Nov 5, 2012
arsonal (All reviews)
Strike Witches the Movie is a refreshing and fitting sequel to the two television series. Those who are not familiar with the Strike Witches franchise receive a brief introduction to the premise of the series, but they may not be able to appreciate the unique personalities of each character fully if they have not watched the preceding works.

Strike Witches revolutionized the "mecha musume" genre of moe anthropomorphism, especially because of the special attention given to the realistic setting of the series. Compared to the futuristic setting of Shimada Humikane's earlier work Sky Girls, Strike Witches employs World War II era technology and personalities as the basis of its story. In a timeline where Earth's history is altered because of the invasion of unknown aliens, the total war we know of is re-imagined as a fight between modern witches and the mysterious alien Neuroi.

Following the conclusion of Strike Witches 2, speculation was ripe among fans as to how the story could continue because the series protagonist Miyafuji Yoshika seemed to have lost the major driving force of her character development. It soon became evident that the creators did not intend on taking Miyafuji out of the picture. Strike Witches the Movie opens in August 1945, and the calm that follows the liberation of Venezia (Venice) and Romagna (Italy) mirrors the real world scenario where World War II is nearing its conclusion. Unfortunately for the witches, the Neuroi still remain a formidable enemy, and signs of a new invasion soon begin to appear throughout Europe. In the meantime, Miyafuji travels from her home in the Fuso Empire (Japan) to Helvetia (Switzerland) in order to enroll in a medical school and fulfill her desire to become a doctor.

Viewers are introduced to a new protagonist to the franchise. Hattori Shizuka, a newly minted officer with the Fuso Empire who enters the military with the same enthusiasm as Miyafuji did in early 1944. For Hattori, Miyafuji is the hero of the Fuso Empire who is admired throughout the country, yet Miyafuji does not seem to care for the hierarchical structure and formalities of the military and instead willingly takes up work seemingly unrelated to the fight against the Neuroi. This contradiction presents a conflict for the naïve Hattori, who dreams of the glory of battle described in stories of Miyafuji. In this way, it appears as if Hattori was introduced in order to serve as a foil to Miyafuji; however, viewers soon realize that her stubbornness mirrors that of Miyafuji's when the latter first entered the military and sought to find her own purpose in the war.

Characters from the earlier television series, especially members of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, return in numerous cameo appearances throughout the movie, guiding Miyafuji and ensuring her safety in the land journey from Gallia (France) to Helvetia. Viewers are also treated with additional appearances of witches in other units throughout Europe who are called into action by the new Neuroi enemy that caught them off guard. While it initially seems as if there are two separate plots in the movie, viewers are reminded that Miyafuji is indeed the main protagonist as the story begins to converge around her.

Strike Witches is known for its impressive mechanical design. Following in the footsteps of the two television series, the movie features World War II military hardware in detail, including the Japanese aircraft carrier Amagi. AIC presents an artistic quality that is above average, and the animation is especially entertaining to watch during aerial combat scenes. Despite the prevalence of low camera angles intended to market its military-girls-in-underwear appeal, these shots are weaved quite well into the combat animation, making them less distracting. If there were any complaints about the art itself, perhaps it is that the theatrical poster does not do enough justice to the quality of the movie.

The soundtrack of the movie does not vary from the television series, and viewers can immediately recognize the trumpet fanfare that has become the signature piece of theme music from Strike Witches. While this can become a point of concern, it can also present the viewer with the an atmosphere that unifies the movie with the two television series. Voice acting of returning characters also does not vary in the movie, but the performance of Uchida Aya as Hattori Shizuka is well deserving of an applause as she captured Hattori's transformation into a character who begins to understand Miyafuji's ideals. This is followed by a special ending song which features Hattori's voice actress in its vocal cast.

If the viewer enjoyed the two television series, they will find the movie even more enjoyable. On the other hand, if the viewer feels that the franchise has become stale without recent developments, the movie can reinvigorate interest. Pacing of the plot is conducted in a balanced way by breaking it up into scenarios that resolve themselves quickly and maintain viewer interest as if discovering local adventures during a road trip through continental Europe.