI was particularly egregious this week. Likely explains the week delay for episode 4 over “production issues”.
Still mulling whether to blog this for the duration. If you guys want to see more Brave Witches coverage just let me know in the comments.