Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
These are definitely not your usual Magical Girls.
I have to admit that I was not prepared to like Strike Witches and it’s not because of the excessive fan service but because the series looks just like just about every other series with girls with big guns but because the series. I have been wrong before and thankfully I was wrong about Strike Witches, a series that proves that not everything is what it seems and that can be a very good thing with The Complete Series of Strike Witches.
In the year 1939, unknown invaders attack planet Earth leaving a path of destruction and death all over the world. Since World War II never happened as a result of this, countries that were suppose to be at war at this time have joined together to battle the invaders that are now called the Neurois. In order to combat this threat, the world’s leaders have singled out young girls with magical abilities (called Witches, who incidentally grow tails and cute furry animal ears) to take to the skies using a new technology called a Striker Unit that is fitted to the user’s legs and thus turning them into human airplanes.
One of these girls is Major Sakamoto of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing – or, Strike Witches, as the unit is called – who has her eye on a girl from Fuso (AKA Japan) who seems to not only exhibit witch-like powers of healing but also has a connection to somebody connected to the military. The young teenage girl is Yoshika Miyafuji who has lost her father during the start of the war against the Neurois. This is one of the reasons she wants nothing to do with the war and – after Major Sakamoto comes to recruit her – turns down the Major’s offer to become a Strike Witch. Yet when a letter from Yoshika’s father arrives, the girl does decide to go with the Major to Britannia (AKA England).
It is in Britannia that Yoshika makes a most startling discovery: her father was the inventor of the Striker Units that the Strike Witches use and she straps them on herself on to way to Britannia to defend the aircraft carrier the two traveled on is attacked by the invaders. So Yoshika finally comes to accept that she is needed by the world and joins the Strike Witches as a rookie. She quickly finds out that she is not the only newbie on the base and befriends a girl named Lynette Bishop who is unsure of her abilities and combat readiness.
We also meet the other girls who come from various different military branches from around Europe and even an alternate reality version of the United States in the form of the sexy and bosomy Charlotte Yeager (who is an alternate female version of a certain Yeager who became a famous test pilot that broke the record flying faster than the speed of sound). They even have top aces such as the German ace Lieutenant Hartmann who has shot down over 200 Neurois. Yoshika finds herself getting to know each girl well from the mischievous Francesca Lucchini to the always sleepy Lieutenant Sanya Litvyak plus gets the cold shoulder from Captain Barkhorn as well as a girl named Perrine (who seems to be obsessed with the Major).
It is through training with these young women that Yoshika and Lynette find the confidence they both lack and especially during combat with the Neurois that sends out their fighters frequently so there’s certainly a lot of action in this series. However, there’s a much bigger internal threat that involves military chain of command and a new weapon. Meanwhile, Yoshika makes a most unusual discovery about a Neurois shaped like a Witch.
The series does play up the fan service throughout the 12 episodes since the girls don’t ever seem to want to wear pants but there’s nudity here that is not toned down one bit. Still, despite excessive fan service, the series never loses focus of what is important and that is the story and the characters. Strike Witches fleshes out each character nicely and we actually get to know what drives them as well as the affects of the war in their personal lives. Sure, there’s an entire episode dedicated to panties (an episode that’s really funny, by the way) but there are also very meaningful episodes that has us recognize the bonds that are formed by comrades during a time of war.
The Complete Series of Strike Witches is an entertaining and terrific anime series that isn’t afraid to let its hair down and take no prisoners in terms of its style, story or characters. Yes, there’s nudity and fan service aplenty that might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you look past that, you will find yourself cheering on the girls of the 501st every step of the way and wish for the second season of this fun action series to come along soon. Pants are definitely optional.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In an alternate reality version of the 1940s, the world is at war but not with each another. An alien invasion has forced Earth to band together to fight the invaders called the Neurois and with the help of an elite group of witches trained in aerial combat thanks to a revolutionary new weapon. A young girl comes to join the unit called the Strike Witches in their battle to save humanity and their planet.
VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The animation isn’t any different than what we have already seen before but there’s an excessive amount of fan service here that includes plenty of nudity that might not sit well with everyone. Still, the action sequences look really good and so does the visual effects.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting is top notch and even more so when it comes to the English dub voice work that includes the talents of Stephanie Sheh, Anastasia Munoz and Cherami Leigh just to name a few. Aside from some great voice acting, the original music is great and the opening and closing theme songs are downright catchy.
There are the usual extras here in the form of trailers and textless opening and closing theme songs but the real extra is the audio commentary track for Episode 12 with ADR Director Scott Sager, Kate Bristol (who voices Lynette) and Cherami Leigh (who voices Yoshika).
Make no mistake, Strike Witches might look like your typical by-the-numbers magical girl action fare with over-the-top fan service but there’s a meaningful and exciting story here that makes this Complete Series set one you should definitely check out. If you’re able to look past the fan service, you will find that the story and characters make this story soar.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment.