「それでも私は守りたい」 (Sore de mo Watashi wa Mamoritai)
“I Still Want to Protect”
Christmas might officially be only two sleeps away, but I dare say it came early for Strike Witches this week. Crazy flying; serious ups and downs; explosions all around; and the saving grace that you knew was coming – oh yes, we got it all and then some, because it couldn’t be any other way.
Of course, I might be slightly chagrin of Shizuka coming within moments of death (mostly because the fallout of such a thing in Strike Witches would be interesting to see), but honestly, there’s no real complaints because this series always makes it hard for fans to hate what it’s doing, especially in its final moments. For good (or bad) Strike Witches will never change, and I for one couldn’t be more satisfied. Anyway, onto those impressions!
If there’s one way to effectively sum up the latest Strike Witches, it’s that audience opinions won’t be changing. Much like its previous two seasons and movie and similar to the spin-off Brave Witches, the formula practiced from the start remains and is fully exploited from the word go. Pants? A figment of the imagination. Mecha musume? Front and centre. Magical girls doing their best to help save the world? Always there to cheer along. Anyone not already in love with concept won’t be converted anytime soon, but fans certainly got everything they could’ve hoped for.
Probably the main thing I liked about this season compared to previous World Witches iterations was its clear transitory nature. The first Strike Witches was very much about building a team around a bunch of varied characters who often had reasons (whether rational or not) to distrust and confront one another. It’s what helped the series take off, but playing it up for a third time would’ve likely felt “off” and a simple retread of earlier experiences – which for me is partly why Brave Witches never really clicked. Instead, however, we got the change of key girls—i.e. Minna and Gertrude—openly reaching the end of their combat lives (similar to Mio before) and opening the door to a major team shakeup in the near future. This shift in atmosphere injected an appreciable degree of tension, for while we don’t know the exact future of the 501st, we know it won’t be continuing in its current form, which in turn helps up the satisfaction of seeing these girls complete the mission this season was based around. The 501st will soon never be the same—but it also won’t be lacking any of that spirit which first made it.
The converse of course is that things for some could arguably have stayed too much the same. Yoshika after all was the key to winning this latest battle, much like before in Strike Witches’ Venice and the Rhine. This season took considerable and well thought out steps to building up for Yoshika’s grand finale mind you, but could the climax have been handled by someone else? Certainly up for debate. Likewise is the rest of the cast—particularly Lynette I felt—largely being sidelined after getting their re-introductory episode, which for some fans could be irksome. None of this breaks with the Strike Witches formula obviously, but after all this time (and with a major shakeup on the horizon) one might expect the rest to get something more for the sake of diversity. Honestly probably just me nitpicking and seeking out negatives for the sake of review balance (besides a love of Perrine and Lynette tilting opinions :P), but as Strike Witches continues I really hope we see the series continue to spread its slowly growing narrative wings.
In the end though, Strike Witches did as Strike Witches always does, and while it may not be the absolute best show when compared to anime brethren, damn did I have a fun time covering it from start to finish. This really is a show that knows how to entertain for those with any sort of military interest or love of cutie pies doing their best, and I for one am certainly looking forward to seeing just what happens next for this cast of witches.