Strike Witches Season 2 continues the same formula – whether it’s the infamous fanservice or the surprisingly good character interactions, it’s something you expect when you get into it, and a definition of a guilty pleasure.
What They Say :
All 12 episodes from the second series of the Japanese anime about a crack team of young girls who take on alien invaders using magic powers. In 1939 a war began that rendered traditional military capabilities redundant. The brutal alien race Neuroi destroyed a number of cities and took control of the world. The hopes of the human survivors now rest with the so-called ‘Strike Witches’, a group of young girls who are sent into the skies to fight back against the aliens with their magic powers. The episodes are: ‘Into the Sky Once More’, ‘The Legendary Witches’, ‘Things We Can Accomplish Together’, ‘Harder, Faster, Greater’, ‘My Romagna’, ‘Higher Than the Sky’, ‘Creeping About’, ‘Please Grant Me Wings’, ‘The Bridge to Tomorrow’, ‘500 Overs’, ‘To Be Myself’ and ‘Beyond the Skies to Eternity’.
The Review :
Set on a military style background, the DVD menus are among the most fluid I’ve seen on a DVD release when it comes to selecting – it slides from one to other without any noticeably delay to when selecting choices making it more interesting yet not affecting any problems regarding making your choices. Disc 1 contains choices of Play All, Episodes and Set Up, whilst Disc 2 and 3 also have Extras available. Each disc has the same set up, a porthole with shots of the anime being played in the porthole which makes it a bright and pleasant way to look at your menu albeit without any episode scene selection, but each menu does have a nice picture of one or more of the girls for your viewing pleasure.
Extras are on disc 2 and 3, both of them including a dub commentary. We get a commentary for episode 5 featuring the director Scott Sega, Jamie Marchi(Shirley) and Trina Nishimura(Francesca) – basically it is their episode and you get a lot of fun here, as immediately when Trina tries to pronounce Francesca’s full name. Both commentaries have similar questions regarding ‘how do you explain to your families about Strike Witches without mentioning the obvious?’, what they like about the show and what they feel about their characters, but they talk about other work, plugging their favourite products (not just anime) and just derail the commentary as hilariously as possible.
The second commentary is on episode 2, where Scott returns with two newcomers to the commentary booth, Anastasia Mulias(Minna) and Jade Saxton(Perrine). Again, some similar questions but its still is quite funny (especially as they talk in particularly about a scene where Mio gets drunk, when you watch it you’ll know which scene we mean) with as little silliness as possible. Mulias in particular is interesting considering you learn she’s a teacher outside of acting, whilst Jade thinks Perrine is a panty thief. It’s a varied commentary as you can guess, but still silly and fun.
On Disc 3 we also get the clean opening and ending. The commentaries are definitely amusing and recommended for dub fans.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Strike Witches surprised me when I reviewed it because my knowledge of the show was based on its infamous way the witches dressed. Fanservice and then some, but it seemed to close well, had some great characters developed and actually was based on several WWII heroes of war. I wasn’t sure what I would get with the sequel, but in the end, it was more of the same in regards of its key strengths and weaknesses, but overall, surprisingly enjoyable.
It starts with the focus on our two main characters of the original in a similar way to how Season 1 began, though still different. Yoshika is back in her hometown, learning to be a doctor but she gets some blueprints apparently sent by her father, who as far as she knew was dead. She decided to go see Sakamoto, whose magic if you remember has been severally depleted and is instead trying to rely on a particular sword technique to help in battle. Yoshika learns that Sakamato, Minna and the rest of the crew are being overpowered by a new Neuroi force, far stronger than before after their interactions with the ‘human’ Neuroi from Season 1. Yoshika and Sakamoto join forces again as we see Sakamoto’s magic is weak to the point she can’t form a shield so Yoshika’s stronger magic protects her, and thanks to help with the returning crew, the 501st Joint Fighter Wing is reformed.
