Strike Witches Season 1 (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, March 26, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In 1944, what’s needed to combat alien invaders is magic and panties.

What They Say

The year is 1944 and the world lives in fear of unidentified flying objects called Neuroi. With the old-boy old guard unable to thwart this deadly menace, humanity turns its desperate eyes to an aerial attack force with much nicer legs. Meet the girls of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, better known as the Strike Witches. These darlings of the great blue yonder may not have standard issue uniforms, but they do have all the right stuff. Where the average flyboy falters, these dolls blast aliens to bits in the bat of an eyelash. With a little magic and a whole lot of leg, the girls of the 501st are winning the war on pants, and aliens!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review!

Audio:
Strike Witches has a decent audio presentation to it with a bilingual track that is about par for the course from FUNimation. The original Japanese language track is in the form it aired with by being stereo encoded at 192kbps. The English mix is beefed up to 5.1 encoded at 448kbps and both have their strengths to them. The English mix simply sounds louder but it also has more clarity with its placement of dialogue when there are multiple characters on screen. The stereo mix does a good job with it as well but it's not as sharp as the English mix. The action scenes have a bit more impact as well which is obvious but it's nothing that stands out in a huge way to make a significant difference. Both tracks are problem free though with solid results with their design that convey the show properly.
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is twelve episodes long and we get an even split with six episodes on each disc. This release is a mixed bag in that it will definitely bother some people more, especially depending on how they view their shows. The main issue that comes up in the show is that during some of the panning sequences, it comes across as a bit jerky. Those who love to step frame to find problems will see that the process is broken because of how it's blending and merging frames, causing bad drops that in turn create the jerkiness. I didn't find this as noticeable when playing the show on the PS3, but it is visible if you know what to look for. On our laptop player it was far more noticeable. By and large during our playback of the show, the colors come across good with only a bit of noise throughout that stands out. Cross coloration is non-existent but the line noise and jerkiness in the panning is the main distraction.
 
Packaging
Strike Witches gets a little extra love in this package with the inclusion of a patch with the emblem of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing which is really very slick looking. The package overall for this release is standard fare for FUNimation but the artwork and design is spot on. The front of the slipcover has a classic 1940's feel to it with Miyafuji in the circle in the center brandishing her gun while aspects of the rising sun ring around her alongside a bunch of stars. The top third of the cover has the logo which hs a good metallic feel to it while denoting the first season angle and the number of episodes and discs. The back of the slipcover is done sideways with more of the classic feel by having the tagline done in war style while showing off several good shots from the show and a big piece of artwork that points out the huge fanservice aspect. The disc and episode count gets a nod again as well as a cleanly laid out if small technical grid with what to expect for those features. Extras are also clearly listed while the production credits get shunted to the bottom tab of the slipcover with a light white text against soft blue that makes it close to unreadable.
 
Inside the slipcover we get two clear thinpaks that continue the solid 40's military style. The covers are design with stars along the top corners while the center has the metallic military style with a circle opening closer to the top where the character artwork is. The character artwork is really nice as it varies the characters a bit, i.e. it's not all Miyafuji, and they're done with them in action poses with some amount of expression that makes it feel like it's an important moment. The logo along the bottom is the same as we saw on the slipcover which works well against the soft white coloring. The back covers go for the same angle, changing the color up a bit on the bottom, as it brings in more group shots of the various Witches. The bottom adds in the 501st Joint Fighter Wing angle while providing a breakdown of the episode numbers and titles for that respective disc. The interior is what really sells the package as it has a breakdown of all eleven of the girls in the 501st with a table showing their unique things, such as country of origin symbol, weapon of choice, their Striker unit as well as a close-up of their particular panty. You have to love that. No show related inserts are included in this release.
 
Menu:
The menus are done really nicely here even if they are just static screens. The background is in a military green where we see various Striker units laid out. The foreground has a classic 1940 eras design where it has bold simple colors with a picture of Miyafuji in the center. The simplicity of it works well for the period piece that it is while being entirely thematic in a good way. Navigation is along the top with a good font that's also reflective with quick and easy access. Submenus are minimal overall since there's little here but they do load quickly when needed and everything flows without any problems at all. As is expected, the disc ignores player presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles
 
Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal here with everything on the second disc and that everything being the clean opening and closing sequences along with an English ADR commentary for the final episode.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A few years prior to watching this when Gonzo streamed it, I was at a convention with a friend who came across  a number of toys that looked just like the characters in this show. And I remember thinking it was an interesting idea, but one that was simply too centered around certain fetishes to really appeal too heavily to either myself or a mainstream audience. So when this series was announced and the general terms being thrown around to describe it was "moe anthropomorphizations of military planes," I knew I was in trouble.
 
