What They Say:
The lovely ladies of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing are back to battle a new breed of alien invader! The extraterrestrial menace known as the Neuroi have returned to Earth, and even a direct hit won’t stop these monsters. The Strike Witches are Earth’s last line of defense, but they’ll have to learn some new tricks to survive this dogfight – and win the war on pants once and for all!
This limited edition includes an artbox sized to hold both seasons 1 and 2 of Strike Witches!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio mix for this is pretty good though the English language track makes out better with the 5.1 mix it gets compared to the original Japanese in its stereo mix. Both tracks are encoded using Dolby TrueHD and there’s some good sound design to it, mostly when it comes to the action though. These scenes stand out well with the surround aspect of it in the English mix while the Japanese has a good forward soundstage design that keeps things moving and engaging. Both mixes have their strong suits and use them well and in some ways the English mix also makes out better because of it being louder, giving it more impact. The bulk of the show does revolve around dialogue and the like in general though and that comes across well with no problems during regular playback with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Unlike the first season which was an SD Remaster, this season is a full on HD native release and you can certainly tell the differences. The show is spread across two discs with eight episodes on the first and four on the second which is also where the extras reside. The show has a stronger visual presentation overall in terms of its color design and there’s a lot of great pop to it as it plays out across so many scenes. The CG has a very good look here where it maintains a solid look to it with hardly any noise to it since it’s either solid gray or solid red. The animation has a better fluidity to it and the transfer captures that well as there’s no discernible cross coloration and nothing noteworthy when it comes to line noise. I really liked the look of the show here as it all unfolded..
The packaging for this edition is design with the limited edition heavy chipboard box that will hold the first season Blu-ray set with it. The box artwork is fantastic, a set that I really like, as the front panel has the girls all ringed around each other in a huddle with the viewer looking up through them to the sky. It has great colors and great designs. The back panel does similar as it piles all of them together which is really fun with all the smiles while the side brings in their insignias. The box has a simple black and white spacer box inside of it where the first season can go while also holding the second season keepcase. The Blu-ray case is a bit oversized as it holds the four discs for the show but it uses some great artwork as the front cover has one of the girls from the eye-catch done up in pirate mode while the back cover gives us Sakamoto in serious serious girl in snow mode. There is artwork on the reverse side with a two panels that pairs up different sets of girls, all of them a bit more bright and outgoing. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for the release doesn’t go as far as it could for giving it a good military feel, though it has some of the flavor. The menu is laid out with a simple strip near the bottom with the selections that has a bit of an almost military style feeling but not quite while it uses some good darker colors to bring it all together. This is set against clips from the show with a drumroll bit played as part of the music which works, except for the fact that it’s the lowest grade Dolby Digital audio possible, so it really lacks impact to draw you in. The menu is certainly functional and it looks decent as it shows off the big action and avoids much of the fanservice, but it feels like it could have done a lot more.
The extras for this release are kind of straightforward but there’s a good bit to it all. The new extra included here is a commentary track for one of the episodes on the first disc which brings in the English production side to talk about their returning to the series. The other big extra is the assorted number of clean opening and closing sequences which has the different voice actresses paired up for them, giving us each of them in an easy to select form.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the relative success of the first season of Strike Witches, it wasn’t a surprise that a second season would hit. I liked Strike Witches in its first season from Gonzo well enough but I felt like they weren’t capitalizing on something really good that they had in their hands and instead took the easy route. So a couple of years later, the show has ended up in AIC Spirit’s hands with Kadokawa and we’ve got a second season of the show. After finding a bit more appreciation for the first season after seeing it a couple more times, I went into the second season during its simulcast with a bit more of the right frame of mind.
Strike Witches doesn’t spend much time going over past history outside of a brief introduction at the start as it’s more interested in getting going with the new story. With Yoshika having gone back home at the end of the previous season, she’s now graduated middle school and is eager to start her training as a doctor since she wants to follow in the family tradition. She’s still got her witches powers as we see her doing some helpful healing on a bear cub that got injured, but it’s tinged with sadness after the graduation because she and Michiko are going to have to go their separate ways after being friends for so long. Each of them has a promising future ahead of them and Yoshika is intent on following through with her father’s legacy of helping others.
Yoshika’s life won’t go the way she wants though when a letter from her deceased father arrives that’s made up of what seems to be blueprints. Intent on figuring out exactly what it is, she only has one person she can turn to, Major Sakamoto as she used to work alongside him. Unfortunately, she’s not where she’s supposed to be when Yoshika goes to visit her at the base but the visit lands her something else where she learns of things going on back at Gallia where the Neuroi have mounted a massive attack. The whole situation goes badly as little information comes in and Yoshika is sent away since she’s not really part of the Fuso military at this point, even though she can pull a few strings to get onto the base once in awhile. The Neuroi threat is back and new Striker units are being sent out to deal with it and you can feel Yoshika slowly being drawn back into all of it because of the strong connections to her friends who are now in great danger.
While the season starts off slowly with just some minor character material and setup, it does remind us of why the action is so much fun. Their trip with Hijikata is uneventful for awhile, but as they get closer to Romagna the naval fleet they caught up with finds themselves under attack from one of these new Neuroi. Interestingly, the fleet thinks they can take it down with their weapons and they have a pretty good array of them. With no Witches attached to the fleet, it’s all they can do since they can’t exactly get away either. With Mio and Yoshika watching, it’s amusing that Mio has had Yoshika rub off on her and she ends up being the daring one by taking one of the Strike units even though she doesn’t have the ability to create a shield anymore and head out into battle.