The plot is semi-recycled from Season 1, they have to defeat this new breed of Neuroi, which means some of the recruits like Yoshika, her best friend Lynette, and her ‘rival’ Perrine have to retrain in one episode, and we get what Strike Witches was good at, in a short episode count (12) they manage to get all the characters of the unit involved and make them memorable in one episode, and then use them enough so watchers can recognize them and their traits. Episode 4 focuses on Barkhorn and Shirley working on a new Strikers Unit, episode 6 focuses on defending the Strike Witches equivalent of Rome and Franscesca befriends a girl seemingly harassed whilst protecting her from Neurois, Episode 6 focuses on the friendship (or more?) between Sanya and Eila, when Eila whose skills meant she never uses a shield, is not being used as a protector for Sanya for a new mission because of this, causing her to get upset and jealous over Yoshika who is given the duty, and characters like Lynnette, Perrine, Minna, Sakamoto and Yoshika are sporadically involved in all of them. The plot is pretty much the same and only sporadically integrated within the episodes – they need to destroy the Neuroi base which is far more powerful and they believe the only way is using an attack by Sakamoto known as the Reppuzan, a sword based technique to fully strike the heart of the core, but at the same time Sakamoto’s witch powers are weakening because of her age, so it’s a race against time. Yet this only really becomes a focus in the last two episodes, as Strike Witches S2 does almost the same formula with the character episodes, the re-development of the characters, they even do another panties related episode (albeit with a semi tie-in to the plot, a Neuroi bug is shorting the electricity at the base to power up…yet seems to want to ledge in the rump area of young ladies underwear, particularly when they are wearing them).
However, the thing is whilst the storyline is very similar, it doesn’t get as old as you think. Mainly because the characters have to reintegrate with each other, their personalities from S1 are more developed and it flows much more naturally. For example Perrine, who was clearly jealous of Yoshika for a lot of Season 1 because of her interactions with Sakamoto, is a lot more open. She still has her respect/crush on Sakamoto, but doesn’t bug Yoshika or get overall jealous. In fact, she’s openly worried for Yoshika at times (though he tries to hide it). Lynette is not as shy as before and hugs Yoshika every moment she can, their friendship is solid and adorable. I loved the Francesca episode because I felt she got the least development and was just set as the energetic girl who eats a lot, here, we get to see what a good kid she is and how much you would want her as a friend if you got the chance. There’s an episode where lazy Hartman actually stands up for her friend because a rival from Africa has a big ego, and actually confronts her in a battle against a Neuroi to see who is the best, and the Eila episode where you show her care for Sanya – each of these manages to convey the characters from the first season, but from a more developed standpoint.
The final two episodes are where it hits. From seeing Sakamoto get drunk and actually kiss her commanding officer, we finally get the battle to try and defeat the Neuroi nest. Sakamoto’s concerns over her powers means she wants to fight till the death. It leads to a running plot as Yoshika’s powers are getting stronger to the point that a specialized Witches craft designed by her father manages to sync with her when her old until was making her unable to fly because she had too much power. The ending is basically about Yoshika defending the person who dragged her into the Strike Witches in the first place, and it is surprisingly touching. It does end with a possible cliffhanger and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed with the fact we only saw snippets of a few of the officers and what they were doing after this battle, so I can’t say this sequel was better than the original. The fact it does feel like a rehash (albeit a fun one) combined with this makes it simply one of those shows where you can say if you liked the original, you will like this though you may feel a little disappointed. And of course, the infamous fanservice cannot be ignored, so considering a lot of the girls are underage with nude scenes, panty scenes, swimsuit scenes, etc – it can be a bit annoying or overwhelming. That said, I surprisingly dug the characters, their interactions and was impressed at how well Strike Witches managed to incorporate all of them into the story in just 12 episodes. You get a reminder basically of these characters and their quirks, but at a more comfortable level. It’s certainly not brilliant, but I can’t say it’s bad either. You do feel for Sakamoto as she anguishes over her developing powers slowly going so there are a few tender moments here and there, and the story, whilst sporadic, is actually brought in through the character episodes so the storytelling is smart in a way, albeit in between a lot of fanservice.
Strike Witches 2 is basically almost a repeat of Strike Witches 1, but you know the characters and can enjoy their quirks and see how they’ve developed. There’s a lot of fun in this series, and the focus episodes are again what makes it enjoyable. The plot can be wafer thin but is told throughout whether you realize it or not and whilst it does seem thin on that, it’s definitely enjoyable to watch. Hard to recommend unless you’ve seen the first season though and the fanservice is again a decider. Still, I consider it a guilty pleasure.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening/Ending, Episode 5 Commentary, Episode 9 Commentary
Content Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 24th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.