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STRIKE WITCHES: Like EVANGELION (Minus Pants, Plot, and Action) - - DVD/Blu-Ray Review

Little girls with big guns, saving the planet again and again (and again and again).

Vice Pit guest Alexei [See him in action here] steps in to offer his take on this... tricky alt-history anime. Go give him a good welcome in the talkback, and let him know if you agree about STRIKE WITCHES.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A series of gargantuan aliens are attacking the planet, one after another. A shy youngster is called on to join a secret organization developed to fight these intruders off with special technology developed by none other than that very youngster’s own father.

No, I’m not talking about Gainax’s seminal, mind-bending mecha series, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. This time around, I’m describing a Gonzo show, and it’s called STRIKE WITCHES.

Rather than spend too much time outlining the ways in which STRIKE WITCHES is derivative of the many great anime series that came before it, let’s just chalk these similarities up to homage and move along. After all, they went ahead and named the episode in which the lead character, school girl Yoshika Miyafuji, meets the rest of Earth’s anti-alien defense team “You’re not alone.” So we know that the show’s creators had some great influences.

If only they had paid closer attention to them.

Taking a cue from the show’s introductory episode, let’s get the plot out of the way as quickly as possible. It’s 1939, and some big bad monsters named Neurois have begun to step out of portals in the sky, tearing up the planet with their terrific red lasers for no apparent reason. Devastated, the nations of Earth have banded together to fight back.

Humans develop Striker Units, mechanical leggings that look similar to the bodies of classic biplanes and provide the wearer with the power of flight. However, a normal person can’t control a Striker Unit, which needs its operator to have an inherent magic ability to help them fly and fight with power and precision. And wouldn’t you know, young women are the most likely to possess the kind of magic that makes a good Striker Unit pilot.

Put a bunch of magical teen girls together and strap them into military-grade flying machines and you have the Strike Witches (AKA mankind’s only hope.) But more importantly, put a bunch of magical teen girls together and strap them into military-grade flying machines and you have ample opportunities for middle-school drama, the likes of which can only be resolved by squeaky-voiced pep talks and long squishy hugs.

If this sounds like the kind of drama you’ve come to know and love through years of magical girl anime watching, you’ve come to the right place. But if this isn’t already your scene, I can’t imagine that this is the show that will convert you to the cause.

Right out of the gate, the alien invasion that has set this series in motion becomes little more than set dressing for predictable the girl-group dynamic to play out around. The action is never complicated; the Neurois look like shiny plastic toys, rendered in 3D and slid across flat paintings of cloudy skies or choppy waters, depending on where the camera is. And that camera... oh that poor, misguided camera.

In my opinion - - though you’re welcome to disagree - - it’s almost always in the wrong place. I know this because the place it’s in is typically squarely between a young animated girl’s pantsless legs.

Oh, right, the whole pants thing: in the alternate version of 1939 that STRIKE WITCHES takes place in, women don’t wear pants. The story never attempts to wrestle with this odd twist, but it’s easy to imagine that it’s merely a product of character design preceding every other aspect of a show’s conception; once you’ve drawn a pantsless pre-teen with biplanes strapped to her legs, there’s no turning back. The only turn, it would seem, is upward from ground level, to gaze upon the crotch of your creation as she takes off and flies through the air, legs spread wide to avoid her rotors from colliding. At least, I assume that’s why they’re always spread.

It seems silly to get bent out of shape over the over-exaggerated curves of a cartoon character’s nether-regions, even when they’re as oddly shaped as in STRIKE WITCHES. If you wade just a few episodes in, you’ll find the entire cast baring all as they lounge naked in the bath and make small talk. But, unfortunately, there’s not a ton else to obsess over.

The show plays out so incredibly slowly, and the look of the aerial combat is so bare, there’s no other place to focus your attention besides the amazing frequency of exposed underwear bulges. The mythology behind the girls’ magical powers and the origin of the Neurois should be ripe for exploration, but too often take a back seat behind, well, the Strike Witches’ back seats.

Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Aug. 2, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.

Oh hey, welcome

I've watched some of Strike Witches, probably most of the first season, but I never managed to finish it.

