What They Say:
The war on pants continues! Follow the newest group of witches with the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, the Brave Witches. After a successful battle against the Neuroi, the fight against them continues in Europe. Hikari Karibuchi, a young girl from Fuso, works her way up the ranks to catch up to her elite soldier sister, Takami. But war is a dangerous game, and even magic has its costs.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. 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 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes of this series are spread across two discs with nine 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 release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case to hold the two discs that each format has, all of which are on hinges. The set comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork to good effect as we get the sisters in their standard uniforms with the cuteness of ears and tails out while also showing off a big of weaponry. The back cover gives us some classic 1940’s styling to it with the tagline and more character artwork in action mode and there’s a good selection of shots from the show as well. The summary of the premise covers things well and we get a breakdown on what’s included with episodes, OVA, and extras. The technical grid also breaks down both formats cleanly and clearly with an accurate understanding of how the show is put together. While there are no show related inserts we do get artwork on the reverse side that has two panels with their own versions of the cover but with different character pairings to choose from.
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 block along the lower left with the navigation while to the right we get the visual from the front cover, which feels “screwed on” in a good way. The background for the whole piece is a good gray camo design and the logo looks good overlaid on that with it in white but with some stars of color. The menu is certainly functional and it looks decent as it shows off the characters and cutness, but it feels like it could have done a lot more.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a few successful Strike Witches series behind it already, the franchise came back in the fall of 2016 with the Brave Witches run. This one shifted things up to focus on the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing with a new cast and location. With Gonzo and AIC Spirits working on previous projects, Silver Link came on in 2014 with an OVA series and ended up tackling this series afterward. I’ve long enjoyed the property overall for some of its goofiness and charm but also just the enjoyment of the concept and aircraft from this period, even in an alternative world, that focuses on the kinds of things the Second World War produced. Taking it into an alternative world and making it a mix of aliens and magic is a familiar mashup but it’s executed better than one would think.
This season focuses on the Orussia area and the name takes on a good connotation here since the real world had some hugely impressive female pilots known as Night Witches during the war. Here, this one places us in Petersburg where the 502nd operates and works to push back against the Neuroi, the strange aliens that are causing trouble all over the world. Our focus has been on Japan previously and the team there but this one is largely the same concept and idea, just with some mildly different motivations and taking place in the cold – but still with shorts/pantsu. The struggle is what we’ve seen before as the Neuroi are causing quite a number of inroads and there’s a pretty bleak feeling in general that leans into some of what the area is like and some of Petersburg’s history. With this taking place in 1944, the general idea is more of the same overall for the franchise but it works well when you get down to it.
The leading character through which we see things here is with Hikari Karibuchi, the younger sister of Takami. Takami serves well in Fuso and the threats there as her magic has the added bonus of the Contact Eye that lets her really dial in on the core of the Neuroi. Hikari has the same thing for the most part but there’s that protective older sister element in play, which is made worse when Takami learns that Hikari is being dispatched to Petersburg in Orussia to join the squadron there. Naturally, Takami isn’t keen on this as Hikari isn’t really someone she thinks can handle what’s ahead and she kind of proves that out in a mock battle. What helps Hikari is that she has a significant well of magic to draw from and the right kind of compassion as she helps out the other witch who ended up in trouble along the way and helped out with a bigger problem with the Neuroi as well.
That doesn’t exactly enamor her new comrades all that much either since they’re on the front lines and have little time or patience for what they feel like is an underpowered rookie. They’re fighting to save their country with the threat that’s there and it has that grim feeling that’s appropriate for the area. It’s no surprise that in a basic sense it follows the journey of the original Strike Witches series with Hikari trying to fit in and do right by everyone, to be capable and fight back to save those that she cares for. She also obviously wants to show Takami that she can handle herself in all of this which is what becomes the main series end run focus as things “get serious” at that point. That works well and you get a good handle on the two as sisters over a couple of episodes, which is a good way to close the series. At least until you get to the OVA that just goes for basic hanging around with some nudity tossed in for good measure.
What the show does is pretty much par for the course as we get introduced to the expansive cast of other witches who have varying opinions of their latest addition until she does something that ups their respect for her. The leads to them actively helping her while also going through missions against the Neuroi. It’s been long enough since I last saw the other works so I’m not sure if there are any drastically new tricks here until we get toward the end with the magic missile that’s put together but it’s fun watching the flying, the attacks, and the uncertainty and variety to the Neuroi itself. The cast, in general, isn’t a carbon copy of the original cast but at the same time there’s a general familiarity to them as archetypes that doesn’t have to stretch much to get done. The result is something where I’m sure the really big fans are all in since they present themselves with unique uniforms, weapons, and design elements, but for the more casual fan it’s a nice sea of pretty faces with an array of pantsu presented in different ways. It’s well-handled and it delights with a strong visual execution on top of all of that.
The original Strike Witches was a series I liked both for what it was and for it being one of the first legal streamed (and downloadable) series. Brave Witches takes us to a new place with a new cast and it spends its time working the familiar outside of that. But the change in locations to the cold of Petersburg makes a difference and I like the dynamic between Hikari and Takami as it adds a different set of motivations. Funimation’s release is light on extras and has a straightforward packaging design to it but it has a solid dub and a great looking encode that makes it a delight to watch. Fans of the franchise will enjoy it and this installment feels a lot more accessible in general.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.