The battle takes up the bulk of the second episode and it’s enjoyable to watch Mio and Yoshika work together to defeat it, though there are a few wrinkles along the way. A good part of the story is to showcase how Mio still has it in her even though she’s turned twenty and lost some of her abilities. It’s also to show that Yoshika has definitely gained more confidence in herself and that her skills have improved a great deal as well. It also doesn’t hurt that they bring in all the Witches from the first season to help out and support the pair in their fight, thus bringing the show back to where it was close to the end of the first season before they thought they could do without the Witches.
With everyone back together, it does become apparent that they’ve not aged well in a way, even though it’s just been six months. Everyone has had minimal action at best and are generally just not quite as combat ready as they were. The Witches have no stamina at this point and have lost a lot of their basic training as they’ve gone soft. Their flight abilities are acceptable, but they don’t have the teamwork thing they built up before and there’s even a sad image or two of them crashing into each other which makes you cringe. So a few of the girls, Yoshika included of course, are sent to get some special training from Anna Ferrara, an elderly woman who is a Witch herself and can still fly, though she uses brooms to do so. She’s got a fun training style as she refuses to let them use their Striker units and instead insists they use brooms too, thereby reinforcing their skills within rather than through the use of technology.
It’s a scene right out of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Once the girls learn that Sakamoto trained here as a young Witch and became the gifted one that she is now, they all take to it more seriously. Unsurprisingly, the girls start to get their act together as the episode progresses as we see Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine all figure out the tricks to the trade and hone their powers more so it’s not so reliant on the Strike units. There’s some good bonding time between the girls, though Perrine is more focused on all things Sakamoto, but there are several very quiet scenes where the girls are either in the bath or out on the walls looking out at the sea talking about everything. It’s good material in getting us back in touch with the girls, since it has been a bit of time since the first season, and a little refresher never hurts.
While the show gets its house back in order, once it gets moving forward again it’s all about the familiar stories of battle and characters with the Neuroi. Sakamoto and her team make a disturbing discovery in an episode about a Neuroi that’s essentially like a giant space elevator almost in that it’s a thirty-thousand meter pole that’s traveling over the countryside at ten kilometers an hour towards its target. With the existing Strike units topping out at ten thousand meters and the core being at the top of this beast, they have to go for some radical approaches, namely using the rocket boosters that will get them up high enough to deal with the Neuroi threat.
Though this is the primary focus of the episode, with the training that goes into effect and discussion about how to deal with it all from a combat perspective, there’s also the expected round of character examination as well. This one goes to dealing with Eila a fair bit, as she’s showing something of a superior attitude with the others because her trick is that she never uses her shields. With her quick speed and the slight precognitive abilities she has, she’s able to see what’s going to happen where around her before it does, so she can avoid it easily enough. Having never used her shields, she considers and says outright that anyone that does is inferior to her. Which makes for some ruffled feathers here and there and a sad Yoshika whose main ability is that she’s really good at shields.
The approach used to deal with the Neuroi is pretty neat as they do a staged rocket approach with the girls, each stage featuring a different set of them helping to boost the others until they get to the right height to deal with everything. It’d be impossible without magic because of the lack of air and the temperature itself, which is why we see them actually flying with pants on this time which in turn takes away part of the supposed reason they were always wearing them before since you got the impression they couldn’t’ fly them as well with pants. The entire boost sequence is pretty decent and it’s a nice moment to see the girls getting so high and having such a unique view for things before they deal with the Neuroi. It doesn’t speak well of the Neuroi as they continue to do things in a manner that makes no sense for an alien invasion of such power.
Not surprisingly, the show does spend its final couple of episodes on the big fight sequence where there’s a lot at stake, bringing in a Neuroi hive for the allied forces to deal with while not using the the Witches. It’s an interesting approach since it does again call back to the first season where they dealt with a device the mimics aspects of the Neuroi as the Fuso fleet brings in the Yamato, a regenerative ship with Neuroi capabilities. That kind of sums up the feel of the series in a way as it does repeat a lot of the basic ideas of the first, just with tweaks and adjustments along the way. Normally I’d complain about this more, but the shw does deal with it surprisingly well and makes it fun, especially since it doesn’t overdo it with character exploration episodes like we had before, since we did it before.
If there’s one thing the show feels like it’s done differently from the first season, it’s upped the fanservice quotient. There’s a heightened sexuality about it that’s really surprising in some ways. The first season definitely had it with all the buttocks shots of the girls in their bloomers and the fact that there we no pants. But here it just runs with it, especially using the camera angles that put is in crotch shot mode for so much of it. There’s one bath episode that comes into play where a bug Neuroi is used as it flies into their panties regularly and gives them quite a thrill. Add in a few bath scenes where everyone is completely naked and copious amounts of breast grabbing and you have something that takes an already properly pervy title and just runs with it in a way that does take it almost to the next level.
Strike Witches has more ass shots than you can shake a stick at. And honestly, that’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed the first season of the series but felt like it wasn’t living up to its potential when it comes to the time period alternate world it was building. While it doesn’t expand on that here, it instead runs in the other direction by working the fanservice angle and just having a lot of fun with it. It may be too much for some people, but I enjoyed the silliness of it all since it does try to play it kind of straight. The show mostly takes what the first season was all about and uses the same pieces with some differences, but AIC Spirits really put it together in a way that makes it more fun and less muddled and by the numbers. Avoiding the heavy character episodes for the most part was a big plus and just having a sense of having fun about all of it was spot on.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, English Commentary
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78;1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.