The show plays out so incredibly slowly, and the look of the aerial combat is so bare, there’s no other place to focus your attention besides the amazing frequency of exposed underwear bulges. The mythology behind the girls’ magical powers and the origin of the Neurois should be ripe for exploration, but too often take a back seat behind, well, the Strike Witches’ back seats.

Unfortunately--or fortunately if that's what you're looking for--that paragraph pretty much sums up my own experience with the show. I think the premise is mostly fine, and basing the Striker Units and character names on old war planes and war heroes is pretty cool, but they never dig far enough into that stuff.

The more I watched the more it looked like a harem they forgot to throw a dude into. Maybe Yoshika is supposed to fill that role, there are definitely some... yuri undertones, which may be putting it lightly... but they never dig very far into that either. Although, in fairness, a lot of harem shows never dig very far into the actual harem aspect either, so maybe that's a moot point.

I have no problem with fan service, but if it's a boring show I'm going to lose interest, regardless of how many panty shots or bath scenes it throws at me. Maybe it gets more interesting in season 2 or even at the end of season 1, maybe I'll find out... eventually.

Marshal Victoryon Aug. 2, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.

@Daniel_Newton: Agree with ya on the show as well as the Op.The pants - less thing i thought was because of the flying device .like it had to make skin contact or something for their magic to make it work.Think i made it to about 7 shows in an "hads all i can take an i cant takes no more".

better by leaps an bounds would be...

http://www.animevice.com/muv-luv-alternative-total-eclipse/11-6291/

tho its not a high bar to top .Strike witches i wanted to like.Made two runs at the series to try to see why it got a second season.

MyNiceIceLifeon Aug. 2, 2012 at 11:38 p.m.

i actually didn't mind strike witches when i bought the first release of the dvd. it was slow, but it never really bored me, especially since it's not too long. i wonder if they ended up censoring anything in this release compared to the first release because of how much fan service there is.

metalsnakezeroon Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:09 a.m.

The show does a good job at developing character and the setting of a messed up WW2 is done well. Plot, however, isn't really all there. In the end, it a decent show that is mostly strong in one area.

sickVisionz moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 5:59 a.m.

I'm no prude, but I never checked this out because all of the Funi advertising made it seem like there was literally no redeeming value to this series outside of underage looking girls running around in their underwear.

It's unfortunate to hear that it doesn't even have action in it, which is something I figured might be in it, even if it was shoddily animated.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 8:11 a.m.

@sickVisionz said:

I'm no prude, but I never checked this out because all of the Funi advertising made it seem like there was literally no redeeming value to this series outside of underage looking girls running around in their underwear.

In fairness, and as strange as it may seem to say this, they are advertising it appropriately. I'd rather see trailers that stay true to the show and show you what to expect than trailers that falsely advertise something.

Here's a trailer for anyone interested:

Strike Witches was obviously very popular, since it got two full seasons and a movie, so it must be doing something right.

sickVisionz moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 8:25 a.m.

@Daniel_Newton: I'm not asking for false trailers, just saying it didn't seem up my ally. I agree that it's obviously doing something right... which is appealing to the I don't want hardcore child porn but I do wanna see naked kids or naked adults that look like kids crowd and nailing everything they want from an anime series.

Marshal Victoryon Aug. 4, 2012 at 7 a.m.

@MyNiceIceLife: If its what was on hulu then yes .which was censored with the oh so tasteful white fog strips across the screen.An back then the hulu forum on the show was pretty much this is child porn every few posts.

PenguinDuston Aug. 6, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.

I saw most of season one but put it down. I have nothing bad to say about it. Nothing offended me and I found the no-pants thing amusing, but as others have said, I figured witches needed physical contact with their flying devices. I'm used to teens and pre-teens running around battlefields with bazookas so, again nothing here surprised me. I thought it was okay. A pleasant but forgettable distraction like a lot of other shows I've seen. If I have a criticism it's that there are too many characters and not enough development for them. I think there's about a dozen air-girls in season one and I can't tell the difference between more than half.

zaldaron Aug. 9, 2012 at 11:16 a.m.

yup another show that is all about underage fan service sorry...no dice here.

Dig Deeper into Strike Witches

Based on Fumikane Shimade's "Mecha Musume" illustrations, the series revolves around moe girls who are anthropomorphic WWII-era planes.

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