Strike Witches Episode 01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 0 - All Regions
  • Released By: BOST TV
  • MSRP: 1.99
  • Running time: 24
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Strike Witches

Strike Witches Episode 01

By Chris Beveridge     July 10, 2008
Release Date: July 04, 2008


Strike Witches Episode 01
© BOST TV


What They Say
Yoshika Miyafuji is a fourteen-year-old girl who possesses magical powers that can heal. One day she is approached by Mio Sakamoto, Major of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing a.k.a. Strike Witches to join her team. A few days after Yoshika turns down the invitation because of her abhorrence toward wars, she receives a letter.

The Review!
Under attack by aliens, the world will turn to cute girls wearing panties to done mechanical legs that will let them fly into the skies to save them.

Audio:
Strike Witches has a surprisingly good stereo mix done in the AAC format whose variable rate rarely goes above the 130kbps range. The show is rather center channel oriented but it came across as rather lively on our setup and fit just about all the scenes without issue. While this is lower than standard Dolby Digital stereo mixes which are often at 192kbps, the variable bit rate works in its favor as well as the different compression scheme. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the presentation of this series is in 480p anamorphic widescreen for the downloadable file. Using the AVC codec and playing it on the PlayStation 3, we got a much better experience in a way than we have with other shows that we've done via streaming. The ability to simple drop it onto the network server and copy it over is certainly a plus, but it's simply much more enjoyable to watch shows on our 70" TV rather than the 17" laptop monitor. That said, it's not going to look as good here as it does there because of the size. BOST has done some extra work to make this better by making it an anamorphic presentation and that does help, but it still can't make it more than it is. The overall feeling of this show is one that reminded me of some of the "lower tier" broadcast channels on standard definition cable where the quality is alright but nothing to crow about. The PS3 does output it all in 1080p which helps to smooth it out, but there's still noise to be found, gradients that are apparent and some chroma noise within the reds. Shifting it down to smaller monitors eased a lot of this, but it's not a bad trade off for watching it so soon after airing in Japan and in our home theater instead of a laptop.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I remember a few years ago at a convention coming across a friend who had picked up 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 I saw that there was a series being made about it 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.

Much of the opening episode really does revolve around the setup of the first couple of characters and the basis of the worldview. There's actually very little action outside of the opening minutes where we see the full cadre of Strike Witches on a mission against the Neuroi. This does give the show a somewhat slower feeling, but it's one that's rather surprisingly balanced by a sense of wonder. When Mio finally hauls out the devices that the girls slip their legs into in order to fly, you can sense that she really does love the entire concept of it and the way it makes her feel. You even get that sense from Yoshika, though she refrains from taking part in even trying them since they are devices for war, regardless of her father making them.

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:
Gonzo's release of Strike Witches will likely appeal to the same kind of niche within fandom in Japan that they've been hitting on for awhile. There's a definitely fanbase for this particular genre on both sides of the Pacific and I knew several people who really like the Mecha Musume concept. It is obviously full of fanservice, but it's the application of the fanservice that bothers the most. Contrasting all of this is that the show does manage to wrap some seriousness around it and even some sense of wonder to it all while leaving a lot of possibilities open. But in the end, it's a show about a number of cute diverse girls for the viewer to care about that will be thrown in war situations where their lives will be in danger. Sort of. This may be a decent little fun ride, but it's one that is likely to be fraught with predictability.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

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.

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