Strike Witches takes place in an alternate mid twentieth century setting in which the world is being invaded by aliens known only as the Neuroi. The Neuroi have appeared seemingly out of nowhere and the only form we see them in so far is in large black shaped propeller aircraft. The cruise about the world and cause quite a bit of trouble, enough so that apparently mainland Europe has been swallowed up by them and Britannia is now the current front line in the war against them. So naturally, the show starts off in Japan where we're introduced to young Yoshika Miyafuji, the daughter of the man who went off to invent the "Strike Witch" devices that are currently the great hope of the world.
 
Yoshika isn't interested in war however since her father died some time ago and the family never knew why. All she wants to do is to be like her mother and grandmother and utilize the magic that she's capable of to help people in the clinic that the family has run for generations. Life won't work that way though as she's being scouted for the Strike Witch program by Mio Sakamoto, a young military officer who knew her father in Britannia. The possible chance that he's alive is enough to have Yoshika drop everything and head there with Mio, though she does contend that she won't fight because she doesn't believe in war. Standing on her principles, she does at least help out on the naval ship she's riding on by doing lots of laundry and helping with the cooking and cleaning. War is bad, cleaning is good.
 
Strike Witches doesn't take too long to get Yoshika into the the action though and want to join up when she finally makes contact with her father's last location where he may have died. After seeing battle and being somewhat useful in it in her application of her magic, she decides to join up in the 501st Joint Fighter Wing in order to do some good. But Yoshika tries to stick to her principles by not taking a weapon and being leery of some of the training exercises. But as she ends up in more combat situations, she starts to realize the benefit of it not in doling out destruction but in using her power and the weapons to protect people. It may mean causing destruction, but it's done in a positive way in her mind. She tries to take the high road with things but as time goes on she does tend to fall more in line with doing what needs be done.
 
A good chunk of the series works along a traditional model for a short run show like this. Each episode focuses on one of the various members of the 501st and their back story while also having Yoshika get involved in some way. Some of the stories are better than others which is to be expected. Sanya has a good story where we see her use of radio signals that gets her closer to making substantial contact with the mysterious Neuroi  race. There's some good time spent on night flying when the Neuroi start changing their pattern of attacks as they make more aggressive moves against Britannia. Each character has their own story and each of those stories helps to tell more of the overall tale of the world since they all come from different countries, most of which have been overrun by the Neuroi since Europe is heavily under their control. There aren't too many ties that bind the girls together from their pasts, but they have a common goal together now and that even includes going bathing together as well. The individual stories are well done but none of them particularly drew me to any character where I wanted to see more of that story. In the end, they're all pretty superficial.
 
While the show does focus on the individual stories heavily and Yoshika's training, it also tries towards the end to go with a larger storyline. Dealing with the Neuroi is a regular focus throughout and there are little nods here and there to something larger. The military in general dislikes the Strike Witches since they take away the glory from them so they've finally managed to create an unmanned device, known as a Warlock, to handle the Neuroi threat. The Neuroi themselves aren't given much depth until the end either, resulting in some of this feeling forced, but it offers up an intriguing ending to the season that does leave you at least curious as to where it will go next.
 
The alternate world design of the series is one that is admittedly fascinating, especially coming from reading a fair amount of Harry Turtledove novels over the years. The world at war with aliens during this time frame is certainly an interesting idea and seeing how humanity faces it can present some good stories. The technology looks appropriate for the time and the inclusion of magic is something that does a decent job of tying it all together. Where the show loses me is in its attempt to completely sexualize it by having the Strike Witches all be female and for them to apparently abhor pants. Or anything on their legs other than the flying devices. It's such an obvious panty-fest that it's... not insulting, but it induces a great deal of eye-rolling. With the military aspect of this series, there are some seriously wonderful ways you can sexualize it without making it so completely obvious. Having everyone in a variety of tops and then showcasing tons of panties below comes across as crass.
 
In Summary:
When I watched Strike Witches during its broadcast run, I felt it was mediocre at best though it had some potential with the setting. Some parts of it seriously frustrated me. When Yoshika learns something key about the Neuroi, even the 501st tries to silence her by not wanting to hear about it at all. Bad commanding officers indeed. The individual character stories add to the world but they don't bind the cast much. And while I like that there are a number of members that makes sense, it's also too many members to give them enough focus beyond their core story. Strike Witches has a lot of potential but it opts more for the fanservice, which is very heavily used throughout, to draw you in. Sometimes it works but sometimes it's just too forced. This is definitely a show where your mileage may vary. I liked parts of it but felt it just didn't achieve its potential. Hopefully season two due from AIC in 2010 will give me more of what I want.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Track, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

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.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Strike Witches