Who Would Like this Anime?
At its heart, Strike Witches isn’t a war drama. The setting is WW2’esque, but they’re facing an alien (?) force. There are sob stories and slight drama, but it’s neither fleshed out nor thick. Most prominently, Strike Witches is a moe-comedy, with a bit yuri and heaps of fanservice on the side. The fanservice is really in your face and the girls pretty loli, if you can’t tolerate that, you better move along. The drama is there but not a big deal, if you can’t stomach the slightest amount of sad stuff, then this isn’t for you either. None of the girls will get KiA’d, though, I’ll let you know that much.
I downloaded this an eternity ago, I’m somewhat sure it was Coalgirls BD release in 720p. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with it from what I can tell.
The Neuroi, a hostile alien (?) force that came out of nowhere, has driven humanity out of their towns and cities. Many countries have fallen to the overwhelming power of the Neuroi, and humanity can barely hold onto the last of their bastions of civilization. One of the forces that has proven itself effective against the Neuroi are the “Striker” units. Those flying devices can only be utilized by those apt to magic, which are – generally – young girls below the age of 20. Miyafuji Yoshika, daugther of the late (?) inventor of the first “Striker” unit, is scouted by Charlotte E Yeager, one of the leaders of the “Strike Witches,” and decides to join them to protect humanity from further harm. However, time would show that things aren’t necessarily what they seem to be…
Considering that it’s 10 years old, Strike Witches is still absolutely okay to watch. Yeah, the animations are not the greatest, it’s pretty blurry, the backgrounds can feel empty, but it’s artisticly homogeneous and won’t ruin your viewer joy. Just don’t expect a tech demo from an anime this old. Oh, pick the 720p release, 1080p is obviously not worth it.
So why a ten years old anime? The reason’s simple: Strike Witches is a fairly popular anime classic. It has two anime seasons, two movies, its light novel (the original work), and probably much more that I don’t know about. That got me curious what this anime is all about. I basically wanted to experience some anime history. Like everyone who’s gotten into anime lately should give the Suzumiya Haruhi saga a go, even if it’s “old.”
I won’t give Strike Witches much lenience, though. I bet the whole thing felt better, fresher, and greater back when it first aired, but that’s nothing I can empathize with. I’ve watched it in 2018, so my impression is that of someone who watched it in 2018 with all the other sh*t I’ve seen before in mind. With that said, let’s get started.
Strike Witches wants to be a lot of things. It’s moe, it’s ecchi, it’s comedy, battle, sci-fi, WW2, drama, slice-of-life, yuri. While I can see how it’s highly likable since there’s something in it for everyone, Strike Witches does have an identity crisis. For the first eight episodes or so, its story isn’t really funny, it’s not really dramatic, it’s doing a lot of everything, but doesn’t leave a strong impression in either category. The only thing that really stuck with me was the unnecessarily high amount of forced fanservice (pantyshots and the like, all screenshots are taken from the first episode only, by the way, and these aren’t even all the pantyshots you get in the first episode alone).
The setting is all over the place, too. It’s a WW2 setting with magic and “sci-fi” stuff based on the technology back then. So the girls get propeller-powered kneesock-high “boots” to fly through the air with and shoot around with MGs. The enemy is an alien (?) lifeform, reminiscent of ordinary soft sci-fi stuff – like stealth bombers shooting lasers. So it only plays around the age of WW2, without humanity fighting humanity, but humanity fighting a hostile alien (?) force. Only young girls can become “Strike Witches,” the older they become, the more their magical powers diminish, so they cease to be able to deploy magic shields and the like. Old meaning over 18 here, by the way. Everyone’s roundabout 14. Even the girls above 20 look like they’re 14. In fact, Imma say everyone’s 14. Oh, and they grow animal ears and tails when they use their magic. Of course they do.
Strike Witches tries its best to give every girl a story and character. The problem is, there are only a dozen episodes for a dozen girls and a dozen genres to cover. So you get a quick tragic sidestory here, a quick funny sidestory there, the sidestories just rush by and don’t really stick. I’ve already forgotten what the deal with 75% of the characters is or where they come from, all I remember is pantyshots, sheesh.
That’s really something that got on my nerves. The setting is – at its core – a dark one with the world in a shambles and basically all the girls having lost loved ones in the ongoing war. Let’s put aside that this should traumatize 14-years-old girls and that there’s no way they could serve in an army, lead and organized by girls like their own who’ve barely come of age themselves. But how can you obsess over pantyshots and fanservice so much with this kind of setting? It’s far from subtle: Their uniform’s basically being in their underwear. There’s a whole episode dedicated to panties. I don’t mind fanservice in particular. What I mind here is that they put this silly loli ecchi stuff together with war sob stories. Put that fanservice in there for all I care, but they don’t have to shove such a huge amount of it down my throat.
You can treat the first eight episodes kind of like an intro. Strike Witches tries to introduce all of the girls and the world in fastforward during the vast majority of its first season. The story picks up in the last four episodes, though. Like, really
picks up. Suddenly, we get some kind of interesting underlying plot behind the Neuroi (the “alien” enemy forces), intrigues within the own military, relevant developments unfold. I actually binge-watched the last part of the anime while I could only go with one or two episodes at a time before. It really gets you in the mood for season two. The fanservice easens up, and although the anime can’t quite let go of the “the power of friendship” crap we know all too well, there’s big potential behind the mystery of “what are the Neuroi” and “where did they come from?” Maybe they aren’t really the enemy? But why did they attack humanity in the first place? Has something changed? You won’t get the answers, not in the first season at least, though.
All in all, Strike Witches pulls a reversed anime: It’s nothing special/meh for its first two-thirds, and then picks up towards the end. Usually, we get anime that starts strong and ends meh. I’m just looking at season one here, though, and not at what season two could be. Season one is an okay anime that is, at first, all over the place and oversaturated with fanservice, but ends strong. Would I watch it again? Meh, no. Do I regret having watched it? No. Would I recommend it? It’s not a must-watch. It’s a solid anime with an intriguing setting and much potential. I guarantee you, you’ve seen worse. To me, it’s a weak 7. The setting and last bit of season one heave it above average.